WELCOME TO MY WEEKLY UPDATE NO.245.
Chancellors always worry about budgets or autumn statements ‘unravelling’ a day or two later but thankfully that has not happened this time, although as ever the national media focus moves on quickly. Perhaps not quite front page but brilliant for us is that there is going to be a search for a new National Park - which naturally I hope Surrey Hills will win! We now also have a date for the Thames Water public meeting – more details below.
WHAT’S GOING ON IN WESTMINSTER
NEW NATIONAL PARK Following all the green spaces campaigning I have been doing locally, it is great news that Rishi Sunak has announced a search for a new National Park. Although I cannot influence the decision (as an interested party) I am happy to prioritise funding for the search as Chancellor. As I have said before and written about in the Herald, the Surrey Hills are important to me personally as somewhere stunningly beautiful I have been enjoying my whole life. Last year I persuaded Natural England to hold a consultation on whether to extend the boundaries of our AONB (newly renamed as a National Landscape) protected areas in the Surrey Hills which I hope happens - the responses to that are currently being reviewed. And as local MP I will continue my campaign to make the Surrey Hills a National Park. Do make sure to sign the petition here.
AUTUMN STATEMENT As I wrote in this thread on Friday, after a period of taxes rising, my Autumn Statement contained the biggest ever business tax cut and the biggest overall package of tax cuts since the 1980s. I announced ‘full expensing’ for businesses which means we have the most generous investment tax reliefs anywhere (matched only by Latvia and Estonia) and a 2% cut to National Insurance, which means 27 million working people across the country will pay an average £450 less tax each year, so there has been lots to speak about in the past week. More details in my column in this week’s Herald. The day of the Autumn Statement is always incredibly busy, and you can see what I got up to in this video alongside the questions I was grilled with yesterday at the Treasury Select Committee. People will always pick holes in details but as Chancellor I am very proud of the package: there will be more business investment, more vacancies filled, and the OBR said that the tax cuts I announced delivered one of the biggest ever growth upgrades to the economy. Regarding Labour’s economic policies today, I don’t think it is possible for them to meet their commitment to reduce debt and simultaneously argue for £28 bn additional borrowing every year as I say today in The Times.
GLOBAL INVESTMENT SUMMIT The upbeat tone of the Autumn Statement was repeated in the Global Investment Summit which Rishi Sunak hosted for hundreds of investors at Hampton Court Palace on Monday. We secured commitments to invest £29.5bn in the UK, creating 12,000 more jobs for the future. As part of that effort I met major business leaders, including from Toyota, Google, and BioNTech, to understand exactly what we need to be doing to continue to support our fastest growing industries. There were lots of really important pledges for the British economy, including a £1bn pledge from BioNTech for a new lab in Cambridge. My big takeaway was that there is real excitement from international investors at the UK’s transition to becoming the world’s next Silicon Valley. With the best universities outside the US and the most technology startups, it is an ambition well within our grasp.
ISRAEL After an incredibly bleak seven weeks, finally some good news from Israel with the release of (some) hostages. The pauses in fighting also mean life-saving aid can get into Gaza. I know there have been immense diplomatic efforts to get to this point and hopefully it will continue. New Foreign Secretary David Cameron has made his first visit to the region, visiting both Israeli communities and leaders of the Palestinian Authority, and with his experience will make a huge difference.
A SAD DAY Alistair Darling was one of the great Chancellors who will be remembered for doing the right thing for the country at a time of extraordinary turmoil. My thoughts are very much with his family. I was also deeply saddened to hear the news of Henry Kissinger’s passing this morning. I was lucky enough to meet him several times, each time benefitting from his extraordinary wisdom.
WHAT’S GOING ON LOCALLY
A POSITIVE FESTIVE NOTE The Cancer & Surgical Innovation Campaign’s next musical event ‘A Positive Festive Note’ will take place on Friday 8th December at 19.30 at the Medici Theatre in Weydon School. The Bar opens at 19.00 and there’s also a brilliant raffle with lots of fabulous prizes. It promises to be a very fun event, with singers from Weydon School, Farnham & Bourne Choral Society, Harmonix, and The Royal Surrey Choir. Tickets are just £10 each and available here: https://www.ticketsource.co.uk/royal-surrey-charity. I hope to see you there!
GREEN SPACES- LITTER PICK My next litter pick will take place in Ash next Friday 8th December at 2.45pm following an excellent public meeting there last Friday. As always, please do email my office if you are keen to join and we will tell you where to meet. There is always a great community spirit on these litter picks and whilst I can’t guarantee anything, we have had great weather at previous ones!
THAMES WATER We now have a date for the public meeting with Thames Water following the outage two weeks ago. They need to complete an internal post-mortem but I have agreed that Al Cochrane, Interim Co-CEO of Thames Water will attend on 15th December at 17.15 at Surrey University. I will co-host the meeting with Guildford MP Angela Richardson and Surrey leader Cllr Tim Oliver will also be there. Top of our list is to understand why it happened so we can be confident of no repeat.
MORE ON THE SURREY HILLS Since its creation in 1958, the Surrey Hills has been known as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and last week it underwent an official rebrand – it will now be known as the Surrey Hills National Landscape. This is a national name change for all AONBs but will also strengthen protections for these precious landscapes across the UK which are so vital for biodiversity. Natural England is still considering whether to expand the protected boundaries in Surrey following the consultation I mentioned above, but do remember to sign my petition to tighten those protections and make the Surrey Hills a National Park!
SURGERY STORIES I did my surgery on the train coming down from Sunderland where I went for the announcement that Nissan will make their Juke and Qashqai electric cars. My first call was with a lady from Farnham who has been having great difficulty with an issue concerning Lloyds Bank. I am going to arrange for her to meet them because at the moment they are not willing to.
I then spoke to a Churt resident about the way child maintenance works. He is on a low income but can only get payments re-assessed if his income falls by 25%. His very reasonable point is that on low incomes a 25% drop is huge and people may need an earlier reassessment so I will raise with DWP Secretary Mel Stride.
Finally I spoke to Alastair Bayliss and Chris Harrison from Haslemere Active Travel about the possibility of a 20 mph speed limit in the centre of Haslemere and wanted to find out the position of Surrey County Council. My advice was to make sure they have strong community support before taking forward detailed support.
AVERAGE SPEED CAMERAS FOR CHIDDINGFOLD AND WITLEY Following years of campaigning from me and many local residents I am really thrilled that average speed cameras are to be installed on the busy A283 on busy stretches in both Witley and Chiddingfold. The cameras will be installed next financial year as I spoke about in this video.
ASH ROADWORKS Great to see the roadworks are finally gone at the Dover roundabout and a new bus shelter installed.
LOSELEY FIELDS PRIMARY SCHOOL Amazing efforts from the children at Loseley Fields Primary School who have produced a Christmas-themed video to ask world leaders to take decisive action at COP28. You can watch their video here.
CHRISTMAS EVENTS Lots of fun stuff going on to get the constituency into the Christmas spirit… The Hambledon Village Christmas Party takes place this weekend– tickets here. Wonersh Parish is hosting a Christmas fair at the Arbuthnot Hall on Saturday 9th December– information here. The Surrey Hills Frost Fair at Box Hill is also taking place that weekend– more details here. There are Santa boat trips happening on the Wey and Arun Canal– tickets can be found here.
CHRISTMAS LIGHTS Some great pictures of Christmas lights being turned on in Ash and a video of the Guildford, Godalming and Farnham Rock Choir performing at the Godalming lights switch on!
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AND FINALLY… Great news that we have finally won the World Cup… for litter-picking! I think that counts as even more reason to join our Surrey litter-picks– you might end up becoming an international athlete!