WELCOME TO MY WEEKLY UPDATE NO.246.
My children have been busy opening their Advent Calendars…but the political year is not over yet! In London, we had some great news about education and an important government announcement on migration. In local news, my campaign to turn the Surrey Hills into a National Park is hotting up. There are also lots of local events coming up before we put out our stockings: a Royal Surrey Cancer Campaign charity Christmas concert, a vital public meeting with Thames Water and our upcoming litter-pick in Ash.
WHAT’S GOING ON IN WESTMINSTER
NEW NATIONAL PARK We have made excellent progress on the climate since 2010 – decarbonising faster than any G7 economy and hosting COP26 in Glasgow, at which biodiversity moved centre stage in the global debate for the first time with an agreement to protect 90% of the world’s forests. But there is always more to do so I have allocated £15 million to support existing national parks and national landscapes (until recently known as AONBs), which I wrote about in this week’s Herald. Next year, Natural England will begin their selection of a new national park and naturally I would like them to choose the Surrey Hills. From the most amazing views during winter afternoons, to childhood memories and more recent walks with my labrador Poppy, the Surrey Hills are special to me - as I know they are to many of you. So if you would like it to become a National Park with the additional protection and funding that comes with the designation please sign my petition here!
SCHOOLS There is too much ‘declinism’ about Britain at the moment. You usually hear me talking about the economy but another thing we can be really proud of is our education system. Finance ministers from other countries look enviously at our universities but when it comes to schools it was great news to see on Tuesday that England has shot up the rankings for education in the OECD. In 2009, we were 25th, 27th, and 16th for reading, maths, and science – now we are 13th, 11th, and 13th respectively. That means England performed better than Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Sweden, and Norway. We are also one of the top ten ‘highly equitable’ countries – which means that a child’s background in England has one of the smallest effects on their educational outcomes compared to other countries. There are also 1.7 million fewer people in absolute poverty than 2010 - worth remembering when you see the headlines about Britain becoming ‘more unequal than ever.’
IMMIGRATION There are so many benefits to immigration – both economically and for society – indeed I am proudly married to an immigrant. But overall net migration numbers are too high - for housing, for infrastructure and for social stability - so it is right that our new Home Secretary James Cleverly announced some important measures this week including raising the salary threshold for skilled workers by almost 50%, which means that businesses will be incentivised to invest in domestic workers. There will also be limits on dependants coming in.
ISRAEL The ongoing humanitarian disaster in Gaza following the Hamas terrorist attack in Israel continues to be massively concerning. There were huge diplomatic efforts to achieve the pause in the fighting last week which led to some hostages being freed. That should not be a one off, something that Foreign Secretary David Cameron is very focused on. Nor as this horrific situation unfolds should we forget the incredibly brave battle being fought by the people of Ukraine against the threat to their freedom and security.
HMT UPDATE Last week I visited Microsoft who have announced £2.5bn investment in AI infrastructure in the UK. AI and technology are some of our fastest growing sectors and are fundamental if we want to ensure our economy continues to grow this century. We absolutely can be the world’s next Silicon Valley– just listen to what the Vice Chair and President of Microsoft says in this video (after being none too complimentary about the UK when the Activision bid was temporarily held up earlier in the year). It was also great to visit our grid infrastructure in Manchester today. On Monday the House of Commons confirmed that from January all car manufacturers are going to have to ensure 22% of cars they produce are zero emission - but that will mean lots more electricity is going to be needed. In fact by 2050 we will have to double our electricity generation which is why I announced big plans to reform access to the national grid in the Autumn Statement.
WHAT’S GOING ON LOCALLY
THAMES WATER PUBLIC MEETING A reminder that the public meeting with Thames Water will be on Friday 15th December at 17.15 at Surrey University. I will co-host the meeting with Guildford MP Angela Richardson with senior representatives from Surrey County Council also present together with Joint CEO of Thames Water, Al Cochrane. Lots of questions need to be answered, not least why the water shortages happened in the first place. Click on the link here to book your place.
DON’T MISS OUT ROYAL SURREY FARNHAM CHRISTMAS FUNDRAISER! Last rehearsals are taking place and the brilliant raffle is being finalised ahead of tomorrow night’s festive concert at Weydon School when singers from Weydon School, Farnham & Bourne Choral Society, Harmonix, and The Royal Surrey Choir will treat the audience to a variety of uplifting songs and carols. Tickets are just £10 each and available here. All proceeds will go to the Cancer & Surgical Innovation Campaign at the Royal Surrey. Bring your family, neighbours and friends - the bar opens at 7pm ahead of the main event at 7.30pm.
GREEN SPACES- LITTER PICK My next litter pick will take place in Ash on Friday 8th December at 2.45pm (tomorrow) following an excellent public meeting there a couple of weeks ago. As always, please email my office if you are keen to join and we will tell you the exact meeting place. There is always a great community spirit on these litter picks and (most of the time) we seem to get good weather!
THE EDGE, HASLEMERE Disappointingly the Edge has still not reopened - come on Waverley! I am told terms were agreed between Waverley and Surrey two weeks ago to facilitate re-opening but documentation is now sitting with Waverley BC for final sign-off. Earlier this week I chased Waverley again to see if they can move things along – let’s get the centre open before Christmas.
SMALL BUSINESS SATURDAY It was great to visit Godalming Fish for Small Business Saturday. As I said in this video, the Autumn Statement announced we are freezing business rates for all small businesses and reducing them for high street shops by 75% next year. Small businesses are so important both for local high streets but also for the economy as a whole– every big business starts as a small one as I remember from my days running my own one for 14 years.
SUBSIDISED HOPPA IN WAVERLEY As part of efforts to support local businesses, Hoppa and Waverley Borough Council will be working together to subsidise bus transport for the two weeks before Christmas across the borough, starting next Monday 11th December. Do make sure to register online here to qualify.
PLEDGE A PRESENT FOR A PATIENT The Royal Surrey are running a gift appeal in which you can buy presents for patients staying in hospital over Christmas. Do take a look at the excellent cause and donate if you are able to do so here.
WONERSH Well done to all the volunteers and Wonersh Parish council who have worked so hard to refurbish the playground. If you want to see a wonderful film about the difference a playground can make try Living with Bill Nighy which is a 2022 remake of a Japanese classic.
SHERE CINEMA Shere Village Cinema are celebrating their 10th Anniversary this Sunday 10th December with a Grease Singalong. It is all happening in the village where I grew up! Tickets are only £8 for adults and £6.50 for children and include sausage rolls and popcorn. Book online here.
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AND FINALLY… Humans were not the only ones opening the first (or first twenty-four…) doors of their advent calendars last Friday, as animals at London Zoo were given their own versions!