Good afternoon and welcome to my regular South West Surrey email update No. 72. As of today, we have a total of 434,969 positive cases of COVID-19 with sadly 41,988 confirmed deaths in the UK. There are 5,937 confirmed cases in Surrey and 597 confirmed cases and an estimated 151 active cases in Waverley. That number (which is not an official figure but from a website that estimates local prevalence) is more than three times the number just three weeks ago which is why, more than ever, we need local testing issues to be sorted out.
More to come? Following Thursday’s introduction of restrictions aimed at preventing further growth of the virus, there are rumours today that further measures could be introduced which could see 'socialising' indoors between households banned and pubs and restaurants forced to close for two weeks. This comes after London was placed on the government's list of concern, because of the increase of cases, hospitalisations and NHS 111 calls. There is some good news though, as cases seem to have fallen for two days in a row following the new restrictions from last week (although seem to be stubbornly high is most of the locked down northern cities). We will find out more this week with Covid debates in parliament both today and on Wednesday.
From today it will be a punishable offence not to comply with an official instruction to self-isolate, with fines starting at £1,000 and rising to £10,000 for repeat offenders or serious breaches. The Police can check that people are complying with the rules in virus hotspots and among high-risk groups based on "local intelligence", the government said. The law applies to people who have tested positive for coronavirus, or who have been told by NHS Test and Trace to self-isolate. Also if someone tests positive, it is illegal to knowingly give false information about their close contacts to NHS Test and Trace. You can read the full list of new measures here. Much libertarian angst in the papers but if we want to keep death rates down I am not sure what else we expect the government to do if we are not as socially compliant as the Swedes.
Freshers frustration Over the weekend we saw some troubling stories of university students who have been forced to isolate in their accommodation following COVID-19 outbreaks. The Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson, will be up in the House of Commons today to lay out the government's strategy to handle the situation – but after my conversation with the Vice-Chancellor of Surrey University, it is reassuring to hear that our local university has excellent plans and procedures in place including its own testing facilities.
And lo there came an…app Despite some initial teething problems, some 10 million people have downloaded the NHS Track and Trace app including your MP. It was easy to download on my iphone and is easy to use - especially the nifty QR 'check-in' feature which saves having to fill in forms when you visit venues. We should all download it despite the earlier hiccups - it is good and will make us all safer. You can download the app from your app store.
For the most up to date details on what you can and cannot do please read these FAQ’s
The key number to remember remains 0300 200 1008 the Surrey Helpline run by Surrey County Council (Mon-Fri 9 am to 5 pm).
WHAT’S GOING ON IN WESTMINSTER
The Brady amendment. The government needs to get approval to extend the emergency legislation that gives them vital powers to tackle the pandemic on Wednesday. My colleague Graham Brady (he who has held the fate of many a Prime Minister in his hand as Chair of the 1922 Committee) has put forward an amendment that would mean parliament needs to approve each individual measure. The government is reported to be seeking a compromise. I hope an accommodation is reached as I don’t really see the issue here: it is a pandemic, the government needs to act quickly and is in step with public opinion on wanting to do so.
WHAT’S GOING ON IN SOUTH WEST SURREY
Anti-social behaviour On Friday I met with the new Waverley Borough Commander Inspector Sam Adcock and Sgt Claire Sutherland to discuss anti-social behaviour issues locally. Tackling anti-social behaviour is their top priority and they are also pressing on with the appointment of new PCs responsible for each of our three towns, the first time we have had this for some time. They were also refreshingly determined to make sure crime does not return to its pre-pandemic levels. There was a request though: for volunteers to man the street patrols that have been so successful in tackling ASB in Farncombe - if you can help on this please email Farncombecommunityteam@gmail.com Keep an eye on my Facebook and Twitter pages for the interview I did with them.
Planning proposals Also on Friday I met with Dockenfield parish councils to hear about their concerns about the changes to the planning system, as well as talking about them at length to leaders of Waverley, Farnham, Godalming and Haslemere town councils. When less than 30% of planning permissions actually being built, surely reform needs to apply pressure to developers, not just councils? We should be seeing the new government bill in the next few weeks but as today's Telegraph tells us the current plans are simply untenable.
Emma Young, principal of Godalming College, told me about the sterling work they are doing to keep the show on the road there. Students alternate weeks, one week in college and the other studying virtually. Teachers therefore teach half the class in person and half online - a lot of extra work but it seems to be working. Thanks to all for their heroic efforts. Emma will be joining my Godalming Mental Health virtual roundtable on Friday 9th October with Professor Tim Kendall, the NHS mental health clinical director. If you would like to join please sign up (SW Surrey constituents only please).
Hunt family bouncing back I have been trying out local attractions with my family as part of my South West Surrey Bounceback campaign. We had great visits to Birdworld and GoApe on Sunday. I did not join the children clambering along the treetops and felt rather put to shame by the mums and dads who did…but fantastic fun. You can join the campaign by filling in this short survey. When it comes to local business, use it or lose it…
I have been compiling a list of local groups working to support vulnerable residents. You can view them on this link.
THE ECONOMY AND JOBS
Winter Economic Plan On Thursday the Chancellor laid out his Winter Economic Plan, a generous package of measures which includes a wage support scheme, similar to the German support system which will mean an employee who woks 1/3 of their hours will receive nearly 80% of their salary (which is subsidised by the employer and the government). VAT reductions and extensions to the Bounce Back loans were also announced. You can find out more about the package here.
What it doesn’t include… Apparently many self-employed people are still unable to access any form of government support. My colleagues across the House of Commons and I continue to raise this with the Chancellor because we do need to solve this. Full credit to Mel Stride MP, Chair of the Treasury Select Committee, who has been leading on this issue.
WHAT ELSE IS GOING ON
UN General Assembly Last week the United Nations General Assembly met (virtually for the first time). I can tell you from experience that it’s typically a whirlwind of a few days, so I imagine it’s been somewhat of a relief to our PM not to visit in purpose but his speech was excellent on the need to prepare for future pandemics here and to people who think Boris is a Trump-clone this massive increase in funding for the World Health Organisation may make you think again.
Big Ben is back. An exciting start of the week for those of us in the Westminster bubble as the scaffolding around Big Ben – visible from my team's office – starts to come down. It wasn’t timed for the end of the Brexit negotiations honestly.