Claire Coutinho's November Update

Parish Newsletter November 2023

You may remember that last month I wrote to share the news that Royal Surrey and East Surrey Hospitals were to receive an extra £8.8 million to expand winter capacity, and that Surrey is receiving an extra £886,000 to fund home adaptations for our elderly and disabled residents. Well, the good news doesn’t stop there, as I am thrilled to share that Master Park in Oxted is set to receive a £250,000 grant from the Government's Community Ownership Fund.


Many of you will be aware of the plans to replace the current 1960s pavilion, which is no longer fit for purpose, with a new multi-use community hub. The park isn't run by the council, but by a charity – so this new hub will help bring in more revenue to pay for the maintenance of the park in the long term.


I've always felt that we should empower local people to care for the small, much-loved community assets on which we cannot put a price. This is an issue I have raised in Parliament several times and I'm so pleased that a local charity will benefit from the Government's £150 million fund. A huge well done to the Trustees and the Friends of Master Park for all their work so far.


My work in Westminster has never been busier, but I continue to work on the issues that matter most to you. In my surgeries I continue to hear from parents that they are struggling to get updates on education, health and care plans, for their children with SEND, so I organised a meeting with Clare Curran and Jim Nunns from Surrey County Council’s SEND team.


When I was the Minister responsible for SEND, I used the experience of families in my surgeries to implement reforms to fix some of the most common problems families face. In the short term, there are a number of procedural changes that Surrey can make to smooth things over for families, including making sure that caseworkers have their out-of-office replies turned on and provide regular updates to families, even when there is no progress. I am grateful that Clare agreed to implement some of these changes at our meeting, and look into the specific cases I raised from my surgeries. If you have any issues you would like me to take up on your behalf, please don’t hesitate to get in touch – this month I have solved problems for residents having trouble with family visas, social care, HMRC, housing benefit and more.


I also wanted to update you on my work as Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero, which I know many of you are incredibly passionate about.


Since the Prime Minister’s speech on Net Zero at the end of September, I have had one key message: I am deeply committed to tackling climate change and achieving Net Zero, but we must take people with us. We’ve seen in other countries what happens when people feel that the green transition is something that will make them worse off or reduce their quality of life; you risk undermining public support for the cause altogether. We have to take a pragmatic and proportionate approach, while building on our genuinely world-leading record in reducing our emissions. We cannot rush to reach Net Zero by clobbering families with unnecessary burdens – financial or otherwise.


Many of you have told me, for example, that you are worried about solar farms covering the countryside that we all cherish. That is why I announced that we are working to reduce pressure on rural communities by making it easier for solar panels to be installed on industrial rooftops, warehouses, car parks and factories – saving firms £3 billion a year in the process.


And if we are to protect our environment for our children and grandchildren, we must continue our fantastic record in transitioning to cleaner sources of energy. At the start of October I announced the six companies which have been shortlisted to build small modular nuclear reactors, one of which is Rolls Royce. This iconic British company powered the Spitfires which took off from Kenley Aerodrome 80 years ago, and in a few years’ time they may be powering a significant part of our nation’s electricity supply.


This is how we will build a better world for future generations. Not by punishing families for doing the things that bring them joy, but by harnessing the best of British innovation, and making the most of technology that can both reduce emissions and improve our lives.


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