News from Claire Coutinho MP

It has been a tough time for family finances, but we are turning a corner. Energy bills are now down to their lowest level for two years, with the average annual bill cut by almost £250. This is on top of the budget changes which have now kicked in for families across East Surrey, including tax cuts worth £900 for the average worker, a boost to the Living Wage worth £3,600 for a full-time working couple, 15 hours of free childcare worth £3,450 a year for working parents, and a state pension increase worth £900 a year. And, as Energy Secretary, I know many families in East Surrey and across the country feel that high standing charges are unfair and make it harder for them to cut down their monthly energy bills. Decisions around standing charges rest with Ofgem, so I have written to them setting out my expectation that standing charges are kept low, or reformed if necessary to make them fairer for consumers. You can read my full letter on my website.

In November the Prime Minister announced a massive injection of £8.3 billion into road resurfacing projects across England, funded by cancelling the second phase of HS2. As a condition of this funding, and to make sure money is being spent on pothole repairs, we required local councils to publish a two-year plan detailing exactly which roads will be repaired with the money.

Surrey County Council's results are in, and they show that as a direct result of the PM rediverting money from HS2, the following roads in Tandridge have been repaired: Oxted Road in Godstone, Copthorne Road in Felbridge, Antlands Lane in Shipley Bridge, Featherbed Lane in Warlingham and Chestnut Copse in Hurst Green. The full data shows that this year, Surrey will be spending almost triple what was spent on roads, pavements, bridges, drainage, safety barriers, and traffic signals in 2019/20. Nevertheless, I know how frustrating poor road surfaces can be – so if you have a road near you that you would like to see resurfaced, please do report them on the SCC website.

I am a self-confessed community centre superfan. Community spaces can do wonders for our sense of belonging and our wellbeing, and I was thrilled to visit the site of the long-awaited Master Park Pavilion in Oxted recently. Following a mammoth fundraising effort, including securing £1.86 million from Your Fund Surrey and £250,000 from the Government’s Community Ownership Fund, the new community pavilion is well on its way to completion, and it was fantastic to get a sense of how community groups and sports clubs will be able to use the space when it is finished. Pammy, Phil, Roger, and the rest of the Master Park Trustees have done such a brilliant job getting the project off the ground – and I look forward to heading back when the Pavilion opens to the community towards the end of the year.

Finally, I’m delighted to share an update on The Friendship Project, the charity that I set up to support local community groups who tackle loneliness. With help from the Tandridge Community Fund, over £10,000 has now been distributed to 7 community groups in East Surrey to support them in their crucial work. This includes £2,500 for the Woodhouse Centre in Oxted to help them redecorate their walls and replace carpets and lighting, £3,150 to the Westway Centre to build an outdoor shelter to help with socialising and gardening, and just under £2,000 for East Surrey Rural Transport Partnership to facilitate community outreach events and transport for those in need. I’m sure we all feel that life has got busier in recent years, and many of us will feel that we would rather have a bit more time to stop and get to know those around us – that’s why I’ve now installed the first of my ‘Happy to Chat’ benches. With the money I’ve raised for my Friendship project, I’m installing these in green spaces in East Surrey to encourage people to spark a conversation with someone they might not have previously thought to say hello to. If you spot one while you’re out and about, do send me an email to let me know!



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