It’s exactly one year since I was elected and it has been the privilege of my life to serve the people of East Surrey as your MP. Before I became involved with politics like most people I know I wasn’t really aware of what an MP actually did. So I wanted to take some time to explain to you what I’ve been up to this year as your representative. As well as my work as Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Treasury and dealing with the pandemic response, I’ve been campaigning on my local priorities -better roads, supporting the local economy, and protecting our local environment and I’ve been answering 12,000 pieces of your correspondence to try and get local people the help and answers they need.
Accessibility: Coming from an NHS family, I view being an MP a bit like being a family doctor. I wanted to make myself as accessible as possible and to that end have held travelling surgeries in Oxted, Caterham, Lingfield, Woldingham and Smallfield before the pandemic and fortnightly telephone surgeries now. I write for local parish newsletters and newspapers, take part in Facebook Live Q&As and regularly update my Facebook page with what I’m up to and send out a regular newsletter. I aim to respond to every piece of correspondence that I get from you – 12,000 emails and letters this year so far.
Roads: This has been my No.1 local priority. I campaigned at the March Budget for much needed funds and secured £33.5million extra for potholes across Surrey. Having visited the work in action, I am pressing for a review of our contractor. I’m also working with local residents to address excessive HGV movements in Smallfield, Burstow, Horne and Outwood and with Surrey County Council (SCC) and Tandridge District Council (TDC) to try and pin down infrastructure funding to improve our key junctions.
Local Economy: The Treasury’s £200bn economic response has been called one of the best examples of coordinated action globally. Locally the furlough scheme and self-employed schemes supported over 20,000 livelihoods. On top of this a range of grants, loans and cashflow schemes have directly benefitted local businesses. Nonetheless it has been an incredibly hard year for business. That’s why in June, I set up the East of Surrey Local Economic Taskforce with Crispin Blunt our neighbouring MP. We meet fortnightly with the councils, LEP and Federation of Small Businesses and so far we’ve drawn in £1.7million in public investment and are working to support high streets, skills and jobs, particularly for young people and aviation workers. I’ve loved meeting local businesses, supporting their applications for grants and Bounce Back loans and working with the BIDs. I also sit on the Surrey Economic Growth Board and will continue to place economic recovery at the heart of my work.
Environment: Our new home in Bletchingley is surrounded by nature and I feel so lucky to be there. I want to protect our local environment for the next generation too, and I spoke about this in my maiden speech in Parliament. That’s why I’ve worked to get a much overdue boundary review to protect the Surrey Hills for the next generation. I’ve organised local litterpicks in Westway Common and in Horley and got the Environment Minister for a special Q&A with residents. I’ve been inspired by the local environmentalists and the farmers I’ve met and visits to the exceptional Lingfield Nature Reserves and the British Wildlife Centre. Next year I will be campaigning to introduce Wild Belts to protect our nature recovery. On the national stage, I’ve supported the Environment and Agriculture Bills and was a member of the Fisheries Bill Committee, landmark legislation which will transform our landscape in the years to come.
Pandemic Response: Me and my team were inundated during the pandemic with questions and requests for help. I called to check in on older residents in the evening, joined up people in need with our fantastic local volunteer groups to get food and medicines, and worked with care homes and extremely kind donors to distribute PPE. I launched an East Surrey Community Champion Awards and Bounceback Business programme to recognise the phenomenal efforts of businesses and community groups like the Dormansland Diamonds, the Kindred Bakery and the Dog and Duck in Outwood.. An enormous number of people messaged in with the most incredible stories, and when social distancing allows, I hope we can celebrate their achievements together.
Parliament: This year, I’ve spoken in 24 debates in the House of Commons, but Parliament is a bit like a Greek tragedy – a lot of the action happens off stage! To that end, I often meet with Ministers to raise your concerns – particularly around housing - lobby for individual cases and work with caucuses like the Social Justice Caucus to achieve common aims. Here are some of the speeches I’ve made this year:
- Maiden Speech
- Housing and Planning
- Race and Inequality
- Improving Local Infrastructure & More Funding for Potholes
Aviation: Gatwick is a major driver of employment in our area. I have worked regularly with the team there and raised the plight of aviation workers with Ministers. Thanks to combined efforts of lobbying we have seen a removal of the 10pm curfew in airports and a move from Quarantine to Test and Release. The Local Economic Taskforce I run has pursued help for people around Gatwick working with DWP Ministers to ensure local people can be supported with skills and extra job support on site.
Schools: Before being an MP, I worked in the Education and Social Mobility team at KPMG. It has been an incredibly tough for year for so many in public service and I thank heads and teachers for all that they’ve done to adapt in difficult circumstances. I pressed for a Catch Up Fund, based on the EEF’s work, and am talking to schools about how this additional £1.5bn is landing on the ground. I have also loved meeting some of our outstanding SEN schools. We are putting in place 213 extra SEN placements across Surrey and over a £1bn extra funding nationally over the last two years but this remains a challenging area for parents to navigate. My favourite part of the job is meeting pupils and doing my best to answer their questions.
Trains: Before the pandemic I met with Govia Thameslink Rail to discuss our train services and worked with neighbouring MPs to address the landslips in January 2019. However, train usage has massively fallen since the pandemic. This has brought its own challenges of sustainability and confidence in public transport and I will be monitoring this in the year ahead.
National Policy: This year I was appointed to the Advisory Board for the think tank Onward and to Policy Exchange’s Indo Pacific Commission to promote how Britain can best work with the fastest growing region in the world. I have written articles on the Indo-Pacific, Digital trade and how Fintech can support people on low incomes. I was also delighted to be appointed to the Armed Forces Parliamentary Scheme to learn more about the work of the Navy. You can read more about some of this work here:
ESDAS: I’ve met so many wonderful local charities and community groups, but one stands out this year and that is the extremely busy East Surrey Domestic Abuse Services. We all know this has been an awful year for domestic abuse victims, if you would like to support ESDAS’ work you can donate here.
Finally, I’d like to wish you all a happy Christmas and wish every health and happiness to you and your families for the new year. Thanks to the outstanding work of scientists and clinicians around the world I am hopeful we will see a return to normality once again. I look forward to seeing as many of you as possible in 2021. As ever, if there is anything you would like to get in touch with me about you can contact me at email@example.com.
You can sign up to receive my newsletters here.
You can follow me on Facebook here.
You can follow me on Twitter here.