Letter from Claire Coutinho – November 2022

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak was formally appointed on 25 October.

I have worked with Rishi for many years. He is one of the most intelligent and decent people I know, and I am confident he has the experience to steer us through the choppy waters facing the global economy right now.

I am also delighted to have been appointed as a minister at the Department for Education. A good education is the closest thing we have to a silver bullet when it comes to making people’s lives better, and I’m so excited to be working with such a brilliant ministerial team.

I saw the power of education first hand last month when I attended the East Surrey College Awards as their guest speaker, and saw so many of their brilliant students graduate into their new lives. The evening was a heartwarming reminder that it’s never too late to reskill, retrain, and continue learning. Thank you to Jayne, Richard, Lindsay and all the staff who organised the celebrations.

Surrey Wildlife Trust

Many of you have been contacting me about nature, wildlife and the environment recently. I discussed these issues and more with Sarah Jane Chimbwandira, chief executive of the Surrey Wildlife Trust (SWT). Sarah Jane and I discussed how the SWT has supported projects to boost biodiversity, and deliver investment to natural assets in East Surrey through the Natural Environment Investment Readiness Fund. I am grateful to SWT for their expert briefing, as ever, and will feed their concerns into my conversations with ministers.

Sara Jayne and I also discussed our shared concerns about fracking. I am extremely glad that the new administration has been clear that the ban on fracking will be reinstated.

Energy efficiency

As the nights are drawing in and the evenings are getting chillier, I wanted to let you know about a fantastic scheme from Action Surrey that could give you up to £25,000 towards improving your home’s energy efficiency.

Whether you rent or own, or if you are on a low income or a means-tested benefit, you could receive a grant to fund the installation of energy improvements like cavity wall insulation, loft insulation or solar panels. All the details can be found at www.actionsurrey.org.

Local services

I met once again with GTR to raise the concerns of commuting constituents who are unhappy with the low number of trains, particularly at peak hours. Some constituents have raised issues with particular services, and I asked GTR to look at these cases to see if there is anything more they can do. I know that services continue to be overcrowded and that services often don’t run early or late enough to meet everyone’s needs, and I will continue to raise these concerns with GTR.

I also spoke with Sumona Chatterjee from the Surrey Heartlands Integrated Care System, which is the NHS organisation that commissions health and care services locally. I raised local concerns about the provision of health services for new housing developments, particularly those that involve a large number of new homes. We also discussed what the ICS are doing to get local GP appointments and NHS dental services back up to speed, and talked through the recently announced Our Plan for Patients.

Our Plan for Patients is the government’s new strategy to ease pressures on GP services. Funding rules will be changed to recruit extra support staff and allow GPs to focus on treating patients, and pharmacies will be allowed to supply certain medicines without a GP prescription. Together, these changes could free up to three million appointments each year, and phone systems will also be modernised to make it easier for you to get an appointment.

If you have questions about any of the issues raised above, please don’t hesitate to get in touch: claire.coutinho.mp@parliament.uk.

(You can read my past letters here.)

MP for East Surrey Claire Coutinho


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