Letter from Claire Coutinho – December 2022

November offered us a chance to remember those who gave their lives in service to our country, our own loved ones who have passed and, this year in particular, our extraordinary late Queen.

I was honoured to join volunteers and local leaders at events across East Surrey. I met parish councillor John Farnaby to lay a wreath at Sgt Stanley Fenemore’s memorial in South Godstone, joined Joan and Jackie to raise money for this year’s Poppy Appeal in Morrisons Caterham, and attended the impeccably organised Remembrance Service at St Paul’s Church in Woldingham.

At these events I realised that while we may slowly be losing the living connection to both world wars, we are in no danger of losing the spirit and emotion felt by so many throughout the remembrance period.

I sat down with Surrey Police’s brilliant new borough commander Lyndsey Whatley and raised your concerns about the rise in keyless car theft and van tool thefts, which sometimes take place in daylight while workers are busy on site.

I was heartened to hear the number of Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras within Tandridge has increased from four to 11, thanks to the government’s Safer Streets Fund. This has been really helpful for tracking down suspects and helps officers to better follow lines of enquiry. Lyndsey also updated me on some of Surrey’s cross-border operations with other police forces, uniting their efforts against organised crime groups.

Through my Friendship Project, I’ve heard from local groups that finding door-to-door transport to get vulnerable residents to and from hospital appointments and shopping trips can be a struggle. Voluntary organisations like East Surrey Rural Transport Partnership offer transport services where they’re needed, and I met community development officer Anita Donnelly to discuss Surrey County Council’s Future Bus Network Review.

Open until 6 January, you can share your views on SCC’s website, or via a hard copy in libraries, local council offices and on buses in Surrey’s affected areas. You can also request a hard copy be sent to you by calling 0300 200 1003. If you use local buses I would strongly recommend you complete the survey, as it will shape future services across the county.

I also met Dr Orrow and Dr Mustill from Growing Health Together, a collaborative partnership of local health professionals which works to improve health outcomes and prevent disease across East Surrey. We discussed the enormous potential for preventative medicine and social prescription to not only make people happier and healthier, but also to save NHS money and ease the pressure on existing services. I’m going to be telling ministers about Growing Health Together’s fantastic work, and hope to secure them extra funding in the process.

Half of all business revenue in the UK comes from SMEs, and women are the growth market of the world economy – bigger than China and India combined – so I’m passionate about empowering women to set up and run their own businesses.

I joined Make It Your Business founder Alison Cork, alongside other female entrepreneurs (including the fantastic editor of a certain local newspaper…) at Oxted Library, to talk about how they can make their businesses flourish.

As part of UK Parliament Week, I popped to the OneSchool Global Campus in Kenley for my first school visit as a minister at the Department for Education. The students put me through my paces with some of the most challenging questions I’ve had to date, and it was a delight to see what they were all working on.

In my role as Minister for Children, Families and Wellbeing, I was pleased to announce that we will be publishing our Implementation Strategy, following the publication of the independent review of children’s social care earlier this year. We will be laying the foundations for a system that is built on love and the importance of family.

It seems like I say this every year, but I can’t quite believe it is December already. This has been a truly tumultuous year, and I hope you are able to take time to be with your loved ones. Merry Christmas and a happy new year to you all.

Claire Coutinho MP


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