Letter from Claire Coutinho – December 2023

As we approach Christmas, and before we start fretting about Brussell sprouts and last-minute gifts, it’s worth taking a step back to remember where we were at the start of the year.

In my January column I wrote about the prime minister’s big speech setting out his top priorities for the year – and by far the most important of those priorities was to halve inflation by the end of the year. 

Inflation at that point was at 10.1%, and by taking difficult decisions to control spending and get our economy back on track, I am pleased to say that we more than halved inflation to 4.6% in October: two months earlier than our target.

Thanks to the stability this has brought, at last week’s Autumn Statement the chancellor (and fellow Surrey MP) Jeremy Hunt explained that we are now able to focus on the long-term decisions needed to strengthen our economy. This year’s mammoth statement included a cut to employee National Insurance, from 12% to 10%, which is a tax cut of £450 for the average worker earning £35,400 a year, and made further tax cuts worth £350 for the average self-employed person earning £28,200 a year.

We also confirmed the pensions Triple Lock to increase the State Pension and Pension Credit by 8.5%, and increased the National Living Wage by 8.9% to £11.44 per hour. We unfroze Local Housing Allowance, bringing £800 of support to 1.6 million households next year, which will make a world of difference to families on low incomes in areas with high housing costs, like East Surrey.

In my area energy policy, we announced plans to give people living closest to new electricity grid infrastructure discounts of up to £10,000 off their electricity bills over 10 years, and communities at least £200,000 for local projects of their choice, such as new playgrounds or childcare facilities. This is all about making sure that we have the electricity grid to cope with surging demand as we move to cleaner, electrified forms of heating and transport.

Closer to home, I recently held a meeting in Oxted with Surrey Police, local councillors, representatives from local businesses and Oxted BID about persistent crime and anti-social behaviour in the town centre. I want everyone to feel safe in our community, and I know there have been really worrying incidents in recent months relating to organised crime gangs and unacceptable threats towards young shop staff.

Businesses rightly raised their frustrations that 999 calls are not resulting in visits to their stores. Lisa Townsend, our police and crime commissioner, has been working with the police to improve 999 responses, and Borough Commander Lyndsey Whatley has committed to working with local businesses to improve reporting and ensure their staff feel safe.

There will be another online public meeting for local businesses shortly, held by the Oxted BID, and anyone who would like to attend can email me for details. I’d also like to thank Oxted and Limpsfield Parish Councils, Friends of Master Park and Oxted and Hurst Green Community Centres for their work to install more CCTV and ANPR cameras in the area, which will help deter crime and gather evidence on behalf of the police.

UK Parliament Week took place towards the end of November, which gave me a chance to get out to local primary schools and talk about what Parliament is, what we do, and how they can get involved. Thank you to staff and pupils at Felbridge Primary, Godstone Primary and St Francis’ in Caterham for their warm welcome and brilliant questions.

Finally, I’m delighted to share that, as part of the government’s £60 million support for swimming pools, de Stafford Sports Centre and Tandridge Leisure Centre will together receive almost £500,000 of funding to make sure that they stay afloat and so children and adults across East Surrey are able to stay fit and healthy.

I would like to wish you all a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year, and to thank you for the many wonderful conversations I’ve had on doorsteps, out in the community and in my surgeries throughout 2023. It is the privilege of my life to be your MP, and I am here to work for you. If you need help, please don’t hesitate to get in touch on claire.coutinho.mp@parliament.uk.

Read all my letters here.

Share this article