I cannot start this month’s column without addressing the Putin regime’s invasion of Ukraine.
Like many of you, I have been appalled by the violence we have seen. However, what has struck me most of all is not Putin’s bombs or his brutality, but the courage and heroism of the Ukrainian people. In particular, I know we have all been deeply moved by the inspirational leadership of President Zelenskyy.
Alongside our international partners, the Government is now imposing the largest and most severe package of sanctions which Russia has ever seen, as well as coordinating a response with our allies to make sure that Putin cannot further undermine European security.
Locally, my team and I have been working around the clock with several Ukrainian families from East Surrey who have been trying to bring their loved ones to this country, and I hope by the time you are reading this they will have arrived safely.
If you have Ukrainian loved ones still in the country or region, or if you know somebody who does, please do contact me at email@example.com and I will do all I can to help.
From donations of food to medicines to toiletries, I have also been so inspired by the generosity shown by residents across East Surrey. The community-led action we have seen is quite literally saving lives. Thank you.
Some of you have also offered to take in Ukrainian refugees yourselves, and I am pleased to report that the Government’s Homes for Ukraine scheme is now open for residents, businesses and charities to volunteer to do exactly that.
On the important issue of trains, I recently spoke with Govia Thameslink again to discuss the current situation and how unacceptable it is that constituents are not receiving the level of service they need. I’d like to thank Cllr Becky Rush, Cllr Cameron McIntosh and Cllr Lesley Steeds for joining me and for all of their work in this area.
I also had a meeting with the Rail Minister recently, where I raised the particular point that with recent changes to coronavirus restrictions, we can expect a fall in staff absence and an increase in the number of services being run. I will be pushing both the Minster and Govia Thameslink to make sure that this happens.
On 8 March, we marked International Women’s Day. I am honoured to be the first female MP for East Surrey and the 525th woman elected to the House of Commons. However, the fact that we are yet to reach 650 women – the number it would take to fill the House – over the course of our history should give us pause for thought.
During my speech in the House to mark the occasion, I made the case for more women in advanced maths, science and tech careers, so that women don’t have to play catch up with the jobs of the future. I also had the opportunity to discuss this with the Prime Minister recently and he firmly agreed that women need to be in the jobs with the highest returns and where the big decisions are made.
Ahead of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, I was delighted to nominate East Surrey resident Elaine Forsyth to be a Queen’s Batonbearer. From her role as Head of Pre-Prep at Hawthorns School, to her passion for ensuring every child can achieve their potential, to her efforts with local charities – her credentials speak volumes.
I also had the pleasure of visiting the Merstham Community Hub recently with Deano, Sara and Marcus from the Whyteleafe and Kenley Community Hub. From a food club, to a repair shop, to library facilities – it’s such an impressive set-up. Thanks so much to Cllr Mark Brunt for showing us around.
As many of you will know, the team in Whyteleafe have already established a food bank but are now looking to expand the services they offer along the lines of the Merstham Community Hub. Deano, Sara and Marcus are true community champions and I’m really excited to see them continue to go from strength to strength.
I was also delighted to attend a recent meeting of the Chelsham and Farleigh Parish Council. From planning enforcement to protecting our woodlands, it was a really productive discussion. Thank you to Cllr Jan Moore for the invitation.
In mid-March, I met up with some of my fellow Surrey MPs to learn about the issues being faced by a particular part of the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). Protecting our environmental treasure chest is one of my top priorities, so I was pleased to reaffirm my support for extending the AONB’s boundaries.
I also met Police and Crime Commissioner Lisa Townsend and Chief Constable Gavin Stephens recently to talk about residents’ concerns. In particular, we discussed women’s safety and tackling the issue of male violence. To date, I’m pleased to report that Surrey has received over £1 million from the Government’s Safer Streets Fund, including £300,000 for Godstone and Bletchingley.
Lastly, I was recently contacted by the team at Oxted School to ask if I could help them find any local employers willing to give their Year 10 pupils some work experience. I’m looking forward to welcoming one of their pupils here to the Houses of Parliament in July to give them an insight into my work as the MP for East Surrey. If you’re a local employer or if you know of anyone who might be interested in offering a week of work experience, please do get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org.