One of the things I care deeply about is making the country and its people richer. As the world becomes more competitive, and as we face the cost of living crisis and more age-related spending in the decades ahead, we will need to use all of our collective talents to innovate and prosper.
One of the best ways for people to earn more is to study maths. Don’t believe me? Ask Bill Gates or even Snoop Dogg. Good numeracy and maths are going to be ever more critical in a changing world where we have to assess the costs of different product choices, root out truth from disinformation, and thrive in a work landscape increasingly dominated by tech and artificial intelligence.
At the moment, over eight million adults in England have numeracy skills lower than those expected of a nine-year-old, and the charity National Numeracy estimates that this can cost them up to £1,600 a year in lost earnings.
That’s why, earlier in my career, I helped to set up a National Numeracy Day. I wanted to encourage a culture where we find someone saying ‘I can’t do numbers’ as concerning as someone saying ‘I can’t read’, and where we shout about all the tools we put in place to make sure people are at ease when dealing with numbers so that more opportunities and higher-paid jobs are open to them.
For this year’s National Numeracy Day, I was delighted to visit De Stafford School in Caterham. I spoke to students about the importance of numeracy and maths and about how no matter whether their pathway was academic or into a trade, these skills can make them and our country richer.
Another highlight this month was my visit to Bloomin’ Arts in Lingfield. I attended one of their art classes for people with disabilities and got to admire their bedazzling portraits. I’d like to thank Hayley and team for all they do for people with disabilities – giving them a place to socialise, make friends, and enjoy being creative.
On St George’s Day, I had the pleasure of attending Horley’s annual fair, where I delighted in a hog roast bap from Chris White. It was wonderful to see so many people coming together to celebrate our great country with the customary Horley spirit that I’ve got to know in my time here.
A couple of weeks ago, I also visited Tony and team at the Horley Food Club. They gather food that would otherwise get thrown away and then redistribute it to people who might be struggling, solving two problems with one stone. One of their food club members told us about the pride she took in protecting the planet by taking food that would otherwise have been put in landfill. An excellent scheme which allows a good deed on both sides.
I also visited Dianne and Liz at Churches for Food Horley, who have done tremendous work to help those in need. We know that energy and food bills are taking their toll on local families, so it was great to see this thoughtful and dedicated community support in action.
My team and I are still working around the clock with residents to help Ukrainian refugee families with their visa applications. I am so looking forward to meeting them and hope to bring them all together at an event in the coming weeks. None of us can begin to imagine what they have been through and I am still so bowled over by the kindness of the British people. I am particularly proud of the generosity that I have seen here in East Surrey. It is a credit to all of you.
Another reason I came into politics was my belief that the best decisions for communities are usually made by communities themselves, not made for them from afar. So it was a delight to speak at the Community Wealth Fund’s parliamentary reception, where I argued that we will only unleash the ambition and energy communities have for their areas if we recognise them as the legitimate decision-makers that they are.
Looking ahead to June, I am really looking forward to celebrating the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. Her Majesty has served our country gracefully for 70 years. I’m sure you will agree that we can learn a lot from her example and should strive to work as hard, faithfully and courageously as she has for all these years. She is truly an inspiration to us all.