Henry Smith MP – Westminster Report – February 2023
Rising prices as a result of global economic pressures including Covid-19 and Putin’s illegal war have left many families struggling. That is why Government has extended its unprecedented support targeted at the most vulnerable into 2023-24 through £900 means-tested Cost of Living Payments, the Energy Price Guarantee and the £2.5 billion Household Support Fund.
West Sussex County Council will receive £9.7 million in the latest round of the Household Support Fund to help families that need support with the cost of essentials in the face of rising costs.
The Household Support Fund is a discretionary fund provided to local authorities enabling them to provide support to vulnerable families struggling to cover essential costs who may not be eligible for other Government support schemes.
This doubles down on the commitment to help the most vulnerable families with rising costs.
The Government is also delivering further support on top of the £1 billion of funding for the Household Support Fund including means-tested £900 Cost of Living Payments, a £150 payment for disabled people, and £300 for pensioner households. The Government’s Energy Price Guarantee is also protecting people from rising energy costs this year until the end of March 2024.
For more information on the Household Support Fund please click here.
Confirmation that there are 48 more doctors, nurses and other patient care staff working in general practice in Crawley: an increase of 40 per cent.
This includes important roles such as dispensers, health care assistants, phlebotomists, pharmacists, physiotherapists, podiatrists, therapists and others.
There are an estimated 23,000 more patient care staff working in general practice across England than in 2019.
Ahead of World Cancer Day on 4th February I met with Radiotherapy 4 Life in Parliament in support of the #CatchUpWithCancer campaign.
I was pleased to attend not only as a proud Vice Chair of the Radiotherapy All-Party Parliamentary Group but on behalf of those Crawley residents who wrote to me asking that I take part, and in support of all those locally currently undergoing cancer treatment.
I know that even if they have not undergone radiotherapy themselves, many people will know a friend or family member who has. Radiotherapy uses radiation to kill cancer cells, and may be used in the early stages of cancer or after it has started to spread. While radiotherapy is seen as the most effective cancer treatment after surgery, it does of course vary from person to person.
Government has set a target of no more than 15 per cent of cancer patients in England waiting longer than the recommended 62 day wait between the date the hospital receives an urgent referral for suspected cancer and the start of the treatment.
Ensuring access to radiotherapy treatment is vital and is a cause I have continued to highlight in Parliament. Shortly before Christmas, the Health & Social Care Minister confirmed to me that approximately £162 million has been invested to replace or upgrade 100 radiotherapy machines since 2016.
I welcome the Department of Health & Social Care reiterating that this work is continuing, with the NHS England capacity and demand review of external beam radiotherapy capacity to be completed in 2022-23.
Here in Crawley we are of course the home of the UK base of Elekta oncology. Last year in Parliament I was pleased to champion their innovation and received assurances at the despatch box from the Business Minister over Government backing for research and development to support such work.
Ensuring this Government’s record funding for the NHS gets to where it is needed is a cause I continue to pursue.
Support from Crawley and the whole UK for Ukraine one year on: Last week marked one year since Russia launched its unprovoked, unjustified and unlawful invasion of Ukraine.
Three quarters of a century on from the Second World War and three decades since the Bosnian genocide, when we watch the news reports from Mariupol, Kharkiv and Bucha, it is difficult to comprehend that we are witnessing such conflict in Europe in the 21st century.
Ukraine, of course, did not start this war. Its actions are solely defensive to protect its freedom and the lives of its people. Its victory is needed not only for the Ukrainian people, but for security in Britain as well.
The strength of feeling which I felt in Crawley a year ago as I spoke in Queen’s Square in support of the people of Ukraine has not diminished. The palpable sense of injustice is still there, as is the need to address the effects of Putin’s invasion both in Ukraine and at home.
As we provide the Ukrainian people the support they need to ensure Putin fails, the UK is also galvanising the breadth and depth of British expertise.
In November I highlighted in Parliament the importance of UK military backing for Ukraine. This of course includes Thales UK, whose base in this country is in Manor Royal.
The UK has provided vital training to Ukrainian forces for nearly a decade. Britain continues to bolster our training offer for Ukrainian troops, fighter jet pilots and marines.
The Government is also right to take economic action against Putin’s regime; imposing the largest and most severe package of sanctions that Russia has ever seen. More than 1,320 individuals and entities have been sanctioned and £275 billion of assets are frozen, dealing a severe blow to the Russian economy, hobbling its military, and helping to punish Putin and his allies.
Environmental Improvement Plan: Even though the UK is a standard bearer for environmental protections on the global stage I am acutely aware we cannot afford to be complacent here at home.
The new Environmental Improvement Plan sets out work over a five year period to not only restore nature but improve the quality of our air, waters and land. This will help secure a cleaner and greener country for our children and grandchildren.
The last decade has seen the creation or restoration of wildlife habitats greater than the size of West Sussex, and establishing of Marine Protected Areas across 35,000 square miles of English waters. In recent weeks I have been pursuing the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs on the issue of introducing five no-take Highly Protected Marine Areas.
The Environmental Improvement Plan commits to creating or restoring at least one and a quarter million acres of new wildlife habitats. This will start with 70 new wildlife projects including 25 new or expanded National Nature Reserves and 19 further Nature Recovery Projects.
It will also deliver a clean and plentiful supply of water for people and nature into the future. This will include tackling leaks, publishing a roadmap to boost household water efficiency, and enabling greater sources of supply.
It is over the last decade we have seen action taken to address sewage overflows. The Sewage Overflow Reduction Plan, totalling £56 billion of investment, sets out the largest ever infrastructure programme in water company history. Since 2015, the Environment Agency have concluded 56 prosecutions against water and sewerage companies securing fines of over £141 million. I am calling for a new fund to be established that could support local initiatives to tackle pollution.
Also included in the Environmental Improvement Plan is a challenge to local councils to improve air quality more quickly – something which Crawley Borough Council must do much better on. The plan additionally commits to ensure access to green space or water within a 15 minute walk of every home.
Urgent and emergency care recovery: NHS frontline capacity will be boosted further thanks to 800 new ambulances, including 100 specialist mental health vehicles, and 5,000 more sustainable hospital beds backed by a £1 billion dedicated fund.
We all know the need for the NHS to bounce back from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and I welcome the health service and the Government taking further action with this plan to help recover urgent and emergency care services.
As the Government continues to back our NHS it is essential that this support gets to where it is needed.
In the last couple of months alone we have seen Crawley announced as the site of a new Community Diagnostic Centre to perform life-saving checks, confirmation of Sussex in the Government’s Discharge Frontrunners programme to lead the way in exploring new long-term initiatives to free up hospital beds, and improvements of over £1 million for Langley Green Hospital secured to enhance mental health crisis services.
Putting fans at the heart of football: Welcomed the announcement from the Government of a radical overhaul of football governance which will give fans a greater say in the running of clubs.
We know that clubs such as Crawley Town play an important role at the heart of local communities throughout the country. For too long, football fans have not been put first and unscrupulous owners have failed to properly protect our clubs.
This is why I welcome the announcement from the Government which will see the current system transformed thanks to new regulations. This will give a voice to the fans who have been ignored for far too long.
The regulator will implement a new licensing system from the Premier League to the National League that will require clubs to demonstrate sound financial business models and good corporate governance as part of an application process before being allowed to compete.
The Regulator will require clubs to comply with the FA on their new rules for heritage which will give fans a veto over changes to the badge and home shirt colours in addition to the strong existing protections for club names. In addition, clubs will have to seek the approval of the regulator for any sale or relocation of the stadium, with fan engagement a major part of that process.
Apprenticeships: Apprenticeships are fantastic ways for students to enter the world of work, helping them to build new skills and gain vital industry knowledge – all while being paid.
It is brilliant news that 9,700 new apprenticeships have been created in Crawley since 2010 thanks to successive Governments – as part of the drive to improve skills and productivity in our economy.
Behind a figure such as this are people whose lives have been changed by their apprenticeship and I was delighted to meet with Crawley apprentices in Parliament to mark National Apprenticeship Week.
Oldhouse Warren: I am delighted that the ancient woodland in Oldhouse Warren just outside Maidenbower is saved from development, and want to thank area councillors, Kim Jaggard, Jennifer Millar-Smith, Bob Lanzer, Duncan Crow and Duncan Peck for their efforts to protect this local habitat.
Over recent months I have continued to reiterate the opposition of great numbers of local residents to the holiday site proposals. I discussed this with the Woodland Trust in Parliament last week and in November I was pleased to meet the Sussex Wildlife Trust on the site itself. It is the right decision and it is good to see that Center Parcs have also reached this conclusion.
This victory is welcome news for a beautiful part of the Sussex countryside.
I do not oppose Center Parcs per se but not sited in a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, furthermore we have more job vacancies in Crawley than people to fill them and need more higher quality jobs too. The increased traffic a holiday park would have created would also have caused congested local roads and reduced air quality.
Housing support: £1.3 million will be made available for housing support for people in drug and alcohol treatment in West Sussex, as part of up to £53 million which has been allocated to 28 local authorities.
This will include specialist floating support workers who will work with people in their homes and other community settings across West Sussex to support them into and to stay in substance misuse treatment pathways, and provide tailored support around people's accommodation needs.
This announcement forms part of the Government’s work to ensure people in alcohol and drug recovery will benefit from access to housing support, helping to break the cycle of addiction and improve health outcomes.
Electric vehicle charging: West Sussex County Council will receive more than £1.7 million of Local EV Infrastructure (LEVI) funding to support charging infrastructure.
This forms part of the Government’s £22 million extension to the LEVI Pilot, which will deliver 2,400 chargepoints and 600 gullies and leverage nearly £17 million in private investment.
With my best wishes
Member of Parliament for Crawley