Happy New Year! It is just over 12 months since I was sworn in as Crawley’s Member of Parliament for the fourth time.
While the history which is felt when standing in the House of Commons has often been replaced in recent months by using my laptop to take part in the chamber remotely, the responsibility I feel standing up for the concerns of Crawley residents is as strong as ever.
One issue I am often contacted about is the importance of police on our streets. At the 2019 General Election I stood on a manifesto which committed to recruiting 20,000 extra police officers across England and Wales.
Sussex Police has been bolstered by an additional 129 officers since the Government launched its major recruitment drive, with a further 50 new officers being recruited by Sussex Police & Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne’s initiative.
Shortly before Christmas, the Government confirmed it is increasing funding for policing to more than £15 billion in 2021-22, up by £636 million from this year, with Sussex Police set to receive more than an additional £18 million.
There has never been a more important time to invest in the potential of our children. Funding in primary and secondary schools is being boosted by £14 billion over the next three years, so that every child can get a good education.
The schools budget is being increased by £2.6 billion in 2020-21, £4.8 billion in 2021-22 and £7.1 billion in 2022-23, compared to 2019-20. This will bring the schools budget up to a record £52.2 billion.
Preparations are underway for the launch of the Lifetime Skills Guarantee in April. This will support people to gain the skills they need at every stage of their life, meaning they can retrain and find new, well-paid jobs.
The Guarantee will provide adults in England without an A-Level or equivalent qualification the opportunity to take up a free, fully-funded college course. Higher education loans are also being made more flexible, so people can space out their study across their lifetime and take more high-quality vocational courses.
I am often asked by Crawley residents about Britain’s place in the world. As an elected member of Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee it is clear there are few issues which the UK should be more vocal about than the treatment of the Uyghur people in Xinjiang, with an estimated one million people being held in Chinese government-run detention camps.
Our nation’s strength is its ability to stand up for persecuted minorities on the global stage and I continue to call on the Government to take a harder line on the regime in Beijing.
These are just some of the issues I will continue to pursue in 2021.
Henry Smith MP