Dominic Raab MP's Newsletter - January 2022 View this email in your browser ([link removed])
Dom Raab MP's Newsletter - January 2022
Welcome to my January 2022 newsletter.
This month, I’ve been supporting two important local campaigns which will make a real difference to Elmbridge residents. I’m working with local councillors to stop Elmbridge Borough Council from hiking off-street parking charges across the borough, and to save the Cecil Hepworth Playhouse in Walton.
You can read more about these campaigns – and how the Lib Dem-run council has just let residents down by delaying the Local Plan again – below.
Elsewhere, since my last newsletter we’ve made significant progress in tackling Coronavirus. The successful booster campaign means that over 37 million people, including over 84,000 Elmbridge residents, now have maximum protection against the virus. This has allowed the government to remove the ‘Plan B’ measures, giving the economy a further boost.
There’s more on this, and what I’ve been up to at the Ministry of Justice, below.
Meeting pupils at Rowan Prep School
At the start of a new year, I’ve been focussed on improving the quality of life of Elmbridge residents. I’ve been supporting two important campaigns to do so over the past few weeks:
* First, I want to stop off-street parking charges from being hiked across Elmbridge next month. The Lib Dem-run administration at Elmbridge Borough Council is trying to end free Sunday parking at three local car parks, and hike weekday and Saturday charges by 8% at 12 others. This would hit families across the borough and be damaging for our high streets. You can sign a petition to stop these plans here ([link removed]) .
* Second, I’m supporting campaigners in their efforts to stop Elmbridge Borough Council from closing the Cecil Hepworth Playhouse in Walton. Closing the playhouse would be a devastating blow to the local community, and the council hasn’t properly consulted on its plans or fully considered alternatives to closure. You can sign this petition ([link removed]) to help save the playhouse.
We also had disappointing news this month, as the administration at Elmbridge Borough Council yet again delayed the publication ([link removed]) of a Local Plan for the borough. This vital document sets out where development should happen, and what kind. Not having an up-to-date plan has real consequences, including developers repeatedly winning appeals on planning applications.
Conservative councillors have been clear in their position – there must be no release of Green Belt land. This is in stark contrast to the Lib Dem-run administration, which has repeatedly put forward options for building on the Green Belt, including large patches in Cobham, Stoke D’Abernon and Long Ditton.
It’s high time that the council gets its act together and publishes a Local Plan that works for Elmbridge.
In other local news this month:
* We made important progress in another local campaign I’ve been running – to improve road safety at St Lawrence Junior School in Molesey. At a meeting ([link removed]) with the school, parents, Surrey County Council (SCC) and local councillor Steve Bax, it was agreed that a pinch-point crossing (reducing the road to one lane at a single point, with a raised section where cars give way to pedestrians) is the best solution. SCC is doing some more work on this, and we’ll meet again soon to review progress.
* I met an impressive group of Year 6 pupils ([link removed]) at Rowan Prep School in Claygate, speaking to them about politics and government, and taking their questions on human rights, climate change and other issues. I also saw Cobham Free School’s new permanent site in action ([link removed]) and had a challenging game of table tennis!
Elmbridge vaccination update:
110,858 residents have received 1 dose
103,344 residents have received 2 doses
84,341 residents have received a booster or third dose
(As of 27 January)
In my role as Lord Chancellor and Justice Secretary this month, I announced new measures to protect women and girls – my top priority.
These measures include giving victims of domestic abuse longer to report the offence to police, so abusers don’t evade justice, and introducing a new offence to stop people filming or taking photos of mothers breastfeeding without their consent. I explained these changes in the Telegraph ([link removed]) .
Elsewhere this month:
* I visited Birmingham ([link removed]) to see offenders being put to work clearing canals and towpaths ahead of the Commonwealth Games later this year. This is part of our plan to make sure offenders repay society for their crimes, while rejuvenating public spaces.
* I kick-started a recruitment campaign ([link removed]) for 4,000 new magistrates and announced that their sentencing powers will be increased ([link removed]) , to allow magistrates’ courts to give prison sentences of up to 12 months. These steps will help to deliver swifter justice for victims, bring offenders to justice, and reduce backlogs in the courts.
* We saw evidence of progress being made in vital areas of the justice system. First, new statistics ([link removed]) showed a modest increase in rape convictions. While welcome, it is clear that much more needs to be done – which is why we’re recruiting more sexual violence advisers, launching a 24/7 helpline, and increasing the use of pre-recorded evidence.
We also saw some encouraging statistics showing early signs ([link removed]) of the backlog in the Crown Courts dropping. Again, there’s much to do, but we’re moving in the right direction.
State of the Nation
Supporting NHS staff at the Sandown Park vaccination centre
On the national side, we’ve had some positive economic news this month. Data from the Office for National Statistics showed that the economy surpassed its pre-pandemic size in November, reinforcing the OECD and IMF’s forecasts that the UK will have the strongest economic growth in the G7 this year. Employee numbers have also reached record levels, while redundancies are at record lows.
This national economic success is replicated at the local level. This month’s data showed that the number of people in Esher and Walton claiming unemployment benefits fell again in December, continuing the steep downward trajectory since March last year.
In other national news:
* The government announced the end of the ‘Plan B’ measures, which were introduced to combat the Omicron variant. The guidance to work from home ended last week, while the government is no longer mandating face coverings in any setting and venues are no longer obliged to use the NHS Covid Pass. The self-isolation rules have also changed – so people who test positive for Covid can end self-isolation after 5 days if they test negative on days 5 and 6 – while the testing rules for fully vaccinated travellers arriving in England will also be relaxed from 11 February ([link removed]) .
* These changes have only been possible thanks to the extraordinary success of the booster programme. Over 37 million people have now had a booster or third dose, including over 84,000 people in Elmbridge. I saw the brilliant local effort that has made this possible when I visited the vaccination centre at Sandown Park ([link removed]) earlier this month. 16 and 17 year olds became eligible to book their boosters earlier this month, and can do so here ([link removed]) .
* The government has delivered £700m of funding to local councils, of which Elmbridge’s share ([link removed]) is over £970,000, to be distributed to businesses impacted by the Omicron variant. Businesses in the hospitality, leisure and accommodation sectors are all eligible for support. Elmbridge Borough Council is also receiving £375,000 to distribute to local businesses as it sees fit, meaning that the total extra support from the government is over £1.3 million.
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