Crispin Blunt MP’s priorities: some key omissions

Crispin Blunt was re-elected as MP for Reigate last week and has published an Election Statement setting out his priorities for the new term.

We are disappointed to see no mention of the climate emergency, and no commitment to addressing poverty, beyond urging support for local charities to take the strain.

Climate change

Climate change is the biggest issue we face – but it doesn’t even get a mention in Mr Blunt’s Election Statement.

2019 saw the hottest temperatures ever recorded in the UK and in many places around the world. And the effects are already being felt – from devastating fires and floods in many countries, to the failure of agriculture, and large areas of land becoming uninhabitable. This is just with one degree of warming so far – and temperatures are again likely to rise in 2020, according to the Met Office.

The UK Government is missing its own targets on addressing climate change. All MPs, including Crispin Blunt, must hold the government to account on this.

And far from just meeting the current target, we need more ambition. The Committee on Climate Change, which is chaired by Conservative peer Baron Deben, published a report in May this year which set out the steps required in buildings, transport, electricity, industry, and land use and agriculture to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions.

The Committee has also pointed out how woefully under-prepared the UK is for even the most optimistic predictions of temperature increase. The new Government needs to focus on reducing flood risk, managing the risks from extreme heat, reducing the risk of drought, and protecting the natural environment.

This is the most important issue there is and Mr Blunt needs to review his priorities to make sure he fulfils his obligation to do what is right and necessary for his nation and his constituents.

Tackling poverty

Mr Blunt pledges to promote and enlarge the Reigate and Banstead Community Fund, set up to support charities and good causes addressing local need. Which is a good thing as far as it goes. But it shouldn’t be left to charities and volunteers to deal with the poverty caused by austerity.

Here in Reigate, as well as across the UK, there is a widening gulf between rich and poor.  One illustration of the increase in poverty is the growth of food banks. Food bank use has gone up dramatically in the nine years,since the Conservatives have been in power. The Trussell Trust’s network of food banks handed out around 41,000 food packs in 2009/10 compared to 1.6 million in 2018/19. Locally, Loveworks has seen a 39% increase in food bank use just in the past year. Food banks have gone from being a safety net for cases of extreme crisis to a normal coping mechanism even for working people.

While local charities like Loveworks and Furnistore do a great job helping local people in need, changing the policies that push people into poverty would make an even bigger difference.

New acute hospital for Epsom

Mr Blunt says he will support the new acute hospital planned for the Epsom and St Helier Hospital Trust area. This must not be at the expense of St Helier Hospital in Carshalton. Local campaign group Keep Our St Helier Hospital is concerned about cuts to facilities at both the Epsom and Carshalton hospitals.

We want both Epsom and St Helier to remain as acute hospitals – we need more local acute hospitals, not fewer. We are lucky in Redhill to have the excellent East Surrey Hospital on our doorstep – but the loss of facilities at Crawley means that East Surrey Hospital is now serving a very wide catchment area, with many having to travel long distances for acute treatment.

Local hospitals don’t just make it easier for everyone to access treatment. They also reduce traffic. NHS-related traffic accounts for 5% of road traffic in England – contributing to air pollution which affects our health as well as the climate, and to traffic congestion and the resulting accidents.

We hope the prime minister’s pledge of  “40 new hospitals” means a net gain of 40 – and doesn’t mean closing 80 and ending up with 40 new ones.

Rail fares

Mr Blunt committed to campaigning for fair rail fares for Redhill commuters in his election leaflets – and promised at recent hustings to deliver fair fares by 2021. There is no mention of this in his Election Statement – and fares are going up in January. Mr Blunt must explain what his plans are in this area.

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