13 MAY 2018

Feedback re meeting in Sonning Common

I was pleased that so many people attended the open meeting in Sonning Common on Friday. The prime purpose was to find out what was on your minds. Some 70 of you came along on the Friday night and we had a very friendly discussion on a number of issues from planning to roads, housing to policing, and the environment to the NHS. There were a couple of points I said I would take away and feedback your concerns. I thought it helpful, though, to provide a few comments in the meantime on three of the biggest.

Policing

As I said at the meeting, I meet with the Area Commander from time to time to discuss the workload of the police and how they are tackling crime. We have seen a change in the nature of crime within the area and we have seen the prevalence of rural crime which, with the help of farmers, is being tackled. That still leaves the problems identified at the meeting of break-ins to cars and to vans. It is worth noting that crimes traditionally measured by the Independent Crime Survey for England and Wales are actually down by over a third since June 2010. I was really pleased that overall police spending has been protected in real terms until 2019/20, once local income is taken into account, which will enable the police to continue to adapt. This works out as an increase of £900 million cash by 2019-20. I welcome the fact that Police and Crime Commissioners are being given the flexibility to increase their funding by up to £270 million in 2018/19 by increasing the Council Tax precept by up to £1 a month for a typical householder without the need to call a local referendum. It is clear the police are seeing more complex crime, and here close to Oxford we have seen terrible crimes against children. All of this means that the police need to adapt.

Affordable housing

I am fully committed to supporting the social rented sector. But here in this constituency there appears to be more of a need for affordable market housing. I agree that developers are simply not rising to the challenge on this. The issue of the socially rented sector was raised at a meeting inThame. We agreed that it was a good idea to come up with figures for the social rented housing need and I urge Sonning Common to do the same. Since 2010 over 357,000 affordable homes have been delivered across the country, including more than 249,000 for rent. I was pleased to see the announcement of an extra £2 billion in funding for the 2016-2021 Affordable Homes Programme, increasing the total funding to over £9 billion. The additional £2 billion is expected to provide around 25,000 affordable homes, including housing in the socially rented sector. It is also important that a stable financial environment is secured for both social housing providers and renters by setting out a long term rent deal. The proposal, which would grant social tenants the security and certainty they need, will be consulted on this year.

NHS future plan

The Prime Minister has made a commitment that the government will deliver a long term plan for the NHS, and that we would bring forward a multi-year funding settlement in support of it. We have committed £10 billion in new funding for the NHS since last November alone. But after the most challenging winter for many years, we can be in no doubt about the pressures in the system, nor the challenges ahead. We will be looking after a million more over 70's in 2020 than five years' before, while the number of over 85's will nearly double by 2035. But we need to move away from annual top-ups to the NHS's budget towards a sustainable long-term plan. This means building on the work of the Five Year Forward View but looking beyond it with long-term commitments which allow the NHS to realise greater productivity and efficiency gains. We will, therefore, come forward with a long term plan for the NHS, in conjunction with its leaders, clinicians and health experts. As the PM set out, our new plan must turbo charge progress in spreading the excellence which exists in parts of the system across the whole of the NHS. We also know that care is still not properly integrated for people who have both health and social care needs, that the system is often not accountable to patients or the taxpayer, and that citizens should be supported to take more responsibility for their health.

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