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Reigate MP backs PM

Crispin Blunt MP
Reigate MP, Crispin Blunt, says Boris Johnson has his full support in the wake of accusations of parties at Downing Street during lockdown.
He says the Prime Minister has, ‘made an apology and showed a tone of contrition and seriousness that deserves consideration.’

You can read his full statement below:

At the most recent Prime Minister’s Questions, the Prime Minister made an apology and showed a tone of contrition and seriousness that deserves consideration. Plainly, he (and I and all my Parliamentary colleagues) understand the widespread public anger at apparent double standards. The sacrifices made by the whole nation in combatting this virus command their own respect and the anger communicated to me and my colleagues by many of our constituents reinforces this.

I have noticed, reinforced by personal conversations I’ve had with the Prime Minister over the last year, a seriousness of purpose that has yet to communicate itself to the public, it being drowned out by the focus on an image that reflects decades of an approach to politics that gave this remarkable politician the skillset to enable our country and my party to escape the seemingly impossible trap set by the result of the 2017 election following the 2016 Referendum.

His leadership continues to command my support. The substance of work for this Parliament, particularly around the Levelling Up agenda, defining values of Global Britain and the need to make the right economic judgements in a time of emergency unprecedented in my time of political and public service, still provide the opportunity for Conservatives to have been very proud to have been part of it. That opportunity was created by Boris Johnson. Further to this, his strategic judgements during the last two years on the response to the pandemic now look to be broadly correct.

The pain and burden the British people have endured and his near death from covid-19 appear to me to have produced a capacity for humility and seriousness in our Prime Minister, that combined with his other remarkable strengths and inevitably some balancing weaknesses leads me to a balanced judgement strongly in his support.

I do understand and respect that many people will disagree with this judgement today, but I offer it in all sincerity with the benefit of a quarter of a century of political and personal experience to draw on.

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Drug dealers targeting Surrey jailed

Months of enquiries which identified two county line drug dealers who were targeting Surrey on a regular basis led to them being put behind bars on Friday (14 January).

Abubaker Basharo, 22, of no fixed address, and Lucas Carvalho Da Silva, 23, of no fixed address, were sentenced to a combined total of eight years and six months in prison when they appeared at Guildford Crown Court.

A lengthy investigation by officers resulted in both men as being involved with dealing cocaine and heroin to vulnerable drug users across the county and in London. Officers built a substantial enough picture of their criminal activities to be able to proactively stop them on Monday, April 19 last year in Guildford.

When officers stopped the car, Basharo, who was driving, and Da Silva attempted to get away by driving into the police car and causing a small amount of damage. When officers approached the car, they noticed a strong smell of cannabis and both were detained and searched. This resulted in the discovery of three mobile phones, wraps containing a white substance, as well as almost £400 in cash.

The men were arrested on suspicion of possession with intent to supply Class A drugs. While in custody, Carvalho was found to be hiding multiple wraps within his clothing. These were quickly analysed and confirmed to be 30 wraps of heroin and 64 wraps of cocaine. As well as this, tests revealed that Basharo was under the influence of cannabis so was further arrested for driving whilst over the prescribed drug limit.

The seized mobile phones were analysed by a specialist drugs witness who confirmed multiple messages which were consistent with drug dealing.

Both men were subsequently charged with two counts each of possession with intent to supply a controlled drug of Class A and later pleaded guilty to both. Basharo received 56 months imprisonment, while Carvalho Da Silva was sentenced to 48 months in prison.

PC Andrew Tindale, who investigated this case, said: “Basharo and Carvalho De Silva firmly believed that they were above the law and thought that they could continue supplying heroin and cocaine to vulnerable users in Surrey without fear of consequence.

“Drug dealing is a blight on our local communities in Surrey and tackling it and ensuring those responsible are brought to justice remains one of our top priorities. Because a lot of the work we do is covert, it can often seem like nothing is being done. However, this case demonstrates that behind the scenes, we are building a picture of crimes being committed in order to identify those responsible.”

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Sport: Reds goalie signs new contract

Crawley Town Football Club have confirmed Glenn Morris has signed a new one year contract, with the club holding the option to extend for a further year.

Morris has featured in every league game this season, keeping five clean sheets in the process.

Glenn Morris
Photo: Crawley Town FC

The experienced goalkeeper originally signed with the intention of combining playing with coaching duties at the club when he joined in 2016 but established himself as the first-choice keeper and has now made more than 240 appearances for the club. Glenn has become a true legend at Crawley Town Football Club, earning the affectionate nickname of “The Cat” owing to his incredible agility and cat-like reflexes.

On signing his new deal, Morris said: “It feels really good. It’s happened quite quickly. The club spoke to me and said about getting it done, and I couldn’t wait to get on board for another year. This is the sixth season going into my seventh. I’ve got to be honest I thought I was coming to the end before I joined here! Joining here has kicked me on again, and it’s been the best decision of my life so far.”

Manager John Yems said: “I’m delighted. Brian Clough always used to say about Peter Shilton that he was worth 25-30 points a season to him. Glenn is a great goalkeeper who always keeps us in games, and he’s worth that to us too. He has plenty of experience and is still one of the fittest and most agile goalkeepers that you could come across, and he’s a great character to have.”

Chief Executive Erdem Konyar said: “Glenn is a Club legend and is the best Goalkeeper the club has ever had. He is one of the key reasons for the club’s continued existence in the EFL. An example to follow on and off the pitch.”

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Potential water shortages in South-East

The south east of England faces water shortages in coming decades without billions being invested in infrastructure, water firms have warned.

Water Resources South East (WRSE), made up of the region’s six water companies, said its draft plan would help maintain supply. This includes spending £5bn on reducing leakage, as well as developing three new reservoirs to improve storage. It said climate change was having a “profound impact” on water provision.

The plan sets out action the companies said was needed to avoid a potential shortfall of one billion litres a day – about 20% of the water supplied in the region – in the next 15 years. It said this could rise to a 2.6 billion litre shortfall by 2060.

WRSE said a long-term programme of investment of about £8bn would be required, and that this could rise to £17bn by 2060, with long-term pressures caused by climate change and population growth.
The key points in the draft plan include:

  • Water companies investing about £5bn to reduce leakage
  • Encouraging the government to “act to reduce water across society”
  • The development of three new reservoirs in the region
  • Schemes that will enhance the treatment of wastewater so it can be used again
  • More than 200 nature-based schemes to improve the region’s rivers and streams
    It added that after 2040 it may also be necessary to move water from different part of the country, build more reservoirs and invest in further water recycling and desalination schemes.

    Chris Murray, independent chair of WRSE, warned a serious drought would have “far-reaching consequences” on the environment, economy and society.
    “The south east faces the most severe pressure on its water supplies of any region of the country,” he added.
    “It is warmer, more densely populated and is the home of more of the iconic chalk streams that we are seeking to preserve than any other part of the country.”

    The water companies involved are Thames Water, Southern Water, South East Water, SES Water, Portsmouth Water and Affinity Water.

    WRSE has opened a consultation on the plan.

    If you have news for Sussex and Surrey, contact us on [email protected]

    Mental health referrals rise in Surrey

    Surrey County Council is proposing a new focus and funding boost to tackle an impending mental health crisis.

    It says it is in response to the COVID pandemic having served to intensify the existing pressures on mental health services and making it harder for people to get the support they need.

    As part of the county’s No One Left Behind agenda, the County Council is announcing a plan for an extra £8m of focused investment in mental health services in Surrey. This is part of £46.5m allocated to improving mental health in the Council’s proposed 2022/23 budget. The money will deliver faster and better care for those needing help, extra support for young people and more prevention and early intervention to stop people reaching crisis point.

    Tim Oliver, Surrey County Council leader, said: “The issue of mental health is a ticking time bomb and we need to sort it out as soon as possible.

    “The pandemic has created profound challenges for so many of our residents in particular for our young people over the past year. Across the board we’ve seen trends of increasing levels of depression, self-harm, anxiety, eating disorders and other mental health issues in teens. Residents have consistently said that mental health is one of their top concerns. This is an impending crisis, and it is vital we recognise that and invest now, rather than wait for pressures to get worse.”

    The additional funding further helps Surrey’s work on combating mental health issues, including;

    • More mental health counsellors
    • Extra help in schools to improve young people’s mental health
    • More practitioners to aid people’s recovery
    • Grants to mental health charities
    • Investment in suicide prevention
    • More practical advice for residents to enjoy better mental health
    • Increase in early support like talking therapy
    • More mental health hospital beds for people in crisis
    • Specialist accommodation for people in recovery

    Following the second COVID lockdown in 2021, there were increases of up to 89% in referrals through the Council’s Children’s Single Point of Access (C-SPA) and a 66% increase in demand for children’s eating disorder services. In terms of adults at the same time, there was a 45% rise in referrals to Home Treatment Teams, Psychiatric Liaison and intensive support teams. Referrals and pressures have remained high ever since.

    Surrey County Council and partners have carried out a widescale review into mental health provision and identified where improvements can be made. It says today’s announcement will help provide the investment to deliver those improvements.

    The additional planned investment will be specifically ring-fenced and delivered from a proportion of Council Tax, from April this year.

    Further additional funding is to be directed towards addressing increased pressures on Adult Social Care, which have also been exacerbated by the impact of COVID.

    The total Council Tax increase proposed is 4.99% and is made up of:

    • 0.99% increase to fund the increased cost of delivering services
    • 3% increase to fund additional spend in adult and children’s social care
    • 1% increase to fund additional investment in mental health.

    If you have news for Sussex and Surrey, contact us on [email protected]