SOAMES'S COLUMN ~ EAST GRINSTEAD COURIER AND OBSERVER

Last Friday, following a hugely enjoyable and stimulating question and answer session on the Second World War and Winston Churchill at Northlands Wood School in Haywards Heath, I spent a very useful and interesting day out and about in East Grinstead.

The day started with a briefing at Capita Symonds. Capita Symonds provides a broad range of professional and technical expertise for many of the largest property and infrastructure schemes across the UK and overseas. I was delighted to be briefed on their work on the Cross-Rail project and to hear about the large number of skilled people who live in and around East Grinstead who work for them. This is a significant and important business for East Grinstead.

Next stop was a visit to the new Jubilee Community Centre in Charlwoods Road, home to the New Life Church. I am in total admiration of what Pastor Simon Elliott and his volunteers have created at the Centre; a strong sense of community - we are very lucky to have such a facility in East Grinstead.

My afternoon concluded with a constituency surgery at the Town Council followed by an evening meeting of the East Grinstead Business Association. In 2004 I helped to form a similar Association in Burgess Hill and I am very keen to replicate its success in East Grinstead. Local businesses need an independent voice; the strength of an Association is in its power to lobby on behalf of the local business community and I would urge local businessmen and women to become involved.

You may recall in my last column I wrote about my response to the Government’s consultation on the South East Plan and my support for the robust line taken by Mid Sussex District Council. I have sent a further response underlining a recent report by the Environmental Audit Select Committee; “Greener Homes for the future? An environmental analysis of the Government’s house-building plans”. This influential All Party Committee recommends “that the Government urgently reviews the assumptions on which the 3 million homes target was based and whether it is still justified on the basis of the latest economic growth projections”.

I have sought assurance that this Report will be given serious consideration as part of the consultation.

This week the Government released new immigration figures. As Co-Chairman of the Cross Party Group on Balanced Migration I am very concerned that net migration is much higher than expected – up by nearly 25% to almost a quarter of a million in one year. There is no way in which our public services can cope with such a rapid increase and my colleagues and I are urging the Government to take urgent steps to deal with this very serious matter.

I am, as I know my constituents will be, greatly relieved that the Government has finally renewed Post Office Ltd’s contract to operate the ‘Post Office Card Account’. The Government’s indecision caused great anxiety to Post Masters and customers across the county and particularly locally, but I am delighted that branches have won this reprieve in the ‘Post Office Closure battle’.