Francis Maude: real sense of achievement on fuel duty

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It will not surprise readers to know that the cost of filling up with petrol has been one of the main topics that local people have written to me about in recent years.

As with most issues, I have kept people’s comments in mind when discussing the matter with my Cabinet colleagues and I’ve also passed letters and emails on to Treasury ministers.

So it’s good news that we’ve been able to defer the previous Labour Government’s planned increase in fuel duty, which would otherwise have increased the price by 3p per litre this August. Fuel duty will now be frozen for the rest of the year.

We had a real sense of achievement making the announcement because the delay, which will save motorists money every time they fill-up, has only been made possible because we’ve secured higher than predicted savings in department spending – something I’ve been working on for several years now.

This latest delay, added on to last year’s fuel duty cut, means that petrol prices will be 10p per litre less this summer than if Labour were still in power. This will make a real difference to families, individuals, businesses and charitable organisations.

On a completely different matter, although I didn’t attend the recent AGM of the League of Friends of Horsham Hospital, I was very interested to read the County Times’ report of the meeting.

I’ve met with Simon Dean, the GP in charge of the Horsham Commissioning Group, before so that we could talk about the future plans of the group. He was at the meeting to speak about how they aim to provide better services more locally, making more use of our wonderful Horsham Hospital.

Whilst I’m disappointed that he confirmed that the group would not be focusing on securing a new acute hospital for our area (something that I am continuing to fight for) I fully support the idea that all the while local people have to contend with travelling to East Surrey Hospital, as many services as possible should be made available at our accessible, much-loved and much-trusted Horsham Hospital.

It’s exciting that, among other plans, Dr Dean and his GP colleagues are looking at holding more clinics there, developing the out of hours services and possibly holding outpatient operations.

However, like most people, I still firmly believe that Horsham and Crawley need a new and accessible acute hospital for local NHS patients - let me reassure readers that work continues behind the scenes to try to secure such a facility.