Francis Maude: truly we are Better Together

Horsham MP Francis Maude
Horsham MP Francis Maude

Since I wrote last week’s Christmas offering, the South of England has been engulfed in wind and rain storms.

The Horsham constituency seems to have escaped the worst of the effects, although I know many households have been without power at the time of year when you least want a power cut.

Certainly the Christmas morning service in St Mary’s Shipley was positively mediaeval, entirely lit by candles and very gloomy daylight, no sound system, no organ; but a cheery Christmas spirit nonetheless.

Last week I reflected a little on the year past. By the time this is published we will have rung in – and toasted – 2014, so I thought a look at the year ahead would be appropriate.

What do we wish for our country? We all want economic recovery to continue, to benefit all, to be founded in strong exports, investment and growing productivity, not just in consumer spending.

We especially want to see a continued fall in youth unemployment – it’s more than halved in Horsham from its peak but it’s still the biggest worry for parents and our children.

What locally here in Horsham? I’d still love to see the new hospital that local communities have been crying out for for years. We know there’s a load of housing development coming our way, and the only thing that would make people accept it is if it brought a new hospital in its wake. That’s still a possibility but it would need local doctors to put their weight behind it. I’d like to see local people left alone to make their minds up about exploratory drilling for oil and gas.

There were strong views in both directions in the Balcombe area over the summer, but the debate got taken over by protesters who drowned out the views of local residents. Of course there will be concerns about the environmental effects of possible fracking, and the communities will need persuading that it’s effectively regulated to be safe and secure; but few people believe we can afford just to ignore this rich store of energy literally under our feet.

Finally, I hope that this time next year we can still say we’re the same United Kingdom. In September Scotland will vote on whether to go independent or to remain part of this amazing country of ours.

I deeply believe it’s not just in Scotland’s interest but in the interest of all of us that the UK survives intact. Truly we are Better Together. And with that I wish all my readers a happy and prosperous New Year.