Rishi Sunak visits Sussex: Prime Minister speaks about A27 investments, Southern Water and NHS waiting times

Rishi Sunak visited Sussex yesterday (Thursday, January 18) and spoke about investing in roads, holding water companies to account and tackling NHS waiting times.

The Prime Minister met with Border Force officers at Gatwick Airport, before visiting Shoreham Port in the afternoon to spend time with Sea Scouts and learn more about SUPETA, a community sailing project for young people.

He said: "We’re investing a record amount in roads generally, and other bits of the A27 have had that investment, not a million miles away from here.

“I know it’s something that Tim has consistently raised in Parliament as being an issue, and as we decide these things, you can rest assured that he’ll continue to do that and the Roads Minister will be listening attentively.

“But this is something that Tim has raised in Parliament many, many times.”

Mr Loughton added: “The trouble is it’s the busiest road around.

“We were going to have an Ikea on the A27 at Lancing which would’ve completely killed everything, fortunately that’s not now happening.

“But we’ve got to do a lot more to keep the traffic flowing and that’s why some of the works that the National Highways are doing will hopefully help the traffic flow which is the problem.”

Mr Sunak also spoke about the government’s commitment to ‘cracking down’ on sewage pollution and holding water companies to account.

He said: “We’ve imposed the strictest ever legally-binding target on water companies.

"We’re actually now monitoring all these overflows that never happened before. By the end of the year, we’ll have 100 per cent done, governments haven’t done this in the past.

“We’re being incredibly tough on enforcement, so we’re having unlimited penalties for water companies, and Ofwat have been given new powers so they can link things like dividend and bonus payment to the actual performance of the company, making sure it’s meeting all its targets and improving the quality of water.

“We’re also doing longer term things like wet wipes and forever chemicals, making sure they don’t find their way into the water in the first place.

"We’ve got a very clear plan. That plan is working, and if we stick with it we'll get the change we want to see.”

Amid the news that councils across the UK owe a combined £97.8 billion to lenders, Mr Sunak was asked how the government was going to support local communities with funding.

He said: “We’re always talking to councils about the best ways to support them.

“This year, councils are getting roughly about a 10 per cent increase on the amount of cash that they have available to spend, that’s a national average.

“We’re also investing directly in local communities. Through the Levelling Up fund and the Towns Fund for example, communities across the South East, dozens and dozens of high streets, town centres [and] market towns are seeing that investment.

“Across the South, probably almost 30 different towns are getting direct investment from the government to support their plans.”

Data from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) found that Eastbourne Borough Council had a total debt of £112 million as of September 2023.

Mr Sunak also took the opportunity to discuss waiting times at NHS hospitals, which he said is one of the government’s priorities.

"I understand absolutely how important the NHS and healthcare is,” he said.

"That’s why after becoming PM, shortly afterwards I announced extra funding for the NHS, which now is receiving a record amount of funding.

“Some of our priorities at the moment are to bring down waiting lists which have obviously reached very high levels after the pandemic.

“In October and November, where there were essentially no strike days, we saw the waiting list come down by around 150,000 and actually it was the biggest monthly reduction in waiting lists in, I think, 10 y ears.”

While visiting Gatwick Airport, Mr Sunak, joined by MP Henry Smith, discussed the importance of aviation to economic growth with Border Force officers.

Mr Smith said: “I was pleased to welcome the Prime Minister to Gatwick Airport so we could meet Border Force officers situated here who work hard every day to keep us safe.

“The officers deal with issues including tackling illegal immigration and smuggling, and the Prime Minister and I were grateful to be able to speak with them and hear more about their vital work.

“The Prime Minister and I also took the opportunity to speak about the importance of aviation to economic growth in our country and our place in the world for connectivity as global Britain.

“As Crawley MP and Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Future of Aviation this is a cause I continue to pursue in the House of Commons on behalf of workers locally.”