Thursday, 22 June 2017

This Week

As the Queen said in her birthday message, as a nation we have faced a series of human tragedies leaving a sombre mood.  A string of terror attacks including those in Manchester, London Bridge and then Finsbury in recent days has left us all wondering why there is so much hate in the world today. But we have also shown our strength together and have been resolute as a country in making sure such hate does not prevail and that we carry on with our lives.

On top of these events we have had the appalling Grenfell Tower fire tragedy last week.  The suffering of those caught up in this dreadful event causes distress to everyone.  There has been anger too since it seems extraordinary that, with all the building regulations and fire regulations that are in place, cladding that seems to have been flammable could have been used on the building. The government has established a Public Inquiry to investigate why the fire was able to spread in the way that it did. While anger is understandable, we should, at times like this, reserve judgement and blame until an inquiry fully establishes exactly what went wrong and then we should act to ensure such mistakes are never made again.

The disaster was also a reminder of the tremendous and often dangerous and difficult work done by our emergency services, including local firefighter Ben Holehouse who used to live in Camborne and now works for the London Fire Brigade and was one of those who fought the fire at Grenfell Tower.  Closer to home, this week fire crews across Cornwall also fought a major fire at the recycling centre at Pool.


Despite the gloomy tragedies in recent months, we have to carry on with life as normal.  On a brighter note last weekend the sun was shining for Murdoch Day in Redruth and the town turned out in force.  The streets were packed and local schools danced to celebrate the life and achievements of William Murdoch, the local inventor and engineer. Murdoch was one of the pioneers of steam power development in Cornwall and famously invented the first ever gas light using piped gas. The day was a happier and brighter end to an otherwise tragic week.

Thursday, 15 June 2017

General Election 2017

Last Thursday proved that there are no certainties in politics and that elections are always volatile and unpredictable. 

The results were disappointing for the Conservatives nationally. We went to the country and asked for an increased majority as we enter the Brexit negotiations but the country declined to give us this.  

In politics you have to work with the hand you are dealt and read the result of elections. We asked the country what they wanted and the collective answer from voters is that they are unsure or, are divided. There have been a lot of elections in the last two years and there is fatigue with polls.

Parliament must therefore accept that indecisive verdict, work through the various issues before us and prioritise the tasks that matter most. Our constitution is designed to work towards what voters want with the parliamentary maths driving out compromise and caution in the dose requested by voters.

Here in Cornwall, all six constituencies returned Conservative MPs. I want to thank all of the 23,001 people in the Camborne, Redruth and Hayle constituency who placed their confidence in me for a third term.  The total number of votes cast for me actually went up by 4,500 but a Labour surge at the expense of the Lib Dems means the majority is reduced. I want to be clear that I will represent everyone in this constituency, regardless of which way they voted and we Conservatives must also reflect on the message coming from those voters who turned out in large numbers to vote for Jeremy Corbyn.

Since being elected, I have prioritised the regeneration of our towns. We have achieved a lot, but there is much more that I want to do. We also need to attract new industries and better paid jobs. Unemployment is at its lowest level in many years, but the next step is to increase wages and create more opportunities for young people.


I will also continue to fight to ensure Cornwall gets its fair share of funding for public services. Just because we are a long way from London doesn't mean we shouldn't get our fair share.

Thursday, 27 April 2017

Carn Brea Leisure Centre


Like many people who grew up in this part of Cornwall, I have fond childhood memories of Carn Brea Leisure Centre. It has been an essential part of the local community for well over forty years. I have been running since I was nine, when I first joined Cornwall Athletics Club. Throughout my twenties I was running for Cornwall and at the peak of my fitness I was running around 80 miles per week. It was a big part of my life, and a lot of it revolved around training at Carn Brea.
 
At any given time, there are over 1000 children learning to swim at Carn Brea. It is therefore great news that the management team have secured funding from Sport England to refurbish the pool and deliver other maintenance and improvements.
 
The work will start this summer, and will finish at the end of the year. It will ensure that facilities are sustained for existing users, as well as the next generation of swimmers. Carn Brea is Cornwall’s first Charitable Trust Leisure Centre, and provides health and wellbeing facilities in the heart of our local area. I am pleased to hear that during the pool refurbishment, facilities including the gym, running track, cafĂ© and fitness classes will still be open.
 
We now need to focus our efforts on raising the remaining funds needed. The fundraising campaign will start in May, when full plans of the project will be unveiled. I hope that the fundraising campaign will be a real community effort, in the true spirit of Carn Brea.

Friday, 21 April 2017

Local Elections


It is now just a couple of weeks until polling day on Thursday 4th May when people right across Cornwall will have their chance to elect their local representatives to Cornwall Council.  The Lib Dems have been in charge for the last four years with the Independent bloc supporting them.

Cornwall Council has a very large budget of round £1.2 billion per year but a lot of people feel that they don't always get their priorities right. They say they can't find money for the things that really matter, like adult social care, but then they can always find money for pet projects like spending £536,000 on a bid to make Truro the "European Capital of Culture" - even though we will have left the EU by then and are therefore unlikely to be successful.

The Council is not getting its approach to social care support right at the moment.  I have seen many parents of disabled children or carers of adults with special needs who have previously benefited from quite modest support payments to help with a few hours a week of respite care or three hours a week from personal assistants.  It just helps them keep things together.  But all too often that small amount of support is being pulled away by Cornwall Council which is leading to anxiety.  It is also a false economy because when funds are tight we should be looking for more ways to provide a small amount of money that can make a big difference and reduce the need for more expensive care options later on.  Cornwall Council have it back to front at the moment.

Planning is another area where change is required.  In the last few years, the Council has had a poor track record in defending Cornwall from urban sprawl and inappropriate development on green field sites.   They do not pay enough attention to the need for infrastructure and services to support new development.

Local Council elections are always very close in this area so anything can happen.  Although I am a Conservative, I also have a lot of respect for everyone who puts themselves up for election whatever Party they represent and also to all the volunteers who give up their time to help deliver leaflets.  So, whichever way you decide to vote, make sure you do vote.

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Marine Hub Cornwall


This week, twelve new Enterprise Zones have gone live, including Marine Hub Cornwall. Located over sites at Hayle, Tolvaddon and Falmouth Docks, the Zone will build on what has already been achieved and establish Cornwall as a global centre for the marine renewable energy sector.

Marine Hub Cornwall seeks to bring together world class assets like Wave Hub and our universities and research and development programmes to provide a seamless co-ordinated offer to the marine renewable energy sector in Cornwall. The aim is to strengthen our position as the global leader in research and technology development.

Cornwall is already recognised as providing marine renewable developers a unique prospect within which they can test technology from prototype to fully operational systems. The Cornish coast provides optimal conditions for early-stage trials at FaB Test, while Wave Hub at Hayle, the world’s largest and most technologically advanced demonstration site, allows for more advanced testing.  Wave Hub boasts one of the best wave resources in Europe and has really put Cornwall on the map in this sector. 

There are lots of different technologies under developmemt with different modes of operation.  Local firm Seatricity has already deployed a device at Wave Hub twice to test their technology which pumps water at high speed through a series of small turbines. 

American wave energy developer GWave has announced its plans for a 9MW project to be deployed at Wave Hub. GWave, based in Portland, Maine, USA has spent the past decade developing its Power Generation Vessel (PGV) technology, which uses very large equipment and captured kinetic energy.

Last year, Carnegie Wave Energy, a wave energy developer from Australia, was awarded a grant to support the first phase of its £60m commercial wave energy project at Wave Hub. Carnegie Wave Energy is the only company in the world to have operated a grid-connected wave energy project over four seasons.

There are still challenges to overcome.  We need a clear path to move from wave energy being an interesting idea, to being deployed at scale and generating electricity in a low cost and effective way.  But Marine Hub is a statement of Cornwall's commitment to the idea and if anyone in the world can make this work, Cornwall can.

Thursday, 6 April 2017

A new mental health facility for Cornwall


This week, Cornwall’s Air Ambulance Service celebrated its 30th birthday. Towards the end of last year, Cornwall Air Ambulance was awarded £1 million from the Libor banking fund, boosting their fundraising for a new helicopter. I remember when the Cornwall Air Ambulance began in 1987. It was the first air ambulance in the UK. Since then, it has completed more than 26,000 missions and saved many lives.
 
Other good news this week was the announcement that a new mental health unit will open in Cornwall in the summer of 2019. The purpose-built 12 bed unit will open in Bodmin. This is a much needed facility in Cornwall, that will help young people. Previously, young people have had to travel out of county, as far afield as Cheshire and Norwich, in order to access treatment.

In recent years, the number of young people affected by mental health problems has increased. Maybe it’s the pressure to fit in and to belong - a sentiment that always existed - but seems to have been heightened by social media in the digital age which is relentless and immediate but often impersonal and sometimes offensive.

There is good work being done. Last year, measures to transform the way we approach and deal with mental health locally were introduced, to ensure that more young people receive support and care.

Some good work is done by the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) service, which helps children and young people deal with emotional, behavioural or mental health issues. There are also some good charities out there which help provide the support needed. A great example is the Invictus Trust, a small charity which aims to support and offer services to local teenagers who are suffering from mental health problems and associated issues. But all agree that this is a challenge of our age.

 

Thursday, 30 March 2017

Westminster Attack


The best answer to those who seek to undermine our way of life with acts of terror is to simply carry on.  The appalling murders that took place in Westminster last Wednesday were a reminder that every country can be affected by acts of violence: the attack in London was similar to the devastating attacks in Nice last year.  However, the very next day, Parliament was back to business and the streets of London were once again packed with tourists who have come to visit the greatest city on earth. 

Our thoughts are with all those who have lost loved ones.  Keith Palmer, the Police Officer who lost his life trying to stop the attacker, showed extraordinary bravery.  As details emerged of the other victims murdered on Westminster Bridge, it was clear that many families are suffering tragic bereavement this week. By the end of last week, the area was adorned with flowers from those who had come to pay their respects and books of condolence had been opened throughout Westminster.

One of the warped objectives of those who commit crimes like this is to try to sow division in our society and to turn one faith against another.  It is important that we do not allow them to succeed.  The murders last week were committed by a sad and deranged individual acting alone.  It was striking how quickly Muslim communities condemned the acts and made clear it was not in their name. 

Our security services work around the clock to monitor extremism and to try to keep us safe and they have successfully foiled dozens of planned attacks in recent years.  Sadly, everyone suspected that it would only be a matter of time before one got through.  Managing murders by lone extremists poses a challenge for our security forces because such events are not even coordinated by an organisation.  In fact, the term "terrorist attack" probably overstates what we are dealing with because there is no organised movement.  Rather, we are dealing with lone murderers who have been radicalised which is no less a challenge. 

We can but hope that, over time, this phenomena of radical extremism will recede and disappear.  But in the meantime, we must remain vigilant, support the work of our security services and carry on with our lives.