Thursday, 12 January 2017

Unemployment


Unemployment is at its lowest level for many years. At the end of last year, official national statistics showed that the labour market finished a record breaking year with unemployment down by over 100,000 people and the unemployment rate running at 4.8%. Employment has consistently been running at an all-time high and there continues to be 31.8 million people in work, up by 2.7 million since 2010. In Camborne and Redruth, the number of claimants has nearly halved from 3.8% of the economically active population in 2010 to 2.3% in November 2016.

Locally, we have much to celebrate but there remains a lot to do. We must strive to continue to improve the support we offer to local people to help them back into work.

I do not want us to underestimate the significance of apprenticeships and training. Cornwall College is the most successful provider of work based learning in the South West. Over a thousand apprentices are currently training in areas such as plumbing, carpentry and engineering. Last year, Ofsted praised the college as a catalyst for improving skills in Cornwall.

For too long, many of our brightest young people would leave Cornwall in search of new work opportunities. Now, as we continue to attract new industries and skilled jobs to Cornwall, it is vital that we continue to develop skills so that young people can take advantage of the new opportunities being created. As new companies arrive I want to see them become successful and profitable enough to offer higher wages so that we encourage people to take work and stay in work.

Economic regeneration and job creation have always been two of my top priorities. The Kresen Kernow archive project is progressing, the development of South Quay signals good news for the local economy, the East-West link road is unlocking Tuckingmill for development and facilities like the Pool Innovation Centre and Barncoose Gateway have attracted new businesses and start-ups to the area.

Thursday, 5 January 2017

Superfast Broadband


The Superfast broadband project of a few years ago helped get Cornwall ahead of the rest of the country in terms of broadband speeds and paved the way for a new generation of businesses who could benefit from being located in Cornwall without the usual problems of distance from the market.

However, the fact that most of the county has high speeds makes it all the more galling for those communities who were left behind and who have had to struggle on with very poor broadband connections.  Getting high speed broadband solutions to the remaining five percent of households not covered by the original programme is now a priority for government and work continues.  So I was pleased to learn that parts of Camborne and Redruth, including Connor Downs, Sandy Lane and Four Lanes, are the latest in the Duchy to receive superfast broadband.

£7.6 million will be invested in the latest phase of the fibre broadband rollout in Cornwall, reaching more than 8,000 premises in Cornwall's most challenging locations by early next year. Additionally, Cornwall Council and the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership are investing alongside the Government's Broadband Delivery UK programme and BT.


I want us to make the most of the opportunities that superfast broadband offers. The computer software industry has really taken off in this part of Cornwall in recent years. Superfast broadband means that software companies can compete around the world from a digital connection in Cornwall. 


We are already beginning to feel the benefits, with software companies like Headforwards, Blue Fruit and Netbooster thriving. Innovation centres at Pool and Tremough play an important role in incubating new start-ups.  Meanwhile, proposals for a new fibre park in Pool to bring together software companies and training from Cornwall College to create opportunities for local school leavers could take things to the next level.  We have the chance to really put Cornwall on the map in this sector

Thursday, 29 December 2016

New Year


The New Year is a time for hope and optimism. For some people, it represents a chance to turn over a new leaf and make changes in their lifestyles, by stopping smoking, or doing more exercise. 

The year ahead represents a fresh start for our politics. 2017 will be a defining moment in our country's history as we start the process of leaving the EU and re-establishing the rule of British law in many policy areas including agriculture and fisheries. I fully support the triggering of Article 50 before the end of March 2017. Whilst there are challenges ahead and there is a lot of work to do, the Government has a mandate from the people to leave the EU and nothing should stand in the way of the democratic decision voters took last June.

I was a supporter of leaving the EU because I have seen first-hand the damage caused to our democracy by the European Court.  Once we re-establish control we will be able to get things done again and will be able to tackle problems. But I also want us to put in place a very close partnership with the EU based on friendship and cooperation and I want the UK to be a generous and outward looking country that is a good global citizen.

Locally, 2017 also promises to be a year where we see change take shape. Work continues at the Kresen Kernow archive centre in Redruth, which is set to open in 2018. We have seen huge progress at Hayle, and I am delighted that the marine energy park on North Quay is now starting to attract new enterprise and industry to the area.  The next stage is to complete sensitive development at the end of South Quay, put in place the footbridge to link the quay to Penpol Terrace and get things moving on North Quay.

Finally, now that we have the new link road, it is time to progress the regeneration of Tuckingmill.  I have recently been having discussions with the various land owners around the site of South Crofty mine and hope we can start to see plans progress in the coming year.

Thursday, 22 December 2016

Christmas

As I write this column I have just finished signing the final Christmas cards ready to catch the last post in order to make it before Christmas. The tradition of Christmas cards plays a vital role in keeping in touch with old friends and family. Throughout life, there are always old friends who we are in danger of losing touch with. Sometimes because they have moved away, changed their job or are preoccupied with other priorities. The annual Christmas card is often the final thread that prevents you from losing touch altogether, so time writing cards is time well spent.

This year, as in previous years, I enlisted the help of local primary schools in the area to design my Christmas card. We certainly have many talented artists in this part of Cornwall!

At this time of year we should also acknowledge the extra work we create for the Royal Mail with many millions of extra items of post to process in just a few short weeks in December and our postmen go out in the worst weather that a Cornish winter can throw at them in order to make sure that families and friends keep in touch and receive their Christmas cards on time.

We must also acknowledge that this time of year can be a lonely time for many people in our community. However, it is also a time when we see tremendous goodwill and generosity. I was heartened to read about Peter Campbell from Camborne, who will be treating fifty strangers to a Christmas dinner to ensure they’re not alone over Christmas.

Last week, I visited the food bank. Don Gardner and his team of dedicated volunteers are working incredibly hard to ensure that local people who are struggling financially are able to enjoy a family Christmas dinner. Christmas really brings our communities together, and demonstrates the strength and resilience of our society.  Have a great Christmas!

Thursday, 15 December 2016

Fisheries Council

As I write this article, I am in Brussels about to enter the final stages of the annual EU negotiations on fisheries quotas.  This is the fourth year I have led the UK negotiating team at the December fisheries council and each has had its challenges.  It is too early to tell how things will end up but all the indicators are that it will be a late night on Tuesday because there remain quite a few areas where we have differences with the European Commission.

Two years ago I pushed very hard to get emergency measures to try to protect Bass which is in a precarious state.  We secured a major breakthrough at the time with new limits introduced, although when the EU built on the package of measures last year, there was some criticism that they got the balance wrong and allowed too much for some commercial fishermen and not enough for recreational anglers.  This year I am pushing for a more balanced package of measures that continues to increase protection for the stock.

On the commercial fleet, our aim is to ensure we fish sustainably but make best use of the available science and also that we take account of some of the complexities of making quotas work where different species of fish are caught together.  Of particular relevance to Cornwall are species like monkfish and pollock where the scientific indicators are positive but where the European Commission often argues for arbitrary automatic cuts because there are some gaps in the evidence available.

Secondly, for many years now there has been a challenge around the Cornish coast in terms of setting quotas for cod, haddock and whiting because all three swim together and are caught together. We are arguing for scientific analysis to take account of the mixed fishery to be considered. 

This year's negotiations take place against the backdrop of our decision to leave the EU, which will allow the UK to take responsibility for its own waters. There will still be cooperation and annual negotiations but we will regain our seat at the table. It will be easier to deliver change where change is required.  There will be an opportunity to move towards fairer shares for some fish species off the Cornish coast.  We will be able to set the ground rules for countries that seek access to our waters to ensure that we deliver sustainable fisheries.

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Fibre Park

This week I have a meeting at Headforwards Software in Pool, to discuss how we take forward the idea of a Fibre Park in the area. In recent years we have seen an embryonic but vibrant computer software industry taking root in this part of Cornwall. The big leap forwards came with the introduction of super-fast broadband.  It means that software companies can now compete around the world from a digital connection in Cornwall.

Previously, people often had to choose between a high flying job in London or the lifestyle choice of Cornwall.  That's changing. Now, new industries like software can run world leading operations from Camborne and Redruth offering people the best of both worlds.

Headforwards now employs over fifty highly skilled people and is expanding.  Local computer software companies are now employing hundreds of people in Camborne and Redruth and they are paying good salaries.  I want to see them grow and prosper and I also want to ensure that young people taking their GCSEs are learning to write computer code so that they can take up these new opportunities.

The idea behind the Fibre Park was that you could have a joint venture between a cluster of local software companies and Cornwall College so that you could establish a work based computer software academy where young people could learn key skills in computer programming and coding in a real working environment.  Every software company has its own unique approach so training in educational institutions can only go so far.  All of the companies need to offer a level of in house training and if we could bring training and the work environment closer together in a single cluster, you would really start to see results and ensure that some of these new high paid jobs go to young people who have grown up locally.

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Christmas, Cornwall Air Ambulance and the Addington Fund


There is nothing like Christmas to bring our communities together and this week, Camborne and Redruth have both been getting into the festive spirit with both towns turning on their Christmas lights last Saturday. 

It is also the time of year when we start to think about sending Christmas cards. As in previous years, I ran a competition with local primary schools to design my Christmas card. We had over sixteen schools enter, which is a record, and local children really rose to the challenge with some fabulous artwork.  The panel of judges had a difficult task as always.

This is also a good time of year to acknowledge some good news.  Earlier this week I had the chance to catch up with the team at the Cornwall Air Ambulance who were attending an event at Westminster. They have just been awarded £1 million from the Libor banking fund which is a major boost to their fundraising for a new helicopter.

I can remember when the Cornwall Air Ambulance began in 1987. It was a great example of Cornwall's "one and all" approach because people in Cornwall really rallied behind the idea.  It was the first air ambulance in the UK and now many other parts of the country have followed Cornwall's lead.   Since 1987, it has completed more than 26,000 missions and saved many lives.  It is a great initiative and I wish them every success in raising the funds that are still required to hit their target.

Last week I also had the chance to visit a new housing project run by the Addington Fund at Ruthvoes. Addington does excellent work providing homes for farmers who have had to leave their farm either due to hardship, retirement or ill health. They now have over eighty homes. For many farmers, leaving the farm and having to sell their herd or flock is an emotional wrench and they often find it hard to get alternative housing too.  Having a specialist housing provider with people who really understand farmers is a life line for many.