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.

Thursday, 23 March 2017

Article 50

The Prime Minister has announced that she will trigger Article 50 on 29th March. This will formally start the process of the UK leaving the European Union, and the most important negotiation for the UK for a generation.

The Prime Minister is clear that she wants us to put in place a close partnership with the EU based on friendship and cooperation. Our future relationship with the EU will include co-operating with our European partners in the fight against crime and terrorism. We will also collaborate on initiatives in areas such as science, research and technology.

I am excited about the opportunities that lie ahead. Here in Cornwall, we are already starting to see such opportunities. Redruth based manufacturing company European Springs and Pressings has seen a post-referendum surge which has led to increased orders with future growth very much on the cards. Based at Treleigh Industrial site, the company has seen its turnover up by 15% on the previous year.

I recently attended Gulfood, the world’s largest annual food trade show in Dubai. The show brings together more than 100,000 buyers, investors and producers from around the world. I was proud to champion the UK’s world-class offer. We have ambitions plans to further our export success in the coming years, and we are strengthening our global reputation for good quality produce. It was great to see some of our local Cornish companies, including Rodda’s at the show, and to hear about their plans for continued growth in the years that lie ahead. This week, I attended an international food event in London and met local Redruth firm, CocoNuts.

In terms of funding and regional grant aid, we have the opportunity to put in place a national policy which will allow us to better run regional policy and support new businesses here in Cornwall. This will allow us to invest in projects that really deliver for the local area.

I said during the campaign that I wanted to be the first Farming Minister in 40 years to be able to design policies from first principles. I am optimistic about what lies ahead, and I think that 29th March will be a defining moment for our country.

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Adult Social Care

I recently enjoyed visiting a Shared Lives South West family in Portreath, to find out more about the work done by Shared Lives and the services offered. Shared Lives South West is an independent charity and provides a range of services for people with additional needs. It is a way of providing care and support for vulnerable adults in ordinary family homes of Shared Lives carers.

It was great to meet people who use the Shared Lives services as well the Just Next Door service, which is a half-way stage between living with a family and living independently. The service is provided by Shared Lives carers who have an annexe or flat that is linked to the family home. It allows people to increase independent living skills whilst being able to access family based support when needed.  It is also a more cost effective model than some other approaches to social care.

How we support people in need of adult social care is a growing dilemma, and creative thinking is needed.  As more people live longer, more need help as they get older.  Finding the right solutions is also key to easing pressure on the NHS.

This week, the Chancellor delivered the Spring Budget. I am particularly pleased that the Government will provide an additional £2 billion to councils in England over the next three years to spend on adult social care services. £1 billion of this will be provided in 2017-18, ensuring that councils can take immediate action to fund care packages for more people, support social care providers, and relieve pressure on the NHS.

I also welcome the provision of an additional £100 million for capital investment in A&E departments, which will help to ensure that patients are able to access the most appropriate care as quickly as possible.

The NHS is incredibly important to everyone in Cornwall. I admire the work done by our local hospitals. I am a firm believer in helping the NHS deal with the challenges it inevitably faces, rather than talking it down.