Monday, 2 March 2015

Public Spending

Everyone knows that if we want to increase spending on public services we have to have a strong economy. The last Labour Government bankrupted this country and left every family with huge debts and over the last few years, the Conservative led Government has taken the difficult decisions to get our finances back in order.

However, we have still prioritized hospitals and schools. Spending on the NHS has increased
in this parliament by £12.7 billion and this additional funding has helped Cornwall and includes an expansion of the minor injuries unit at the Camborne and Redruth Community Hospital and the creation of a doctor-led urgent care centre. In addition, by cutting bureaucracy in the NHS, we have also been able to recruit 500 new doctors in the South West. 

Local schools have also seen additional funding with an increased pupil premium, giving schools in areas where there is poverty, extra funds to employ the best teachers to give children the best start in life and many of our schools have benefited from converting to academies where they have had more funding and, full control over how they spend it so that head teachers can be captains of
their own ship.

Police Funding

We all know that we can only afford to increase funding for our public services and our police force if we get our economy back on its feet. The last Labour government almost bankrupted the country, saddling every family in Britain with huge debts. That has meant some difficult decision have had to be taken and the police have had to manage with a slightly smaller budget like everyone else.

However, what matters is how much they achieve with the funding they have. I regularly visit our police force in Camborne and Redruth and I am always really impressed by their professionalism.  We have seen big improvements in efficiency in the last few years and the Government has scrapped pointless paperwork.  The focus on neighbourhood policing and working with communities has been particularly successful.

Police and Crime Commissioners have been criticised by some but they only replaced the old defunct Police Authorities who very few people had even heard of.  It is far better to have someone who people can hold to account at the ballot box and while there are still issues with alcohol linked violence, crime has fallen overall.

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Britain and the EU

The issue of Britain's relationship with the EU was what first drove me into politics. I stood as a UKIP candidate in 1999 and was then Campaign Director of the successful anti-Euro “No Campaign”. 

The EU has accumulated too many powers which undermines the ability of national governments to take the decisive action needed to sort out problems. That's why we need a radical shake up of our relationship with Europe. Three years ago I founded the Fresh Start Project which explored the options for a new UK-EU relationship. I also contributed ideas to David Cameron’s landmark speech where he called for a return of powers to nation states and committed to an in-out referendum if the Conservatives win the next election.  We will only get that referendum if we have a Conservative government.  

This government has taken steps to control immigration after a decade where Labour had an open door policy. We have closed hundreds of sham colleges which were being used as a route into the UK, tightened the criteria for marriage visas and, if re-elected, we will do more to curtail the payment of benefits to EU migrants.  People should come here to work, not to claim benefits.  

Foodbanks

Food Banks do excellent work helping those who have hit difficult times and I fully support the efforts of people like Don Gardner and others from local churches in our community who have come together to offer support in this way.  

As Minister for Food, I have visited the operation in Camborne on several occasions and looked at this issue closely. The Government is doing its part by offering free school meals to all infants to ensure children are eating properly and there are other schemes like Healthy Start that make food available for young families.  

The best way to help people out of poverty is to help them back into work. That's why we have reformed the benefits system so that work pays. Since 2010, 1.7 million more people are now in work and in Camborne and Redruth, the number of unemployed people has almost halved since 2010, but there is more to do in terms of creating better paid jobs.

We also need to help those suffering the demoralising consequences of personal debt and I recently held a conference to address this issue and look at alternative ways to help people navigate a way out of indebtedness.   

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Developing Green Energy

I have always been a strong supporter of wave power in Cornwall, but I am very opposed to field scale solar farms which are scarring the Cornish countryside.

With the powerful Atlantic swell off the Cornish coast we have a wave power resource that is second to none and Wave Hub is the first facility of its type in the world able to test commercial scale arrays of devices.

I have always championed wave power and worked to secure Marine Energy Park status in Hayle. There are several major wave energy developers now seeking to locate in Hayle and our strong heritage in engineering means we have the companies that can really make wave power work.

There is a place for solar panels on roofs, but field scale solar developments damage the countryside and take good farmland out of production. What has happened with all those new solar developments between Chiverton roundabout and Carland Cross is an absolute tragedy and will damage other industries like farming and tourism. As Farming Minister, I decided to abolish farm subsidies on any land occupied by solar developments and I have pressed for Cornwall Council to say no to more of these awful developments.


NHS in Cornwall


The NHS is incredibly important to everyone in Cornwall and recently there have been rumours regarding the future of St Michael’s Hospital. Earlier in the summer, I met with the then Chief Executive of the Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust, to discuss these rumours and ask if there was anything I could do to help. She made clear there are no plans whatsoever to close the hospital and that they would actually like to do more work there. I strongly disagree with those people who keep saying St Michael's will have to be closed down.  We should not undermine confidence in our local NHS. Instead we should support and strengthen it.

Funding for the Kernow Clinical Commission Group had increased this year by £14.3 million with another £11.6 million to come next year. Furthermore, I think it is encouraging that extra funds have been granted for an expansion at the minor injuries unit at the Camborne and Redruth Community Hospital and the creation of doctor led urgent care centres at the same hospital. Like any big organisation, the NHS will always have challenges to deal with and I think we should help them deal with those challenges, not talk them down.


Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Cornish Devolution



Cornwall has always been unique.  We have a strong identity and our own language and culture. Many of us consider ourselves Cornish before English and in recent years we have seen a renewed interest in celebrating St Piran’s Day. 

I do believe that we should give more decision making powers to Cornwall and the Government has already put together "growth deals" where new money has been made available for Cornwall to spend on transport projects that it has prioritised to promote growth.

I don't think we should build a Welsh style assembly and have yet another tier of politicians. That would just be a waste of money. Instead, we should focus on what more Cornwall Council can do. I would like to see more powers relating to culture and heritage devolved to Cornwall Council and taken away from English Heritage which I think can sometimes be remote.

But Cornwall Council is far from perfect so in addition, I think we should give our town and parish councils a greater say on how elements of Cornwall Council’s budget is spent so they have more power and a stronger sense of purpose