Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Christmas

There is nothing like Christmas to bring our communities together and demonstrate the strength and resilience of our society. In recent weeks I have seen many local examples of the Christmas spirit in action.

Firstly, this year I ran another competition for primary schools to design my Christmas card and they really rose to the challenge with eleven schools taking part and many excellent entries. This year's winner was Charlie Roberts from Bodriggy Academy with a very creative picture of a snow man.

The various Christmas lights ceremonies have also been well supported this year. The Children’s Procession at Redruth was one of the first where students from Redruth School led the pupils from local primary schools through the town. There were some amazingly well decorated umbrellas with fairy lights and all, but thankfully there was no rain this year and the town’s residents were out in force to support this annual event. Turnout was also higher than expected at Hayle and it was standing room only as people packed in to hear some great performances by the choir from Bodriggy Academy and Heyl Town band who even dragged me in to help with the bells on one of their Christmas numbers.

Then there are the many carol services. I attended one at St Elwyn’s church where there were performances from local schools including Penpol, St Piran’s and Bodriggy and another Christmas themed event at Camborne School run by the Holman’s Climax Choir. The fact that this choir continues many years after Holman Bros disappeared shows real resilience.

Meanwhile, last week, Murdoch House in Redruth organised their annual Merrit Carol Concert. It was a cold morning but St Day and Carharrack band and the local Cantabile Singers were undeterred and put in excellent performances. It is also the party season and last Friday I attended the Christmas celebration organised by Redruth Community Radio which has established a roster of 23 DJ’s and local presenters in just nine months.

But the most striking thing about the Christmas spirit is the generosity of local people. Last weekend, I visited the Food Bank project run by the irrepressible Don Gardner with the help of dozens of other volunteers from churches across Camborne. The idea is simple: people who are in desperate need of food are issued vouchers by agencies like social services and the Citizens Advice Bureau and referred to the food bank to see them through difficult times.

This year volunteers have already put together 163 Christmas hampers for families in acute need and the charity has received many generous donations of food from both residents and local businesses to meet the demand. The success of projects like this makes me optimistic about the future of our society because at times of difficulty, we can still pull together.

George Eustice can be contacted at george.eustice.mp@parliament.uk or 1 Trevenson Street, Camborne, Cornwall TR14 8JD or by telephone on 020 72197032.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Jobs for the future

I have always said that the main challenge in this part of Cornwall is to attract new industries and create more and better paid jobs. In Camborne, Redruth and Hayle, decision time is looming on a number of big projects that could help create new jobs and these have been my main focus over the last year.

Firstly, we will know next week whether funds are available to build the new east to west road link at Tuckingmill. I have championed this road within government ever since I was elected. It would unlock the potential of derelict mining land and pave the way for the building of new industrial units and the creation of up to 5000 new jobs in the years ahead. It would also complete the excellent work done by the team at CPR Regeneration over the last few years but competition for funds is fierce, so fingers crossed.

Next up is the plan to regenerate Hayle Harbour. This is another project that has dominated much of my time since I was elected and work to regenerate North Quay is already underway following a government grant last year. I have always said that, if we are going to have another supermarket in Hayle, we should put it in the middle where it will bring new life into the town rather than drain life away and that we should use it as an opportunity to finally restore the harbour area to its former glory. The plans have the unanimous support of Hayle Town Council and were given approval by Cornwall Council in October but, due to objections by English Heritage, the proposals have now been referred to the government for a final decision. I hope that common sense will prevail and that Hayle can look forward to a bright future.

This week I also organised a meeting to progress plans for this part of Cornwall to be designated the first ever Marine Energy Park in the UK. Wave Hub in Hayle is the first facility of its kind in the world but we need to maintain momentum and start getting wave devices plugged in. The government has already agreed to our demands that Cornwall be given the same subsidy regime as Scotland which levelled the field. If we are successful in the New Year at being designated the first Marine Energy Park, Cornwall will overtake Scotland as the world leader in developing wave power technology.

Finally, plans to build a new Cornwall Records Office are being discussed and I strongly believe Redruth is the natural place to locate it. Redruth is at the heart of Cornwall’s heritage and is the town most associated with the world wide Cornish diaspora who emigrated in the 19th century. So let’s hope Cornwall Council gets this decision right and gives Redruth a boost at the same time.

George Eustice can be contacted on george.eustice.mp@parliament.uk or at 1 Trevenson Street, Camborne, Cornwall, TR14 8JD or by telephone on 020 72197032.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Water bill relief

Late last year I had a meeting with George Osborne to discuss the current issues affecting the South West. He asked me what single thing he could do in his budget that would help people in Cornwall and I said “sort out our water bills”. The problem is well known and has been rehearsed for many years: three percent of the population pays for the cost of maintaining 30 percent of the nation’s coast. It means that annual water bills in the South West are typically fifty percent higher than the level charged in other regions such as the South East and, in some cases, as much as double.

But, in politics, it is no good just talking about problems. In the end, you have to secure agreement for a solution and the confirmation this week that all households in Cornwall will receive a £50 discount off their water bills represents a really important breakthrough.

I have had many constituents approach me who are struggling to cope with their water bills. I remember, in particular, one pensioner on a low income who had a bill of £700 per year. In many cases, people find that they are far better off if they switch to a water meter and this is something that the water companies are keen to encourage. In other cases, people on low incomes are eligible for what is called the “Water Sure” tariff which offers a special discount to those on low incomes who are struggling.

These measures to deal with affordability are welcome, but what we really needed was a policy that would make our water bills fairer and this week we finally got it. The scheme is worth £40 million per year and it is a good example of where Conservative and Liberal Democrat MPs working together have been able to really deliver for our county.

MPs from Devon and Cornwall have had many meetings with Ministers to maintain pressure since March and to ensure that the pledge remained intact. We have also managed to maintain a high profile for this issue within the Environment Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee which made some recommendations at the end of last year to spread the burden for those on lower incomes.

There had been quite a lobbying operation from other water companies elsewhere in the country who thought that they should have a share of the fund but this would have defeated the object of the scheme. To his credit, George Osborne has refused to budge on the announcement he made back in the spring. Water bills in the South West have been too high for too long and it is great news that we have finally managed to deliver a meaningful policy to restore some balance.

George Eustice can be contacted at george.eustice.mp@parliament.uk or 1 Trevenson Street, Camborne, Cornwall TR14 8JD or by telephone on 020 72197032.