Thursday, 27 September 2012

Cornwall Council proposal will save jobs

I have always been pragmatic on the issue of privatisation. I don’t believe in the automatic assumption that the private sector is better at doing things than the public sector. I am a champion of small private enterprises and will always stand up for those with the courage to set up their own business. But if you look at very large multi-national corporations, you will frequently find more waste and inefficiency than in the public sector. Professions such as health and education are also stronger because of the fact that money is not the only motivating factor. A nurse or a teacher has a vocation for their profession, a desire to care for others or to pass on knowledge to the next generation and that creates a depth to the work they do.

It is with this pragmatic view that I have watched the unfolding debate about the new Strategic Partnership proposal being developed by Cornwall Council. What if it were possible to marry the energy and creative thinking of small private sector organisations with the values and skills of the public sector?

Contracting out the delivery of certain services to the private sector is hardly new. For decades councils have paid private contractors to deliver core tasks such as collecting the rubbish, repairing the roads, delivering domiciliary care to the elderly and operating day care centres. Is it such a major step to do something similar with other services such as advice lines, payroll services and social care? Hardly. The “Strategic Partnership” proposal is not even about outsourcing to a private contractor but instead to a joint venture company in which the Council would retain a major stake and with policy still controlled absolutely by the Council.

The proposals will help to join up the work of the NHS and Cornwall Council when it comes to delivering social care. A major problem in the past has been the fact that both organisations work in silos which means that there is duplication and lack of coordination. Some steps have already been made to improve this situation with the joint commissioning of some services and the new Strategic Partnership will take it to the next stage and also enable Cornwall to pioneer the development of “Telehealth” services which use modern technology to help people manage their care needs from home.

Finally, in an era where money is tight and budgets under pressure, Cornwall Council has a choice between creating jobs or losing jobs. The plans are projected to create 500 new jobs in Cornwall by providing new services in health. There are always risks to any venture which must be managed but doing nothing is not an option and the alternative would be cuts to jobs and front line services.

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, 20 September 2012

Education...

You only get one education and we need to do everything we can to make sure that it is right for the individual child concerned. Over the last two years I have visited every secondary school and virtually every primary school in this area and I have seen some really good work going on and some really inspirational teachers.

I have always thought that a good education is the single most important thing that can increase social mobility and help the next generation to get on in life. We must constantly strive to strengthen primary education, bring greater rigour to both secondary education and the exams system and also support those who want to go on to university or take on an apprenticeship.

This week, Michael Gove announced changes to the exams system so that there will be a new “English Baccalaureate” to replace the old GCSE which will put greater emphasis on final exams and will create a new gold standard qualification at the age of 16. I think this is a positive move. There is evidence that the current emphasis on course work and modules gives children from middle class backgrounds an unfair advantage over other children and the growth of the internet means that it has become ever harder to ensure that course work done at home is genuine. If we are to compete with the best in the world then we need qualifications that are highly regarded throughout the world and this week represented a step forwards.

The government is also opening new schools, following the success of a similar policy in Sweden. Last week I visited the new St Michael’s Free School which has just opened in Camborne. This is a small, catholic school which is free and open to all children. In the old days, only wealthy parents with money could choose which school their child went to, but that is now changing. While it is likely that most children in the Camborne and Redruth area will continue to choose from the excellent, larger secondary schools in the area, for some, a small school like St Michael's will be the right option to nurture their talents and, in my view, we should not deny parents that choice.

Finally, we need to help young people who want to go to university or enter an apprenticeship. The government has created some 300,000 new apprenticeships where young people can learn a skill while earning an income. Meanwhile, Cornwall Council has announced a ground breaking new policy to introduce bursaries that will be made available to help young people from Cornwall attend university. Cornwall Council gets its fair share of criticism, but this is a really thoughtful policy aimed at helping the next generation get ahead and the Council deserves credit for bringing it forward.

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, 13 September 2012

New developments

Last week I attended the opening of the new housing development at Trevu Road opposite the train station in Camborne. I think it is a great illustration of what can be achieved if people work together to overcome their differences and focus on what can be done rather than what can't be done. The development is a wonderful amalgamation of the old and the new, is unique and distinctive, a great place to live and the work has been done sensitively and celebrates the history of this old Holman’s site.

I have always been clear that I favour the development of brown field sites over green field sites in the Camborne, Redruth and Hayle area. We need to find ways of rejuvenating our towns and that means taking on difficult, derelict sites in the centre and finding a way to bring them back into use, not just leaving them to one side and going for the easy option of urban sprawl on the outskirts of towns. That’s why I got behind the harbour scheme in Hayle and the new road at Tuckingmill.

Next week, the Cornwall Council Cabinet will make its decision regarding the location of the new Cornwall Archive and Records Centre. This is an exciting project which will bring together all of Cornwall’s old records as well as some ancient manuscripts in one place. Redruth is the obvious location for the new Cornwall Archive and the Town Council has been working on some really creative proposals that would see the complete regeneration of the old brewery site in town.

Redruth is at the heart of the world wide Cornish diaspora which numbers some 8 million people. Of the people who emigrated from Cornwall in the late 19th century to take mining around the world, around a quarter came from Redruth alone. The town is already the county’s cultural heart and is home to initiatives like the Cornish Migration Project, the Cornwall Studies Library and Murdoch House so it makes sense to build on this.

However, last week, one advisory committee in County Hall suggested that the project should be based in St Austell apparently on the basis that the car park on which they propose to build it might be easier and involve less effort. We should not accept such complacency. The Cornish Archive will only happen if the project is able to attract the support of agencies like the Heritage Lottery Fund and EU regeneration funds and Redruth makes a far more powerful proposition than St Austell. We need a beautiful building that restores and celebrates our heritage, not a soulless building on some car park on the outskirts of St Austell. We need to be imaginative and ambitious for Cornwall, so let’s build it in Redruth.

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, 6 September 2012

Free Parking

For the next two months, you can park for free in Camborne. It is part of a new deal that has been struck by shops and traders in Camborne who are really pulling together to boost the town’s prospects and it is an idea that I have long wanted to see piloted properly in Cornwall because, if it works, it could drive broader policy on car parks in Cornwall. It is great to see Camborne leading the way with such creative thinking.

Cornwall Council car parks are not taking part in the scheme at this stage but the privately owned Trevithick Road Car Park behind Argos is. So make sure you go to the right one! The free car park is really close to the town centre and you can park there at absolutely no cost for the first two hours at any time of the day. To access the car park, you just have to turn down Wellington Road opposite Camborne Church and then, at the end, turn up Trevithick Road to the rear of Argos (there are unfortunately barriers which prevent vehicle entrance from the front).

Traders in Camborne have created what is called a “Business Improvement District”. In effect, all of the shops group together and contribute to a central fund that they can use in any way they choose to promote fresh ideas to get people into town. Solutions range from better marketing to improving the townscape. So far, the Camborne BID team have introduced free car parking, run a series of children’s activities over the summer and persuaded the Co-op to decorate the exterior of their building by Camborne Church.

A couple of years ago, I organised a conference on town centre regeneration. I think it is really important that, as we push forward major regeneration projects like Heartlands in Pool, we also ensure that our town centres are not forgotten and that we do all we can to make them vibrant public places. Sometimes this can involve regeneration through building new, modern retail space in the heart of towns to bring in larger retail chains and increase the footfall which helps everyone. One of the best ideas I have heard for Camborne is that the bus station be moved nearer the train station and the current site used to create a new retail hub in the heart of the town.

But quite often, we need to think afresh about what our town centres are for. Where building modern retail space is less of an option, we need to look at other options to make them vibrant public spaces with restaurants, coffee shops and pubs. Full marks to Camborne’s shops for showing some initiative and if you have not shopped in town for a while, why not try it while you can park for free!

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.