Thursday, 31 January 2013

Constituency investment.

This week’s figures showing that growth in the economy has faltered again is a reminder that the road to economic recovery is not going to be an easy one and other countries such as the United States and across Europe are facing the same challenges.

The lesson from past recessions is that the best approach lies in a combination of living within your means and spending money carefully so that mortgage rates can be kept very low, but also trying to protect or increase spending on capital investment and infrastructure projects to create jobs in the short term and increase competitiveness in the longer term. That is why last year, the government announced further spending for infrastructure projects and increased the tax incentives for businesses to invest in new equipment that would make them more competitive.

Locally, my main focus over the last two and a half years has been on trying to secure investment for Camborne, Redruth and Hayle to get the local economy moving. With the help of a government grant, work is now well underway on North Quay in Hayle with a new marine business park about to be built and, following a successful outcome to the long, drawn out discussion about where we should locate any new supermarket in Hayle, this spring we should see work commence on repairing South Quay too with a mixture of new retail space and homes and a new foot bridge to link the quay to Penpol Terrace.

Pool has already been transformed by the completion of Heartlands last year and early this summer, again after years of wrangling and a lot of hard work to secure government funding, we should see construction begin on the new £25 million link road at Tuckingmill which will open up the potential of all the derelict mining land in that part of Camborne and allow the building of the proposed Tuckingmill Urban Village and new industrial space to create jobs.

Last week I had a meeting with representatives from the Heritage Lottery Fund to hear about some of the projects they have supported in this area but, most important of all, to discuss the possibility of getting some large scale funding to help take forward plans to build the new Cornwall Archive in Redruth on the site of the old brewery which has been derelict for over twenty years. Competition for funds is high with around £140 million worth of projects chasing a fund of just £50 million but I think our town has a powerful bid. The facility will celebrate Cornwall’s heritage and bring together many historic manuscripts and research resources in one place. It will restore many of the old buildings around the brewery and regenerate the whole town. April will be decision time so fingers crossed!

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, 24 January 2013

Holding down the cost of living...


The biggest challenge facing families in Cornwall is the cost of living. We all know that there is no money around, public spending is under huge pressure and people are not seeing their wages go up. That is why we have to do everything we can to try to drive down the cost of living.

I was one of the MPs who argued that fuel duty should be frozen and then cut as soon as possible. In a rural peninsula like Cornwall, people are dependent on their cars to get to work and we need to recognise that fact. I was pleased the government abolished the so called “fuel duty escalator” so that prices at the pumps are now 10p lower than they would otherwise have been, but we need to keep up the pressure.

Another longstanding challenge in Cornwall is the high cost of water bills. Again, I lobbied the government to get change and progress has been made towards addressing this unfairness with the introduction of a new rebate of £50 per household due to take effect later this year. There will also be additional forms of discounted tariff for those on very low incomes. It’s not perfect, but things are moving in the right direction.

Electricity and gas bills also put pressure on household budgets and I want to see far greater transparency from energy companies about what they are charging their customers. All too often, gas prices are fast to rise but slow to fall when there are changes in the wholesale price. That is not good enough and the Office of Fair Trading should investigate. Likewise, David Cameron was right to say that we should legislate to ensure that electricity companies are required to offer their customers their cheapest tariff because sometimes the different options on offer are so complicated and change so often that people who are busy can’t keep up with it all and end up ripped off.

This week there was a debate in parliament about reinstating the 10p tax band for those on low incomes. This was something abolished by Gordon Brown in 2008 which was a mistake. The government has made a start by raising the threshold before people start paying any tax but I want the 10p tax rate back too.

Finally, we need to keep the freeze on Council Tax. Over the last three years, the government has helped those councils who freeze council tax by meeting them half way on the cost. Cornwall Council has taken it up in the last two years and should do so again. I know that it puts their own budget under a strain, but what about the budgets of those who have pay their council tax?

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, 17 January 2013

A lot done, a lot more to do...


Last week the government published its mid-term review which was a sort of progress report. Areas where progress had been made included cutting the deficit, giving more independence to schools and reforming the welfare system so that work is rewarded. However, it also highlighted some major challenges still to be addressed such as increasing the state pension and finding a fair way of funding care for the elderly.

There is one other major issue that is important to this part of Cornwall and that is how we tackle the causes of poverty and improve the life chances of the next generation. At the last election I said that I had two major priorities locally. One was to deliver economic regeneration so that we have more and better paid jobs and there will be some very major regeneration projects from Hayle to Redruth starting this year. But we also need to take steps to ensure that those families currently trapped on benefits are given the confidence to take those new jobs and to benefit from that regeneration.

If we are serious about breaking the cycle of disadvantage and serious about giving children from poorer backgrounds the best possible start in life then we need to tackle the causes of disadvantage, not just treat the symptoms through the benefits system.

By the age of three, a toddler’s brain is already 80 percent formed and his or her experiences in those first few years will have influenced how their brain has grown and developed. The things that make a difference are a healthy pregnancy, a secure bonding between mother and child with plenty of love at home, clear boundaries and real attention to developing a child’s communication abilities through reading books and speaking to them.
The evidence is also clear that working parental role models also have an important part to play. Last November I spent a couple of hours at ‘Young Mums Will Achieve’ based at Cornwall College, which targets support at teenage mothers, to hear first hand some of the challenges they face. The project aims to help them back into training and to develop their skills and employment prospects and also provides a crèche at the college. A key part of the project is the peer support that the young mothers give one another.

They had prepared for our meeting in detail and we covered a wide range of problems they encountered including the lack of flexibility from some agencies and the often negative and sometimes abusive attitudes towards them from society which affected their self confidence. That’s a great shame because the young women I met wanted what was best for their children and if we want to break the cycle of poverty in this area, we should want them to succeed too.

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, 3 January 2013

After 40 years it is time for action on the EU

This week marked the 40th anniversary of Britain’s membership of the EU but there it is no cause for celebration, rather a debate about how we can knock the EU into shape in future. David Cameron will shortly deliver his long awaited speech on the future of the EU and, in the last week, there has been some movement from other EU leaders with recognition that there is no way Britain can agree to deeper political integration and that a new arrangement is, therefore, needed.

The first thing David Cameron needs to do in his speech is to untangle what negotiations can take place right now and in this parliament from those which must be postponed for another day and until after the next election. There are two major areas where the current coalition government (Lib Dems and all) will necessarily end up in a renegotiation with the EU. Firstly, the brinkmanship over delivering a real terms freeze to the EU budget which has been led by Britain is likely to continue well into the New Year. David Cameron must stand firm on this. We should not be making cuts in Britain only to give inflation busting budget increases to inept officials in the EU.

Secondly, the British government has already made clear that it will exercise a right it has under the Lisbon Treaty to axe 130 EU directives that Gordon Brown signed up to relating to justice and home affairs but will then seek to pick and choose those it wants to cooperate with and those which will be vetoed for good.

Many Conservatives, myself included, want to see a more fundamental renegotiation of Britain’s relationship with the EU with powers returned in many areas while we remain a committed member of the single market. But, because of the views of the Lib Dems, this more fundamental renegotiation has not been possible in this parliament. Ironically, the intervention of UKIP at the last General Election might have denied the country a Conservative majority and undermined the cause they claim to believe in.

David Cameron must now flesh out in more detail what a future renegotiation would look like and seek a mandate for that position at the next election. This could include taking powers back in areas such as social and employment policy, a looser relationship with the Common Agricultural Policy and Common Fisheries Policy and the return of regional policy which could mean we have more to spend on regeneration in Cornwall.

There is likely to be growing pressure for a new treaty to re-order the EU over the next eighteen months which could, finally, give Britain the new deal it has waited a long time for which could then be put to the country in a referendum.

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.

Christmas

As I write this column I have just finished signing the final batch of Christmas cards ready to catch the last post in order to (hopefully) make it before Christmas. The tradition of Christmas cards plays a vital role in keeping in touch with old friends and family. As we go through 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 family 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. Eleven schools entered and their work was outstanding. A few weeks ago, I met the three town mayors who together made up a judging panel. It was a really tough decision with so many strong entries. We certainly have many talented artists in this part of Cornwall!

The overall winner was 10 year old Willoe Miners from Gwinear Primary School for her colourful drawing of two robins hopping towards one another along a branch underneath some mistletoe. However, because the standard was so high we also had awards for some highly commended runner-ups: Fletcher Allen from Treleigh; Gemma Stevens from Rosemellin; Mae Jordan from Bodriggy; Keira Green from Penponds; Sophie Gollop from Trewirgie; Tallulah Halford from Constantine; Abigail Williams from Kennal Vale; Amber Gunn from Pennoweth and Megan Roberts from St John’s.

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.

2012 has been a bumpy year for the government and, as parliament prepares to close for Christmas, it is a chance to take stock. One of the challenges that every government faces is that bad news tends to float to the top while good news often sinks without trace. There have been successes: the deficit has been cut by a quarter with spending on wasteful consultants slashed; there have been important reforms to give schools more independence; the lowest paid have been taken out of tax altogether and unemployment has started to fall. But there is also no doubt that some mistakes were made and there is more to do. Next year, the government must build on its successes and prioritise the economy.


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.