Thursday, 28 February 2013

The invisible danger of Carbon Monoxide


The tragic deaths of Mr and Mrs Cook and their daughter, Maureen, at Tremarle Park last weekend is a terrible reminder of the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning coming from faulty gas appliances.

Carbon Monoxide is invisible and odourless so impossible to detect without an alarm which can be bought for around £15 from DIY stores. The early symptoms are dizziness, nausea, headaches and breathlessness which can often be mistaken as the symptoms of flu or a heavy cold during winter. However, those who suffer such symptoms while at home but not when out should urgently check their gas appliances and visit their doctor.

The poisonous gas is most commonly generated by the incomplete burning of gas but can also be generated by problems with chimneys or by other types of fuel. Telling signs of the incomplete burning of gas include when the flame burns orange or yellow rather than a crisp blue and when pilot lights go out repeatedly.

There seems to be a huge emphasis placed on awareness campaigns to encourage people to fit fire alarms in their properties but nowhere near the same focus on the hazards of carbon monoxide. Given that it is an invisible and potentially fatal threat which, in some instances, can make someone unconscious within minutes, I think more should be done to highlight the dangers.

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.

Link Road given full approval

Last week saw the final confirmation that the government has given full approval to fund the plans to build the new east-west link road at Tuckingmill meaning that work can now begin and is likely to be well underway by early summer. I have received numerous letters from people who point out that there is always congestion at the junction since it was “improved” with additional lanes a couple of years ago. That is because the junction was designed to accommodate the new road which will become the main route from Camborne to Pool and take most of the traffic off East Hill. The completion of the job means that the junction at the top of East Hill might finally work as intended.

Clearing all the various hurdles to get this project underway has been a long running saga that has occupied much of my time since being elected almost three years ago. I have always backed the plan because it will unlock the potential of derelict mining land in the area, allow new industrial units to be built to attract new industries and also clear the way for the proposed Tuckingmill Urban Village. It has been estimated that the road could stimulate the creation of 6000 jobs over the next twenty years with half of them in the next decade and these are much needed jobs in our area.


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, 21 February 2013

Leisure centre redevelopment is an opportunity we must get right.

Like many people who grew up in this part of Cornwall, I have lots of fond memories of Carn Brea Leisure Centre which has been an essential asset to the community for the best part of forty years. I remember attending many a children’s party where we went swimming and finished with bangers and mash in the cafe. As a former member of Cornwall Athletic Club I used to use the athletics track or sports hall every week.

The Leisure Centre was threatened with closure about ten years ago and there was a passionate local campaign to save it for the community which resulted in the existing Carn Brea Leisure Trust taking over the facility from the local council. It has been a great success and is often held up as a model that other leisure centres elsewhere in the county should follow. For all these reasons, I am taking a great deal of interest in proposals from two potential companies to redevelop the site.

I think there are a number of principles we should apply. First, we should recognise the proposals as an opportunity rather than a threat. It is an opportunity to secure millions of pounds of new investment to complete the transformation of the Pool area with plans for a new retail centre that could attract destination names such as Next and M&S. It is also an opportunity to completely rebuild a new leisure centre and a brand new athletics track. It would add momentum to regeneration of Camborne, Pool and Redruth which is now taking shape.

However, to make the most of this opportunity we need to use the proceeds of any deal on the right priorities. Firstly, we need to make sure that a new athletics track is built to replace the existing one. The track at Carn Brea is the only eight lane track in Cornwall and is the most used. Cornwall Athletics Club is going from strength to strength and new clubs like Carn Runners and Hayle Runners are also growing and make regular use of the track. I favour the idea of doing something jointly with Camborne Academy and Camborne Rugby Club which might benefit all parties.

Secondly, we must seize the chance to build a brand new leisure centre rather than simply refurbish the existing one. The current building has seen better days and needs a new roof and the swimming pool is once again in need of investment. Opportunities to deliver a full rebuild of a new leisure centre don’t come around very often so we must rigourously test the current assumption that a refurbishment is all that can be afforded. The proceeds of any land sale in Camborne and Redruth ought to be reinvested in the area.


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, 14 February 2013

Care in old age...

There are sometimes contentious and difficult long term challenges that governments must face up to even though delay and postponement feels a lot easier. Working out how we fund care in old age is one of those issues. It has been talked about for many years but previous governments have always been reluctant to act.

By 2030, the number of people aged over 85 will double, and the number of people with dementia will exceed one million. As the number of older people with such long term conditions increases, we need to become a society where people prepare and plan for their social care costs as much as they prepare and plan for their pension.

Earlier this week, the government announced a new package of support for the elderly to help them pay for their long-term care costs. At the moment, many older people and people with disabilities face paying the limitless, often ruinous costs of their care with little or no assistance from the state. While those with assets of less than £23,250 do receive support, those with assets above this level receive nothing at all.

This is desperately unfair, particularly for those who have worked hard all their lives to pay off their mortgage, to save for their future or to have something to pass on to their loved ones – only to see their property sold and their savings wiped out and it happens to more than 30,000 people a year. The current system doesn’t exactly encourage people to provide for themselves or save for their retirement.

The crucial part of the new package is a huge increase in the threshold of savings below which the government will help to fund the cost of care. The Government will step in earlier to pay a proportion of residential care costs, with the threshold more than quadrupled – from £23,250 to £123,000. This will still help those of modest means the most but will also ensure that those who have saved for their old age get some support. There will also be a new maximum cap of £75,000 that any individual would have to pay in old age. This will encourage the development of affordable insurance schemes which some people might opt in to in order to protect their savings.

The new approach is expected to directly benefit an extra 100,000 people who would not receive support under the current system but the vast majority of state support will be provided to the 40% of older people with the lowest income and wealth. The plans are a welcome step towards giving people some peace of mind about the cost of care in old age.

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.

Friday, 8 February 2013

Water Bill relief on its way

For as long as I can remember, the high level of water charges here in Cornwall has been an issue. The combination of a large coastline to maintain, the need for higher than expected investment after privatisation and a low population among whom to share the burden of that investment all combined to create the highest water bills in the country.

This week, South Water confirmed that, from this April, every household will get a £50 rebate on their bill which, for the average household means a cut of around 7.3%. Bills will still be high but, at a time when everything else seems to be going up, it is good that at least one bill will definitely be going down. 700,000 households in Devon and Cornwall will benefit from the discount and a further 13,000 customers are expected to see their bills fall dramatically by over £300 as a result of switching to a water meter. The evidence is clear that most households, particularly those living alone or with smaller families, can save a lot of money each year if they switch to a water meter.

Making a significant dent in water charges was one of the things I wanted to see delivered by the coalition government when we got elected. For years, people had talked about the problem but I thought it was time to come up with a solution. As a candidate, I had worked closely with the Conservative Party to try to devise a new form of social tariff which would disproportionately help Cornwall and some of these ideas filtered into government thinking.

The fact that every MP in Cornwall is a member of one of the two governing parties was an opportunity to really deliver the change that some said could never be achieved. While I have had plenty of differences with my Liberal Democrat colleagues over the last couple of years, we all worked together to persuade the government to act on this issue. In all the years when the last government was spending money like there was no tomorrow, they still didn’t do anything to help us with our water bills and I think George Osborne deserves credit for finding the funds to deliver a £50 discount when we all know money is tight.

I recognise that many people will still struggle with their water bills despite this cut but there are other ways they might be able to get even more savings. As well as considering a switch to a water meter South West Water also offer something called a “WaterSure” tariff which is a special discount for those with 3 or more children who are on low incomes and receiving some benefits. To find out more look at their website or give them a call on 0800 1691133.

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.