Last week I attended the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester. The mood was very positive although everyone recognises that there are further difficult decisions to take to get our country back on its feet. As DEFRA minister, I took part in a number of meetings relating to food and animal welfare. There was a well-attended fringe event on the problem of irresponsible back street dog breeders which has been an issue I have championed since becoming an MP
However, the highlight of conference, as always, was the Prime Minister’s speech, where he set out his plans to tackle poverty and boost social mobility. Before becoming an MP, I worked for David Cameron as his Press Secretary at a time when he was trying to develop new policies to tackle the country’s social problems. However, due to the economic crisis in 2008, some of these ideas had to be put to one side as he turned his priority to getting the country’s finances in order. This required the Government to make hard, often unpopular decisions. However, with the economy now back on track, the Prime Minister has signalled a return to the reforming agenda he outlined a decade ago.
Part of his speech was dedicated to helping young families buy their first home. This is really important in Cornwall. There have been some schemes such as Help to Buy where the Government has provided financial help for those who don't have the huge deposits that most mortgage companies demand before offering a loan. However, it does not help all. I frequently come across hard working people who still cannot raise a mortgage because their income is judged too low to afford mortgage repayments even though their rental payments are even higher. It is incredibly frustrating for them. There are some other models such as shared ownership that can help but the announcement of a major increase in new housing that is "affordable to buy" where local first time buyers are able to purchase properties at a discount to the open market price will help many more local families.