Thursday, 28 January 2016

Economic Regeneration

Economic regeneration and job creation has always been one of my first priorities and over the last five years we have seen some positive steps forward.

The Kresen Kernow archive project, being built in Redruth, is well underway and you can now tour the smart, new walkways and public spaces. I campaigned hard to make Redruth the location of this project, which will not only safeguard the historic brewery site, but also create new jobs, kick-starting the wider regeneration of the town.

These are also exciting times for Hayle, where the development of South Quay will transform the landscape and local economy. The new Asda has been up and running since 2014, and once finished South Quay will play host to new restaurants and housing which will revive the harbour area.  Meanwhile, the new Marine Business Park has just been completed at the far end of North Quay and plans are finally starting to develop to build new housing and retail space on the remainder to compete the regeneration. 

I am now looking at a number of new projects throughout the constituency. The success of superfast broadband and facilities like the Pool Innovation Centre and Barncoose Gateway has attracted new businesses and start-ups to Cornwall and there is a demand for additional work space in the CPR area. One reason I lobbied so hard to secure funding for the creation of the East-West link road, was that it would unlock derelict mining land in Tuckingmill for development, and I want to see this land used so that new industries can move in and create skilled, well paid jobs for the area.  That is why the idea of a new Fibre Park linked to Cornwall College has so much potential to build on what's been started in the computer software industry.

Other sites on my list include Avers roundabout.  It has been a derelict eye sore for too long and it's time to get that end of Redruth sorted out.  Once the archive is complete and the new developments around Tolgus begin, Avers roundabout will become an important gateway site.

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Helping those in debt

The economy is improving, but one of the challenges is to make sure the recovery reaches everyone. This is why reforming the benefit system is important, so that work pays and also why we need intensive support to help those who have been out of work for a long time get their confidence back.

We also need to recognise the crippling affect that personal debt can have on those who have fallen on hard times. This does not just mean those on benefits. Many people who work also have debt problems and shouldn’t be overlooked. It can start with a one off bill like a repair to the car or an unexpected tax bill but end up with court costs and thuggish bailiffs at the door adding huge cost and stress. Some people turn to loan sharks or payday loan companies who seem to offer a quick fix, but actually end up compounding the problem. There are few things more demoralising to people than having bills and debts that stalk them.

I have previously held a personal debt conference to discuss this issue in further detail. The Citizens Advice Bureau regularly offers debt advice to those at their wits end and the Government set up the Money Advice Service with the key objective of encouraging people to better manage their money. There is also the Kernow Credit Union, which offers an ethical and safe alternative to the traditional bank model. 

This weekend I met with Teresa Bailey, the new branch manager of Christians Against Poverty. CAP are a great charity based in Redruth and which helps local people who are struggling with debt and don’t know where to turn. CAP provides free one-on-one meetings and helps negotiate payment plans and settlements with utility companies, banks and other creditors. Founded in 1996, CAP are a great organisation and operate 290 debt centres across the UK. It can only take one knock in life to end up in debt and if you are looking for help CAP can be contacted on 0800 3280 006.

Thursday, 14 January 2016

Council Funding

For too long Cornwall has not received its fair share of funding from central government with a disproportionate amount of money being directed to inner cities in the North.  

We are starting to see some progress in challenging this. In education, the formula is outdated and has always favoured local authorities in urban areas around cities. In the last Parliament we put an extra £390 million to help top up areas that were under funded and the Prime Minister has made clear that he now wants to see a wholesale reform of the formula so that it targets need rather than being based on historic inaccuracies. We also managed to protect the Devon & Cornwall policing budget this autumn, meaning the force will now be £50 million a year off better than expected. 

Just before Christmas, the Department for Communities & Local Government published their provisional Local Governance Finance Settlement for 2016/17, which sets out the amount of funding local authorities will receive from central government. By 2019/20 Cornwall Council will have total resources available of £445m, as opposed to £432.9m in 2016/17.

There were some elements that are less welcome such as a reduction in the short term of some of the rural weightings that had existed before.  However, this should be offset by an increase in the help given to rural councils and the prioritising of Adult Social Care through a new 2 percent Adult Social Care precept on council tax.  If adopted in full, this would mean a £34.4 million increase in Adult Social Care funding by 2019/20, providing Cornwall Council with more resources to draw upon to care for those who require long term support. 

There is still more to be done.  On the NHS, although the budget nationally has been increased I think there are still some issues around the way the national formula is applied.  Cornwall has a larger elderly population than other parts of the country, and more recognition should be given to this.  But on some fronts at least things are moving in the right direction.


Friday, 8 January 2016

Winter Floods


It has been another stormy winter and, once again, many communities in Britain have had their Christmas ruined by flooding. In Cornwall we had plenty of gale force winds and lots of rainfall but, unlike two years ago when the tidal surges damaged sea defences at Portreath and Penzance, this time the worst of the damage has been seen in Yorkshire, Scotland and Cumbria, which saw the heaviest rainfall since records began in 1910.

Around the world we seem to be seeing an increase in the frequency of extreme weather events.  It is not just here in the UK.  Over the Christmas period we also saw extreme flooding in the USA and in October there was severe flooding in the French Riviera.  Meanwhile, other parts of the world are experiencing other extreme events.  Australia started 2015 with severe bush fires around Adelaide and it ended 2015 over the Christmas period with more bush fires started by lightning storms and fuelled by arid weather.

One factor that could be driving the increased frequency of extreme weather events is climate change and that is why we must continue to make progress to reduce carbon emissions. However, many of the current weather events are being put down to the El NiƱo effect: a naturally occurring cycle that develops every four or five years due to warm ocean currents in the South Pacific which then have knock on effects on weather systems throughout the world. 

This means we also need to plan to manage and mitigate flood risk. In the last parliament, the Government spent over £1.5 billion on investment in flood defences and during the current parliament we plan to invest an additional £2.3 billion, supporting around 1500 schemes that will help protect some 300,000 homes.  

This projects will include major pieces of infrastructure such as tidal barriers to the development of natural flood plains and shore line defences to minimise impacts.  We will never be able to guarantee that extreme weather events will be avoided, but we are doing all we can to plan for them.