Wednesday, 29 August 2018

Regeneration

When I was first elected I always made clear that economic regeneration in Camborne Redruth and Hayle was my number one priority. This summer I have been working to maintain momentum on some of the key projects I helped get off the ground. 
Firstly, on Hayle Harbour, I did a lot of work early on to help overcome some problems with English Heritage and to try to get the previous owner ING to work in closer partnership with the local community. Now that all the infrastructure has been put in place with a new bridge to North Quay and with the harbour walls repaired and the new ASDA built and trading successfully, we need to progress the other phases of the regeneration, completing the mixed development on the rest of South Quay and building the proposed flats and houses on North Quay. Progress has been complicated by numerous changes of ownership and a slowdown in house building but plans are now progressing for North Quay. Earlier this summer I met the current owners to discuss their plans and to encourage them to move forward now that all the other work has been completed. 
Secondly, the Kresen Kernow Cornwall archive is now really taking shape on the site of the old brewery in Redruth. I pressed hard to get Redruth designated as the venue for the archive project and also to help broker the agreement between the owner of site and Cornwall Council. We have also managed to secure substantial lottery funding. However, we now need to ensure that we get the design of the proposed development on the remainder of the site right. There have been some concerns expressed by councillors about the nature of the development currently proposed so there is more to be done to try to get a final outcome that everyone will be comfortable with. 
At Camborne, I needed to do a lot of work a few years ago to secure the funding needed to build out the east-west link road which has opened up the potential for new development around the old South Crofty mine site and the rest of the derelict land around Tuckingmill. There have been delays in bringing forward the development potential of this huge site because of difficulty in agreeing a joint plan between Cornwall Council, the Homes and Communities Agency and the private company that owns the majority of the site. I had to get involved last year to try to encourage the HCA to work more constructively with the other landowners on the site to try to keep things moving and I think progress has now been made and various plans are starting to come forward for approval. 
Finally, it's not just the regeneration of buildings and the urban environment that we need. We also need enterprise and industry that will create jobs. I am continuing to work with the new owners of South Crofty on their plans to build a new, modern mine targeting tin and lithium and I am also continuing to work on securing support to build a new Fibre Park that can be home to the growing computer software industry we have here in Camborne and Redruth.

Tuesday, 21 August 2018

St Michael’s Hospital

This week over the skies of West Cornwall, a new baby was born en-route to Treliske hospital after his mother went into labour while on the Isles of Scilly. There was no midwife on the islands so midwife Linda Benson was picked up and travelled with the coastguard to run a special mission. 
The NHS is a great British institution which all of us will rely on it at some point in our lives. The many hard-working nurses and doctors who contribute to this success have a lot of be proud of. Locally across Cornwall we are fortunate to have a number of excellent hospitals delivering high quality care to those who need it most. From St Michael's Hospital, which is already a national leader in breast surgery, to Camborne and Redruth Hospital which has a number of specialisms including stroke and prosthetics, residents have access to some of the best care possible. 
Periodically there are scare stories about the future of St Michael's which is unsettling for staff and unfair. The truth is very different. St Michael’s hospital is helping more people than ever. According to the Friends of St Michael’s, the hospital already delivers over 95 percent of all breast cancer operations in Cornwall, about 1200 operations a year which is an extraordinary feat. A few years ago, I met some of the team who lead on this work and they are exceptionally talented, and renowned nationally for the quality of their care and expertise. 
The Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust has also recently announced additional funding at St Michaels to expand the work that it does on orthopaedic care and increase the number of people cared for at hospital in Hayle. For a number of years, it has been clear that there is capacity to do more at St Michael's and there were concerns two years ago that too much orthopaedic work was being centralised at Trelsike which is already under pressure and stretched to capacity. This change of approach with more done in Hayle should help tackle patient delay for operations, reduce cancellations and shorten the average length of stay as well as releasing space at Treliske. 
The improvements will also see the Trust increase the percentage of planned orthopaedic procedures at St Michael’s Hospital from the existing 69% to over 90% - more than 500 cases more per year by 2019. Treliske has had some difficult times in recent years but St Michael’s Hospital has been rated ‘Outstanding’ for caring by the Care Quality Commission and this investment by the Trust will help to build on this reputation and ensure all patients get excellent care. 
The story of investment across the local level is also being matched by that on the national level. Recently the Government announced that it will increase NHS funding by almost £400 million a week - more than £20 billion a year - by 2023/24 as part of a historic long-term funding plan for the NHS. While there will always be some challenges facing our NHS given the size of the organisation and its complexity, we should recognise its achievements and celebrate the good news that. The work done at St Michael's continues to be one of the positive stories about our local NHS.

Wednesday, 15 August 2018

'To Hell with the Bank'

My father passed away almost two years ago and this weekend, at Trevaskis Farm, we are reopening the Organic Kitchen Garden in his memory. My father was the founder of Trevaskis Farm way back in 1979 and growing fruit and vegetables was his passion. In later life he created a demonstration garden on the farm and my sister has now restored it.

In the final year of his life he also wrote a book which we have also launched this week. Today Trevakis Farm is a great success but it has not always been plain sailing. Every life has its set backs and share of problems. In the early 1990s our family farming business suffered some serious sets backs with bad weather which culminated in losses and then an acrimonious dispute with Barclays Bank who tried to withdraw their funding. My father's book "To Hell with the Bank", tells the story behind those traumatic events in 1995. 
The business had expanded to try to keep the oldest family farm within family ownership following the retirement of my Great Uncle. A series of set backs meant that things did not go entirely to plan but the risks had always been acknowledged and we just needed a bank that would give us time and space. My father put forward a radical plan to slash debts by a third and consolidate the business which the bank's agricultural advisers supported. However, other parts of the bank wanted to wind the business down. When they attempted to send in the receivers, they got more than they bargained for and there was an extraordinary legal battle that raged for a year before the business was finally free and able to grow again. 
My own experience of that traumatic event is one of the catalysts that got me interested in politics. I saw some things about our law that were not right and I saw things happen which were wrong and totally unfair. When I first became an MP I introduced a Bill to Parliament called the Secured Leding Reform Bill. It sought to rebalance the law away from lenders and in favour of enterprise and the small business people who are the backbone of our economy. Under the current law, if you have a home and you fall behind on your mortgage payments, the lender has to get a "possession order" from the court before they are able to do anything or seize and sell your property. The courts do not grant these orders lightly and will take account of any circumstances an individual might have suffered such as losing their job or having a short term financial crisis in their family. The result is home repossession is usually a final resort. However, when it comes to farm land or any other commercial property, there are no rights at all. A bank can simply walk in and take possession and then auction your property without any recourse to the courts. I think that is totally wrong. 
People who offer banks their property as security for a loan deserve some protection in law. They are trusting that lender to behave responsibly and often the property they have represents their life's work or in some cases the capital that a family might have built up through generations of work. It is completely unjust that anonymous risk management officers working far away from the business currently have the right in law to seize and sell that life's work without first requiring permission from a court. My Bill would have introduced such a right. It didn't make it through on the first attempt but this remains unfinished business. 
"To Hell with the Bank" by Paul Eustice is available to buy online through lulu.com or at Trevaskis Farm.

Thursday, 9 August 2018

Help to Buy

I have always believed it is important to help young families fulfil the ambition of owning their own home. Over time, owning an asset like your own home gives you some financial security and allows you to set down roots. Twenty years ago it was possible to get relatively affordable mortgages for 95 percent of the value of a property and this meant that people who were working could generally save a five percent deposit. However, after the banking crisis in 2008 things went into reverse. Banks and mortgage companies now expect a much higher deposit than was the case twenty years ago, typically 25 percent which means that it's much harder for young families to purchase their first home. 
A few years ago the government introduced a new "Help to Buy"scheme where government would help to underwrite the deposit in order to ensure normal families who work hard but don't have large incomes or even large savings, could be supported to purchase their first home. The scheme was available on certain new build properties and it has been a success. There are some good examples of he scheme around Camborne and Redruth for instance at the Heartlands site. In total, in Camborne and Redruth, Help to Buy has supported 212 households buying a new build home.
There is no doubt that nationally we have a housing shortage. A combination of population growth and issues like family breakdown means that many families are struggling to find a home that delivers their needs. In Cornwall, the issue is exacerbated in some areas by second home owners. So, as well as helping first time buyers purchase their first home through schemes like Help to Buy, we do also need to build more homes. 
I have always said that we must protect green spaces and that there should be a principle of building on brownfield sites before greenfield sites, especially around our towns. Developments should also be done with communities, not to them and we should challenge developers to take on difficult sites rather than go for easy development options on greenfield sites and urban extensions. In Cornwall we are lucky enough to live in one of the most beautiful places in the world. We have a beautiful landscape but we are also a narrow peninsula and we must take care to protect the beauty of our countryside. 
In our area we have had some successes with new homes being built on derelict sites that have helped regenerate our urban sites as well as providing new homes. The development at Trevu Road by the train station in Camborne and also at Heartlands are good examples of tastefully done regeneration which celebrates the industrial heritage of our area, tidies up derelict sites and provides new homes. 
We also need to ensure that we have the right infrastructure in place to support new homes. With all of the hot weather and drought conditions we have been experiencing it is easy to forget the threat of floods associated with over-development. Recently DEFRA announced that they would be investing an extra £40million to boost regeneration and better protect homes and businesses against flooding across the UK. Locally in Cornwall many have experienced first-hand the devastation that flooding can cause to homes and properties. As part of the funding boost to flood defences, the Portreath Flood Alleviation Scheme will receive an additional £1.50million funding to help protect homes and businesses in the area. At a time when we are seeing more extreme weather both here in the UK and abroad it is vital that we continue to invest in these vital schemes.

Thursday, 2 August 2018

Recess

Parliament has now broken for the summer and it’s been good to get back to the cooler weather in Cornwall. Westminster has been hot and bothered in more ways than one in recent weeks. However, when we all return in the autumn, there will remain some important decisions to make as far as negotiation with the EU is concerned. 
The EU referendum was divisive and parliament sadly remains divided today. The Prime Minister has a difficult task trying to put together a position that can command the support of all sides in parliament. The refusal of some MPs to respect the result of the referendum is undermining our country in these important negotiations with the EU about a future partnership. 
In my view we need to put the arguments of the past behind us, and unite to make a success of Brexit with a new partnership with the EU based on friendship and cooperation. If we get this right we can reassure those who are nervous of change while also implementing the decision taken by our country in 2016. However, it is also important to remember that we do not need permission from the EU to leave. It was a decision to leave, not a negotiation. Parliament has already passed the legislation to repeal the 1972 European Communities Act and to end the supremacy of EU law in March next year. All that we are really negotiating at the moment are the terms of any possible future partnership. 
The Prime Minister has been clear that she believes the latest position she has put forward should serve to unblock the negotiations and get the talks moving forward. Her proposal would mean that we would have full control of our own fishing waters, would have full control of our agriculture policy and we would have our own independent immigration policy and trade policy. The supremacy of EU law would end but we would agree to some regulatory alignment with the EU on a narrow set of issues around product standards which affect border checks. The ball is now in the EU's court and we will find out by the autumn whether they are serious. 
As the Minister for Farming, Fisheries and Food, I have been working hard in recent weeks on two important Bills. The first will create the powers for us to design our own independent fisheries policy and to control access to our waters in future. The second is an Agriculture Bill which sets out the powers we need to put in place new schemes that really deliver for farming and our environment once we are free from the EU and can scrap some of the pointless bureaucracy and paperwork that goes with the CAP. 
However, for now, I am focusing on issues closer to home. Last week I attended a roundtable meeting with representatives from voluntary sector organisations in Cornwall. The meeting was a great way to bring together MPs and voluntary sector organisations from across Cornwall to talk about a variety of matters from loneliness, to future funding arrangements for Cornwall, and looking at Social Action Projects. We discussed some of the challenges we have in Cornwall especially when it comes to transport and the importance of the charity and voluntary sector to help address need, especially when it comes to early interventions on issues like mental health. 
I also recently took the time to hold an open surgery in Redruth to meet local people and hear some of their concerns and cases that they might have. One of the things that persuaded me to stand for election in the first place was seeing the work that MPs do in their constituencies to help people deal with specific problems in their daily lives. You can’t always solve the problem, but you can always try, give advice and lend a helping hand. When you do succeed, it makes the job worthwhile. I hold regular surgeries in my office in Camborne and if you have a case that you would like assistance with, then please email my office at george.eustice.mp@parliament.uk or by phone on 0207 219 7032.