Thursday, 25 June 2020

Cornwall is re-opening for business

Over the last twenty years Cornwall has developed a really powerful and unrivalled brand for tourism. The essential ingredients are our beautiful coast and striking landscapes, a warm welcome and our cultural distinctiveness and a fantastic reputation for great food. It has become a vitally important industry for our communities and the drastic measures that have had to be taken to control the Coronavirus have had a terrible impact.
Hospitality businesses always see the Easter break as a turnaround point when they emerge from the winter and start to turn the corner and get positive cash flow again. This Easter, we entered lockdown and they have lost half the season. The government opened some unprecedented support schemes, suspending business rates, issuing grants to small businesses and covering payroll costs for furloughed staff to prevent unnecessary redundancies. However, these could only ever offer temporary respite. Now that we have the virus under control, we need to take further steps to getting back to life closer to normal albeit with vitally important steps to prevent the spread of the virus and keep people safe.
The last few weeks have already brought a reduction in the restrictions with public gardens, parks and zoos tentatively reopening to the public with the evidence detailing that the risk of transmission outdoors is very low. This gradual easing of restrictions has so far been done while the infection rate of the virus has been held stable so far.
Earlier this week the Prime Minister announced the next stage. From Saturday 4th July, pubs, restaurants and hairdressers will be able to reopen, providing they adhere to COVID Secure guidelines. From the same date, he has set out that two households will be able to meet up in any setting with social distancing measures, and that people can now enjoy staycations in England and Cornwall with the reopening of accommodation sites such as campsites and B&Bs that make up many of the unique tourism businesses across Cornwall.
In order to begin restoring the arts and cultural sector, some leisure facilities and tourist attractions may also reopen, if they can do so safely – this includes outdoor gyms and playgrounds, cinemas, museums, galleries, theme parks and arcades, as well as libraries, social clubs, places of worship and community centres.
Of course, in the weeks ahead we all have a role to play to ensure that the virus does not re-emerge stronger and effecting more people. The Government’s approach will remain cautious as we seek to control the rate of infection but we are continuing to take steps that can help get people back closer to life as normal. A crucial part to controlling the virus in future will be to closely monitor local outbreaks through testing and tracing the virus and to have very targeted local approaches to asking people to self isolate if they have symptoms or have been exposed to someone else who has.
I understand that there will be a degree of apprehension among some about whether Cornwall in particular would become exposed through an influx of visitors. However, it may take some time to finally see the virus disappear altogether and for the the time being, we will all need to learn to live our lives alongside it and that includes finding ways to enable people to safely visit beautiful Cornwall and spend their money here so that our many fabulous restaurants, camp sites and hotels are given a future.

Thursday, 18 June 2020

Think Local, Shop Local

Earlier this week, all non-essential retail shops were allowed to re-open and once more commence trading. For many businesses, this was the first time in months that they could open to the public. Businesses up and down the country have been preparing for this moment and precautions have been put in place with extensive guidance from the Government and Public Health England.
Many of these non-essential retail shops are integral to the fabric of our local communities, especially across Cornwall where there is a strong local community. As we emerge from the shadow of COVID-19, I and my Conservative colleagues across Cornwall launched the Think Local, Shop Local campaign to encourage people to shop locally and help local shops get back on their feet. From our local pasty shops, to fashion and hardware, our highstreets are full of opportunities and bargains.

An update on the Brexit negotiations
Whilst COVID-19 has dominated much of the political and media discourse in recent months, the Government has been actively going about its negotiations with the EU on a future free trade agreement. After years of wrangling we finally left the EU at the end of January and the Transition Period will expire at the end of December. Last week, Michael Gove led a meeting between UK and EU officials where he formally confirmed that there would be no extension to the transition period and that on January 1, 2021, the UK will take back control and regain our political & economic independence.
There have been a couple of sticking points in the discussion about a future trade agreement. Firstly, the EU are making unrealistic asks regarding the future of fishing access which is of great importance to the west country. The second sticking point is that the EU are requesting that we continue to follow their laws in some areas. Obviously neither of these requests are reasonable nor acceptable. We have left the EU so that we can control our own laws again and it is what every other independent country does. Likewise, on fisheries, we are just asking for what every other country has which is to be an independent coastal state like Norway and to control access to our waters and reach sensible annual agreements with our neighbours on the management of shared stocks.
There is now going to be an intensive approach to try to secure a breakthrough in the discussions over the next few weeks but if that does not occur then we will still have the agreement that was signed late last year and which provides a basis on which to proceed after the end of the transition period.

Thursday, 11 June 2020

A light at the end of the Covid tunnel?

Earlier this week, the Secretary of State for Health announced in the Government’s Daily briefing the country’s lowest recorded rate of deaths from COVID-19. Every life that has been lost to COVID-19 is one too many, and many of us will know of someone who has been affected by the virus. Inevitably there will be lessons learnt from how the state has reacted to the virus, but it is reassuring to hear that after all the sacrifices that many people have made, that there is some light at the end of the tunnel.
Of course, in the weeks ahead we all have a role to play to ensure that the virus does not re-emerge stronger and effecting more people. The Government’s approach will remain cautious as we seek to control the rate of infection but we are continuing to take steps that can help get people back closer to life as normal. A couple of weeks ago public gardens and parks were told that they could start to tentatively re-open. The evidence is that the risk of transmission outdoors is very low. This week a further step has been taken to allow the partial opening of zoos in outdoor areas provided numbers are controlled. Caution has been needed because a spike in the rate of infection will see the measures once more tightened and a need for a lockdown to be re-imposed. The Government’s guidance on the plan for the months ahead can be found on the www.gov.uk website.
However with more shops and non-essential businesses re-opening in the weeks to come, it is important that we all do as much as we can to support our local Cornish businesses. Throughout the lockdown, there were stories of people increasingly shopping locally, supporting local businesses. In recent years we have seen a number of movements to support small businesses such as Small Business Saturday, and as we emerge from this lockdown, I would encourage as many people as possible to support our local stores. From our local bakeries serving fantastic pasties, to fruit and veg shops, our great Cornish economy can provide everything we need, right on our doorsteps. If we all buy something locally when retail reopens, we will all be able to make a difference to these businesses.
During these difficult times we have all looked out for each other and pulled together to support one another. Our unique Cornish spirit has shone through, however in the weeks and months ahead we all need to continue to do as much as we can and support these businesses that make up the fabric of our communities.

Thursday, 4 June 2020

A new vision for Camborne

This week, plans to revitalise Camborne stepped up a notch as the Towns Fund Board appointed a local project manager to help craft the vision for the improvements to our towns. With a local project manager in place, work will now continue to help revitalise our town centre with business and leisure opportunities to be enjoyed for current and future generations.
The towns fund was initially launched back in November 2019 by the Housing Secretary focusing on areas with proud industrial and economic growth but which had been less fortunate in years gone by. However, with the government firmly committed to levelling up our towns and cities and unleashing the country’s potential this funding was most welcome.
Our local towns were once at the heart of the industrial revolution and our expertise in mining engineering was second to none. Over the years, with the loss of mining our fortunes waned and all too often the political attention was on big northern cities, but now we have an opportunity to reset this imbalance and deliver the economic regeneration that our towns and communities need.
When I was first elected, I always made clear that economic regeneration in Camborne, Redruth and Hayle was my number one priority. Over the last 9 years, I have worked hard to achieve this and in recent years we have made progress in regenerating our towns with the new link road, developments around Tuckingmill, the prospect of South Crofty reopening and new jobs in industries like computer software.
Here in Camborne there are already a number of exciting and innovative ideas that are being talked about including the potential to redevelop the old bus station, and breathe new life into the high street but I want to ensure that the community is fully involved in discussions about priorities.
In addition to this, the Government also recently announced that Cornwall Council would be receiving £759,000 to kickstart an expansion of cycling and walking in Cornwall. The funding comes as part of a government initiative to encourage more people to take up walking and cycling in an effort to ensure that public transport and our roads do not become overcrowded.
Throughout the Coronavirus crisis many of us have been walking and cycling more than ever, and not only has this helped to contribute to healthier lifestyles, we’re also seeing cleaner air. Whilst we know that cars will continue to remain vital for many, we must continue to build a better country with greener travel habits, cleaner air and healthier communities.