Friday, 24 July 2015

PM visits link road

Last week David Cameron came to Camborne to see the new East-West link road which is now set to be completed in October.  It was part of a wider visit to Cornwall where he also agreed a new "Devolution Deal" with powers to join up spending on areas such as health and social care services being passed to Cornwall.

The East-West link road will play a crucial part in unlocking the potential of all the derelict land around the old South Crofty mine.  We have seen Pool transformed over the last four years with new businesses setting up at the Pool Innovation Centre, a makeover for the college and, of course, the completion of Heartlands.  Now it is time for the Tuckingmill end of Camborne to get the investment that it deserves with new homes built at the proposed Tuckingmill Urban Village and new employment space opened up to attract new industries and better paid jobs.

Building the new road has not been plain sailing and its completion has been a long time coming.  We had a real fight on our hands to secure funding for the project in 2011 and there have been quite a few complications during the construction due to many mine shafts and mine workings affecting the site.  There have also been major problems getting an engineering solution to crossing the Red River Valley due to the softness of the ground with an early attempt having to be aborted.

Perhaps most important of all, once the new road opens, the junctions at either end of it will start to make sense.  For several years now the traffic lights at the top of East Hill have not really worked properly because they were designed to predominantly carry traffic across the top from the new road to the A30.  The result is frequent congestion.  At the other end, the disruption around the Tesco roundabout in Camborne has also caused frustration.  Let's hope these problems are resolved when the new road opens.

Friday, 17 July 2015

Cornwall Deal

Plans for a new Cornwall Deal could take a big step forward this week with the Government expected to outline some areas where it plans to give more responsibility and power to Cornwall.

Cornwall has its own unique identity and being a peninsula at the end of the line, I have always said we should have more control over the way we configure key services.  Last month I spoke at the Cornish Constitutional Convention and made the case for Cornwall having more of a say over culture and heritage policy.  I also think that we can do more to ensure our bus routes work effectively by joining up bus services with train timetables and exploring the possibility of franchise models to make sure that rural routes link in with the main trunk routes.

Another area where we could join things up more effectively is in the area of health and social care.  The problems we have had with black emergencies at Treliske have largely been driven by the fact that Cornwall Council have been slow to roll out care packages for people waiting to be discharged from hospital. If we could join up funding streams more effectively by looking at increased joint commissioning of services we could reduce the tendency of different institutions working in the field of health and social care to operate in silos.  

We also need to look at how we can make things work more effectively within the NHS.  As people live longer there will always be growing demands on the NHS Budget.  That is why George Osborne was right to commit in to an increase in NHS spending of £8 billion.  However, we also need to make sure that funds are distributed fairly so Cornwall gets its fair share.

One of the ways you take pressure of A&E departments is through supporting alternatives like the minor injuries unit currently being piloted at Camborne and Redruth Hospital.  We also have a fantastic tradition of hospice care in Cornwall with charities supporting people with end of life care and support.  These hospices mainly run on charitable funds but, without them, there would be a lot more pressure on NHS services.

Friday, 10 July 2015

The Budget

By the time you read this article, George Osborne will have presented his first budget of this new Parliament.  Good progress has been made in the last five years reducing the deficit, but there is more work to do.  

In Britain we have earned credibility, which means we have incredibly low interest rates at the moment which is a respite for those paying mortgages and a stable economy increases confidence in business which has contributed to a sharp fall in unemployment here in Camborne, Redruth and Hayle.

As I write this article, there is a lot of speculation about what the Budget will hold. We are likely to see a further clampdown on wealthy individuals claiming non-dom status in this country as part of a wider £5 billion crackdown on tax avoidance while the personal allowance threshold is also likely to move closer to £12,500. This will be especially important here in Cornwall where we have a higher number of people on lower incomes.  

To help balance the books, George Osborne has been clear that we will need to look again at the amount of benefits some households receive.  He has already said we will continue to protect the most vulnerable in society such as the disabled. However, where people can work, they should work and it is simply wrong that some families not working are better off financially than those who do work and pay their way. 

In addition, there could be good news for Cornwall with speculation that a new growth deal could be on the way that would give Cornwall some additional investment in infrastructure, the ability to manage more of its own services and with funding for the NHS and social care being more joined up to make sure that the money we have is used effectively.

The economic situation today is very different from the one inherited in 2010. Britain has the fastest growing economy in Europe, the deficit has been halved and we have record numbers of people in work.  I hope this Budget will help sustain that momentum.

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Tougher Rules on Wind Turbines

I have written previously about how the proliferation of wind turbines across Cornwall is a blight upon our countryside, which is why I welcomed last week’s statement by the Department for Communities & Local Government announcing a shake-up of planning law that will now give local people the final say on wind farm applications.

Under these new rules, Cornwall Council will only be able to grant planning approval for new wind turbines if the proposed site has been identified as suitable in a Local or Neighbourhood Plan and if, following consultation, the concerns of  the communities affected have been fully addressed.

I think this is good news for Cornwall. When one of the country’s first wind farms was built at Carland Cross, it seemed like there was potential for these kind of developments, so long as they were of uniform design and concentrated in one area. However, since then it now feels like we have reached saturation point with the random proliferation of single wind turbines that have no uniformity in their design.

To be fair to Cornwall Council, where a wind turbine application has been shown to have too great a cumulative impact on the countryside, a planning committee has been able to refuse planning permission. However, too often Cornwall Council’s decisions have been overridden by appeals to the Planning Inspectorate. This is why I feel these new regulations are important as they put power back into the hands of local communities and gives them the ability to decide what wind developments are built in their area. The next step should be to do more to prevent field scale solar farms damaging our countryside and scarring the Cornish landscape.  

Having advised the Prime Minister on energy policy in the last parliament, I am well aware there are no easy solutions when it comes to our future energy supply. In reality we will probably need to have a mixture of different technologies, including gas, nuclear, wind and some solar on roof tops.  However, it is vital that these developments are done with local communities not to them.”

Digital Skills and Connectivity

One of the ways we can raise wages and incomes in the area is by promoting more apprenticeships and locally Cornwall College which I attende...