Thursday, 27 August 2015

Fairer Funding

I have always argued that we need to make progress to improve the historic unfairness in the way various funding formulae operate in Cornwall.  

In the last Parliament I led the campaign to get every Cornish household a £50 rebate on their water bills and also campaigned to introduce the new Pupil Premium which is paid to schools to help children from disadvantaged backgrounds. Progress was also made on the NHS formula with greater recognition given to the age of our population.

However, there is further to go and I want to build on the successes so far. This week I met Tony Hogg, Police and Crime Commissioner for Devon and Cornwall, to discuss some of his ideas to improve the police funding formula.

The current formula is too heavily based on population numbers and density. This favours more urban areas, but fails to address the challenges of policing a large, rural area like Devon and Cornwall. Nor does it address the fact that as a popular destination for holidaymakers, the police have to contend with the annual influx of tourists and the difficulties such a large increase in the population temporarily brings.

The Government has announced that it will be reviewing the way in which funding is allocated and I will be working with Devon and Cornwall Police to make sure the new formula takes into account the unique geography and challenges which our area faces so that we don’t stand to lose out.

In addition to police funding, I also recently met the head of the Kernow Clinical Commissioning Group and other local NHS managers and I really want to focus on looking at ways to achieve a better deal in terms of healthcare funding. Again, I think we need to recognise the challenge of running a health service in rural areas. People also need healthcare most at the end of their life and that is why the government was right to increase the weight given to the age of the population.  We have started to put things right, but there is further to go.

Monday, 17 August 2015

Exam Results

It is that time of year when teenagers across the country get their exam results.  It can be nerve racking experience because, for many, the results they achieve at A level can have an important bearing on where they go to university.

Last week saw some exceptional A Level results from our local schools with Camborne Science and International Academy achieving a 100 percent pass rate and Redruth only just behind with a 97 percent pass rate.  

I am really proud of all of our schools and tried to visit our secondary schools before the end of last term.  They have each made tremendous progress in recent years and when you visit our schools you detect a real sense of pride from both students and teaching staff.  We now have some of the best schools in Cornwall here in Camborne, Redruth and Hayle.  

Camborne has done impressive work on international exchanges and science, hosting the student science fair in 2013.  A few weeks ago I visited Redruth School which has come forward in leaps and bounds over the last few years and I was really impressed by the work they did to develop confidence in pupils.  Pool Academy also continues to deliver excellent results.  I remember seeing some of their students a couple of years ago running a mentoring scheme to help local children with their reading and Hayle School has also seen its results improve in recent years and has always done good work developing entrepreneurial skills and focusing on languages.

Over the last few years the government has been trying to raise standards by putting a new focus on subjects like maths, sciences and languages and by giving head teachers more freedom.  Every good school has one thing in common: good teaching staff who are well led.  Last week the Prime Minister made clear that he wanted to help more schools become academies.  Being an academy means that head teachers have control of their own budget and the ability to set their own curriculum.  I have never yet met a head teacher who regretted converting to academy status because of the freedom it gives them.  

Friday, 14 August 2015

Cornwall Archive Centre

Last week John Whittingdale, the Secretary of State for Culture, was in Redruth to see work on the new Cornwall Archive project and to confirm the £12 million of Heritage Lottery Funding needed to see the construction completed.

Cornwall has a unique culture and an industrial heritage to be proud of, with Redruth playing a particularly important role as one of the birthplaces of the industrial revolution and as the centre of the Cornish diaspora across the world. In its prime, Redruth was at the heart of the tin mining industry and there were many feats of engineering developed in Cornwall at that time.

After the decline in the fortunes of tin mining in the late nineteenth century, there was a huge exodus to the new world with Cornish tin miners founding the industry in Australia, California, South Africa, South America and Mexico. As a result, today there are some six to eight million people making up a worldwide Cornish diaspora and the vast majority of them can trace their family roots back to Redruth.

It is this history that makes Redruth the ideal place to host the new Kresen Kernow archive project and that is why I have supported this initiative from the start. The new funding of £12 million secured from the Heritage Lottery Fund is a major boost.

The money will be used to help transform the old derelict Redruth brewery site into a centre for holding the world’s largest collection of maps, photographs and manuscripts relating to Cornwall. In addition, once complete, the centre will host a range of exhibitions and activities allowing audiences to celebrate and share in Cornwall’s history.

As well as safeguarding the iconic brewery, the site will also see the construction of homes and shops all of which will play a key role in kick starting the wider regeneration of Redruth and leading to an estimated 300 new jobs in the town.

Thursday, 6 August 2015

National Citizenship Service

Parliament has now dissolved for the summer recess which gives MPs the opportunity to take a break from the politics of Westminster and spend more time in their constituencies and in my case catch up on some of the good projects in Cornwall.

Last week I visited a group of young people taking part in the National Citizenship Service (NCS). Set up back in 2011 as a type of modern day, non-military National Service, NCS is open to all 16-17 year olds in England and aims to bring together young people from all sorts of different backgrounds, helping to break down social barriers and develop self-confidence.

As NCS is a residential course, it gives participants the opportunity to leave home behind for a couple of weeks and immerse themselves in a fresh environment and make new friends. This can be a great way to develop their confidence and independence as it means those taking part are all in the same boat. It doesn’t matter what school they go to or where their parents live and it’s a great way of breaking down social barriers.

The team I met had previously spent their first week of NCS enjoying water sports at Sibleyback Lake near Liskeard which was then followed by another week on a residential course at Tremough University where they took part in more team building exercises and began to plan their project to help the community. When I caught up with them, they were putting the finishing touches to a children’s play area at the BMX track at Parc Erissey, where they had spent the last two weeks helping to build sand pit slides, a tunnel and a scramble net. All of their hard work looked very impressive and those involved were celebrating the completion of the project with a well-deserved BBQ in the sun.

Speaking to those taking part, it was clear to me just how much they had learnt and benefited from NCS and I think they deserve a big congratulations for taking on the challenge.

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...