Monday, 30 September 2019

Improving our transport links

In a peninsula like Cornwall, there will always be challenges to building a resilient public transport structure. However, some good progress has been made in the last few years. We have invested to improve our railways and there is now a regular half hourly service running through Cornwall which has led to a significant increase in passenger numbers.
We have also seen the introduction of the new fleet of Tinner buses marking a major step forward in the quality of our bus network. It’s good to see some local branding on the buses with a nod to the industrial history of the area but, more importantly, the quality of the service has improved.
The Government’s decision to expand Heathrow Airport with will also see opportunities for Cornwall, opening up new routes, improving business links and attracting more visitors. It is expected that a new runway could see over 200,000 passengers fly between Newquay and London in the future, helping to secure the future of Newquay Airport which was once in doubt.
We are also making progress improving things on long haul journeys. From the moment I was elected, I fought to get an upgrade to the “Night Riviera” sleeper service, which has now been introduced. I am a regular and devoted user of the sleeper service, using it every weekend to get down to Camborne. I know how important the service can be for businesses and visitors alike and I am pleased that it will be able to provide more capacity and better facilities to compete with other forms of transport.
But when we need to travel, the journey will usually be long and we must make the journey as comfortable as possible. Great Western’s decision to remove the buffet carriage from its services to and from Cornwall has been a terrible mistake. The trolley service marks a major backward step in the quality of the service. On a busy train the trolley can’t even move and it is not fair on staff who have to try to make the best of a bad job. I will continue to press for the buffet carriage to be reinstated as part of the next franchise negotiation.
However, for most people in Cornwall, it is the local service that matters most and the key to making things work better is to try to integrate or join up the bus network with the rail network more effectively than we have done in the past. This will allow rail and bus timetables to work in tandem to give people more frequent options to get from one destination to another.
I have long pressed for a regular and routine 30-minute local train service through Cornwall with buses then providing onward connections over shorter rural routes to our villages and this is now starting to come together. If we could join up commercial routes of buses and trains with smaller, local, shuttle buses travelling shorter distances, you start to get the makings of something that could really work and you could build more confidence in the public transport network. We now have the more regular train service and the next step is to increase the use of buses in conjunction with the rail service.

Thursday, 19 September 2019

Growing our towns - Redruth

At the height of the tin mining era, Redruth was once one of the wealthiest towns in the land. After the loss of tin mining our fortunes fell behind other parts of the country but today there remains a legacy of that era with some fabulous and quite unique architecture in the town.
We have made good progress getting Redruth back on its feet. The town council now organises four events a year starting with St Piran’s Day, then Murdock day, the pasty festival and finishing with the Christmas lights parade. The support that these now receive from both local schools and local residents shows that the community is strong.
We have also seen numerous projects that have brought revival to the town. Krowji turned the old redundant grammar school building into a hub for creative arts and small businesses. A couple of years ago it completed a significant expansion and is now home to many new enterprises. The Kresen Kernow Archive project is now complete and opened s couple of weeks ago. It is a fantastic resource for the whole county and has led to the regeneration of the old brewery site. I worked with both Cornwall Council, the town council and the owner of the old brewery site to get this project in Redruth and secure the funds needed to complete it and it is great to see that work now complete. A committed team locally have also achieved a huge amount to bring the former butter market back into use as a public realm with a growing number of successful, often specialist shops, opening in recent years.
This week the government announced a new Historic Towns Fund to support regeneration of historic towns like Redruth. I am delighted that Redruth is one of just sixty nine towns nationally to be selected for access to this fund. It is designed to help regenerate old historic building and bring them back into use to help revive towns. Almost £14 million has been set aside for towns in the South West. Access to this fund will help us to build on what we have started with projects like Kernow by spreading the revival up into the town.
I want to work with the local community to identify which projects we should prioritise. There have already been a number of successful projects to bring shops back into use and to restore some of the traditional architecture. There is more work to be done around the butter market. There are also tentative plans to take over the Methodist Chapel by the railway station and bring it back into use as a community asset as a centre for performing arts. It is one of the largest chapels in Cornwall and is an important asset for the town.
The progress we have made to date shows that it is possible to turn the corner with some imagination and support. I am looking forward to building on what we have started with the local community.

Thursday, 12 September 2019

Growing our towns

As I write this article, much of the attention in the media has focused on the ongoing Brexit negotiations and the parliamentary processes that those who have failed to accept the referendum result have deployed to stop Brexit. Whilst the saga continues to rumble on, the Prime Minister has rightly continued to focus on the priorities that are important to the public.
In recent weeks we have seen the largest ever investment at RCHT Treliske as plans were announced for a new maternity unit and main entrance. We’ve also seen plans to increase the number of police on our streets, 10,000 new prison places, more funding for mental health services, and just last week a record £14billion cash boost for schools, helping to level up per pupil funding so that every child has a world class education.
In another sign that the Prime Minister is committed to delivering on his promises, the Government has announced plans to level up 100 towns across the country helping to correct the historic imbalances in local funding that some towns have experienced.
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. But there has always been more to do to help level up our towns.
Towns like Camborne, Redruth and Hayle were 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.
It is therefore very welcome to hear the news this week that Camborne had been selected as one of 100 pioneer towns selected to receive up to £25 million in funding for economic regeneration. The funding is part of a wider £3.6 billion Towns Fund separate from other funding pots which are focusing on areas with proud industrial and economic growth. This is fantastic news for residents in Camborne who have long been calling out for more funding for our towns, higher living standards and improved local facilities.
In the weeks ahead I will be working with local communities, businesses and local leaders to join forced and draw up ambitious plans to help transform Camborne’s growth prospects with a particular focus on improved transport, broadband connectivity, skills and culture. This is an exciting time for Camborne, however I will continue to work with all our local communities to ensure that our towns continue to receive the support they need to ensure that our towns can look to the future with a new optimism.

Thursday, 5 September 2019

Parliament returns

Now that Parliament has returned from the summer recess, much of the focus and attention in Westminster has shifted back to the ongoing Brexit negotiations.
Last week the Queen approved the Prime Minister’s request to prorogue Parliament, bringing about an end to the longest parliamentary session since the Civil War and beginning the process for a Queen’s Speech. Many have characterised this action as a threat to democracy, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. The facts remain that prorogation before a Queen’s Speech is normal constitutional procedure, and that often when a new Prime Minister is appointed, they often have their own agenda and priorities which require them to be presented in the format of a Queen’s Speech.
The decision to end the current parliamentary session will enable the Prime Minister to put a fresh domestic programme in front of MPs for debate and scrutiny while also ensuring that there is good time before and after the European Council for Parliament to further consider Brexit issues.
However, whilst Brexit remains an important issue, it is right that we continue to focus on the crucial public priorities. In recent weeks we have seen the largest ever investment at RCHT Treliske as plans were announced for a new Maternity Unit and main entrance. The Prime Minister has also announced plans to increase the number of police on our streets whilst also delivering 10,000 new prison places. Locally in Cornwall we have also seen more money delivered for mental health services and young people in Cornwall ensuring that people get the support they need.
Earlier this week it was also announced that schools across the country will be boosted by a record £14 billion cash boost, helping to level up per pupil funding so that every child has a world class education. I regularly meet with teachers and headteachers across Camborne, Redruth and Hayle and one of their biggest campaigns has always been fairer funding for our schools.
The Prime Minister’s announcement means that every school will receive a minimum of £5,000 per pupil next year and every primary school will get a minimum of £4,000 per pupil from 2021-22, rising at least in line with inflation. The cash boost will also help children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) with £700 million extra being attributed to these funds so that every pupil can access the education that is right for them and none are held back from reaching their potential.
No one can know for sure how events will develop over the next week, and by the time many of you read this column we could be in a clearer position. However, at times of uncertainty what people need from their government most of all is a determined clarity of purpose and with the election of Boris Johnson we now have it.

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...