Thursday, 26 August 2021

Supporting the RNLI

A considerable impact of the Pandemic has been the restrictions on people’s ability to go away on holiday this summer. This had led to a dramatic rise in those seeking to holidays in the UK with Cornwall being one of the number one destinations. We have seen perhaps one of the busiest summers on record with thousands of people coming down.  

It has been a demanding time for those working in hotels, pubs and restaurants as a shortage of labour combined with record demand create pressures.  Many restaurants and hotels find themselves fully booked and staff have worked incredibly hard, but it is also an important opportunity to help that sector get back on its feet after the lockdown. 
There have also been added pressures on our roads.  Heavy traffic on the main roads is normal but we have also seen an increase in the number of drivers who are unfamiliar with our narrow country roads and how to navigate them!  The increase in visitor numbers also means pressures on the police and the NHS.  Some major events like Boardmasters have contributed to localised increases in covid infection among the young.
Our beaches have also been extremely busy and very crowded. This has put considerable pressure on those helping ensure holidaymakers and locals alike stay safe and aware of the dangers that the sea can pose. The RNLI has gone above and beyond to protect those who enjoy the Cornish Beaches this summer.
Figures released this week show that RNLI lifeguards in the southwest responded to 163 incidents and aided 208 people over last year’s August Bank Holiday weekend.  While the region’s volunteer lifeboat crew launched 27 times, aiding 40 people and of those saved two lives. As we approach the August bank holiday weekend, this year, the RNLI expect it to be one of their busiest on record.
While the weather is forecast to be pleasant and the surf conditions settled across the coming weekend, it’s important to remember the beach and especially the sea, can be an unpredictable environment. That’s why when you are planning your trip to the coast, the RNLI recommend you should visit a lifeguarded beach and swim between the red and yellow flags.  RNLI lifeguards are operating on over 90 beaches across the south. Locally, these include Godrevy Beach, Gwithian Beach, Porthtowan Beach among others. Locally, Cornish lifeguards will also be following the progress of former Cornish Lifeguard, Melissa Reid, who is competing at the Paralympics this year in the Paratriathlon.  We all wish her the very best of luck!
Despite the pressures that increased visitor numbers have created, it is, of course, also a good problem to have in one sense.  The success of the vaccination programme has meant people can get out again, meet friends and family and get back to life as normal and that is good to see.
If you would like to support the RNLI in their work, The South West Lifeguard Appeal has now been launched and is aimed at raising money to support the training of SW Lifeguards. You may donate by visiting:  https://www.justgiving.com/campaign/SW-Lifeguard-Appeal-2021 or scanning a QR code from the lifeguards at the beaches. 

Thursday, 19 August 2021

Afghanistan and Redruth Skate Park

The current events in Afghanistan are deeply distressing.  The decision by the US to fully withdraw its remaining presence earlier this summer left its allies, including the UK, with little option but to do the same.  The speed at which the Afghan government has collapsed has been a surprise.  They were well trained and equipped after many years of support but it is clear that there was a collapse in confidence in their ability to stop the Taliban in the absence of other support.  

The war in Afghanistan was difficult and hard-fought.  In 2006 when I was an adviser to David Cameron I went to Kandahar and Camp Bastion and the professionalism of our troops and the task they were undertaking was extraordinary.  The real focus now must be to do all that we can to help those Afghans who supported us during those difficult years.  We have said we will take 20,000 refugees but much more urgent is to use the next days and weeks to evacuate as many of those people as we can to ensure their safety. 

 

Redruth Skate Park 

For a number of years, town councillors in Redruth have wanted to create better facilities for young people and the idea of a skate park has been frequently mooted.  A few years ago there was an idea of doing something at Gweal-an-Top and interest in the concept was tested by having a temporary mobile skate park set up.  The idea has finally come to fruition as we recently received the welcome news that the Redruth Skate Park project has been awarded an additional £48,000 from the SUEZ Communities Trust.  

Redruth Town Council and Redruth Skatepark Association have been working on the skatepark project at East End playing field for some time and were very pleased by the new allocation of funding which has got the project across the line. Work on the site began on the 2nd of August and is progressing well so far. 

The new facility will mean local people, and in particular young people, will have a great facility within their own town rather than having to travel to Truro as many currently do. The skate park will be accessible and suitable for use by scooters, BMX bikes as well as skateboarders and roller skates. The design that has been created will permit the future addition of a large Skate bowl area once funding has been secured. Meanwhile, through separate funding, pathways will be created to ensure that the playground and new skatepark are fully accessible. Skateboarding is a developing sport that has recently featured at the Olympics that were held in Japan. In particular, Team GB saw success with 13-year old Sky Brown who won a bronze medal in Skateboarding and Charlotte Worthington who won a gold medal in Freestyle BMX, another sport that has quite a strong following in this part of Cornwall.  

It is great to see this new facility progressing in Redruth which I am sure many young people will take advantage of to get outside after spending the last 18 months in lockdown. 

Thursday, 12 August 2021

A-Level and GCSE Results

This week students across the country have received their GCSE and A-Level results. The last 18 months has been particularly difficult for children and young people with them having to adjust and cope with school being shut and working from home. This is why the government took the difficult decision not to hold exams this year and allow teachers to decide the student’s final grades which will allow the strain that has been put on young people to be rewarded fairly.
 
Over the course of the pandemic, our local schools have done an amazing job making sure that they could offer a safe environment when they were open.  Timetables were adjusted to try to reduce the disruption of students moving between classes and ending up in crowded corridors, with some putting more time between lessons so that teachers could move from one class to another more easily to reduce the movements of students. However, this only lessened the impact that the pandemic had on young people and many have still struggled considerably.
 
The decision to close schools earlier this year did not just have the obvious effects around disruption to exams and teaching. It is much more profound than that.  Children in both primary schools and secondary have been separated from friends.  Children’s birthday parties couldn’t happen as they normally would and should.  School sports events did not go forward. We, humans, are social creatures. Friendships and the company of others are important. Forming those bonds and friendships is a crucial part of growing up, whether it is in the formative early years as children start their first years as infants at primary school, or whether it is in those tricky teenage years as young people wrestle with all the insecurities and concerns that accompany that stage of life.
 
Given the impact that the last year has had on many young people in terms of welfare and their education, the Government has made every effort to ensure those who have fallen behind are able to catch up. An important element of this is the Government’s Education Recovery Plan, which is helping schools deliver long-term catch-up support, so every child can reach their full potential.
 
As part of our long-term education recovery plan, we will deliver six million, 15-hour tutoring courses, targeted at pupils most in need, and provide training and development for teachers. In the next stage of our plan, we are reviewing the impact of time spent in school and college on helping students catch up. We will also be investing a total of more than £3 billion in additional catchup support, so we can help every child who has fallen behind. Our new £1.4 billion packages of support builds on the £1 billion Covid Catchup Fund announced last year and the £700 million we are providing for an extensive catch-up programme, which includes a £302 million Recovery Premium to help schools bolster summer provision and support pupils most in need from September.
 
The government is clear that, as we return to normality and learn to live with Covid-19, we are going to have to pay special attention to help all those children and young people who have been affected by the lockdowns to get back on track. They are all going to need support to overcome the trauma of this episode and we will work hard to ensure that this support is there.

Thursday, 5 August 2021

Reducing Flooding Risk

In recent weeks, we have seen images of catastrophic flash flooding in Germany, Belgium, China, and India. Closer to home, Storm Evert caused substantial disruption in the Cornwall and the wider South West last week and, earlier this year, Storm Christoph caused significant damage to homes, businesses, and communities across the North of England. My thoughts are with all of those affected by these devastating events.

Climate change means more extreme weather, a higher risk of flooding events and coastal erosion. All too often, we are seeing households suffering repeated flooding – something this government is determined to tackle. Following our recent call for evidence to look at better protecting and better preparing our communities, we will be consulting this autumn on ways to strengthen the assessment of local circumstances when allocating funding. This will include looking at ways to ensure that our flood defence investment programme can further benefit frequently flooded communities. 

We have already made progress. Between 2015 and March this year, the Government invested £2.6 billion into flood defences. This has led more than 300,000 home being better protected. In areas like the Calder Valley, this has made a huge difference. Areas that were damaged by previous bad weather were spared this year, thanks to this investment.  

But there is more to do. Over the next six years, we are doubling the amount of money invested to £5.2 billion. Last week I announced that 1,000 flood schemes across England will receive over £860 million in 2021/22 for building conventional walls and embankments, improving flood water storage, and harnessing the power of nature to slow the flow of water and reduce risk. 

More locally, this new funding includes further funds for both the Portreath Stream Flood Alleviation Scheme and the Copperhouse Gate Refurbishment in Hayle to help deliver each project. Over the years, Portreath has suffered particularly from flooding and storm damage to its sea defences and I welcome the news that the Environment Agency will be commencing work on the new alleviation scheme around September 2022 which aim to offer additional protection the residents impact by this flooding in the past.

Across Cornwall, the aim is to have an additional 275 extra homes given additional protection against flooding and costal erosion. This is all part of the governments wider Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management Investment Plan for 2021 to 2027, which sets out how new flood and coastal schemes will better protect 336,000 properties by 2027, helping to avoid £32 billion in wider economic damages and reducing the national flood risk by up to 11 per cent.  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.

These are just some of the steps we are taking in our comprehensive plans, all designed to give us the best chance of adapting to climate change. It is important that we act right across the system.  We will sadly never save every home or business from the effects of flooding, but it is my sincere hope that many more can be protected in the years ahead.