Thursday, 26 May 2022

Cornwall: The UK’s Gateway to Space

Last week, there was an event at Goonhilly Earth Station near Helston that marked the formal launch of the Cornwall Space Cluster. Cornwall is a natural fit for a space cluster; we will host a horizontal launch site of the Spaceport near Newquay, a satellite ground station at Goonhilly, UAV testing sites, and wider collaboration with industry.

Here in the Camborne and Redruth area, we bring a unique contribution toward this wider goal of developing a Cornwall Space Cluster. This begins with our fantastic further education organisations like Cornwall College leading the way in developing future skills such as their £2.4 million Skills Accelerator project. This is being run in partnership with Truro and Penwith College and will focus on curriculum and skills development in the electric vehicle and emerging green technology industries for Cornwall’s businesses and a workforce of the future.
 
Our contribution also extends to the industry-leading businesses we have in our area. These include R&D and tech companies such as Bluefruit Software, Headforwards, or n-Coders all of which are undertaking pioneering work. We also have excellent businesses working to restart Cornwall’s production and export of raw materials including Tin and Lithium at South Crofty and United Downs. Historically, Cornwall has an important place in this country’s industrial development, 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.
 
The first, deep geothermal power project in the UK is also here in Cornwall at United Downs. Geothermal Engineering Ltd (GEL) is a small Cornish company that has successfully proved the concept by drilling two deep wells, one to bring the naturally hot water to the surface and the other to deposit the used fluid back underground. Geothermal electricity is known as baseload, because it is generated 24/7 regardless of the weather at the surface, balancing out the peaks and troughs of other renewable energy sources.
 
Furthermore, there are now also around 15 offshore wind project developers now active in our region, all of which are seeking to set up in the Celtic Sea. What is particularly encouraging is the turn round of the Wave Hub project in Hayle, now called TwinHub.  There have been some challenges trying to deploy wave power in recent years, but it is now set to become one of the Celtic Sea’s first floating offshore wind (FLOW) arrays after the project diversified in recent years utilising its existing infrastructure for the deployment of FLOW.
 
While regular, consumer space travel may be some way off, it is clear that Cornwall is in a unique and historic position. With the right support from the government and some innovative thinking, we are developing into the Green Energy capital of the UK and could well play an important role in this space over the course of the next decade.

Thursday, 19 May 2022

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 attended have always been an important part of the community.  Earlier this month, the new ‘Skills and Post-16 Education Act’ became law. This aims to change the post-16 education and training landscape, opening new avenues for people both young and old to learn new skills and to help drive growth across the county.

In the past, many people in Cornwall who wanted to pursue a higher income found they had to leave the county but that is starting to change with new industries in computer software and precision engineering offering better-paid jobs locally.  The changes the government have introduced place employers at the heart of the skills system, by requiring colleges and other education providers to work with local employers to develop skill plans and ensure local skills meet local needs.

A few years ago, Cornwall College hit a difficult patch and was losing out to some other colleges like Truro College on some of their courses, but they have bounced back stronger than ever.  In March, this year they received a glowing Ofsted report, and they are now rated good across the board and the leadership and passion of the staff were singled out for praise.  It is great to see my former college performing so well and this is such an important local asset for our community and for young people in the area.

From the end of May, colleges are participating in a new ‘Basic Digital Skills Course’ that will be a five day, fully funded connectivity and digital skills course. This course uses hybrid learning and covers topics such as digital basics, online safety, communicating online, completing online application forms, and using the best job search tools available. Participants will receive their own free tablet at the end of the course and will gain a free Microsoft Office skills qualification, which can then be put on their CV.
The first course will be delivered in Pool in June, and further sessions will be throughout the Duchy over the summer in other locations across Cornwall. To book your free place or for more details call 0333 015 0699, email hello@peoplehub.info or visit https://peoplehub.info/getconnected/.

As we recover from the considerable impacts of the Pandemic, it is vital to recognise that while many things will return to normal, many things will not. The way we work has been fundamentally changed with many more people working from home or using technology much more often in their day-to-day lives. It is important that we offer the right training to ensure people can take advantage of these changes and no one is left behind in our recovery.

Thursday, 12 May 2022

The Queen’s Speech

On Tuesday, it was the State Opening of Parliament in Westminster. This marks the formal start of the parliamentary year and the Queen’s Speech sets out the government’s agenda for the coming period. This was the first full State Opening since 2019 due to the constraints of the Pandemic so it was positive to be back as in previous years.  However, it was also the first in over sixty years that the Queen was unable to attend herself, with Prince Charles delivering the speech on her behalf.

This year, the Queen’s Speech focused on some 38 different Bills but at its heart was an agenda to get the country back on track after the pressures of the pandemic and to continue to implement the agenda we were elected on in 2019.  We want to see a country where conditions are perfect for a high-wage, high-skill economy that reaches all parts of the United Kingdom, including Cornwall.

There were several bills aimed at delivering for the Cornish economy and improving life chances including the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill, the Schools Bill, the Transport Bill, and the Renters Reform Bill. Economic regeneration in Camborne, Redruth and Hayle is my number one priority so it is very positive to see that the Government is developing a vision for how we can improve all areas not just focusing on the large cities such as Manchester or London.

I particularly welcome the new powers that will be given to Cornwall Council through the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill which will allow them to levy a high rate of Council tax on 2ndhomes in Cornwall if they are furnished but not occupied as a sole or main residence. This will serve two purposes: allow for more investment and income for Cornwall Council and reduce the burden of second homes on the overall housing stock in Cornwall.

Given there are currently around 72,000 homes that have been empty for more than two years in England, the revamped system goes much further than existing rules, where homes can lay dormant for up to two years before Cornwall Council can act.

In addition to having the power to apply greater premiums at a level of their choice, Local Authorities will enjoy flexibility on how to spend the funds raised and can decide to prioritise keeping council tax bills low for local households. This will also help deliver the infrastructure that communities really need, including genuinely affordable housing, social care, and children’s services.

In many villages across Cornwall, especially in coastal areas, we have seen much of the housing stock being bought up by 2nd homeowners or turned into holiday homes. This takes much of the community out of these areas leaving few options for local people to live in the areas they often grew up in. This policy is an important step in the right direction by giving Cornwall Council the powers they need to address the problem.

Thursday, 5 May 2022

Trevithick Day 2022

Last Saturday, there was the traditional parade and celebrations in Camborne to mark Trevithick Day. There was a large turnout this year to celebrate the achievements of one of Camborne’s favourite sons, which is welcome particularly given the more muted celebrations we saw last year for the 250th anniversary.

 

Back in 2010, when I was first elected to Parliament, I made Richard Trevithick the focus of my maiden speech.  I found a wonderful statement from him saying that, although he had been criticised for trying new principles and was left in severe financial hardship as a result of his pioneering endeavours, he knew in his own heart that he had brought forward new ideas that would be of boundless value to his country.  For many years, Trevithick's achievements were not really recognised which makes it all the more important we celebrate them now even if we can’t do so in person.

 

As a pioneer Richard Trevithick invented the steam locomotive and epitomised the contribution made by Cornwall to the Industrial Revolution. It was the efforts of pioneers like Trevithick that put Cornwall on the map as a leading centre for industry and innovation. Whilst towns like Camborne and Redruth experienced some decline after the closure of the tin mines and Holman’s, new industries and technologies are beginning to establish themselves in our communities which offers the prospect of higher-paid employment in the future.

 

In the past, people had to choose between leaving Cornwall and taking a well-paid career upcountry or taking the lifestyle choice to live in the most beautiful part of the country but accepting a lower salary. That is starting to change.

 

Since I was first elected twelve years ago, I have made clear that economic regeneration in Camborne, Redruth and Hayle was my number one priority so it is very positive to see that the Government is developing a vision for how we can improve all areas not just focusing on the large cities such as Manchester or London. The recently published Levelling-Up White Paper, for example, set out a new vision for Cornwall within the United Kingdom by inviting us to be one of the nine counties invited to negotiate a new ‘county deal’. This will give local leaders more control over areas such as transport, skills, and infrastructure and is part of the largest devolution of power from Whitehall to local leaders in modern times. This is further boosted by the £23.7 million ‘Town-Deal’ package for Camborne, which is supporting projects such as the ‘Fibre Park’ tech hub and other projects regenerating areas in the town centre which will make a genuine difference and are a welcome boost for the town.

 

This is being further built on by the confirmation last week that the Government will match the UK Shared Prosperity Fund will match the previous complex, rigid, and bureaucratic EU Structural Funds, pound-for-pound. My hope is that we can start to see the funding really deliver on projects that substantially improve both quality of life and maximise the potential for growth and prosperity in our communities.


The Food Strategy

Earlier this week, the Prime Minister was at a farm outside Hayle to announce the government’s first-ever food strategy.  SEF is one of a nu...