Thursday, 9 February 2017

Early Years Funding Formula


One of my priorities is to try to correct some of the historic unfairness to Cornwall when it comes to various funding formulas.  This includes the Early Years National Funding Formula, and I want to make sure that early years providers are funded on a fair and sustainable basis.

I recently met with Caroline Dinenage MP, who is the minister responsible for early years at the Department for Education. It was a constructive and encouraging meeting. I had been concerned about the way in which Cornwall was to be funded under initial proposals, and wanted to ensure that we are treated fairly.

The Government’s response to the recent consultation includes assurances that the Government will provide supplementary funding of £55 million a year to local authorities for maintained nursery schools for the duration of this parliament. This will keep funding stable during the implementation of the national funding formula.

I am also pleased that all local authorities will receive a minimum funding rate of at least £4.30 per hour. The Government is also introducing a new national Disability Access Fund to support access for disabled children.

 I am always hugely impressed by the work done at schools such as Camborne Nursery School. Last year, the school received its fourth successive “outstanding” report. Ofsted inspectors were impressed by the quality of education provided to children, and their levels of confidence. The school has opened a dedicated classroom for two year olds to enable staff to prepare them for their school years.

The first three years of a child's life are the most formative and have a crucial impact on a child's life chances.  Many primary school head teachers tell me they have noticed a growing trend in the last twenty years of children arriving in reception class with language difficulties and, however much effort those schools put in, those children start at a disadvantage. This is why I will continue to support local nursery schools, and fight to ensure that Cornwall is funded fairly.

Thursday, 2 February 2017

Public Transport


Recently, we have seen some brand new double decker buses taking to routes in West Cornwall. The new "Tinner" service marks a major step forward in the quality of public transport in Cornwall.  It more than matches anything available elsewhere in the country and I hope this is just the beginning of some positive changes in the pipeline.  It is also great to see a brand with a local connection.  Not since the days of the iconic bus fleet run by Grenville Motors at Troon have we seen something that looks and feels so decidedly part of Camborne and Redruth (although this time the buses are brand new!).

My grandfather was the Chairman of the Grenville Bus Company back in the 1970s and 1980s and there were challenges making things work along rural routes even then.  In the last few years I have been working with the Transport team at Cornwall Council to try to help develop a more integrated approach to public transport and the idea has gained the support of government.  

We need to make connections work so that services become more frequent but also more viable. This is why I have pressed for a regular 30 minute local train service through Cornwall with buses then providing onward connections over shorter rural routes to our villages.  If we can join up commercial trunk routes of buses and trains with smaller, local, shuttle buses travelling shorter distances, you start to get the makings of something that can really work.

We are also making progress improving things on long haul journeys.  Since I was elected, I have been fighting to get an upgrade to the “Night Riviera” sleeper service, which will be introduced shortly. 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.

Newquay Airport is also going from strength to strength. It serves as a lifeline for businessmen and women who use the service regularly, and has seen impressive growth in the last year. It's not long ago that the very future of Newquay Airport seemed in doubt but we have seen a great turnaround in its fortunes.  A lot of work has gone in to making transport work better for Cornwall and we are now seeing important changes.

 

Thursday, 26 January 2017

Brexit


This week saw the final judgement by the Supreme Court on the contentious issue of whether the decision that was taken directly by the country in the EU referendum last June must now be put to a separate vote of parliament to approve commencing exit negotiations.  The Judges were divided but, on balance, decided that parliament needed another vote.  It is a disappointing decision on one level because all sorts of democratic rights have been eroded by Brussels regulations and court judgements over the years and no one seemed to challenge these.  However, we have to accept the decision of the court and, in practice, it is just a technical issue which makes no material difference.  

Parliament has already held dozens of different debates on the issue of leaving the EU and the policies that will come after.  It has been invigorating for our democracy to be able to discuss new policies again in the knowledge that soon we will regain the power to fully govern ourselves.   

Last week, the Prime Minister set out her plan for Brexit in a landmark speech. As she said, we must now put the campaign behind us and unite the country.  The PM made it clear that she wants us to put in place a close partnership with the EU based on friendship and cooperation, and that the UK must be a generous and outward looking country that is a good global citizen.  But as we establish the rule of national law in this country, we must bring to an end the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice in Britain. 

Our future relationship with the EU will include co-operating with our European partners in the fight against crime and terrorism. We will also collaborate on initiatives in areas such as science, research and technology. However, there will be no EU auditors telling us what to do. In areas such as farming, we will be able to pilot new ways of doing things and deliver the change that British farming craves.

The Prime Minister was clear that we will be stronger, fairer, more united and more outward looking than ever before. We are leaving the European Union but we are not leaving Europe.

 

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Mental Health Support


One of the consequences of the way people live their lives in the modern world has been a worrying increase in the number of those suffering mental health problems at some point in their life.  Many people can be affected and we need to remove the stigma and try to do more to support people's wellbeing.

The growth in the number of young people affected is of particular concern.  Maybe it’s the pressure to fit in and to belong - a sentiment that always existed - but seems to have been heightened by social media in the digital age which is relentless and immediate but often impersonal and sometimes offensive.  A number of schools are now encouraging parents to take mobile phones away from their children at night so that they can sleep and have a break from relentless twitter feeds.

Last week, the Government introduced new measures to transform the way we approach and deal with mental health locally, so that more children and young people receive support and care.

The new measures are good news for Cornwall. Our local secondary schools will be offered mental health first aid training to increase awareness around mental health and help to tackle the stigma around the issue. New proposals will also outline how mental health services for schools, universities and families can be improved, so that everyone in the community is supported, at every stage of life.

Across Cornwall, we will also see child and adolescent mental health services being reviewed. This will identify what works and what we can improve, so that more children and young people get the mental healthcare that they need.

Some good work is done by the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) service, which helps children and young people deal with emotional, behavioural or mental health issues. There are also some good charities out there which help provide the support needed.  But all agree that this is a challenge of our age.

Thursday, 12 January 2017

Unemployment


Unemployment is at its lowest level for many years. At the end of last year, official national statistics showed that the labour market finished a record breaking year with unemployment down by over 100,000 people and the unemployment rate running at 4.8%. Employment has consistently been running at an all-time high and there continues to be 31.8 million people in work, up by 2.7 million since 2010. In Camborne and Redruth, the number of claimants has nearly halved from 3.8% of the economically active population in 2010 to 2.3% in November 2016.

Locally, we have much to celebrate but there remains a lot to do. We must strive to continue to improve the support we offer to local people to help them back into work.

I do not want us to underestimate the significance of apprenticeships and training. Cornwall College is the most successful provider of work based learning in the South West. Over a thousand apprentices are currently training in areas such as plumbing, carpentry and engineering. Last year, Ofsted praised the college as a catalyst for improving skills in Cornwall.

For too long, many of our brightest young people would leave Cornwall in search of new work opportunities. Now, as we continue to attract new industries and skilled jobs to Cornwall, it is vital that we continue to develop skills so that young people can take advantage of the new opportunities being created. As new companies arrive I want to see them become successful and profitable enough to offer higher wages so that we encourage people to take work and stay in work.

Economic regeneration and job creation have always been two of my top priorities. The Kresen Kernow archive project is progressing, the development of South Quay signals good news for the local economy, the East-West link road is unlocking Tuckingmill for development and facilities like the Pool Innovation Centre and Barncoose Gateway have attracted new businesses and start-ups to the area.

Thursday, 5 January 2017

Superfast Broadband


The Superfast broadband project of a few years ago helped get Cornwall ahead of the rest of the country in terms of broadband speeds and paved the way for a new generation of businesses who could benefit from being located in Cornwall without the usual problems of distance from the market.

However, the fact that most of the county has high speeds makes it all the more galling for those communities who were left behind and who have had to struggle on with very poor broadband connections.  Getting high speed broadband solutions to the remaining five percent of households not covered by the original programme is now a priority for government and work continues.  So I was pleased to learn that parts of Camborne and Redruth, including Connor Downs, Sandy Lane and Four Lanes, are the latest in the Duchy to receive superfast broadband.

£7.6 million will be invested in the latest phase of the fibre broadband rollout in Cornwall, reaching more than 8,000 premises in Cornwall's most challenging locations by early next year. Additionally, Cornwall Council and the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership are investing alongside the Government's Broadband Delivery UK programme and BT.


I want us to make the most of the opportunities that superfast broadband offers. The computer software industry has really taken off in this part of Cornwall in recent years. Superfast broadband means that software companies can compete around the world from a digital connection in Cornwall. 


We are already beginning to feel the benefits, with software companies like Headforwards, Blue Fruit and Netbooster thriving. Innovation centres at Pool and Tremough play an important role in incubating new start-ups.  Meanwhile, proposals for a new fibre park in Pool to bring together software companies and training from Cornwall College to create opportunities for local school leavers could take things to the next level.  We have the chance to really put Cornwall on the map in this sector

Thursday, 29 December 2016

New Year


The New Year is a time for hope and optimism. For some people, it represents a chance to turn over a new leaf and make changes in their lifestyles, by stopping smoking, or doing more exercise. 

The year ahead represents a fresh start for our politics. 2017 will be a defining moment in our country's history as we start the process of leaving the EU and re-establishing the rule of British law in many policy areas including agriculture and fisheries. I fully support the triggering of Article 50 before the end of March 2017. Whilst there are challenges ahead and there is a lot of work to do, the Government has a mandate from the people to leave the EU and nothing should stand in the way of the democratic decision voters took last June.

I was a supporter of leaving the EU because I have seen first-hand the damage caused to our democracy by the European Court.  Once we re-establish control we will be able to get things done again and will be able to tackle problems. But I also want us to put in place a very close partnership with the EU based on friendship and cooperation and I want the UK to be a generous and outward looking country that is a good global citizen.

Locally, 2017 also promises to be a year where we see change take shape. Work continues at the Kresen Kernow archive centre in Redruth, which is set to open in 2018. We have seen huge progress at Hayle, and I am delighted that the marine energy park on North Quay is now starting to attract new enterprise and industry to the area.  The next stage is to complete sensitive development at the end of South Quay, put in place the footbridge to link the quay to Penpol Terrace and get things moving on North Quay.

Finally, now that we have the new link road, it is time to progress the regeneration of Tuckingmill.  I have recently been having discussions with the various land owners around the site of South Crofty mine and hope we can start to see plans progress in the coming year.