Cornwall Councillor, Parish and Town Council Elections 4th May 2017

May has always been a special month for me, as towards the end of the month, I celebrate the anniversary of my marriage at St Budock Church. While its almost impossible to say when Cornwall looks at its best, weather depending, I think May might just achieve that accolade. Thanks to the great efforts of hundreds of local people both Falmouth and Penryn are looking good after the various ‘Spring Clean’ activities. I believe anyone living here is more aware than most of the natural environment, as a source of inspiration, wellbeing and employment.

Elections play a big part in my life and this May, like most years, brings elections. I am proud of one of our most important manifesto commitments: to work hard to ensure that we leave our natural environment in better shape than when we took office in 2010. Being custodians of the environment for our children and generations to come involves making difficult choices.

While each of us has a responsibility to think about the choices we make and their impact on our environment, elected representatives have particular responsibilities. So one of our important choices is deciding who to vote for in elections.

Balancing the need to grow more of our own food, generate more of our own energy and build more homes and work spaces for a growing local population while protecting our environment is challenging. Ensuring the necessary infrastructure investment is secured is essential too.

The planning system has been reformed by the Government to enable smarter and more local decisions to made about how we use our land and work with our natural environment. Through the Local Plan, people have been enabled to have more control over shaping communities. The LibDems lead Cornwall Council with ‘Independents’ and they have developed a Local Plan that is currently operating.

The next Council, that will be elected this month, will have the vitally important job of evaluating the Local Plan and updating it. Making sure it is delivering for local communities, particularly genuinely affordable homes for local people. The evolution of the Local Plan should take account of the aspirations of the local community as reflected in the Neighbourhood Plans being developed in both Falmouth and Penryn.

With such important opportunities to shape our communities, protect and enhance our precious natural environment and also support the local economy, we need to elect councillors who have the motivation, skills and ability to make the best decisions for Falmouth and Penryn.

Cornwall faces many challenges and significant opportunities. We will soon be marking the anniversary of the date the majority of people in our country decided our future lay outside the European Union. Whatever our feelings about that milestone in our history, I am confident that we can make a success of what lies ahead. We are a strong country with great values including, freedom, tolerance, compassion, respect for the rule of law and characteristics such as creativity and enterprise; all have served us well and I believe will for centuries to come.

We are leaving the EU not Europe and I am determined to ensure we remain an outward facing global nation with excellent relationships with our neighbours and allies across Europe.

Right now, I believe Cornwall needs all its elected representatives looking confidently to the future, not lamenting the decision to leave the EU. People with a positive attitude to work constructively with the Government, united in a shared ambition to get the best possible outcome for our Duchy and our country. It’s really important that you vote not only for the person that you think will be a strong local champion for the immediate area where you live but also someone who is part of a team of people from across Cornwall who have a positive, shared vision for the common good. People who are able to deliver the changes we need to see in Cornwall, particularly working more effectively in partnership to tackle the challenges facing our local NHS.

As a result of devolution of power from Westminster to Cornwall Council, these local elections really matter to you so please do vote. I want to see a double devolution of power from Cornwall Councillors to local councillors so please make sure you vote in both elections. The next few years will shape the destiny of our Duchy and country for years to come, your vote really does count and will make a real difference.

Government’s Commitment to Honouring Cornwall’s Funding

I thoroughly enjoyed a spectacular Easter Sunday with my family. Cooking delicious locally produced food was a welcome break from a very busy week meeting lots of local people and local businesses, urging them to make use of the significant levels of EU support for growth.

The Government is honouring its commitments and delivering the EU funding that Cornwall would have received if the country had voted to remain.

Local businesses can access this funding and other sources of support to help them flourish, grow jobs and boost the Cornish economy.

EU funding programmes are open for applications and tens of millions of pounds has already been allocated.

The Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Growth Programme is the European economic regeneration programme for the region.

Running until 2020, it is helping to deliver smart, sustainable and inclusive growth.

So far it has committed £170million European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) funding, with £103million unallocated and available.

Further funding will be made available to support businesses later this year, as well as funding for community-led local development programmes using European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD).

New figures show that more than 20,000 people in Cornwall are in work since 2010. This is good news for them and the Cornish economy but more needs to be done to improve access to skills training and increase wages.

There is a significant skills gap in the workforce in Cornwall and the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Growth Hub is the one stop location for all advice and information for businesses in Cornwall, including information on access to skills training.

There is great employment support for people with a wide range of abilities and ages. Don’t forget that there is no upper age limit on apprenticeships. Please contact me for information about employment support opportunities.

Stadium for Cornwall

Last week’s front page headline “Council bail-out to save stadium?” poses an important question. It is good news that Truro City Football Club and the Pirates want to work together and share one stadium. Many of us have been pushing for this for some time. Truro & Penwith College’s loyal support is commendable too.

I believe a Stadium for Cornwall could be a real boost not only for these two sports but for others too.

The questions are where it should be located and how to pay for it. Developers asserted that the new facilities could be paid for from some of the profits made from building and selling homes and retail businesses. However supermarkets and other out of town retailers are pulling back their investments so this is not a viable option.

In less than a month, on 4th May the people of Cornwall will elect their parish and Cornwall councillors. It is vital that you vote for representatives who you believe will not only be an effective local champion but also a member of a party or group with a shared plan for delivering your priorities for Cornwall.

I believe that the new Cornwall councillors should consider the new scheme for delivering a Stadium for Cornwall alongside all the priorities they were elected to deliver. Consideration of this new scheme should not be hurried and made solely by officers of the Council and a few Cabinet Members without the proper scrutiny of all of Cornwall’s councillors.

A scheme of such significance needs to be considered openly and thoroughly, not only by the Cornwall councillors but with the residents of Cornwall too.

All of Cornwall’s MPs have offered support to enable a Stadium for Cornwall. We stand ready to work with the new Cornwall Council to deliver it.

First published in the West Briton 12/04/17

NHS Investment in Cornwall

It’s really important to me that mental and physical illnesses are treated equally. So I am delighted that after years of hard work the Cornwall Partnership NHS Foundation Trust has secured the funding for a new child and adolescent mental health unit that will be built in Cornwall following an announcement made by NHS England last week.

This news means that for the first time, children and young people in Cornwall will have access to specialist mental health beds in county. The new 12 bed unit will accommodate young people up to the age of 18. Previously children from Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly had to travel out of county for this kind of service. The ability to regularly see family and friends while in hospital is a key element in people’s recovery, and especially in the case of children.

The Trust will build the new unit on land adjacent to Bodmin Hospital where it will benefit from close links to the Trust’s other specialist mental and physical health services. It is hoped that building work will begin in Spring 2018.

I am also delighted that NHS England is funding new mental health facilities for local mums suffering post natal mental illness. While the location has yet to be decided, it will be much closer to home than current specialist services.  This builds on the new service introduced into Cornwall in 2013, following the campaigning and support of the Angela Harrison Foundation.

NHS England has also offered RCHT funding for a fully-staffed team operating 24/7 in hospital, offering a one-hour response to emergency mental health referrals in A&E.

Ensuring all young people have good mental health is important.  I am determined that all parents and schools have good links to advice and services.

Social Care Funding

The tragic loss of PC Keith Palmer was another reminder of the risks our police officers and members of our emergency services take each day keeping us safe. Leaving home each day for work not knowing what lies ahead. We are very grateful for their public service.

Thank you to the many constituents who contacted me last week asking after the wellbeing of my team and myself. Our overwhelming feeling was of sadness for the tragic loss of life and injury.

While the process has been painfully slow, following meetings in Cornwall last week, I am hopeful that local leaders of our NHS and care services are making progress in agreeing plans to improve our health and care services.

Each day, there are around three wards of people waiting in Treliske to go home or onto another care setting but can’t. Why, because of the continued inability of Cornwall Council to work constructively with care providers to enable them to safely leave the hospital.

The Liberal Democrat and Independent Councillors are in charge of Cornwall Council. They choose how to spend our money. They choose to spend less on social care than other councils despite the fact we have more frail elderly people than many places.

Along with my MP colleagues we have made sure Cornwall Council is receiving extra, new funding for social care – £12 million this year alone. We will do everything we can to ensure they actually spend it on social care so that people who have their care funded by the taxpayer or pay for it themselves have access to the support they need to enable them to leave hospital safely.

It is however down to Council Councillors to deliver the joined up service promised – the joined up service that other parts of the country have achieved.

First published in the West Briton 29 March 2017

NATO and Defence

I was pleased to join crew from four naval ships, forming a NATO deployment, in Falmouth.  Our Royal Navy vessel is working alongside three European naval vessels, including one from Estonia. This week they will be heading to the Baltic to undertake mine clearance and participate in NATO support for our allies.

120 soldiers from the 5th Battalion The Rifles, including from Cornwall, deployed to Estonia this week to set up a UK headquarters in the country before the remaining 680 troops arrive in April.

The defence secretary said they would deter “Russian aggression”. The UK is taking a leading role in NATO’s “enhanced forward presence” operation, aimed at reinforcing the alliance’s eastern border.

Tensions between Estonia and Russia increased as a result of the Ukraine conflict, which resulted in the annexation of Crimea by Russia in 2014.

The UK-led Estonia battlegroup is one of four NATO multinational deployments to eastern Europe, which were agreed to at the 2016 Warsaw summit. Other NATO armies are sending forces to Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, where 150 UK personnel will also be sent as part of a rotating deployment.

Separately, the Royal Air Force has committed to providing Typhoon jets to bolster air defences in Romania for four months.

While it is understandable that Estonia is building a fence along its borders to defend itself against Russia, it is nonetheless sad. Also, an important reminder that it is important to both show our support for our allies in Europe and work hard to build the peaceful and secure Europe we all want to see.

Finally, it was an honour to join the 75th commemoration of the St Nazaire Raid from Falmouth with the Honorary French  Consul. It was a moving reminder of our countries long standing shared bonds of friendship.

Article 50 EU Notification to Withdrawal Bill

Many constituents contacted me last week regarding the Article 50 EU Notification to Withdrawal Bill – the legislation enabling the Prime Minister to begin negotiating our future relationship with our friends in the European Union.

While I am saddened that we are leaving the EU, I believe it will be possible to make a success of “Brexit”. Each day I see Government Ministers reaching out to our neighbours and friends in Europe to build even closer relationships than we enjoy today. After all we are not leaving Europe and I am determined to do all that I can to ensure we have close relationships with European countries.

Why am I so optimistic? Because the huge challenges we face including climate change, mass migration and ensuring the future security and prosperity of our country relies on working in partnership with countries in Europe and across the world. The UK has a world leadership role in tackling climate change, ending violence against women and girls and tackling the abhorrent crimes of human trafficking and modern slavery.

In my role as Minister for Vulnerability, Safeguarding and Countering Extremism, I am proud to have the responsibility for the Government’s response to two of these challenges. I can assure you that I spend significant amounts of time talking with my counterparts across Europe. They tell me that they respect the Prime Minister, respect the decision the UK has made and want to work even more closely with us, tackling crimes that will help keep our citizens safe. I do not believe “Brexit” will stand in the way of our vitally important work in protecting our citizens and stamping out modern slavery.

In addition to the work of Ministers, Parliament will continue to have a central role in shaping the Government’s approach and final outcome of negotiations.