West Briton column 28 February 2013

Over the recess, my husband and I spent a few days visiting our daughter, who is working in France. As my husband’s Partnership is almost half German and we worked in Italy for four years, we are often talking to European friends and colleagues about the future of the EU. As many local firms export to the EU, this is an important local issue too.

Readers will know that, since being elected, I am amongst those MPs pushing for major reform of the EU and am pleased that the Conservative party, if elected into government after the next election, will be offering a referendum on a new European settlement.

The Prime Ministers leadership has created a new coalition in the EU of the UK with Germany, Holland and Norway all committed to reform. It’s not just British citizens that are fed up with EU waste, corruption, failed fisheries policy, let alone rising budgets.

LibLab politicians said that David Cameron would isolate Britain from Europe. How wrong they were. Any cursory reading of European newspapers shows the debate David Cameron has kicked off is admired, even in France.

One great success we share with European countries is the dramatic increase in longevity over the last 50 years. While most people live longer and healthier lives, that is not the case for everyone.

The number of people affected by dementia has risen considerably and, in Cornwall alone, there was a 21% increase in the number of cases of people aged over 75 between 2000-10. During this time, funding for Cornwall’s NHS service fell 7% behind its target. Since becoming MP I am pleased to have helped reverse this trend with a 6% increase in total funding for our NHS in Cornwall.

Last week, the European Centre for Environment and Human Health and Cornwall Shadow Health and Wellbeing Board jointly hosted a two day conference including the challenge of dementia.

Angela Rippon highlighted the Prime Minister’s new Dementia Challenge Fund and the need for ‘dementia friendly communities’. These provide people suffering from dementia with a space to share their experiences, where the stigma is removed and in which the condition is understood. I am a patron of the Falmouth Memory Café, their work is a shining example. Businesses in Falmouth, led by Bob Bridges, are working together to make the town a truly dementia friendly community. NHS Kernow has received £552,000 from the fund.

While this is welcome, there is always more to do. Across the country Admiral Nurses, professionals trained in providing specialised dementia care, help to support families with care packages. Lisa Dann from the Cornwall branch of Dementia UK is working hard to raise £60,000 to bring Admiral Nurses to Cornwall for the first time.

By 2025 the number of local people with dementia will increase to 13,000. I will continue to do all I can to make sure that the funding gets through to local communities and that local services get the support that they need.

£60m fund to accelerate Enterprise Zone infrastructure

Cornwall & Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership welcomes today’s launch of the Enterprise Zone Infrastructure Fund by the Department of Communities and Local Government. The £60m fund is being targeted at Enterprise Zones which have real short term growth potential and is aimed at unlocking key infrastructure projects.

Aerohub @ Newquay Cornwall Airport, which was described by Chancellor George Osborne as one of the strongest bids in the country when it was approved in August 2011, will be applying for funding to accelerate development projects that will achieve the global competitive edge needed to attract investors.  The Aerohub bid for investment support from the fund will include future projects such as:

  • Aerohub Business Park – opening up a 90 acre development site on the south side of the airport. Investment is required to provide roads and services to the site that could soon provide the largest planning free development zone in the UK.
  • Hangars and other Business premises:  development on the Airport and Business Park employment space to specific need from new investors from aerospace/aviation and other sectors.
    • Technical Skills Centre:  the delivery of an engineering and flight training centre of excellence.   

These projects will allow Aerohub to realise its potential and could result in over 750 jobs on the Enterprise Zone by 2015, allowing for massive acceleration and expansion of the existing programme.

Chris Pomfret, Chair of the Cornwall & Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership, said “This new fund is intended to bring forward infra-structure projects so that further development can take place more quickly. This should help us to build on the success we have had so far and enable more investors to move to the site, sooner and ultimately create more high value jobs for Cornwall. In particular we will be looking at the potential to accelerate the development of the Aerohub Business Park and associated transport links.”

Two investors have already relocated on the Enterprise Zone, the Classic Air Force opens its doors next month, and Ainscough Wind Energy Services, who intend to expand into the Aerohub Business Park once it is developed.

Miles Carden, Enterprise Zone Manager for Cornwall Development Company, explained “Our Enterprise Zone has already attracted a high quality pipeline of investor enquiries, but this funding would allow infrastructure to be put in place to make the site ‘oven ready’ for businesses to move straight in. Put simply it will allow us to do much more much quicker.”

The aerospace industry is worth around £20 billion per year to the UK economy and the South West is one of the country’s most important regions for the industry.  Aerohub, launched by the Minister of State for Business & Enterprise last year, is England’s only entirely aerospace focused Enterprise Zone on an operational airport and is the largest single development site in the South West.

Aerohub @ Newquay Cornwall Airport is being led by the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership and Cornwall Council, as the owners of the airport and surrounding land.  Cornwall Development Company, the Council’s arms length development company, has been commissioned alongside Cornwall Airport Limited, as the operator of the Airport, to deliver the project.

West Briton column 21 February 2013

Last Summer saw over one hundred thousand London 2012 Games Makers, including many from Cornwall, help ensure that the world saw the UK at is best. New figures indicate that their volunteering may leave a further lasting legacy- more and more people are now freely giving up their time to help others.

Figures released by the Cabinet Office last week show that the proportion of people volunteering at least once a year has increased from 65% in 2010-11 to 71% in 2012. The number of people volunteering regularly has risen by 9%. This equates to millions more people volunteering across the country. As usual, the South West is leading the way, with an above national average 9% increase in volunteering over the same time period.

I have the privilege of working closely with many voluntary groups who everyday make a difference to the lives of others, and last week was able to join local volunteers highlighting one of the most pressing issues we have to deal with as a society, and as a world- violence against women and girls. As part of the global ‘One Billion rising’ campaign the Women’s Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre (WRSAC) Cornwall organised a flashmob outside Truro Cathedral on Valentine’s Day which saw hundreds of local people come together to dance to highlight gender-based violence. I was delighted to join in and pay tribute to the local women, and men, who work to support all those affected by violence against women and girls and campaign tirelessly to raise awareness of victims here and around the world. I am pleased that as a result of the Home Secretary, the Rt Hon Teresa May’s personal leadership, Home Office funding is being provided to core services to support victims of rape and sexual violence.

The sexualisation and exploitation of children, especially girls is a very real problem here and we can all play our part in preventing it from happening. It is particularly important for parents, carers and teachers to inform themselves of the risks and take steps to prevent harm.

In Parliament I and a group of colleagues work to raise awareness of the issues and take action. Last year, I was pleased to help amendments to the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act 2004 pass into law, which will make it easier for the police to prosecute individuals who abuse children and vulnerable adults as well as increasing sentences for perpetrators. The Government’s cross-departmental action plan to tackle violence against women and girls, was developed utilising experience of local police officers and charities in Cornwall. Full details of the action plan can be found through http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/crime/violence-against-women-girls/strategic-vision/

I will continue to work on these issues alongside the first class police and Cornwall Council teams, charities and volunteers that are striving to better protect women and girls. Given the passion, commitment and now growing numbers of the volunteers campaigning against sexual violence in all forms, I am hopeful we can start to really make a difference.

West Briton column 14 February 2013

People sometimes ask me if my role as an MP is what I thought it would be. The most shocking discovery has been the fear of some people working in the NHS and with Care providers to speak out when they see people being harmed, through fear of recrimination or of losing their job. The inquiry into what went wrong at the Mid Staffs Hospital where so many people needlessly lost their lives has revealed the scale of this problem. Even when patients and staff raised their concerns they were ignored or worse.

Over the last two years I have been pushing for more encouragement for staff to speak out and protection for those that do as well as effective ways for patients and their families to be listened to when they are worried by what they see. Most importantly to encourage openness when things go wrong so lessons can be learned, rather than ranks closed.

While the government has made significant improvements to policy in this area, improvements supported by investment in the NHS, much more needs to be done. While not the only solution to improving care, publishing the answer to the simple question, “would you recommend this hospital, dentist or doctors surgery, care home or care provider to your family’’ for all to see would be a step in the right direction.

While discussing this in Parliament last week, I welcomed the independent regulator, the Care Quality Commission being given extra powers and was assured they will have the resources needed to ensure quality care is delivered. I regularly meet with the CQC in Cornwall to check they have the resources they need and they tell me they have.

The reforms to the NHS will be coming into effect here in the next few months. These reforms put decision making into the hands of doctors and care professionals in Cornwall, give patients more say and make the decision makers more accountable to us all. The new governors of the Royal Cornwall elected this week have a vitally important role as will the people who join the Health and Wellbeing Board and patient representatives in GP practices.

The changes have the potential to deliver better quality care. Bold and imaginative leadership will help ensure that this potential is delivered, as will new inter-connected ways of working that link up the different parts of the health and care system. Changing Lives, a Cornish project that has seen volunteers, the NHS and Cornwall Council, working together to improve services for older people, is a perfect example of how such innovation can improve can help improve lives.

Reforming the funding of the NHS and social care is also vital. For a large part of my adult life I have worked for improved quality of care for older people and carers and am pleased that the Government will now be pushing forward with reforms that aim to prevent so many people worrying about selling their home to pay for care.

West Briton column 7 February 2013

Nearly five years on, the crisis that started on the computer screens of the financial sector, continues to have a very human impact, affecting in one way or another the lives of all of us. The most tragic of these consequences is unemployment- far too many talented people have either lost their jobs, or can’t find employment upon leaving education.

A vital part of my work as an MP, in Cornwall and Westminster, is to try and tackle this. I am pleased to report some progress. A major push to boost apprenticeships, one of the best ways of giving people the skills they need to secure long term employment, has led to an 86% increase in apprenticeship starts over the past two years, 152,800 apprenticeships starting starting in the first quarter of this year alone.

250 of these 152,880 apprenticeship starts have been in Truro and Falmouth- a great result to the great credit of local employers and the National Apprenticeship’s Service (NAS) in Cornwall.

Last year I worked closely with both employers and the local NAS team on completing a ’100 apprenticeships in 100 days’ challenge. We are going to try and replicate that success this year- aiming for a 1000 new apprenticeships across Cornwall. People of all ages interested in starting an apprenticeship, or businesses keen to find out more about how taking on an apprentice could help them to grow, should visit the NAS webpage at http://www.apprenticeships.org.uk or call their helpline 08000 150 600.

The Work Programme, providing tailored support for jobseekers looking to overcome the barriers holding them back from employment, continues apace. Last week I met with Work Programme providers Prospect and heard more about some of the local people they have helped back into work in recent months, from the former soldier now working as a catering tutor to the fifty year old who retained after redundancy and now works as a taxi driver.

Just as adults can face barriers to employment so too can young people just entering the jobs market, all too often because of being held back from realising their full potential when in education. The Pupil Premium, a Conservative manifesto pledge now being delivered in Government, enables children from the poorest backgrounds to have the extra support they need at school to enable them the best chance of achieving their potential and securing a good job. £1,385,000 of Pupil Premium funding has been allocated to Schools in Truro and Falmouth this year.

Young people doing vocational courses at College are benefiting from wide ranging reforms arising from the Wolf Review, which mean that these qualifications fully equip recipients to embark on life long careers.

These measures are part of a package of policies which aim to ensure that everyone, no matter what their background, has the ability to access the tools they need to build the life they want for themselves. If we are to re-construct our economy in the aftermath of the 2008 crash, we must empower people to build their futures.

Great ROC Cake Party

The inaugural Great ROC Cake Party is taking place this March in aid of learning disability charity Robert Owen Communities (ROC).

ROC is appealing to local people and organisations to host cake parties during March 2013 to help raise funds in support of the ROC-Welcome Truro social club for vulnerable people with a learning disability.

In parallel with cake parties, ROC is also holding a cake competition, sponsored by Warrens Bakery, to determine the ‘Cornwall’s Supreme ROC Cake Baker’.

For more information please see ROC’s website below: