The Feeding Britain Inquiry

I have enjoyed a longstanding relationship with our local Foodbanks. Members of my team work closely with the volunteers who do a great job offering more than food to the local people they help. My team work with the volunteers to tackle the underlying reasons why people need to go to our local Foodbanks and they try to help people individually with those problems. As a result of this work, together we have been able to help many people back onto their own feet. I have been able to take up systemic issues about some administrative problems with benefits and get improvements such as the early withdrawal of the last Labour government’s ATOS contract for work capability assessments.

I don’t want to see Foodbank use become an entrenched part of our welfare system. I am a member of the APPG, chaired by Bishop Tim Thornton of Truro and Frank Field MP that produced the Feeding Britain report that was published last week. It was well received, considered a thorough and thoughtful piece of work and welcomed by the Government who are carefully considering its recommendations.

Last week I also spent time highlighting the excellent work of Shelterbox and in particular their work in supporting the refugees from the conflict in Syria. Shelterbox have brave teams of aid workers in Syria now providing more than accommodation and including teaching material and medical support. I am looking forward to spending tomorrow afternoon visiting Shelterbox to personally thank the professionals and volunteers for their work which contributes to Britain leading the humanitarian support in this region, as it does in so many others parts of the world torn apart by man made or natural disasters.

Everyday of the year, including over this festive season, local people are serving their community and their fellow citizens both in our own country and around the world. Our society is made up of people from all walks of life, and from the public, private and voluntary sectors. It works best when we all work together.

One of the key recommendations of the Feeding Britain Inquiry was for those who can make make a difference in tackling poverty in our society to work more closely together in their communities. No two communities are the same and it is the people living in them who have the solutions. The causes of poverty are complex and require a range of solutions. This is a really important political issue that needs a political solution, there will be different ideas but that shouldn’t mean name calling and blame games.

Some politicians are trying to conjure up old 20th century politics based on failed ideology. The state versus the individual and the private sector. This is a false choice and nonsense.  The Conservatives are committed to balancing the nation’s finances. When we have done this public expenditure will be broadly where it was in 2007. That is not a return to the 1930s! The real debate is how taxpayers money is spent to deliver a better future.

Advertisements

The Autumn Statement

Last week the focus in Parliament was the Autumn Statement. For people who own their home or who are saving up to do so, the changes to stamp duty are welcome news. Our new system will work like income tax, so people only pay the higher rate on the part of the property that falls within that band – over 90% will pay the same or less. But the statement was about much more.

Since 2010 the Government has been focused on rebuilding our economy and putting it on a more sustainable basis. The Coalition inherited the largest deficit in post-world war history. If unchecked, the historical level of borrowing could have undermined fairness and economic stability. The Coalition has delivered stability and security and as a result the UK is currently the fastest growing major economy in the world. There are more people in work here than before and the deficit is forecast to have fallen by a half by 2014-15. However, the deficit is still too high and for more spending on our vital public services, we need economic growth. I want to see good progress on building a fairer society but this can only be done with a strong economy.

The statement set out a package of measures to boost the productivity of our local economy by investing in infrastructure such as our A30 and A303 and flood defence schemes such as in Perranporth.  To make progress towards full employment and enable more highly skilled, better paid, employment opportunities, the Government is abolishing National Insurance contributions for young apprentices and offering new loans for post graduate study.

While more people having the security of a job is good news, for too many, wages have been too low for too long. I have been pushing hard for further increases in the tax-free Personal Allowance and am pleased it will now increase to £10,600 in April and this will be passed on in full to higher rate taxpayers – the first increase in the higher threshold in line with inflation for five years. This is a down payment on a Conservative commitment to raise the higher rate threshold to £50,000 by the end of the decade. While I continue to campaign for the living wage, recent increases in the minimum wage are welcome and I am determined that further progress will be made so that no one working full time on the minimum wage pays income tax.

Rebuilding a strong economy is also about supporting local entrepreneurs, and allowing small and medium sized businesses to grow.   I am delighted to report that a significant bug bear of local businesses is set for a major over haul – Business Rates. The full review of the structure of business rates will reported before the 2016 Budget.

In the meantime we will again extend the doubling of Small Business Rate Relief and continue to cap the inflation-linked increase in business rates at 2%. In further welcome news the £1,000 discount for shops and cafes on the high street will also increase to £1,500.

 

 

A ‘Can do’ attitude and investment in our infrastructure

As an MP I get asked a lot of interesting questions. The most insightful are always asked by primary school children. Last week, I had the great joy of visiting the new Truro Learning Academy in Truro. I was inspired by the teachers and pupils and their positive vision of their future, enabling each child to reach their potential – and I survived a whole school assembly with lots of good questions!

I also get to ask lots of questions. Every week I meet ‘can do’ people who are doing things differently, with passion and determination to improve the quality of lives and wellbeing of people around them.  People working in all sectors of our community.

When I ask them what I can do to help them realise their aspirations, the topic of infrastructure pops up at or near the top of the list. Essential infrastructure from roads, rail, cycle and footpaths, to air services, ports, the internet and mobile phone coverage. So these have been key priorities for me since being elected in 2010.

This week, I was delighted to welcome a Minister from the Department of Transport to Cornwall. I make sure Government Ministers are regular visitors so they understand our challenges and opportunities. My Conservative colleagues in the Government have been enormously supportive of my ambition for long overdue investment in our transport infrastructure.

 

I am pleased to have secured the support of the Government in enabling the dualling of the A30 between Carland Cross and Chiverton Cross – a notoriously congested and dangerous stretch of road for locals and visitors alike. This was achieved because of the skilful and ‘can do’ Nigel Blackler of Cornwall Council. With the support of the Local Enterprise Partnership, he is working with me and other Cornish MPs to secure record levels of investment into Cornwall’s transport infrastructure. I will make sure that people directly affected by this road improvement are fully consulted and involved in the design and implementation.

 

During the Minister’s visit I also, pressed for more investment in our rail services. We have already secured investment into the sleeper service, upgraded signalling, free internet access, an extra carriage on the Maritime Line and more rolling stock on the intercity services. To complete the jigsaw we need more regular, thirty minute services through Cornwall. We also need to upgrade Truro station car park. The lack of lighting is a real problem as is the uneven and poor quality surface. I want the Minister to get the best deal on ticket prices too as she is currently considering the next period of our rail franchise. Finally, I made the case for the Paddington to Penzance service to get the new, designed and built in England replacements to the 125s.

 

I have a positive vision of our future here in Cornwall. It is based on unleashing the creativity, inventiveness and enterprise of local people. With your support, I am determined to see it through, improving the health, wellbeing and prosperity of all my constituents.