Tackling Homelessness in Cornwall

I can’t think of anything worse than being homeless, so for years I have undertaken voluntary work supporting homeless people. As an MP, I have spoken up for and supported measures to prevent homelessness and brought Ministers to meet local homeless people at St Petrocs and formerly homeless people now moving on with their lives supported by Glen Carne, near St Agnes.

Since 2010, more honest government data collection about people rough sleeping in Cornwall has improved the understanding of the scale of the problem. More funding has followed the data enabling more joined up working across the public sector and support services through initiatives such as ‘No Second Night Out’. While this work has helped many people, there is still much more to do.

The recent Budget committed £100 million to further tackle homelessness, including more support for ‘second stage’ accommodation for rough sleepers leaving hostel accommodation and domestic abuse victims and their families moving on from refuges to more independent living. This will help to free up hostels and refuges for those in most acute need.

There is also money for investment in preventing rough sleeping. New research, carried out by homelessness charity St Mungo’s, found the three main tipping points that ended in people rough sleeping were an end to temporary accommodation with friends or family, being asked to leave the family home, and the threat of eviction from a rented property.

The research findings led to the development of a new assessment tool for some London Borough councils’ specialist housing officers, so they can identify people and intervene before they end up street homeless, enabling “No First Night Out’.

Let’s hope Cornwall Council consider this approach and also use some of the £936,000 Transformation Challenge Award provided by the government to support improved access to local advise and support services that can prevent homelessness.

Published by West Briton.

 

The Recent Budget & What it Means for Cornwall

In January, there were over 830 fewer people claiming unemployment benefit than in May 2010 in Truro and Falmouth. There are more people of all ages in employment now than ever before. Most of the new jobs created are full time jobs too, although for some people, flexible employment enables the balancing of caring responsibilities with employment.

I want this progress to continue, and to see Cornwall at the forefront of the march towards a full employment economy. Unemployment here is already significantly below the UK average. I want to see more home grown food, home generated energy, goods and services created here and sold across the UK and the growing economies of the world.

We can deliver this by giving people the skills that businesses creating new jobs need their employees to have. Apprenticeships are crucial and since 2010, over 3,580 new apprenticeships have been created in Truro and Falmouth alone.

Cornwall Apprenticeship Service, based in Falmouth, offer a first class service to small businesses enabling them to provide a wide range of high quality apprenticeships.

We must also support the great local businesses that are creating jobs. A range of policies, including increased VAT thresholds, large reductions to business rates and business taxes, an employment allowance worth £3000, reduced red tape and £500 million of EU investment are helping businesses grow and wages rise locally.

From April 1st the National Living Wage is being introduced at £7.20 an hour – rising to £9 an hour by 2020. Personal taxes are going down too. Since 2010, 3.8 million people have been taken out of tax altogether and 27.5 million have seen their income tax cut. As of 2015, Mums who stay at home can transfer 10% or an average of £1060 of their personal allowance to their partner.

Of course the difficult task of reducing the budget deficit continues. We have made good progress, with the deficit now one third of what it was in 2010, but more needs to be done to reduce public expenditure so we live within our means. I don’t think we should duck this and pass on the nation’s debt to our children and grandchildren. This does mean that we are pressing ahead with some changes to welfare payments. Those people who are able to work but who are not currently doing so will have their benefits capped at £20,000 per year. Benefit payments for people with disabilities will continue to increase every year. Our expenditure is greater than other wealthy nations such as Germany and France. Pensioner’s benefits and pensions are also fully protected.

I know many people feel that large international companies such as Google or Amazon don’t pay their fair share of tax. I share those frustrations and I am pleased that the Government has led the international community in closing down the tax loopholes that have enabled some international companies to shift their profits around the world to avoid tax. This Government has introduced a diverted profits tax to stop multinationals using contrived arrangements to shift profits outside of the UK. I am pleased the Government has also made more than 40 changes to tax law to close loopholes, and introduced a new general anti-abuse rule to deter abusive tax avoidance.

It’s worth noting that according to independent data, since 2010, the wealthiest 1% of British people have contributed 28% of all tax receipts. The poverty gap is closing according to figures from the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) which demonstrate that income inequality has fallen since 2010.

Having grown up near Falmouth, I know only too well of the poverty that has blighted the lives of too many people here. However, I believe the foundations are being laid to ensure that every local person has the opportunity of a good education and skills training to enable them to make the most of the improving employment opportunities that are growing here. Investment in our local infrastructure and economy is also creating an improved environment to set up or grow a business.

I am delighted that in the recent budget, the Chancellor announced the MarineHub Enterprise Zone. These zones are delivered locally by Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEP), Local Authorities and businesses. Enterprise Zones are about delivering long term, sustainable growth based on cutting edge technology and enterprise. They have three key incentives; up to 100% Business Rate discount of up to a value of £275,000 per business over 5 years; 100% enhanced capital allowance tax relief and all growth in business rates related to the zones are kept by the LEP and Cornwall Council to reinvest in the local economy.

This is good news for marine renewables. The MarineHub Enterprise Zone includes A & P and will attract more investment from international companies to develop and test devises that make energy from wave and tide. This will further develop our reputation as a centre for innovation and high skilled marine engineering expertise.

Of course there are some real local challenges not least of which is housing. More about that next month…..

Published by Wave Magazine.

 

Tackling the Migration Challenge

The scale of the migration challenge we are facing requires NATO, the European Union and other countries across Europe to work together to address both its symptoms—the constant flow of migrants and the conditions we see them face—and the causes in Syria and beyond. We must also work with local civilian authorities to tackle the gangs that profit from smuggling migrants.

On 11 February, NATO Defence Ministers took the decision to deploy NATO ships, better to enable Turkish and Greek coastguards to intercept the migrant boats and disrupt the smugglers’ business model. Standing NATO maritime group 2 arrived in the region within 48 hours of that decision and has been conducting initial reconnaissance and surveillance of illegal crossings since then.

The UK contribution is to send Royal Fleet Auxiliary Mounts Bay from Falmouth and a maritime Wildcat helicopter to the Aegean. My very best wishes go to the crew. Their roles will be to support the NATO monitoring and surveillance task. They will work alongside three Border Force boats: the VOS Grace, the cutter Protector, which is on its way to the region, and a further cutter, which is expected to start operations later this month. Together they will support the Turkish and Greek coastguards and the EU Frontex mission.

Contributing to the EU and NATO missions to counter smuggling is only part of the Government’s wider approach to tackling the root causes of irregular migration. The United Kingdom is leading the way in tackling those issues at their source, providing significant amounts of aid to assist in stabilising troubled regions and lessening the need for people to leave. In the meantime, the Royal Navy deployment is an important part of the international effort to assist the Turkish and Greek authorities in reducing criminal and dangerous people trafficking.

 

Published by West Briton.

Cornwall’s Green Economy

Last July, Cornwall became the first county to sign a devolution deal with central government. The deal is a great opportunity to improve the health and well-being being of people in Cornwall, as well as grow our economy sustainably.

In November last year, I was pleased to join members of Cornwall Council, academics, local businesses and community groups at a workshop, hosted by Green Alliance, to discuss how we are using the deal to grow the green economy . From the discussion, it is clear the LEP is on the right track, as a driver of low carbon growth and renewables. The LEP is performing a valuable role in bringing the links between business, the public sector and the environment closer and making the most of local expertise.

We already know that Cornwall’s green economy is strong: it has been a pioneer of low carbon technology and renewable energy development. As a result of the deal, locally shaped investment and support opportunities are now available for low carbon businesses and social enterprises in Cornwall, including marine and geothermal energy.

The recent localised flooding has served as a reminder that climate change is Cornwall’s problem too. The work of Cornwall Flood Forum is building community resilience and involvement in flood prevention and mitigation.

Infrastructure change is too often felt as something done to people, not by them. If we increase engagement and information sharing among Cornish communities on issues around energy, climate change and the natural environment, we will foster a better understanding of our personal environmental responsibilities. An existing initiative showing great results is Carbon Logic, a project tracking people’s personal commitment to tackle climate change through ten ‘pledges’. It has already delivered real carbon reductions while supporting local farmers and businesses.

For the complete blog visit: bit.ly/1ol8aU2

Published by West Briton.