Lighting the Beacon in Cornwall and Isles of Scilly

Working with the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership, Cornwall Chamber of Commerce and the Federation of Small Business we have organised the upcoming event “Lighting the Beacon in Cornwall and Isles of Scilly”.

The event aims to build confidence amongst businesses to help them to recruit and retain a more diverse workforce. In particular, we would like to help them employ those who have disabilities or who are long-term unemployed but would like to find employment. The free event is being held at Truro and Penwith College in Truro on Thursday 26th October from 9.30 am until 1pm.

The event will be a great opportunity to meet likeminded businesses and skills providers, including Job Centre Plus, and the new Skills Access Hub team as part of the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Growth Hub.

While there are great examples of inclusive, local employers, the fact remains that there are still too many local people who would like to work but are currently excluded from doing so. I very much hope that all local businesses will come along and consider the benefits of inclusive employment for their business.

Whilst Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly are leading on the inclusive growth agenda, these long term issues affecting growth in our region can only be tackled by working in collaboration. This event will be the starting point in working together with key stakeholders and businesses, to shape an action plan as to how Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly can be a ‘beacon’ region leading the way on inclusive growth.

If you are interested in the event please use the following link to find out more and to book a place:

First published in the West Briton

Delivering on my Manifesto Pledges

During the recent General Election I stood on a manifesto that pledged more funding for all local schools and that Cornwall would continue to receive designated economic development funding. Both are being delivered.

Last week the proposed new schools funding figures were announced. Overall schools in my constituency will receive an additional £1.9 million by 2019/2020 and that is a 3.8% increase. The individual figures for each school will be available on my website.

It is vitally important to me that our schools receive their fair share of funding. For sometime I have campaigned for a transparent national formula for per pupil funding for our schools based on the needs of the children it serves. Clearly setting out for the first time the sums that we are directing to different aspects of the formula, to the basic amount per pupil that every school receives, or to the children with additional needs, allows for properly informed debate on this vital topic, something that the existing opaque system held back.

In addition to per pupil funding, schools receive a fixed sum and can access funding for building improvements and expansion. Schools also receive the Pupil Premium and funding for children with Special Education Needs. The final decision about what each school receives depends on Cornwall Council, but if they deliver the funds that they have been allocated for per pupil spending to each school, all schools will receive increased funding.

As far as the EU funding is concerned, it is good to see many local organisations benefitting from the current round of funding that will run its course until 2020. Post Brexit, the need for dedicated funds for economic development in Cornwall has been agreed by the Treasury. The details of the new UK Shared Prosperity Fund will be consulted upon.

First published in the West Briton 20/09/17

Mental Health Awareness

On Sunday, I joined World Suicide Prevention Day. It’s imperative that we all understand the importance of promoting good mental health. I have had the privilege of helping a number of local organisations secure funding for new and improved mental health services, many take advantage of our splendid natural maritime environment to promote good mental health.

As a member of the Conservative Environment Network I joined colleagues last week in launching our most recent report and a copy is on my website.

The report, which has been sent to Cabinet ministers, includes an essay from my colleague Rebecca Pow MP who is encouraging gardening to be adopted as a policy by a range of government departments including health, justice, defence, local government and education.

Gardening can help to cut childhood obesity, improve public spaces, provide purpose for prisoners in jails and help people deal with mental stress.

Gardens in Britain cover an area the size of Exmoor, Dartmoor, the Lake District and the Norfolk Broads National Parks combined.

The garden economy makes a significant contribution to the nations’ coffers, with £7.8billion being spent on this sector by tourists every year.

That figure does not include the way our parks and gardens are valuable habitats for wildlife and nature, capturing and storing carbon helping to combat climate change and reducing flooding.

Providing people with the opportunity to green their communities can be a way of tackling unemployment, lack of skills, loneliness and improve wellbeing.

There are many great, local projects from growing food in schools to Glen Carne enabling gardening for formerly homeless men and those suffering with Dementia in St Agnes to Incredible Edible Penryn at St Gluvius Church Hall. You don’t have to own a garden or know anything about gardening to benefit from these great community projects.

First published in the West Briton 13/09/17

Back to School

Preparing for the new session of Parliament this week reminded me of the times I spent getting my children ready for a new year at school. While they are grown up now, I recall the mixture of feelings that I share with parents, grandparents and carers as they see their children grow in independence at each stage of their learning.

So for all those children and young people starting school this week or taking the next step in your education, I wish you the very best of luck. Your families too.

Thanks to the hard work of local teachers, governors and the wider community that supports our schools and colleges, more young people here are receiving an education that is considered by tough, independent regulators, to be “good” or “outstanding” than in 2010. This is also due to the reforms to education that have given school leaders and the communities they serve more control as well as a determined focus on learning and teaching standards.

Regular readers will know that I have long championed change in the way in which funding is allocated to schools and colleges. I am as determined now as I have ever been to ensure that our schools receive at least their fair share of funding and that funding is based on the needs of the children. I am pleased that the Government has pledged real terms increases to the per pupil funding that local schools receive.

It’s not just young people who will be starting something new this month. More local employers and people of all ages are participating in a wide range of good quality apprenticeships. Earning while learning, apprentices aged 25 and over, and not in the first year of their apprenticeship, earn at least the National Living Wage, most receive more.