Protecting our Pollinators

We all have an important role to play in supporting pollinators. It is only through the actions of everyone that we can help pollinators thrive across our countryside and urban environment. Through these actions we can help ensure that this generation will be the first to leave the environment in a better place than we found it.

We are developing an ambitious 25 year plan for the environment. This will provide the long-term direction for protecting and enhancing our environment in an integrated way. Providing support to the 1500 species of insect pollinators plays an essential role in helping our environment and contributing to food production. I want to ensure that we produce more food locally and support our farmers to do so. Pollinators play an essential role in ensuring we have a wide range of food to eat. Very little of what we eat has not involved a pollinator.

We have come a long way over the last two years since the National Pollinator Strategy was first launched. Rebuilding the strength of our pollinators is a subject close to my heart. Since my childhood just outside Falmouth, I have been fascinated by bees, butterflies, moths and insects and was training as a beekeeper until I was elected as your local MP. I used my position in Parliament to work with colleagues, Buglife and Friends of the Earth to campaign successfully for the National Pollinator Strategy. The strategy is all about partnership working. Much progress has been made in implementing the comprehensive strategy but more needs to be done.

Cornwall Council is a large land owner and has huge influence over our natural environment through its planning policies and stewardship of public amenities such as road sides. Government Departments, like the Ministry of Defence, have significant land holdings in Cornwall too. In addition to farmers, many local people are keen gardeners and local schools are doing excellent work from creating gardens to growing vegetables. Falmouth town and local parish councils are increasingly responsible for our local parks and gardens. Each public body, farmer or gardener has a role to play in growing year round flowering plants that create the food for our pollinators. I am delighted that Falmouth town council will be working with UrbanBuzz to enable more habitat creation for pollinators.

The UK continues to lead support for pollinators in the international arena, in particular, welcoming the recent UN led IPBES assessment on pollinators. At the 13th Conference of the Parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD CoP13) in Cancun, Mexico, December 2016, 13 countries signed a declaration indicating their willingness to take action nationally and internationally on pollinators. The signatories are Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Peru, Slovenia, Spain, the Netherlands, United Kingdom and Uruguay. Of these, only the UK and France already have National Pollinator Strategies but 11 countries are interested or actively developing national pollinator strategies. It’s essential that we work together and learn from each other, thinking globally and acting locally.

First published in the Falmouth Wave on 30/06/18.

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Securing investment in Cornwall’s transport infrastructure

The past week has very much had a transport theme. Given our geography, we are probably more aware than most of distances and time travelled in connecting us to each other in Cornwall, the rest of the U.K. and the wider world. With the many wonderful local sailing events taking place, including the recent Falmouth Classics, we are constantly reminded of our maritime heritage and the importance of ships, ferries and barges in transporting people and goods around our coasts and beyond.

Making it easier to get around Cornwall and improving transport infrastructure more broadly has been and remains an important part of my work for you as your local MP. Last week, I was pleased to welcome the Secretary of State for Transport back to Cornwall, to meet with our local bus and train operators and the head of Transport for Cornwall Council. We are benefitting from effective partnership working between these organisations and our Local Enterprise Partnership and the Department for Transport, with major investment in improving our local bus and train services, introducing more Park and Ride facilities in Truro as well as road improvements and new cycle paths.

The recent introduction of contactless payment on our buses has been warmly welcomed by passengers and will be rolled out to our local train services. We are working hard to integrate the bus services with increased frequency local rail services.

As regular readers will know I have been campaigning for some time for improvements at Truro Station. The new roof looks good and the new carpark surface and lighting even better. The new Sleeper Service customer hub will be open at the end of July. This will enable Sleeper Service customers to rest and refresh in a beautiful new space on the platform before and after their journey. I was delighted to have helped secure the Sleeper Service and this new investment in upgrading not only the carriages but the new hubs at Truro, Penzance and Paddington.

I believe that it is vitally important that Cornwall has regular scheduled flights to London, especially for our local businesses. I was pleased to have helped secure the government subsidy for the flight. We are currently in the process on securing that ongoing subsidy and am confident that we will get it. Last week I voted for a new runway at Heathrow. While I understand the objections to it, on balance I feel it is the right thing to do. Compared to the alternative at Gatwick, there is much better rail connectivity to Heathrow for Cornwall. During his recent visit to Cornwall I pressed the Secretary of State for Transport for a Newquay to Heathrow link.

I was delighted to meet in Parliament our magnificent air ambulance staff. Since being elected I have been pleased to have helped secure some of the funding for this invaluable service. I support the effort to buy a new helicopter that will have longer flying time and increased capacity for carrying life saving equipment.

First published in the West Briton 28/06/18

Backing Falmouth High Street

The Great British High Street Awards are back for 2018.

In 2016 Falmouth was shortlisted in the third annual Great British High Street Awards and was up against Seaview Street in Cleethorpes, and Prestatyn in Wales, which came in second and third place respectively in the Coastal Community category.

Winning this competition was superb national recognition for Falmouth. The national media coverage promoting Falmouth was a boost to the local economy. The judges remarked on how well Falmouth works together, how it manages share resources effectively to make things happen, how involved the community are in Town Team activity, how diverse our business sector is and how innovative partnerships are supporting businesses and residents.

The Great British High Street competition is a Government-led scheme, started in 2014 and designed to celebrate the great work that is being done to revive, adapt and diversify the nation’s high streets, focusing on innovative marketing, festivals, evidence of proactive Town Teams and BIDs, volunteer community groups, regeneration and more.

These awards are a chance for us to celebrate and showcase dedicated individuals, community groups and business leaders.

Entrants to the Awards are in with a chance to win up to £10,000 to spend on our community, plus on-the-ground support and events from the campaign street teams.

There is also the opportunity for their retailers, small businesses and the public to participate in a spend and win competition supported by Visa.

Winners will be named in each of the four UK nations – England, Scotland, Wales and, for the first time, Northern Ireland. There are two categories: Champion High Street, which will recognise the nation’s best high streets, and the Rising Star category which will recognise the nation’s most ambitious high streets, places which are taking the lead and working together to regenerate, adapt and diversify. An overall High Street of the Year in Great Britain and Northern Ireland will also be named.

Every day we read about the challenges facing our high street retailers. Over the winter Falmouth retailers faced a particularly challenging environment with the road closures resulting from the upgrading of our mains electricity supply.

I have been working with the Town Team and Western Power to ensure this vitally important investment in our infrastructure is undertaken with as little disruption as possible. The Town Team have done an excellent job and from what people have told me the closure went as well as it could. Lessons of course have been learned for next year.

I very much hope that as many people as possible will get behind this year’s High Street of the Year Award. I am delighted that the judging criteria have been revised to include accessibility for disabled people and people with health conditions. It’s essential that we develop an all inclusive society. Not only is it the right thing to do but it makes good business sense too. Disabled people represent a massive untapped market for business with a collective spending power estimated at £249 billion.

First published in the Falmouth Packet 27/06/18

Fighting for Fair Pay

For the first time ever firms will have to justify their chief executives’ salaries and reveal the gap between their earnings and those of the average UK worker under new laws laid in Parliament last week.

UK listed companies with more than 250 UK employees will have to disclose and explain this difference – known as ‘pay ratios’ – every year. As regular readers will know, I have been campaigning for this for several years.  I am concerned that some chief executives have been receiving salaries that are out-of-step with company performance. These new regulations are part of a package of reforms which will hold big businesses to account for the salaries they pay, while giving employees a greater voice in the boardroom.

As the Business Secretary Greg Clark rightly said:

“One of Britain’s biggest assets in competing in the global economy is our deserved reputation for being a dependable and confident place to do business. Most of the UK’s largest companies get their business practices right but we understand the anger of workers and shareholders when bosses’ pay is out of step with company performance. Requiring large companies to publish their pay gaps will build on that reputation by improving transparency and boosting accountability at the highest levels, while helping build a fairer economy that works for everyone.”

The new regulations form a core part of the government’s modern Industrial Strategy which aims to build on the UK’s strong reputation and make sure our largest companies are more transparent and accountable to their employees and shareholders. In addition to the reporting of pay ratios, the news laws will also require all large companies to report on how their directors take employee and other stakeholder interests into account, require large private companies to report on their responsible business arrangements, and require listed companies to show what effect an increase in share prices will have on executive pay to inform shareholders when voting on long-term incentive plans.

This new package of reforms focuses on the long-term interest of all company stakeholders, including shareholders, employees and pensioners.  As most local people have pensions that invest in our large British companies, these reforms matter to a great many local people.

This is a welcome move that will greatly improve public understanding of the pay gap between those at the top and low and middle-income earners. It will initiate a more informed debate about what represents fair, proportionate pay for workers at all levels. It only takes poor behaviour from a small number of companies to damage people’s trust in big business.

Improving transparency and accountability in this way, plus other initiatives such as giving employees a voice in the boardroom, will help create a more equal and fair society while ensuring that the UK remains a world-leading place to invest and do business.

Subject to Parliamentary approval, the regulations will come into effect from 1 January 2019 meaning that companies will start reporting their pay ratios in 2020.

First published in the West Briton 21/06/18

Securing funding for Cornwall’s schools

Last week I welcomed two government announcements confirming funding to create extra school places in Cornwall.

Firstly, councils will receive an extra £50million to create around 740 additional school places and state-of-the-art facilities for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), giving families more choice and helping to meet increasing demand.  Cornwall will be given more than £2.3million in the three years from 2018 to 2021, after an uplift of £444,957 to its initial allocation of just over £1.9million.

Secondly, councils will receive £680million in basic need funding to create 40,000 more good school places in primary and secondary schools by September 2021.  Cornwall will be given more than £27million in the three years from 2018 to 2021, at an average of over £9million a year. That compares with an average of just over £5.5million a year in the seven years from 2011 to 2018.

This funding will have a positive impact so that every child in Cornwall – regardless of their needs, background or circumstances – has access to a good school place to help them get the best possible start in life and achieve their full potential, whatever challenges they may face.

The funding boost comes as new analysis shows 91% of school places created in 2016/17 were in schools rated as good or outstanding by Ofsted. Improving education attainment has contributed to the fact that youth unemployment has fallen, on average, by over 140 young people every day since 2010.

I am working hard in Parliament making the case for more investment into the schools and post 16 education budgets because I appreciate that the budgets for our local schools are not growing at the same pace as the increased costs in delivering the high quality education our local young people experience.  Thanks to the hard work of our school leaders and teachers more children and young people are receiving a good or outstanding education compared to 2010.

Cornwall Council has developed a Local Plan that is about building more homes and flats to buy and rent that local people can genuinely afford and developing essential local infrastructure too. This new extra funding will ensure that there are more good school places for our growing community.

For some time I have been encouraging Cornwall Council to work with local people to shape and build local sustainable communities.

I am pleased that Cornwall Council, Truro City Council, Truro Chamber of Commerce, Truro BID and Kenwyn Parish Council are working together and have appointed Lavigne Lonsdale and PBWC to help generate ideas to support “a thriving Truro” both now and in the longer term. This work builds on the success of the Truro & Kenwyn Neighbourhood Plan and considers all aspects of life in and around Truro from our natural environment to education, health and wellbeing, employment, food and energy, homes and enterprise. Do have your say on the future of this great place and visit: https://lovetruro.net before the consultation closes at the end of June.

First published in the West Briton 14/06/18