Drugs Strategy

Drugs destroy countless lives. They lead to crime, violence and disorder on our streets. They are one of the creeping and corrosive threats to our society that we must do more to tackle. But I am also determined to do all I can to protect the most vulnerable, who too often become the victims. I am proud to have played my part in the development of the Government’s new drug strategy which sets out how we will tackle the deadly impact of drugs, including substances like spice or fentanyl.

Drugs are illegal because they devastate lives. They are illegal because traffickers target vulnerable people all over the world and exploit their misery. They are illegal because of the agony caused by those solely focused on their next fix.

Last year, the Psychoactive Substances Act introduced a blanket ban on so-called ‘legal highs’, meaning back-yard chemists can no longer dodge the law by making small changes to the make up of dangerous drugs.

Being tough on drugs is vital, but it cannot be all we do.

It is vital we protect the vulnerable – to prevent them falling into the cycle of drug abuse and to help them turn their lives around. Doing so will spare countless families the agony of seeing a loved one’s life destroyed. It could save lives. And it will reduce the burden placed on our public services, in particular the police and the NHS.

While drug use is falling we are not complacent and are redoubling our efforts to prevent children taking drugs.

The new post of Recovery Champion will travel up and down the country, meeting NHS staff, police officers, teachers, community groups and local authorities, who all have a vital role to play in enabling people to live their lives free of drugs.

First Published in the West Briton 18/07/17

Special Educational Needs and Disabilities

Last week Cornwall welcomed inspectors from Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission who jointly carried out an inspection of our local area. Under the Children and Families Act 2014, the government placed new duties on our local health, social and education services that provide for children and young people with special educational needs and/or disabilities.

The inspection will evaluate how effectively the local area identifies the needs of children and young people who have special educational needs and/or disabilities, and meets the needs of these children and young people so that their chances of participating fully in society improve.

Improving the lives of the most vulnerable people in our community is I believe amongst the most important roles of Cornwall Council. Our public services working effectively in partnership with local businesses and charities as well as families and carers is essential for improving lives. This is especially true when public finances are tight as we all want to see public funds spent on improving the opportunities for children and young people with special education needs and/or disabilities.

Central government has its role to play too and I am pleased that an ambitious project which will help support vulnerable children and families in Cornwall has been awarded almost £2m from the Government’s Children’s Social Care Innovation Programme.

The project, developed by Cornwall Council in partnership with health organisations, is one of 24 projects across the country to receive funding from the Department for Education’s £200m programme which has been set up to encourage local authority children’s services to innovate their practice and the way they deliver services.

This new and additional funding will help transform the way education, health and social care services work together to better meet the needs of children, young people and their families.

First published in the West Briton 12/07/17

Health Services in Cornwall

Last week I returned to my weekly routine of spending Monday to Thursday in Westminster and Friday, Saturday and Sunday working for my constituents in Cornwall. I met with constituents to discuss support for local small businesses with the Federation Small Business and Cornwall Council transport to go through plans for our new train services and road improvements, including the A30. I enjoyed meeting voluntary community groups at the Perranporth Memorial Hall.

I also met with the Chief Executive of the RCHT to discuss the recent CQC report of an unannounced inspection of Treliske in January. One of my top priorities remains supporting our local NHS and care services. The Chief Executive told me that the full CQC inspection in July is an opportunity to demonstrate the action taken to improve and to provide the evidence that the trust’s care is safe and effective.

It’s important to note that urgent and emergency care services have improved their CQC ratings and shown their professionalism under pressure. Other parts of the report are very disappointing reading but the Chief Executive assured me that since the January CQC inspection, measurable improvement in areas such as emergency care, sepsis, mortality and stroke have been made.

The trust have just received the latest inpatient survey published by the CQC and seen good scores in important areas including, confidence in doctors and nurses, feeling safe and well looked after and treated with respect and dignity.

The very significant issue of delayed discharges remain and I have written to Cornwall Council to seek assurances that the considerable additional funding that they have been given for adult social care, £12 million alone this year, will be spent to tackle this issue. The delayed discharge of patients is not good for patients and leads to delays in planned surgery.

First published in the West Briton 19/06/17

General Election

It’s good to see that more people participated in last week’s General Election than in the recent past. More people registered to vote and the turnout for the General Election here is growing from 69.1% in 2010 to 70% in 2015 and 75.8% last week.

I am pleased that many more people are getting actively involved in our precious democracy too and am grateful to the enthusiastic team of local Conservative campaign volunteers. Despite the tactics deployed against me by an aggressive minority of keyboard bullies and poster defacers, whose intimidation seeks to undermine our democratic process, I am pleased that more people voted for me last week than the previous two General Elections. I am looking forward to continuing my work for all my constituents, irrespective of who they voted for. It is a great honour to be the local MP for this great constituency.

The General Election campaign, like the Referendum campaign, highlighted divisions across the UK. Gaps that need to be closed. From the many conversations or email exchanges I have had with local people, listening to their concerns, I know that there is more that unites us than divides us. I am confident that this community shares my passion and determination to face up to the challenges and opportunities we all face and build a stronger, fairer society that works for everyone.

While the Government does not have the majority it hoped for, it does have the ability and resolve to lead our nation through the Brexit negotiations that begin in a few days time. As I said on election night, I will be working hard to build bridges across the political divide, to find the common ground for the best Brexit and bring the country together with a shared vision of a united Britain.

First published in the West Briton 14/06/17

Upcoming Elections

I campaigned to remain part of the European Union but I completely respect the decision to leave. The time has now come to make Brexit a success. So, I welcome the Prime Minister’s decision to seek a personal mandate in a General Election to help her negotiate the best possible result for our Duchy and country.

We also have local elections on 4th May and it is important to elect a council that will work with the government to secure our economic future and our vital public services.  Cornwall Council, like the government, must spend public funds wisely.

I have always supported Cornwall’s culture, but the LibDem/Independent Cornwall Council is wrong to spend up to £536,000 over the next 2 years on a bid to be the European Union’s Capital of Culture in 2023.  It is a competition promoted by the European Commission as part of the process of ‘ever closer union’  in the EU. That is clearly not going to happen.

Last Friday, Cornwall Council’s Audit Committee were told that the legacy of over £300m of debt inherited from the LibDem led County Council (some of this debt will be around until 2069) means that the Council’s accounts are still under investigation by the National Audit Office. The auditors are seeking to establish if the debt was incurred so unreasonably as to be illegal.

With an increased borrowing requirement of £1 billion, the Council should not pretend that its debt is likely to go down over the next few years.  Nor should it think that spending £200,000 a year extra on PR experts will alter the facts.

It has been the greatest honour and privilege to serve as your MP for the last seven years. I hope with your support on 8th June to continue to do so.

First published in the West Briton 26/04/17.

Cornwall Councillor, Parish and Town Council Elections 4th May 2017

May has always been a special month for me, as towards the end of the month, I celebrate the anniversary of my marriage at St Budock Church. While its almost impossible to say when Cornwall looks at its best, weather depending, I think May might just achieve that accolade. Thanks to the great efforts of hundreds of local people both Falmouth and Penryn are looking good after the various ‘Spring Clean’ activities. I believe anyone living here is more aware than most of the natural environment, as a source of inspiration, wellbeing and employment.

Elections play a big part in my life and this May, like most years, brings elections. I am proud of one of our most important manifesto commitments: to work hard to ensure that we leave our natural environment in better shape than when we took office in 2010. Being custodians of the environment for our children and generations to come involves making difficult choices.

While each of us has a responsibility to think about the choices we make and their impact on our environment, elected representatives have particular responsibilities. So one of our important choices is deciding who to vote for in elections.

Balancing the need to grow more of our own food, generate more of our own energy and build more homes and work spaces for a growing local population while protecting our environment is challenging. Ensuring the necessary infrastructure investment is secured is essential too.

The planning system has been reformed by the Government to enable smarter and more local decisions to made about how we use our land and work with our natural environment. Through the Local Plan, people have been enabled to have more control over shaping communities. The LibDems lead Cornwall Council with ‘Independents’ and they have developed a Local Plan that is currently operating.

The next Council, that will be elected this month, will have the vitally important job of evaluating the Local Plan and updating it. Making sure it is delivering for local communities, particularly genuinely affordable homes for local people. The evolution of the Local Plan should take account of the aspirations of the local community as reflected in the Neighbourhood Plans being developed in both Falmouth and Penryn.

With such important opportunities to shape our communities, protect and enhance our precious natural environment and also support the local economy, we need to elect councillors who have the motivation, skills and ability to make the best decisions for Falmouth and Penryn.

Cornwall faces many challenges and significant opportunities. We will soon be marking the anniversary of the date the majority of people in our country decided our future lay outside the European Union. Whatever our feelings about that milestone in our history, I am confident that we can make a success of what lies ahead. We are a strong country with great values including, freedom, tolerance, compassion, respect for the rule of law and characteristics such as creativity and enterprise; all have served us well and I believe will for centuries to come.

We are leaving the EU not Europe and I am determined to ensure we remain an outward facing global nation with excellent relationships with our neighbours and allies across Europe.

Right now, I believe Cornwall needs all its elected representatives looking confidently to the future, not lamenting the decision to leave the EU. People with a positive attitude to work constructively with the Government, united in a shared ambition to get the best possible outcome for our Duchy and our country. It’s really important that you vote not only for the person that you think will be a strong local champion for the immediate area where you live but also someone who is part of a team of people from across Cornwall who have a positive, shared vision for the common good. People who are able to deliver the changes we need to see in Cornwall, particularly working more effectively in partnership to tackle the challenges facing our local NHS.

As a result of devolution of power from Westminster to Cornwall Council, these local elections really matter to you so please do vote. I want to see a double devolution of power from Cornwall Councillors to local councillors so please make sure you vote in both elections. The next few years will shape the destiny of our Duchy and country for years to come, your vote really does count and will make a real difference.

Government’s Commitment to Honouring Cornwall’s Funding

I thoroughly enjoyed a spectacular Easter Sunday with my family. Cooking delicious locally produced food was a welcome break from a very busy week meeting lots of local people and local businesses, urging them to make use of the significant levels of EU support for growth.

The Government is honouring its commitments and delivering the EU funding that Cornwall would have received if the country had voted to remain.

Local businesses can access this funding and other sources of support to help them flourish, grow jobs and boost the Cornish economy.

EU funding programmes are open for applications and tens of millions of pounds has already been allocated.

The Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Growth Programme is the European economic regeneration programme for the region.

Running until 2020, it is helping to deliver smart, sustainable and inclusive growth.

So far it has committed £170million European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) funding, with £103million unallocated and available.

Further funding will be made available to support businesses later this year, as well as funding for community-led local development programmes using European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD).

New figures show that more than 20,000 people in Cornwall are in work since 2010. This is good news for them and the Cornish economy but more needs to be done to improve access to skills training and increase wages.

There is a significant skills gap in the workforce in Cornwall and the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Growth Hub is the one stop location for all advice and information for businesses in Cornwall, including information on access to skills training.

There is great employment support for people with a wide range of abilities and ages. Don’t forget that there is no upper age limit on apprenticeships. Please contact me for information about employment support opportunities.