Campaigning Until the End

The poster promoting this year’s Parliament Week says “It all begins with you”. Our democracy does begin and indeed depends on engaged and well-informed citizens. To help citizens make informed choices, easy access to accurate and impartial information about the work of their elected representatives in Parliament, including their voting record is needed.

Arguably we live in an age when it is easier to access information than ever before. But the owners or editors of social media platforms from which many people gather information and shape their opinions don’t have any responsibility or incentive to provide accurate and impartial information about MPs work and voting records. There are no real deterrents to misrepresentation. Citizens often base their opinions about MPs on how they vote on particular issues. Not all votes are equal and some of our most important decisions are taken without a division. But most people don’t know this. I have received many communications from constituents, misrepresenting the facts, derived from the far from perfect reporting of MPs voting records on websites such as They Work For You.

This I believe is contributing to the poisoning our politics, corroding people’s trust in MPs and threatening the very foundations of our Parliamentary democracy.

Right now there is no trusted source of impartial, accurate information about MPs voting records and actions in Parliament to help you make informed choices. I am delighted that both the Leader and Shadow Leader of the House, accepted my challenge and agreed to work with Hansard to develop a new service, in addition to their excellent verbatim reporting of Parliamentary proceedings, to provide impartial, contextualised information on MPs voting records.

In the next Parliament this will need careful consideration and cross-party support and will do a great deal to shore up the foundations of our Parliamentary democracy and overtime restore trust in our politics.

This was my last week in Parliament and it was difficult to leave. While it has been a challenging time, being the local MP for my hometown was a job I loved and was the greatest privilege.

Thank you to both those people who sent me to Westminster to be your representative and those that didn’t but did work constructively with me here. Together over the last nine years or so we have made a positive difference. Here are just a few of our achievements: modernising the Coastguard Service, with Falmouth open 24/7; more naval vessels in Falmouth for years to come; the creation of Falmouth University and the development of Exeter; more funding for our NHS; more young people receiving a better education and apprenticeship opportunities; more people employed, keeping more of the money they have earned; new buses and trains with more frequent services; new cycle routes; inspiring new businesses and investment into Cornwall’s clean growth economic strategy.

Most importantly, new legislation, including on plastic reduction and a new net zero carbon target, will enable us to leave the environment in better condition for the next generation.

First published in the West Briton 06/11/19

Welcoming new investment into Cornwall

Our local NHS has been allocated up to £450 million to build a new hospital or to upgrade existing hospitals, or a combination of both. This money is in addition to the £135 million committed to upgrading some wards at Treliske and building a new women’s and children’s hospital there too. 

It is for our local NHS Health and Care service leaders, working together, to decide how best to use this funding and to develop plans to deliver safe and excellent services for local people. Funding is available to them right now to undertake this work. I am asking them to consider carefully how we can use some of this funding to upgrade Falmouth hospital. I think it is vitally important that frail elderly people or those with chronic health conditions that need regular treatment, receive care as close to their home, family and friends as possible. 

I am delighted that the Government has decided that this capital investment will be publicly funded and not through Private Finance Initiatives. The last Labour Government saddled so many public services, including local schools, with years and years of debt and ongoing charges that they have little control over.  

While buildings are important, ensuring that we have well trained and well-paid staff is just as important, so I am pleased that the day to day funding that our local NHS receives is growing each year.  Back in 2010 we did not receive our fair share of funding but now our local NHS receives just over the England average per person funding. 

This week the PM has also confirmed that, after we leave the EU, the funding that Cornwall currently receives via a number of EU funding streams will be replaced ‘like for like’ with the Shared Prosperity Fund.  Following the result of the EU Referendum I was determined to ensure that Cornwall would continue to receive the same level of funding as if we had stayed. This designated funding for Cornwall will be £400 to £600 million over seven to ten years. Cornwall will also be able to access all the other public funding steams. 

Decisions about how it will be spent will be made in the Duchy. I am determined that there is much less bureaucratic process, with more transparency and accountability in the design and implementation of the Shared Prosperity Fund than the legacy funding. 

This is exactly what I have been pressing the government for. All Cornwall’s MPs, along with our Local Enterprise Partnership leaders, will be meeting with the Treasury Minister to work through next steps. 

There has been good progress made in developing our local economy with more high-quality education opportunities and better paid fulltime jobs in sustainable businesses. We need to keep up the momentum that has been created and continue with investment into our infrastructure so that the talents and ambitions of people in Cornwall are unleashed and so that we can become one of the most prosperous regions, not the least, by growing our economy sustainably and inclusively. 

First published in the West Briton 02/10/19

Welcoming another £450 million of investment into the local NHS

There is much good news to share this week. Our local NHS has been allocated up to £450 million to build a new hospital or to upgrade existing hospitals, or a combination of both. This money is in addition to the £135 million committed to upgrading some wards at Treliske and building a new women’s and children’s hospital there too.

It is for our local NHS Health and Care service leaders, working with the local community, to work together and decide how best to use this funding, to deliver safe and excellent services for local people. I will be asking them to carefully consider how we can use some of this funding to upgrade Falmouth hospital. I think it is vitally important that frail elderly people or those with chronic health conditions that need regularly treatment, receive care as close to their home and family and friends as possible.

The PM has also confirmed that after we leave the EU, the funding that Cornwall currently receives via a number of EU funding streams will be replaced ‘like for like’ with the Shared Prosperity Fund. Following the result of the EU Referendum I was determined to ensure that Cornwall would continue to receive the same level of funding as if we had stayed. This designated funding for Cornwall will be £400 to £600 million over seven to ten years. Decisions about how it will be spent will be made in the Duchy. Cornwall will also be able to access all the other public funding steams. This is exactly what I have pressing the government for.

There has been good progress made in developing our local economy with more high-quality education opportunities, better paid full time jobs in sustainable businesses. We need to keep up the momentum that has been created and continue with investment into our infrastructure so that the talents and ambitions of people in Cornwall are unleashed. So we can become one of the most prosperous regions not the least, growing our economy sustainably and inclusively.

While we can all point to local infrastructure such as the Eastern Breakwater in the harbour or to the local railway between Falmouth Docks and Truro, some of the EU investment is not so well known. I am determined that there is much more transparency and accountability in the design and implementation of the Shared Prosperity Fund than the legacy funding.

While Falmouth University has benefitted significantly from EU funding, I would like to see a partnership with Exeter Medical School that enables more medical research to happen here. This will benefit local people and make it easier to attract and retain doctors and other health related professionals in the Duchy. With new NHS funding for hospital facilities and the Shared Prosperity Fund confirmed, investment is available to enable this to happen.

While buildings are important, ensuring we have well trained and well-paid staff is just as vital, so I am pleased that the day to day funding our local NHS receives is growing each year. Back in 2010 we did not receive our fair share but now our local NHS receives just over the England average per person funding.

I have always believed that prevention is better than the cure, so I am delighted with the recent announcements setting out significant ambition and investment to protect and enhance our precious natural environment, leaving it in better condition for the next generation. What’s good for the environment is good for our health and wellbeing. While I very much support Cornwall Council’s Forest for Cornwall, it’s not enough. I don’t want you to have to get into a car to experience woodland. I am pleased that the Government has announced the extension of pocket parks funding. Existing parks that need new play equipment and landscaping such as the Beacon could benefit. Other small pockets of land that could be turned onto a natural space can too. I have written to our local town and parish councils to apply for this funding. Please let me know if I can help you and your community turn a scrap of neglected land into a natural oasis.

First published in the Falmouth Packet 02/10/19

Campaigning for affordable local housing

While Parliament is prorogued my work continues.  I have had meetings with a number of ministers on important matters.

It is essential that we redevelop existing buildings into high quality and genuinely affordable homes for local people, as well as building new homes for them. I very much support the reuse of land already developed rather than farmland.

We should have a range of housing choices to meet local peoples’ needs, from social homes to rent, to opportunities for local people to build their own homes as well as homes with support for people with long term health conditions and disabilities.

As regular readers will recall, I was instrumental in securing the £300m Community Housing Fund (CHF) that was announced in the 2016 Spring Budget to transform the community led housing sector and lead to the delivery of nearly 10,000 additional homes across the country by 2021. Money was allocated to 148 local authorities, roughly in proportion to the number of second homes and affordability issues.

Cornwall is a pioneering area for community led housing and it is a broad movement of Community Land Trusts (CLTs), Co-ops, co-housing communities and community anchors. Unlike traditional housebuilding approaches, they offer more than just resident involvement. They give local people the tools to build and renovate, manage and control the homes their community needs.

The Community Housing Fund is due to close in March 2020.  Likewise, bidding for the Homes England Fund will close in December 2019, just 18 months after it opened. Whilst interest is high and more than 16,600 homes are in the pipeline, very few groups have been able to submit capital bids in that short period and the pending deadline is deterring interest. It is essential that the Fund is extended so that those homes can be delivered.

I met the Housing Minister to make the case for her to use the budget increase delivered to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government in the recent Spending Round to extend the CHF.

For homes to be genuinely affordable they need to be affordable to heat as well as to buy or rent. I pressed the Minister to review building regulations to ensure all new homes are net zero carbon. Cornwall Council could make this a planning condition now but, as they are not doing so, changing regulations would ensure that this happens. Enabling people to live in well insulated, energy efficient homes is not only essential for good health and wellbeing but it makes a significant contribution to tackling climate change too.

In Truro, for many years now, I have asked Cornwall Council to enable ‘key worker’ housing for nurses, care assistants and other vitally important staff at Treliske who have modest wages and can’t afford Truro prices. This would help to attract and retain the staff that we need to deliver the health and care services that we all depend upon. I am pleased to report that this idea is now being pursued by Cornwall Council and already has the support of Truro and Kenwyn Neighbourhood Plan team.

First published in the West Briton 18/09/19

Welcoming investment in Cornwall’s voluntary services

This week some of Cornwall’s voluntary sector organisations, including Job Centre Plus, have been given a cash boost to roll out more of their innovative work. 

More young people across Cornwall will benefit from new mental health support including counselling, mentoring and arts programmes in their communities. This will be backed by a multi-million pound government investment this year. 

As part of the government’s commitment to transforming mental health care – backed by an extra £2.3 billion a year through the NHS Long Term Plan – £3.3 million was announced for 23 local community projects across England, with Young People Cornwall receiving £65,243. 

Young People Cornwall will expand their ‘Hear Our Voice’ project, set up in 1997, which provides children and young people (CYP) aged 11-25 experiencing difficulties with their mental health and wellbeing with access to support through a range of interventions in non-clinical, school & community settings. Their expansion will employ two additional Well-being Practitioners (WP) who will be able to work with children and young people aged 8-10 years, supporting them at an earlier stage, before emerging mental health issues escalate or reach a point where statutory services must intervene. 

Earlier this year the government pledged to overhaul society’s approach to mental illness through better access to education, training and support. This included a commitment to train all teachers to spot the signs of mental illness in children. 

The funding will come from the Health and Wellbeing Fund, part of a programme of government investment in the voluntary sector. 

Mental health services are being transformed through the NHS Long Term Plan so that 345,000 more children and young people have access to mental health support by 2024, including via mental health support teams in and around schools. This will significantly improve early intervention and prevention. 

We know children and young people face many pressures at home and in their social and academic lives. Giving them easily accessible mental health support, providing them with the tools to manage their own mental health at an early age can help them thrive later in life. 

It’s only right that children and young people are able to access mental health support, not only through the NHS, but in the heart of their communities, schools and homes where they spend the majority of their time. 

A project pioneered by work coaches in Job Centres across Cornwall will have access to £100,000 more funding to continue referring people with mental health conditions to specialist one to one support, without the need for a GP or clinical assessment. Some people – for whatever reason – don’t want to be assessed in a clinical setting. 

The results of the pilot so far prove without a doubt that this approach works, with people supported by their work coaches and specialist support before their mental health spirals downwards. 

It’s good to see more local people receiving support to enable them to manage their mental health and get their lives back on track. 

First published in the West Briton 22/08/19

Welcoming New Breast Cancer Clinic at the Mermaid Centre

From Monday, GPs will be able to refer patients to a new breast cancer clinic at the Mermaid Centre at Treliske Hospital. 

Clinicians at Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust (RCHT) and NHS Kernow Clinical Commissioning Group (KCCG) worked together to launch the new clinic for anyone with a suspected cancer who needs to be seen and assessed. 

This latest modernisation initiative illustrates the continued aim for maintaining excellence through innovation, collaboration and adaptation to the changing needs of the community. 

The Mermaid Centre, which is recognised as a gold standard service, has been based at the Truro hospital for more than 20 years, and approximately 17,000 men and women are seen every year. Largely as a result of effective public health campaigns the numbers of people referred to the service are growing each month. 

Clinical leaders at Treliske say that these small changes have been designed to meet the recommended and safe best practice nationally and that they are vital for ensuring people receive the service they expect and need from the breast cancer service. 

I am sure that all readers of this column will have a friend or family member affected by breast cancer. My mother sadly died of breast cancer in her early fifties at a time when there were virtually no breast cancer services in Cornwall and patients had to travel to Plymouth. Since then survival rates have steadily and significantly improved. The services now provided are amongst the best in the country and I am pleased that clinicians say that more patients will be seen more quickly. Anyone who is diagnosed with breast cancer will begin treatment within 31 days of their diagnosis, and within 62 days of their original referral to the service. 

Ensuring that our NHS has the resources needed to provide excellent and safe care to local people remains my top priority and I am pleased that funding continues to rise each year. 

Mental health is just as important as physical health and is often interrelated so I am pleased that our local commissioners of services, the KCCG are spending more of the increasing money they are given on improving access to local services, more than the national average. 

We know that at the moment demand for some services outstrips supply. I understand that training new staff takes time and I am pleased that later this month a Mental Health Strategy for Cornwall will be launched. Healthwatch Cornwall is the independent and publicly funded body that is the voice of the patient and will be promoting public involvement with the strategy, so do look out for ways in which you can be involved.  

I have met with the KCCG and asked them to take a life course approach to promoting good mental health. From the birth of a child, through the stages of education into the workplace and towards the end of life. Partnership working will be key to improving wellbeing and health outcomes. 

First published in the West Briton 09/05/19

Supporting local public services

Happy Easter!

You would be forgiven for thinking that MPs are exclusively, focussed on Brexit. Important though that is, so are all the other priorities of my constituents. Supporting our vital public services is a top priority for many local people.

Thanks to significant investment and the dedicated work of our NHS leaders and professionals, local health services are improving. I was instrumental in making the case for changes in the formula used by NHS England to allocate funding for our local services. Past and recent changes better reflect the needs of our community and the costs of delivery. Every year our NHS funding has increased and will do for the next four years. There is more to do but it is good to see improvements for patients noted by the regulator and the hospital inspectors of the Care Quality Commission.

I work closely with our local NHS leaders, securing Cornwall’s fair share of funding and supporting their development of new services. This year we will see the publication and public consultation of the Mental Health Strategy for Cornwall. Along with a significant increase in mental health services for people of all ages. The increased use of social prescribing by more Cornish MPs is making a really positive difference too.

I believe that the interventions of NHS England is helping Treliske turn a corner and significantly improve patient safety and timelines in accessing services is. Treliske has always been highly rated for the quality of care provided by staff to patients.

I have been working with our Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC), Ms Alison Hernandez, to raise concerns regarding community policing. I am concerned that we simply don’t have enough visible policing in our community. So I am pleased that my concerns were listened to and our Police will receive more funding. The number of Police Officers will be increasing to 3,015 by 2019/20, an overall increase of 115. They will continue with our team of 200 existing PCSOs.

The focus of this investment to date includes a significant increase in the capacity on roads policing and road safety as well as an increase in the number of armed response officers across Devon and Cornwall.

Road safety is one of the major issues raised by the public across our communities, last year we saw over 800 people killed or seriously injured in road accidents across our two counties. Through the Police’s new road safety strategy they are increasing the number of officers focused on roads policing and road safety by 24. This includes an additional 15 police constables, a sergeant and an inspector in the specialist roads policing unit and a dedicated proactive enforcement and prevention team ‘No Excuse’ targeting driver behaviour and the Fatal 5 causes of accidents – speed, fatigue, drink/drug driving, not wearing seatbelts and distractions like using mobile phones while driving. Many of these officers are already in place – the new No Excuse Team launched earlier this year.

In addition to more officers, there has been investment in the roll out of Body Worn Video (BWV) across all of our police officers in order to better protect officers and victims, catch criminals and provide transparency to the public.

While I believe it is essential to have visible community policing, especially for crime prevention, I understand that crime has changed and now most crime is invisible, perpetrated at home and often online. Fraud and crimes involving sexual harm, violence and abuse occur more than the ‘traditional’ crimes of theft.

As crime changes so does the police response and in addition to funding local policing there continues to be increased investment into our regional and national crime specialist agencies, protecting people from the serious and organised criminals who trade in so much human suffering from scams, drug dealing and child sexual exploitation to human trafficking and modern slavery.

I am proud of the new crimes that this government have created, along with stiff sentences and support for victims. Keeping people safe is the first responsibility of any government and I will continue to do all I can ensure that the Police have the resources and powers they need to prevent crime and keep us safe.

A key theme of my work since 2010, has been enabling our much valued public services to work more effectively together and with other organisations in our community. This is particularly important when supporting the most vulnerable people in our communities.

A good example, is this work that our local Police are doing in Falmouth with St Petrocs, Addaction, the NHS, our local councils, businesses, church and voluntary groups to support people who are misusing substances, with mental health problems who are spending much of their time in the town centre and sometimes sleeping rough.

The government has given considerable extra money to Cornwall Council to eradicate rough sleeping. There has been significant progress here in helping individuals to get back on their feet and on with their lives. Much more needs to be done and close partnership is the key to success.

Just like you, I don’t want to see people sleeping rough and living without hope. I will continue to do everything I can to support all those people who are working so tirelessly to improve people’s lives here.

First published in the Falmouth Wave May edition