Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Small businesses are the backbone of our local economy

Small businesses are the backbone of our local economy. I grew up in a small family business in my constituency and understand the ups and downs of such enterprises. Last week I joined a debate in Parliament about the importance of self-employment to our national economy; the value of such businesses are estimated at many billions of pounds.

The debate was held not only to highlight the support for small businesses from this Government but to push Ministers to do more to exempt small businesses from regulation that has a disproportionate effect and cost on their business.

It has been estimated that if every small and medium sized business took on one more person this year all unemployed people would have the opportunity of a job.

I work closely with small businesses in my constituency and know that many would like to grow and take on new staff but think twice when they look at the red-tape and costs involved. Regulation emanating from the EU is often identified as a major problem. I have been pleased to hear David Cameron challenging the other member states of the EU to urgently reform regulation and push for exemptions for micro and small businesses.
There is one particular area of self-employment I was able to highlight during the debate, namely the growing opportunity for people to become call centre operators from home. 

People with disabilities and people with caring responsibilities often need to be home based, so this new model of delivering high quality customer service direct from people’s homes could be a flexible employment opportunity.

One company, Arise has around 1500 employees working across the UK, including in Cornwall, fielding customer service calls for a range of companies including Littlewoods. Arise are looking to recruit another 1500 new people this year in the UK alone.
This is encouraging, and represents the reversal of a trend of service jobs lost to overseas call centres. I have asked the government to follow the lead of Barack Obama who is creating the right tax regime so that customer service jobs can be repatriated to the UK.

As readers of these pages will know there is a raging debate about the harmful effects of drinking too much alcohol and what to do about it. Over the past few years I have listened to doctors, nurses, paramedics, police officers, pub and club owners, brewers, concerned young people and adults. Their experiences have convinced me that this is a vital issue that needs to be urgently addressed.

If in anyone is still in any doubt that that we don’t have a huge problem to tackle I suggest they go into the centre of Truro and Falmouth from 11pm until 3.30am and see for themselves. On Saturday night I joined the saints who are the Street Pastors, based in the Methodist Church on the Moor in Falmouth. They do an invaluable job of looking after intoxicated  people, and I am grateful for their insights and time spent with me.

Monday, 30 January 2012

Quilts needed for Olympic Games

The Quilts4London project plans to give each Olympic and Paralympic athlete a hand-made pennant to take home with them. The project has already received – or been promised - 11,000 pennants, but they need another 3,000 to meet the target of 14,700. 

I would encourage all interested parties to get involved in this great project and to get quilting, more information can be found through:

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Joining the congregation at Penpoll Chapel for its 150th Anniversary

I was delighted to join the service and lunch, featuring a magnificent cake, at Penpoll Chapel, celebrating 150 years of its history.  Huge amount of work went into compiling the presentations on the Chapel’s history and arranging the displays of such interesting church records and photographs.

Friday, 27 January 2012

New Initiative Launched for Cornish Pubs

I was pleased to hear about a new scheme to help rural Cornish pubs to branch out into new services that has launched last week.

Pub is The Hub launched its Local Community Services Champions initiative, showcasing advice, support and, if appropriate, funding for pub operators and owners who are considering a diversification scheme. Examples include providing post offices, shops, libraries, internet cafes, allotment schemes, school dinners, lunch clubs for the elderly, cash point machines, IT training and meeting rooms.

Pub is The Hub, a not-for-profit organisation founded in 2001 by HRH the Prince of Wales, encourages local authorities, communities, licensees, pub owners and breweries to work together to support, retain and locate services within rural pubs. Pub is The Hub assists with guidance on availability of project funding, and having a thorough understanding of the pub business, is able to advise on the best way to progress with each individual project.

The scheme in Cornwall is being backed by Cornwall Rural Community Council, Volunteer Cornwall, Age UK and the Big Lottery Fund, with help from St Austell Brewery. Other guests at the meeting represented DEFRA, Cornwall Community Foundation and the Department for Communities and Local Government.

Nigel Clark, who spoke for Age UK in Cornwall, explained that pubs can play a vital role for vulnerable people over 50 who can often become isolated in rural communities when their partner dies. Peter Jefferson, Chief Executive of Cornwall Rural Community Council presented a series of ‘quick win’ examples that pubs could employ to support their communities such as ‘lunch in a bag’ schemes for disabled or elderly residents and their carers, a prescriptions collection service, internet shopping point and providing a space for local suppliers of crafts to sell their wares. He said that his organisation would guide anyone interested through the maze of applications forms to complete for funding.

I believe that is great news for both our publicans, and the public that they service, and will allow our local pubs to strengthen their roles as hubs of the local community.

Anyone who would like to know more about in Cornwall can go to http://www.communitychampions.org.uk/ or telephone 01423 546165 for more information.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Supporting local businesses and jobs

Re-balancing our economy onto a more sustainable footing is a vitally important aim for the Coalition Government. This means encouraging and supporting more jobs in enterprises that produce food, energy and make products for ourselves as well as exporting to the parts of the world that have growing economies. As your MP my role is to help create the best possible environment for local businesses to grow – removing obstacles in their way.

For some time I have been working with colleagues in Parliament from across the peninsula on a bid for the SW to become the UK’s first Marine Energy Park. The UK is currently leading the world in developing energy form waves and tides and I want to make sure that the good ideas and viable prototypes designed and engineered in Cornwall are scaled up into commercially viable energy production. I am delighted with the support and investment that the Government announced last week. 

The port of Falmouth will be making a significant contribution to the development of marine energy – including the manufacture, installation and maintenance of off-shore wind turbines.

With a week firmly focussed on supporting local businesses and jobs, I joined debates on the reform of Business Rates and innovation in ways local authorities such as Cornwall Council could support local businesses. Since being elected I have worked with town centre managers and retailers to help the Government understand the impact of the current Business Rate regime on our town centres future prosperity. The reforms, should they become law this year, will enable more local decision-making and opportunities for Cornwall Council to support local businesses of all types.

On Friday I joined the debate and voted to support a private members bill that called upon the Government to do a thorough review of the benefits or otherwise of changing British Summer Time, so that we have lighter evenings throughout the year. I have been contacted by many constituents who want to see this change and some who don’t. Benefits include reduced road traffic accidents, a boost for tourism and people enjoying sports and outdoor pursuits. Despite the fact there was support from a wide range of organisations and professions, all political parties and from across the UK, the bill was talked out by a persistent group of ten MPs.

Road safety is another issue of considerable concern to constituents. 

Depending on the issue, I have taken up their concerns with Cornwall Council or Ministers. Concerns ranged from the need for more 20 mph speed limits in villages to worries about changes to the MOT regime and the desire to see bicycles and motor bikes into bus lanes going into Truro. I have also made representations to members of the Transport Select Committee and am pleased to report they are undertaking a comprehensive review into road safety.

Monday, 16 January 2012

All voices must be heard as Cornwall’s new planning strategy is decided

I had a great start to the first week of Parliament this year with a lovely dinner in the Truro Cathedral restaurant and a talk to the two Truro Rotary Clubs of Truro about as my role as an MP as well as answering  their questions. I always value the opportunity of meeting with groups of constituents and listening to them so please invite me to a group you are involved with.

Cornwall Council launched a consultation on ‘Planning Future Cornwall’ – planning the next twenty years of Cornwall (the core strategy). This is really important. The Government has recently given people and communities the power to develop their own neighbourhood plans. These plans need to work with the overall plan for Cornwall – the core strategy. This is not just another consultation where nothing happens at the end of it. Once Cornwall Council has decided on ‘Planning Future Cornwall’ that will be the plan for years to come.

It is vital that you have your say now, either by going to an event or by writing in. I met with the Leader of Cornwall Council last week and he assured me that my constituents would be listened to and that housing targets and development would not be forced upon communities. Too often in life it is he who shouts the loudest gets heard the longest – while Cornwall Council is responsible for planning decisions, I will do my best to ensure that all voices are listened to. This must be a genuine consultation and not just a tick box exercise.

This is Big Fuel Week – and for me the culmination of months of work with local organisations such as the CAB in Truro and Community Energy Plus as well as local poverty forums and housing associations to ensure that everyone has the information they need to save money on heating their homes, especially people on low incomes. Every winter millions of pounds put aside for people who need help go unspent and unclaimed and I am determined that this should change. Please get in touch if you would like a leaflet or visit my website for this free and straight forward information.

I was delighted that a bid led by Cornwall Council, was successful in winning £140,000 from the Government that will enable people who simply do not have enough money to both eat and heat their homes to have the help that they need this winter. I believe it is an exciting and innovative project that brings together the NHS, Public Health, Cornwall Council housing and social care teams with a range of highly effective local voluntary organisations to target people in need and make sure they receive the advise and help to stay warm and healthy this winter. For more information on what help is available and how to get it just call my office.

Finally on Sunday, before heading back to another week in Westminster, I very much enjoyed spending the morning with the congregation of the Baptist Church in Truro.

Monday, 9 January 2012

Pushing for enhanced health and social care support

The first week of the year was spent meeting constituents to listen to a wide-range of their concerns and ideas as well as answering questions and tackling individual problems.

On Tuesday I was delighted to meet with representatives of Cornwall Council, Age UK Cornwall, the Cornwall Volunteer Centre and a GP in Newquay to listen to an update on their progress of implementing ‘Changing Lives’ pilots. The aim of this valuable work is to improve the support that elderly people, their carers and family receive from Cornwall Council and the NHS, support that aims to enable them to lead healthy and fulfilled lives at home. The pilots will be based in GP surgeries and trained volunteers will work alongside NHS and care professionals to make sure the elderly people they are supporting are getting the information and support available to them.

Putting the patient and their carers at the heart of Cornwall’s NHS and Adult Social Services is the priority with the aim of preventing  people, as they get older, from unplanned admission to hospital. This ‘integration’ of these services is vitally important to the care of elderly people and in other parts of the country, where this is already being delivered, is beneficial.  These are significant changes for GPs and NHS professionals and will take time to fully implement but I was inspired by the team that I met and will do all that I can to support them. The Government recognises that more money needs to be spent on supporting elderly people and their carers at home and extra funding has been given to Cornwall Council. In 2011-2012 £7.766 million has been given to Cornwall Council from NHS budgets.

I am also pleased to report that the NHS in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly has been given £941.8 million for the year 2012-2013. This is £25.7 million more than 2011-2012. Just before Christmas an additional £1.8 million, found through national efficiency savings in the NHS, was also announced for the NHS in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.

Deciding on how the money is spent in Cornwall is led by the Primary Care Trust and the Strategic Health Authority. The management and staff of Treliske  Hospital are making improvements in the quality of care of patients and also in the management of resources. However, I am concerned to hear about nursing levels on some wards. I have written to the Chief Executive of the Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly Primary Care Trust asking him to ensure that Treliske Hospital is given the funds it needs to deliver high quality nursing.

I welcomed the Prime Minister’s support for nursing this week. Removing unnecessary administrative tasks from nurses is a good idea. Tackling poor performing ward management must also be a priority. He is right to challenge the management and boards of the NHS to make sure nursing meets the high standards in our hospitals and in the community that nurses want to deliver and we all rely upon. So we must make sure that there are enough nurses in Treliske, our community hospitals and out in the community to provide the care that they and we all want them to deliver.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Cornwall Maritime Strategy consultation

I would encourage all interested parties to take part in Cornwall Council’s Cornwall Maritime Strategy consultation, which runs until the 18th January. Maritime activities are crucial to Cornwall, and it is important that residents have their say  on the future direction of our coast and seas.

The consultation can be accessed through: