Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Newspaper column 17 February 2016 - Fighting for a fair deal for Cornwall

While I was campaigning before the last General Election I made it clear that I am a Cornishman first and a Conservative second, and that I will always stand up for our beautiful constituency and the people that live here to ensure we get the fair deal we deserve. I promised to fight to ensure that mid-Cornwall has a strong voice in Westminster.

I was glad to be able to deliver on this promise last week over the issue of funding for rural areas.  Before Christmas the government proposed a package that would have been detrimental to Cornwall and so I was determined to fight our corner. 

Along with a number of other rural and West Country MPs I lobbied hard with Greg Clarke, the Secretary of State for Local Communities and Government.  I was therefore delighted with the announcement early last week that fairer transitional arrangements were to be put in place, with Cornwall Council receiving an additional £3m in funding next year. 

The House of Commons debated the issue on Wednesday and I participated in the debate as follows.

“It is a well-established fact that rural areas have had the raw end of the deal from central Government for decades, despite having some of the highest levels of deprivation in the country and a growing ageing population, with all the increased pressure that that places on the delivery of services and the increased demand that it creates, not to mention the additional challenges and costs of delivering those services in a rural setting. Yet places such as Cornwall have had to accept lower levels of funding for many years, not just for our local government, but for things such as our schools and police. I am proud that this Government… has started to address that issue—it has been going on too long. We have started to see extra money put into our schools and, through the rural services delivery grant, we have begun to close the gap in local authority funding.”

“When I looked at what was being proposed in the settlement, I was therefore disappointed to find that it would have widened that gap and started to undo much of the good work the Government have already begun. I could not have supported a financial settlement that was going to make an unfair system even more unfair to rural areas. If I had gone through the No Lobby tonight, it would have been my first rebellion against the Government. As someone who has a slightly inherent rebellious streak in their nature, I am slightly disappointed that my rebellion will have to wait for another occasion. I am delighted to say that the Secretary of State has listened to the many voices from across the House from rural areas who highlighted that what was being proposed was simply unacceptable to rural areas.”

“I am delighted that not only have funds been made available through this transitional grant to make sure that that gap does not get any wider, but, probably more importantly, we have the promise of a comprehensive review of the cost of delivering services. That gives us the opportunity to establish that it costs more to deliver services in rural areas than in urban areas.”

There is clearly more work to be done and this is a small victory in a larger battle.  I will continue to work for a fair deal for mid-Cornwall.

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