Wednesday, 12 February 2020

Newspaper column 12 February 2020 - Agriculture, housing and the NHS

Last week was another busy and significant week in Parliament. As the first week that Parliament had sat since we left the EU we were able to focus on delivering what the country needs to ensure a positive future independent of the EU.

The Agriculture Bill passed its second reading – this lays out the framework for how we will continue to support our farmers as we leave the Common Agriculture Policy. We also passed the NHS Funding Bill, which will now go to the House of Lords. This sets into law the record increase in funding we will be providing for the NHS. By the end of this Parliament the NHS will receive an additional £33.9billion every year – the biggest cash increase in its history. This amounts to an additional £651million per week – almost double the amount that was written on the side of that bus!

I was also pleased to meet with Education Minister Lord Agnew to discuss the future of Further Education provision through Cornwall College. This was a meeting I was due to have in the Autumn but was delayed due to the General Election. It was a very positive meeting and I was pleased to receive his support to work with me to ensure that FE provision is not just secured but improved for the future.

One of the biggest challenges facing our country is ensuring that we have the housing we need to meet the demands of our population, particularly the 83% of people who currently do not own their own home but aspire to do so. Nowhere is this challenge felt more strongly than here in Cornwall.

We will all be familiar of the difficulty our young people face in finding a home they can afford to purchase, particularly those who desire to live the in communities they grew up in when those places are popular for tourists and holiday homeowners.

Very often the biggest obstacle is saving enough for a deposit. Very often couples who are renting from a private landlord find that the monthly cost of a mortgage would be less than the rent they pay, but are unable to save for the deposit due to the cost of renting.

In recent years the government has sought to help first time buyers get onto the property lander through various schemes, such as Help to Buy, which have had some success. But the challenge is a very large one and more clearly needs to be done.

Therefore I was pleased that the Conservative Manifesto contained a commitment to bring forward further schemes to enable first time buyers to buy their first home and that one such scheme was launched last week. The First Homes scheme will enable first time buyers to buy their first home with 30% discount that will count towards a deposit and assist in obtaining a mortgage. The scheme is specifically aimed at enabling local people to purchase a property in the place they currently live.

I believe this could be a game changer in enabling local people to own their first home. As with all these type of schemes we need to watch the detail closely as it is rolled out. But I am pleased to see the government getting to grips with the real challenges that face people in our communities and coming forward with plans to address them.