Frank Dobson MP, a good friend to Cornwall

I spent Tuesday afternoon and evening mostly in the company of Frank Dobson MP, in a public meeting in Hayle about Cornwall’s NHS and a members’ meeting fundraising for a local Day Centre.

What a privilege. What a genuine, caring, hard working socialist and a good friend to Cornwall.

Frank was keen to come to Cornwall again, continuing his support over the years to local Labour campaigners and especially to our dynamic candidate Michael Foster.

Over the course of today, he showed that his knowledge of and concern for Cornwall’s unique health needs and issues has not faded over the years since he was Labour’s Secretary of State for Health in 1997 -98.

As the Minister for Health, Frank reversed the Conservatives’ decision to close four of Cornwall’s community hospitals, he made sure that we had a Health Action Zone to put more money into the areas where health needs were greatest, he introduced NHS Direct, which was great for people who could not always get to a GP easily and which has since been dismantled by the Lib Dem/Tory Coalition government and he abolished the NHS internal market introduced by Ken Clark during the previous years of Tory government.

And in 2011, when Labour members in Cornwall collected signatures to force a discussion on the hiving off of those same community hospitals to a community interest company outside the NHS, Frank was here to help present the petition and flag up the risks of outsourcing. That company is now trying to get back in to the NHS family before the hospitals are put out to tender again and possibly snatched up by a private company.

We were all pleased to have Frank confirm that the next Labour government will repeal the part of the Health and Social Care Act that is forcing contracting out, fragmentation and privatisation of our NHS, saving billions of pounds in the process that would be better invested in health care. But with the reservation that the last thing needed is another re-organisation and it should be done without interfering again in the structures of the NHS.

Concern for the NHS was a topical issue yesterday as the hospitals trust, based at Treliske, issued a black alert that continues today, having difficulty discharging people or admitting people. Cuts to community beds, cuts to social care, over committed GPs, our fragmented system and problems with hard pressed staff all putting the hospitals under unbearable strain.  This is obviously a bigger problem for people in Cornwall than most other places in the country as we have no alternative in easy reach.

Frank Dobson is retiring from Parliament in May but has lost none of his passion for politics and for campaigning for the many, not the privileged few. He told members that we might just now be learning what one subsidiary company of HSBC is up to but HSBC has hundreds more subsidiary companies based in other countries and between them, our banks have around 1600 of these companies, which are closed books to those of us who work hard and pay our taxes. It was clear how strongly he felt about injustice, inequality and those who cheat the system.

It was a great privilege to spend this time with Frank. He has given a lot of thought to our most valued public service, to the needs of Cornwall and to the future of our country.  He will be a loss to Parliament when he stands down in May but I hope he has a long and happy retirement with his family, he certainly deserves it.

 

 

Close Encounter of the Yellow Kind

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The Lib Dems have not been much in evidence in Camborne, Redruth & Hayle since Julia Goldsworthy was sent packing by the electorate in 2010, so it was especially galling to have one barge into my back garden yesterday, complaining about the gate

Yesterday was bad. I have the lurgy. As every carer knows, there is still stuff to do. The elephants had trampolined on my body but there I was, feeling like sh*t and emptying it from the cat litter tray when in she bowled and handed me two letters and a leaflet. If I had realised she was from the Lib Dems, I might have breathed harder.

Indoors, when I had finished and had a look, I found some shabby, dishonest communications – reading them was worse than sorting the cats’ excrement.

They are campaigning against things they voted for with the Tories and then asking me to vote Lib Dem in the election next year. Next year?  Is that wishful thinking by the Lib Dems that they still have a year to enjoy the trappings of power.

Or is that the leaflet was printed last year and they have so little help, it has taken them this long to deliver it? Was that woman an endangered species – the last Lib Dem activist in Camborne & Redruth wearily plodding around the constituency?

The election is actually 94 days away and the Lib Dems have reappeared at the last minute to campaign against police commissioners – a mad, money wasting idea they voted for in parliament.  It would not have happened without the Lib Dems.

Julia Goldsworthy, their candidate, claims that Labour supporters are switching to Labour to kick the Tories out – she must be off her rocker.

And this, I quote:

“We all remember the last time the Tories were in government by themselves. Massive water bills, cuts to key services, brutal job losses for Cornish people like you and me.”

It sounds like a good description of Cameron’s government, the one the Libs Dems have slavishly supported and kept in power. It does not mention the decline in living standards, the unprecedented attacks on the poor, the disabled and the vulnerable, the crisis in the NHS.  Even worse than when the Tories governed alone.

And:

“Only with the support of Labour voters here, can I protect….”

Having worked in the Treasury earning a fat salary for four years, advising on the massive cuts to key services that Cornwall has suffered, Julia is back, asking for Labour votes.

As the Falmouth Packet’s Skipper put it: In Camborne & Redruth –

“The Lib Dems face an uphill battle, and I am being kind when I say that”

And to cap it all – red lettering to try and mislead people into thinking it is a Labour leaflet.

We all know that the Lib Dems do not specialise in honest campaigns.  I could not resist, however, adding one or two home truths to this particular rubbish.

To learn more about a candidate, who is presenting his case honestly, really opposing the Tories and will stand up for Cornwall whatever it takes, have a look at this website, his Facebook page MichaelFoster/CRH or call the Labour Office on 01209 612031 and ask for Michael Foster.

Policy or values?

This is my response to someone who approached me about compiling a list of responses from candidates on policy issues. Good luck to anyone who wants to do this but it’s not for me.

For me it is about values and direction of travel rather than individual policies and I feel we lose something by reducing everything to responses on topics and policies or discussions about statistics.

I detest the Tories and what they stand for: support to the strongest, crumbs from the rich person’s table to the weak or vulnerable. They have their view even if they dress it up and they stick to it. That is where the fight is.

The focus on a policy by policy approach just leads us to the Lib Dems, the scavengers in the dustbin of politics. Promise by promise they go after votes (and promise different things to different people). We’ve all seen where that led: once they had a chance of grabbing power they went for it and had no principles or values to stick to so they ditched everything that they had promised to stand for. Now they are making a new set of excuses and promises but I doubt that people will be fooled again.

Good riddance to them. The struggle is between right and left, the vested interest of the powerful and the rest of us, working and exploited people. Always has been, certainly will be as far as I can see in to the future and now more than ever we need to acknowledge that and decide which side we are on and fight for it.

I would add this as well: if the Labour Party has some policies that people do not like, I would still advise voters to think very carefully about whether you are prepared to ditch the values that have always stood up for fairness and justice, the NHS, our responsibility to the weak and vulnerable and opportunities for all and go in the opposite direction over one single issue.

Camborne Lantern Parade

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A great community event last night with Camborne’s school children (and parents) giving us a wonderful Christmas glow with their lantern parade. I hoped they all enjoyed the hours of work it must have taken to produce such a wonderful show – it certainly was fantastic to watch. It was led by Santa and an exuberant group of small musicians.

The spider was my favourite, which is odd as I’d normally shriek and run away at the sight of a 6 foot high arachnid.

A lot of work went into this. Our town clerk, Amanda made sure it was all organised well, the police and PCSOs were there to help and many voluntary stewards – including town councillors – helped to stop the traffic, so the children could parade safely. They are all Christmas stars.

Coalition delays to EU funding – the impact on Cornwall

Impossible to grow the Cornish economy, more NEETs, businesses lost, jobs not created. And what ARE our coalition MPs doing about it? (clue: SFA)

Well done to Labour’s Michael Foster for raising this again.

Produced by Cornwall Council and business representatives.

Assessing the impact of a gap in European Programmes

We are currently assessing the actual costs to our economy of programme delays – including the real risk of a gap in provision between the Convergence Programme contracts ending and the new Programme starting, the additional risk to projects currently in development and the increased risk of not meeting our spend profiles for the new programme and the Growth Deal. We know that this will mean that existing jobs will be lost, new jobs delayed and business support and training will not happen. We know that this will be a real cost to our economy.

A gap between programmes would result in the loss of momentum, continuity and the ability to engage with businesses for business growth and development. With C&IoS only just managing now to sustain its position, and alongside significant growth elsewhere in the EU, we face the real prospect that a gap in support now will lower our GDP to a level from which it will be impossible to grow our economy to the 75% level by 2022.

Support to businesses
We have established strong and effective relationships between the providers of business support and employment and skills, the business community and other communities across Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. It is these relationships, which are built on trust, that have formed a platform for economic and community development. This ‘people capacity’ will be lost and will be extremely costly to replace – both in terms of time and money. More importantly perhaps, is the impact this loss in service provision will have on those most in need of support and the detrimental impact it will have on our social and economic progression.

In terms of on-going engagement directly with business, we would see collateral damage to the wider local supply chain with the associated delay in bringing the programme back up to speed. The likelihood is that this would equate to a 12 month delay once re-engagement has been established. High growth businesses are periodic by their nature – it is difficult to calculate the impact but it is evident that some businesses will be left unsupported during what might have been periods of opportunity for accelerated growth.

To give an indication of what the gap to delivery in business support means in practice, in just one project alone we are achieving a Gross Value Added (GVA) figure of some £65,000 per month and an output rate £1.3m per month. For this one project, the “lost” economic impact to C&IoS during a 6 month gap would equate to £7.8 million, with some 293 jobs created or saved and 57 businesses lost. In another example, assessing the cost to the economy of a 9 month gap for another enterprise support project (costing £397,000 to the Programme) we would anticipate a cost to the economy of some £11.9m GVA. The anticipated number of jobs that would not be created due to the gap could be as much as circa 420 FTEs.

Support for inward investment
The challenges faced by Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly as an inward investment location have always been considerable. European Programmes are doing much to support our activity which has been built up over the last 5 or 6 years. We are currently working with a pipeline of 20 clients, many of whom have been on our radar for a number of months and who have expressed the clear intention to invest in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. From a customer service perspective it is critical that we are resourced to maintain these relationships. Any lapse in continuity increases the chances that the businesses will believe that Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly is not interested in them and will take their investment proposition elsewhere. These companies need a variety of support from finding premises, staff, introductions to business support services, access to funding and working with the wider supply chain.

Support to young people
The significant drop in services and support as a result of the delays will impact directly upon the current and developing workforce further exacerbating the economic impact. Around 1,000 young people aged between 16 – 18 ‘not in education, employment or training’ (NEET) would be directly affected. There is good evidence to suggest that if we engage with harder to reach groups such as those outside of the labour force and then lose that engagement it would cost six times as much to re-engage. Over a 6 month period, initiatives such as employer led skills and provision for workforce transformation including redundancy would ordinarily engage with around 750 people. It costs around £1,650 per person to re-engage in employment and retrain.

We are quantifying further detail on the economic impact across all our activity that any delay to the programme would cause. The above examples focus on employment, skills and business support – but the reach of our Programmes extends far beyond this and the impact will be significant and severe.

Coalition ‘twiddling’ to delay A30 Dualling

A few months ago, Michael Foster, our Labour candidate for Camborne and Redruth, said this about the latest round of EU funding for Cornwall:

“This could be Cornwall’s last chance to use EU money to get our economy off the ground and yet the Coalition are twiddling their thumbs at Westminster, trying to find ways to bypass local input. These endless delays could cost Cornwall millions of pounds and Whitehall mandarins can know little about the reality on the ground here.”

It looks as if, sadly, this is happening. Cornwall has failed to secure EU funding for the dualling of the A30 at Temple, because Tory and Lib Dem MPs have ‘twiddled their thumbs’ instead of getting on with it. Though it did not stop the press releases claiming credit.

This is from the minutes of the Extraordinary Cabinet meeting of 4 December:

Delivery of the A30 Temple to Higher Carblake Improvement was given a major boost on 5 December 2012 when the Chancellor of the Exchequer confirmed a capped conditional funding offer from the DfT of £30m toward the £60m scheme cost at the time. This offer was on the basis of significant spend within the current Comprehensive Spending Review period which expires at the end of March 2015.

The Council had approved a £10m contribution in November 2013 as part of the Capital Programme in the Corporate Business Plan and Budget 2014-19. The Council had also intended seeking the remaining £20m from the forthcoming EU ERDF 2014-2020 Programme; however, the programme is significantly behind its original planned delivery date thus placing the scheme at risk. The Council has, therefore, been working with DCLG and DfT to identify other funding options to deliver the scheme on schedule.

…and …(note the use of the word ‘was’ in this bit)

Subject to funding being confirmed and the granting of the development consent by the Secretary of State for Transport, it was anticipated that work would commence in March 2015 and take 19 months to complete, with two lanes open in each direction for summer 2016.

Michael Foster also pointed out when the Tories and Lib Dems were all over the news recently announcing all the road plans, that they had to get their funding act together if any of these schemes were going to happen.

The A30 dualling scheme at Temple was dependent on a combination of Council, government and EU funding.

EU funding is delayed for months, affecting Cornwall’s future and that will probably mean we cannot take full advantage of the money available to us.

Money from Government was announced in 2012 and (again this year) but is only allocated until March 2015, so if the road has not been funded and started by then, we could lose the government funding.

Depending on what ‘other’ funding streams are identified to enable this road to go ahead (if any), this could cost the Cornish taxpayer more.

Michael Foster saw the problem right away and raised it. He is not the usual kind of politician, like our Cornwall coalition MPs, sending out press releases and twiddling thumbs while Cornwall’s opportunities are lost. No wonder so many people are supporting our campaign to help Michael win.