Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Newspaper column 7 December 2016 - St Austell editions - Planning matters

As I am sure we are all aware, planning is often a controversial issue that can polarise opinion. Although MPs have no role in local planning decisions and little influence over the decisions planning committees make, I believe we still have a role to play in ensuring the views of local people are heard.

There is no doubt in my mind that St Austell has been badly let down in the past as we have seen more and more housing approved without the necessary investment in our local infrastructure to support it.

I am not opposed to all development. I recognise there is a clear need for more housing in the area. Those of us with adult children know how difficult it is for them to get on the housing ladder. However, I am also clear, this housing needs to be appropriately sited, with investment in local infrastructure such as roads, schools and health services to support the increase in population. New development should also support the local economy by creating jobs and business growth.  

This brings us to the recent application by Wainhomes to build 300 houses on the controversial site behind Poltair School and the College. This is the fourth application they have submitted for this site, having been refused three times previously.  

I have always opposed applications for housing on this site, which I believe to be wholly unsuitable for development. When I was a Cornwall and Town Councillor in Poltair, I fought against previous similar applications on this site, including at an Appeal, and was pleased to see them rejected. I remain opposed to the current application.

I have worked closely with St Austell Town Council on the St Austell part of the Cornwall Site Allocations Development Plan Document (Allocations DPD). The DPD was written with public consultation. 95% of local people who responded did not want this land included in the DPD. 

Subsequently the land in question was excluded from the town framework which identifies land for development. It is therefore disappointing that Wainhomes have chosen to ignore the views of local people and once again apply for permission to develop this site.

I recently wrote to the Head of Planning at Cornwall Council along these lines when the most recent plans surfaced and expressed my surprise and disappointment at the way this application was being progressed.

Last week I had the opportunity to raise this issue in the House of Commons when I questioned the Minister for Housing and Planning in Parliament on the application, saying that while I appreciate he cannot comment on individual planning applications, did he agree with me that if permissions are granted on sites that have been excluded for development after consultation and a democratic process it will do little to promote the public’s confidence in the planning system.

In reply the Minister reiterated how important it is to have a plan in place and congratulated Cornwall Council on finally passing its Local Plan.  I too am pleased that after too many years of discussion, Cornwall Council has finally voted to adopt the Cornwall Plan.

I will continue to monitor this application closely and do all I can to ensure that the clearly expressed views of local people are respected and urge Cornwall Council to do the right thing here and reject this completely unsuitable application.



Newspaper column 7 December 2016 (Newquay edition) - Funding for our roads

Going back to my days as Cornwall Councillor, the upkeep and maintenance of our highways has always been something that is of great importance to the people of Mid-Cornwall.

Keeping our roads in good condition is vital for the continued prosperity of Cornwall and it therefore follows that a great deal of public funding has been allocated to Cornwall Council for precisely that.
In fact, earlier this year, the Government announced £50 million of funding, estimated to repair nearly 1 million potholes across the country over the 2016-17 financial year. Over 100 councils in England received funding as part of the £250 million Pothole Action Fund included in April’s Budget, which will fix over 4 million potholes by 2020/21.

Cornwall Council pocketed £1,267,000 from this fund this year. This is money ring-fenced specifically for filling potholes. Last week it was announced that next year’s funding will be £1,847,000, and this is over and above the £144 million the Government is already committed to providing in 2017 to help repair local highways.

In addition to this it was good to see the Government recognise an issue I have raised a number of times, that being the dangerous A3058 road between Newquay and St Austell. Funding has now been made available to improve this busy road and I will be working with Cornwall Council to ensure we make the best use of the money available and improve safety as a priority.

I am pleased to have had some success in helping Cornwall Council spend some of the money that the Government has made available to it, notably on Treloggan Industrial Estate, where Cornwall Council finally got it right after a couple of goes and the surface is now looking much better.
However, I have been concerned to hear from local residents and businesses around Newquay that there are more and more problems occurring and that Cornwall Council seems ill-inclined to take action here.

Just recently we have seen headlines in the local press that the resort’s roads have    been ‘left to rot’. This at a time, where Cornwall Council in other areas, including Truro, has recently found the money to make numerous improvements to the roads and public highways.

Newquay, as I am sure you will know is a huge income generator for the coffers of Cornwall Council. County Hall takes, takes and takes again from the town, which with its numerous council car parks and other facilities is the gift that keeps on giving. And I am sure I am not the only one who feels frustrated when the Council wastes hundreds of thousands of pounds on unwanted parking consultations but then tells us it cannot afford to paint a few road markings in Newquay.

I have now written to the Head of Transport at Cornwall Council and asked for some urgent action to be taken in Newquay and the surrounding area. I do not believe it is fair that should continue to prioritise its spending away from the town and believe that now is the time for action to be taken to address this. I look  forward to hearing back from the Council and to be able to update you on their response shortly, but rest assured in the meantime, I will continue to do all I can to support the people of Newquay both on this matter and elsewhere.

There is much more to be done but I is good to see some progress being made and I will continue to fight our corner both with national Government and Cornwall Council to get the investment in our roads we need.


Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Newspaper column 30 November - Care Homes

Last week I was shocked and appalled to see the Panorama documentary on Clinton House, a care home run by the Morleigh Group in St Austell, and the neglect and abuse that has occurred there.
Although I had been made aware of the investigation when Cornwall Council closed Clinton House down earlier this month, to actually see the covert filming of what went on in the care home was horrific and physically sickened me. Having had a relative in a Morleigh home before I can only imagine what the residents and their families must be going through.

Now that we are aware of these awful incidents, as MP I want to ensure that something like this does not happen again, through Mid-Cornwall and indeed across the country.

Some have commented that this is purely a funding issue but I know that just throwing money at a problem and hoping it will go away is not the answer to everything. What has happened here is, in my mind symptomatic of a system where the operators of a care home or group have allowed a culture of endemic neglect and abuse to exist. There are many care homes run with the same funding model across Cornwall that provide excellent care.

The vast majority of people who work in care homes are dedicated and caring people and we shouldn’t allow this to detract from the excellent work being done in the majority of homes across Cornwall. However we also need to address weaknesses where we find them.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) is the body responsible for the inspection of care homes to ensure they are being run correctly. After having considered what has happened over a prolonged period of time, I believe the inspection process is flawed. In this case, the CQC investigated Morleigh Group care homes, including Clinton House and the other establishments subsequently identified and closed in the following investigation, 22 times over the last two years. Yet it took Panorama to uncover the abuse that was taking place here. Obviously there is a problem with the system.

Specifically, I think there is a culture of cover up that needs to be exposed. Both staff and families of residents need a way of making their concerns heard and addressed without fear of reprisals. Whilst I had not been contacted by constituents with concerns about the Morleigh Group prior to the Panorama airing, I have now been contacted by a number of families of residents and former care home workers, with disturbing stories of their experiences.

The day after the Panorama investigation was shown I met with the Secretary of State for Health Jeremy Hunt and the Minister for Care David Mowatt to discuss what can be done to safeguard residents and their families from abuse like this in the future. I subsequently met with management from the CQC this Monday to raise my concerns over the inspection process and will be feeding the outcome of this meeting back to the Secretary of State in the coming week.


Make no mistake about it, the Panorama programme and the investigation that came from it has cast a dark shadow across certain care homes in Cornwall. As I have said in the past treating people with respect and dignity cost nothing. As MP I will do all I can to work with those involved to ensure lessons are learned, safeguards are put in place and everything possible is done to make sure that this does not happen again. 

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Newspaper column 23 November 2016 - Using my vote to protect Cornish constituencies!

This week I thought I would write about the recent developments regarding the Boundary Commission and their proposed changes, which would currently see a new Parliamentary constituency created that crosses between Devon and Cornwall.

When I first wrote about these changes, back in September, I said that I was disappointed with the new seats as proposed, especially the cross border seat. I said  that I understood and shared the very strong feelings the people of Cornwall have about this issue, was aware that there were challenges to these plans being discussed and would continue to monitor developments closely to decide what I could realistically achieve to change these plans. 

I have been on record as opposing these changes since 2011, before I even became a candidate to be MP. My opposition has not changed but what I needed to do was decide upon how I could best make an actual impact and make a stand against them.

After carefully considering the various arguments that have been made against a ‘cross-border’ seat I came to the conclusion that the only way I could actually make an impact and affect the change that I feel is needed is by voting to change the legislation. This is because the many arguments made against a cross-border seat, while powerful and emotional, simply do not carry legal weight under the current legislation.

As an MP one of the most important things I can do is use my vote to affect change in Parliament. I therefore decided to use my vote last Friday, voting against the Government in the Private Members’ Bill, Parliamentary Constituencies (Amendments) as a first step to getting the legislation that will lead to a cross-border constituency changed.

Apart from the physical changes of the constituency boundaries, I also do not agree with the idea of reducing the number of MPs, particularly in the current political climate.

If we are proposing to reduce the numbers of MPs purely for financial reasons, to cut the cost of politics – we are already doing so by voting to leave the EU and therefore losing 73 MEPs. Of course their workload will be absorbed back into the work of existing MPs. I also think that if we are looking at reducing the numbers at Westminster we should instead look at reducing the numbers of Peers that sit in the unelected House of Lords, which I do not believe should have more members than the elected House of Commons.

I was pleased to see the vote go in favour of the amendment, which will mean this legislation will continue through Parliament. I will continue to keenly follow this Bill as it progresses and do all I can to support it.

I have always said that I am a Cornishman first and a Conservative second. As MP I can use my position to speak up and vote in Parliament where I think I can best affect change. This is one of those occasions when I believe that speaking up for Cornwall is the best thing to do even if it means disagreeing with the Government and so that is what I have done.

To read my speech in full on Hansard, see the following link below:



As always, my team and I are here to serve the whole constituency and work hard to make a real difference to the lives of everyone needing support. If there is an issue you would like my assistance on then please contact me on either 01726 829379 or office@stevedouble.org.uk. Additionally, I hold regular, appointment only, advice surgeries across the constituency. Dates of these can be found at: www.stevedouble.org.uk/events

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Newspaper column 16 November 2016 - The US election result

Over the past week there has been one story that everyone has been talking about – the political earthquake that was the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States of America.

Although many appear to have been surprised at this result I always had a gut feeling he could and would win.

There is no doubt there has been a major shift in politics in 'the west' over the last year or so.

Polling companies are consistently calling it wrong. First we had the 2015 General Election with a majority Conservative Government returned against ‘all odds’, then the vote for the United Kingdom to leave the European Union in the recent referendum and now President Trump’s victory on the other side of the Atlantic.

The old rules about how people vote have changed. Many people do not want business as usual, to maintain the same status quo, or indeed the same old big government. The electorate are happy to take a risk in order to break the established order.

The reaction by many who probably should know better shows they haven't understood that a shift has happened in the political landscape.

From political parties saying they will ignore the referendum and stay in the EU to others calling voters who voted for Brexit or Trump names, there has been a somewhat predictable backlash from what some have called the ‘liberal elite’ and their celebrity backers.

Apart from anything else I do not find it sensible to insult the electorate in this way. After all people rarely change their minds to vote for the person who has insulted them!

All politicians need to remember we are only in our job because of the electorate - you are the boss. Too often politicians can give the impression that they know best.

As an example, the result of the referendum was clear – we as a country have decided to leave the EU. I believe we now need to get on and implement this decision. I find it unbelievable that some political leaders are not only seeking to delay this decision, but saying they will actively work to ignore it and keep us in the EU.

All this does in my view is deepen the divide between the electorate and those in power.
I often think to myself that I chose an interesting time to get into politics. But in these turbulent times we can either embrace the changes that are happening or we can resist them. History, I believe, shows that we cannot resist changes of this nature when they happen. So I for one welcome the challenge and am more determined than ever to listen and work to represent this area as best I can.

As always, my team and I are here to serve the whole constituency and work hard to make a real difference to the lives of everyone needing support. If there is an issue you would like my assistance on then please contact me on either 01726 829379 or office@stevedouble.org.uk. Additionally, I hold regular, appointment only, advice surgeries across the constituency. Dates of these can be found at: www.stevedouble.org.uk/events


Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Newspaper column 9 November 2016 - Remembrance Day

This coming weekend we step back and reflect on Remembrance Day.

This year is particularly moving as we commemorate the centenary of the Battle of the Somme.
The Battle of the Somme took place between 1 July and 18 November 1916 on both sides of the upper reaches of the River Somme in France. The battle was intended to hasten a victory for the Allies and was the largest battle of the First World War on the Western Front. More than one million men were wounded or killed, making it one of the bloodiest battles in human history.

On top of this, the futility of the trench warfare tactics was readily apparent here. Although it was initial cast as an allied victory, in fact the British and French had advanced about 6 miles and the war would drag on for another two years.

As I wrote last year, Captain Agar-Robartes, the sitting MP for mid-Cornwall when he died on 30th September 1915 as a result of injuries sustained in battle.  Born 20 years after the end of the Second World War, I can only imagine what it must have been like to live through conflict, either as a combatant or at home, waiting for loved ones to return.

Of course it isn’t just about the Great War. Like many people my grandfather served in the Second World War and experienced the horrors of war in the Navy. My thoughts are always drawn to him on Remembrance Day as I recall the few occasions he told us about his experiences.

The men and women of our armed forces also continue to serve and protect to this very day. With extremists such as ISIS in the Middle-East, it is a shame that global peace still remains distant.

I am very aware of the responsibility being an MP brings, to make the right and at times difficult decisions when it comes to the defence of our nation and protection of others in an ever more dangerous world. The decision as to when and how to deploy troops is brought home on Remembrance Day.   This is a responsibility I intend to take extremely seriously.

As usual many communities will be marking Remembrance Sunday this weekend with parades and services.  My team and I will be honoured to join the parades and then to lay wreaths across Mid-Cornwall.

This weekend is about remembrance.  Let us remember the men and women who gave their lives for us in the past and honour those who continue to risk their lives today.

As always, my team and I are here to serve the whole constituency and work hard to make a real difference to the lives of everyone needing support. If there is an issue you would like my assistance on then please contact me on either 01726 829379 or office@stevedouble.org.uk. Additionally, I hold regular, appointment only, advice surgeries across the constituency. Dates of these can be found at: www.stevedouble.org.uk/events


Monday, 7 November 2016

Updated Statement from Steve Double MP regarding The Boundary Commissions proposals


When I issued my initial statement regarding the proposed Parliamentary boundary changes in Cornwall on 28th September, I made clear that I shared the strong feeling that many people in Cornwall felt about these changes.

I also stated that I would consider how best to work to change these plans.

Over the past few weeks I have had several discussions both with people locally in Cornwall and in Westminster, including Government Ministers, to seek the best way forward.

The reality is that the legislation for these new boundaries was passed by the previous coalition government. The way the legislation is set leaves very little room for any flexibility in the size and therefore the number and make up of the constituencies in Cornwall.

We need to remember that these are legal arguments and we have to be realistic about the reasons they can be effectively opposed. I have considered the various arguments put forward seeking to oppose the new boundaries. Unfortunately, none of them contain valid legal reasons to prevent them.

Like many people, I had hoped that the Minority Status the Cornish people now enjoy would provide a legal argument to oppose the cross border seat with Devon. Sadly, legal advice obtained by Cornwall Council has stated that this is not the case.

However, despite there being no clear legal reasons to oppose these plans, in my heart, as a Cornishman, I know they feel wrong. And I know this feeling is shared by many people in Cornwall.

This is an emotional response that comes from the deep pride and passion we feel about our identity.

There are only two places where we can express our views on this issue that will make any difference – in Parliament and to the Boundary Commission.

It is my privilege and honour to be the voice of the constituency of St Austell and Newquay in Parliament. Be assured that I have been making your views known and will continue to do so. Much of the work in Parliament is carried out in individual meetings. However, there will be opportunities for these views to be expressed in public debate in the coming months and I will take these opportunities as they occur, whenever I can.

If you have views on these boundaries please contacted me and make me aware of them so that I can represent you – office@stevedouble.org.uk

The first opportunity for me to express the views that I and many local people have on these proposals will be today at the South West Boundary Commission Consultation in Exeter. I am pleased to confirm that I will be attending this consultation. A copy of the oral presentation I will be making there is below.

  



Oral Submission to the South West Boundary Commission by Steve Double MP


My name is Steve Double and I am the sitting MP for the constituency of St Austell and Newquay in mid-Cornwall.

I understand the legal restrictions that the Boundary Commission has had to work within in drawing up these proposals. The legislation passed by the previous coalition government is highly restrictive and leaves little room for manoeuvre in Cornwall.

I do have a number of concerns with regards to the current proposals and the way they impact on the constituency I represent. However, due to the way the rules have to be applied I cannot see any other way of dividing up the boundaries that would produce a better outcome local residents would prefer.

I do still wish to place on record the concerns I have, both for my own sake, and on behalf of the people of St Austell and Newquay that I represent and the wider people of Cornwall.
Of particular concern to people locally is the splitting up of what are locally known as the ‘Clay Villages’. These are the villages of St Stephen, St Dennis, Foxhole, Nanpean, Whitemoor, Roche, Bugle, Indian Queens and Fraddon.

These villages form a tight knit community bound together by their shared history as being the centre of the china clay mining industry for over 150 years. They have a great deal in common both historically and also today.

It is very disappointing that the current rules mean that there appears to be no way of making up the constituencies in mid-Cornwall that enable these villages to remain in the same constituency.

But I wanted to place on record my concern on this and also specifically the views of St Austell Town Council, whom I know have written to the commission directly, on this point.
But of far greater concern to the people of Cornwall is the matter of the proposed cross border constituency between North East Cornwall and North West Devon.

As I am sure the commission is aware by now this issue provokes strong feelings for many, myself included.

Now I will admit that having looked at the case being put forward against the cross-border seat, many of the arguments are not valid reasons within the current legislative framework.
I do not believe that Cornwall’s democratic representation will somehow be weakened by sharing an MP with part of Devon as some claim. Cornwall has had a cross border seat since MPs existed – with the Isles of Scilly. I married a Scillonian and no one has ever suggested to me that the islands lack political representation as a result of sharing an MP with west Cornwall. Nor that somehow Cornwall’s border is compromised by sharing an MP to the west.

Many MPs across the country represent areas that are diverse and have communities from very different ethnic and cultural backgrounds in a single constituency.

I have no doubt that an MP would be completely capable of representing people from east Cornwall and west Devon effectively.

The Cornish border is not moving and part of Cornwall is not joining Devon as some would say. This is about a line on a map that only shows the area an MP will represent – nothing more.

Like many, I had hoped that the protected Minority Status afforded to the Cornish people would provide a basis for a legal challenge. Sadly, legal advice obtained by Cornwall Council has stated that our Cornish Minority Status is not something that can be used to argue against a cross border seat.

So, despite all of the rhetoric, in my view, there are very weak reasoned legal arguments against this proposal.

I have grappled with this matter for the past few weeks. I have had to ask myself the question, if there are not reasonable arguments against this why do I, like so many other proud Cornishmen, feel so strongly about this matter?

I think I have to be honest and admit it is a deep emotional response. 

The objection to this proposal for a cross border seat with Devon is something we Cornish people feel. There may be no way of articulating it in words that have any weight with the boundary commission, but that does not mean we feel it any less.

The trouble is that when these maps are drawn they are done so following strict legal guidelines. They are drawn using population statistics, percentages and maps. Those guidelines do not capture the pride and passion we, the people of Cornwall, feel.

And so I am simply here today to try to express to you a clear message that I hope you can take away and feed back to the Government. I will be doing the same within Parliament, but I wanted the commission to hear it as well.

In the strongest possible terms the people of Cornwall object to any proposals for a constituency that crosses the Cornwall-Devon border.

It is no real surprise that people who do not share the way we feel find it difficult to comprehend how strongly we feel about this issue. Cornwall is unique so how can we expect others to understand.

We accept others will not understand. We accept others will not agree with us. But what we cannot accept is our views not being respected.

Do not under estimate how deeply many Cornish people about this issue.

It somehow stabs at the very core of the way we feel about our county as Cornish men and women. We feel it is challenging our identity.

That in-built deep sense of Cornish independence is provoked by the thought of our border being crossed. Even though it is only a line on a map – it symbolises something far deeper in the Cornish psyche.

Sadly, under the current restrictions contained in the legislation, I reluctantly admit I cannot find any valid reasons to oppose the current proposals. If they are to go ahead I cannot offer a better alternative under the current rules.

But my message is, please do not go ahead with these changes as proposed. Please find a way to change them, in order to enable the boundaries to be drawn along the Cornish border.