Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Newquay newspaper column 23 May - Plans for Cosgarne Hall in Newquay...


Last week I was approached by a very large number of residents with significant concerns that the people who run Cosgarne Hall, a wet house for people with chaotic lifestyles in St Asutell are planning on opening a similar facility on Eliot Road in Newquay.

The people who have contacted me understand, as do I, that we must do what we can to support and rehabilitate those people who have fallen on hard times and suffer for all sorts of reasons from drug and alcohol addiction and the chaotic, damaging and disruptive behaviour this can bring.

However they are concerned that such support needs to be appropriate, both for the people it is trying to help, but also for the communities in which such facilities are in.

People who have contacted me are concerned that the proposed location of the facility is wrong. It is a primary residential area. There are two nurseries nearby. Children regularly use the road to walk to school. There are a number of well-established B&Bs. From past experience the residents of a facility such as this, located in the middle of a town in a residential area, have caused numerous anti-social behaviour issues in their community, and people are concerned that the same will happen in Newquay if this goes ahead.

Another concern raised with me is that services provided by a facility to help those with drug and alcohol problems needs to not allow such activities on their premises. Cosgarne Hall is a wet facility and as such residents are allowed to drink on site. I do not think this helps with rehabilitating them.
Residents are all also concerned that, as in St Austell, having a facility like this, will lead to more and more people coming in, not just from Newquay and its surrounding communities, but from all over the country, to stay at the facility and then remain in the town once their funded placement has finished. People are concerned that because of how this type of facility operates, this will to a number of people with unresolved issues remaining in Newquay and causing issues with anti-social behaviour, as has happened in St Austell.

I have already made urgent representations to Cosgarne Hall, Cornwall Council, local police and the Diocese that currently has ownership of the building in question, and will do all I can to ensure the concerns of Newquay residents and businesses, are taken into account.

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. The office is open to the public Monday – Friday 10.00am – 4.00pm (no appointment necessary). If there is an issue you would like my assistance on then please, either visit the office or 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

Newspaper column 23 May 2018 - Progress with plastics


Last week saw some more excellent progress in the campaigns I have supported that seek to cut down on the use of single-use plastics in our society today.

Firstly on Monday I was delighted to welcome the inspirational Rob and his daughter Emily Stevenson to discuss the work they have been doing with the Beach Guardian Initiative, which has done so much both locally in Cornwall and nationally to raise awareness of and fight against the single use plastic menace that troubles our seas and beaches.

I have previously met Rob in St Austell and it was good to catch up in Parliament both to see how their work has come on since we last met, but also so that other MPs can see what they have done and continue to show that Cornwall leads the way when it comes to looking after our environment and living sustainably.

Following this, on Tuesday we had some great news on the success of the Plastic Free Parliament campaign, as the House of Commons confirmed it will be cracking down on single use plastics.
Sir Paul Beresford, Chair of the Administration Select Committee, announced that over the next twelve months, the House of Commons will:

End sales of water in plastic bottles; introduce a 25p additional cost for using single use coffee cups; incentivise use of reusable cups through additional loyalty rewards; start selling reusable cups to encourage behaviour change; introduce fixed condiment dispensers to replace plastic sachets; replace disposable catering items that are currently plastic with compostable; replace plastic cups with compostable ones; replace plastic bags with paper ones, as well as a raft of other measures designed to help Parliament operate more sustainably.

This is excellent news and a brilliant result to the positive campaign that is the result of many people and organisations working together. I am pleased to have particularly worked with Surfers Against Sewage and Sky Ocean Rescue to achieve this great progress in just months.

The changes announced show that real change can be achieved through grassroots movements. I am delighted that Sir Paul recognised the role played by Surfers Against Sewage and by extension the work so many in Cornwall are playing in driving the change we need to look after our environment and live more sustainably.

I have been pleased to take part in a number of litter picks and beach cleans in Mid-Cornwall and it has been great to see our communities recognise there is a need to do something about the rubbish, much of it single-use plastics that litters our highways and byways. Thanks to everyone who has been out and continues to go out on these events – setting a really positive example for the rest of us to follow.

I will continue working on both local and national campaigns to lead the fight against plastics waste polluting our seas.

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. The office is open to the public Monday – Friday 10.00am – 4.00pm (no appointment necessary). If there is an issue you would like my assistance on then please, either visit the office or 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, 14 May 2018

Newspaper column 16 May 2018 - Mental Health Awareness Week


This week is Mental Health Awareness Week.

Research has shown that two thirds of us experience a mental health problem in our lifetimes. Mental illness is the single largest cause of disability.  There is now good evidence that tackling some major mental health problems early reduces subsequent problems, improves people’s life chances, and also saves money for the wider economy.

Yet mental health services have for several decades been the ‘poor relation’ compared to acute hospital services for physical conditions.

This Government is changing that, working with the NHS to providing extra focus and funding on mental health services.

Nationally we have seen from the NHS:

Decisive investment upturn, with overall mental health funding up £1.4 billion in real terms compared to 3 years ago.

120,000 more people getting specialist mental health treatment this year than 3 years ago, including over 20,000 more children and young people.

Regarding this age group in particular, for too long we have had to see children and young people, at a time when they are most vulnerable, having to travel across the country to access badly needed support, due to the lack of an inpatient facility for children and young people in Cornwall.. This puts unbelievable strain both on them and their families, so a facility in Cornwall is absolutely essential
After much campaigning from local organisations and the Cornish MPs, last year I was pleased to welcome the announcement of £4million funding from the Government for this long-needed mental health in-patient unit for children and young people in Cornwall. The turf cutting for this building took place at the beginning of May this year and I look forward to seeing it open in April 2019.

Furthermore, Royal Cornwall Hospital is one of 74 sites from around the country that has been offered £30m as part of the ‘Core 24’ standard for mental health liaison, meaning a fully-staffed team will be operating 24/7 in the hospital, offering a one-hour response to emergency mental health referrals in A&E.

These are all good steps in the right direction but there is much more to do, both in raising awareness of mental health issues in general terms throughout our society for all age groups, but also in providing the funding and expertise to treat them.

I am particularly aware that our mental health services in Cornwall are under great pressure and there is a real need for more funding to make it to the ‘front line’ so that we deliver much better outcomes for people.

This is an issue I will continue to campaign on and work with our local NHS in order to continue to make real progress. Mental Health Awareness Week is a good time to take stock of the progress we have made but also to reiterate our commitment to tackling this issue now and for future generations.

I believe it is also a timely reminder to us all of the importance of looking after our own mental and emotional health, and that of our family and friends, and ensure that we care for and support the people in our lives.

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. The office is open to the public Monday – Friday 10.00am – 4.00pm (no appointment necessary). If there is an issue you would like my assistance on then please, either visit the office or 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 May 2018

Newspaper column 9 May 2018 - NPPF Consultation


One of the big consultations going on at the moment is regarding the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), the legislation that underpins the planning system that controls new building developments in our country.

While the passing of Cornwall’s local plan a couple of years ago and the ongoing work carried out by hard-working volunteers to bring in Neighbourhood Development Plans on a Parish and Town level gives weight to local views in planning, it is the NPPF that planning officers in county hall and the planning inspector, uses as the foundation of their decision-making.

The consultation as it stands currently has a number of changes proposed, some of which I support and some of which I do not.

One thing in this consultation that I am very much in favour is of the additional layer of protection given to protected areas to excuse them from the ‘presumption in favour of sustainable development’, which normally makes it much easier for applications to get permission.

Presumption in favour of sustainable development, in planning terms means approving development proposals that accord with an up-to-date development plan without delay, or where there are no relevant development plan policies, or the policies which are most important for determining the application are out-of-date, the planning officer must grant permission.

However the NPPF will now read that if the application of policies that protect areas or assets of particular importance provide a clear reason for refusing the development propose, or any adverse impacts of doing so would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits, when assessed against the policies in the NPPF taken as a whole, then the presumption in favour of sustainable development can be disregarded.

Crucially, the policies referred to above are those relating to sites protected under rules such as, among others, Sites of Special Scientific Interest, Local Green Space,  Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), defined as Heritage Coast or otherwise irreplaceable habitats.

We are lucky to have a number of places with these designations in Mid-Cornwall and their presence does a lot to encourage tourism. Visitors come from far and wide to see the stunning Cornish coast and countryside and we must do all we can to protect this from unnecessary and inappropriate development.

I am concerned about some muddling of the planning legislation around AONB rules that could make them weaker in the eyes of developers.  In my previous experience as a councillor prior to becoming an MP, the AONB rules we currently have in the NPPF are fit for purpose and robust enough to deter developers from building inappropriately. I am very much against weakening the planning legislation we have in place to protect our AONB and have written to the Minister for Housing outlining my concerns in response to this consultation.

The consultation runs until 10 May and you can have your say via the below link:
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. The office is open to the public Monday – Friday 10.00am – 4.00pm (no appointment necessary). If there is an issue you would like my assistance on then please, either visit the office or 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, 2 May 2018

Newspaper column 2 May 2018 - Universal Credit Rollout


As we head into May, we will be seeing the full roll out of the Universal Credit benefit (UC) to the St Austell and Newquay constituency and indeed across Cornwall.

Universal credit is a new benefit being gradually introduced across the UK, replacing means-tested benefits and tax credits for working-age people.

There have been issues with its administration since it started going live, but this is why the government has taken it slowly. I am pleased to see the Department for Work and Pensions has listened to feedback from myself and other MP colleagues and acted accordingly meaning the UC we have now is much improved over previous proposals.

Recent figures show the employment rate is at a joint record high, the unemployment rate is at its 40-year low, and the rate of women in work is at a record high, meaning more people are able to provide for their families, but there is still more to do to make the economy work for everyone.

The benefits system the Coalition Government inherited in 2010 was incredibly complicated, with many conflicting rules and systems meaning it was hard to make work pay and ensure everyone claiming benefit got what entitled to.

Universal credit seeks to roll many existing benefits, currently paid separately at different times by the Department for Work and Pensions, HMRC and local authorities such as Cornwall Council into one benefit paid monthly.

Its aim is to simplify the benefits system, make it more efficient and increase the incentives for people to work rather than stay on benefits – making work pay.

One particularly positive aspect of UC is that there are no limits on how many hours a week you can work if you’re claiming it. Instead, the amount you get will gradually reduce as you earn more, so you won’t lose all your benefits at once. This is a good thing, as with many of the benefits that UC is replacing, there was an abrupt cut off point if you worked more hours and earned more than a certain amount, which led to people being forced to stay on benefits instead of returning to work as they would not have been better off financially once their benefits stopped. In areas where UC has been rolled out we have seen an increase in people getting into work and working more hours which clearly has to be a positive outcome both for the individuals and the country.

For anyone already receiving one or more of the benefits universal credit will eventually replace, there won’t be any change immediately. Eventually, existing claimants will be moved onto universal credit by the Department for Work and Pensions even if there has been no change of circumstances. This process is currently planned to happen between 2019 and 2022.

I will be closely watching the rollout of UC as it progresses and will work with the Department for Work and Pensions both locally and in Westminster with Ministerial colleagues to ensure it goes as smoothly as possible.

Should anyone encounter difficulties with their claim for UC, then I will be happy to help by looking at cases and making representations to the Department for Work and Pensions if appropriate.

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. The office is open to the public Monday – Friday 10.00am – 4.00pm (no appointment necessary). If there is an issue you would like my assistance on then please, either visit the office or 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, 25 April 2018

Newspaper column 25 April 2018 - Potholes


Last week I was able to speak in Parliament every day that I was in Westminster, speaking in the debate on UK action in Syria on Monday, the anti-semitism debate on Tuesday and questioning the Prime Minister at PMQs on Wednesday.

Then it was back to Cornwall for an interesting visit with the Transport Select Committee to the Falmouth Coastguard Station, which oversees the vital work carried out by the coastguard across Cornwall. It was good to gain a better understand of the work the coastguards do and how the recent modernisation of their service has improved the cover they are able to provide for our maritime vessels.

After a busy Friday meeting with Cornwall Council and NHS leaders, and participating in the Cornwall Leadership Board meeting, at County Hall I was able to spend Saturday, with its glorious weather, getting out and about meeting with residents and delivering my Annual Update report for 2018.

It was good to talk to so many people and hear about the issues, local and national that matter to you. One thing that came up again and again, and was particularly noticeable while walking around residential roads, was the problems people have had with potholes, both the number of them and also how they can go about reporting them.

Potholes are always an issue as they can damage our vehicles and disrupt traffic. Filling and repairing them should be a top priority of Cornwall Council. With the current state of our roads following the recent harsh winter, potholes are certainly a problem at the moment.

The good news is that the Government provides ring-fenced money that it gives to Cornwall Council specifically to deal with potholes.

This money, part of a £100m national Pothole Fund to deal with potholes, is given out every year, and every year that I have been MP, the amount Cornwall gets has increased. For example, for this year, we got, £2,572,746 of funding, which will help repair around 50,000 potholes in Cornwall.

Cornwall Council has a tool on their website that allows you to report potholes and other highway defects and receive progress updates on how they are correcting them.

I have included a link to this tool below:


You can also call them on 0300 1234222 to report them over the telephone.

If you experience difficulties in getting a response or final outcome from Cornwall Council on highway issues, then do get in touch with me and I will then be able to make representations on your behalf.

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. The office is open to the public Monday – Friday 10.00am – 4.00pm (no appointment necessary). If there is an issue you would like my assistance on then please, either visit the office or 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, 18 April 2018

Newspaper column 18 April 2018 - The strike on Syria


Last week I was shocked to see, as I am sure were you, photographs of dead children who had been gassed in a chemical weapons attack by the forces of Syrian President Assad, in an attack on his own people in Douma.

Subsequently on Friday evening, a combined UK, French and US missile strike took out Assad’s three chemical weapons facilities. No casualties have been reported as a result of these strikes.
Not everyone has agreed with the Prime Minister’s decision to join the strike. I do support this action for a number of reasons.

Firstly this strike was solely about degrading Assad’s ability to manufacture and use chemical weapons. There is no follow-up on the ground and no sustained campaign of more general air strikes, and no broader objectives such as getting involved in the Syrian Civil War or trying to force a regime change. As such I believe the action taken was entirely proportionate and designed to solve a particular issue, which has now been dealt with.

Secondly there are international treaties prohibiting the use of chemical weapons. Assad has a track record of using these weapons on his own people. It is morally wrong to allow him to operate like this with impunity. As an international power, it is our responsibility to show people who would take these actions that they are not tolerated, and that their use will be met with strong and swift retaliation.

People have raised that they are not satisfied that Assad is behind these attacks. France, whose President Macron has been particularly robust in pushing for a strike, said:

“On the intelligence collected by our services, and in the absence to date of chemical samples analyzed by our own laboratories, France considers, beyond possible doubt, a chemical attack was carried out against civilians at Douma ... and that there is no plausible scenario other than that of an attack by Syrian armed forces,”.

In committing our own military the Prime Minister will have had access to our own highly classified data and I trust that she would have been absolutely certain of the validity of this data and of Assad’s culpability for the attack before making the decision to proceed with the strike. We elect our Prime Minister to make executive decisions on our behalf, tough decisions, and this is one of them.
Finally, there are those people who say this chemical weapons attack requires a diplomatic solution, particularly one backed by the UN. Assad’s past history, going back over seven years, of using chemical weapons, despite all sorts of diplomatic solutions being used to try to stop him, show that this does not work. Moreover Russia has used in the past and will continue to use, its veto on the UN Security Council to block any UN backed actions.
For these reasons I believe that the strike action that we took with our allies last Friday was the right thing to do. These decisions are never easy, but as a country we need to stand up to bullies like Assad wherever we can and ensure that they cannot use these horrific weapons again.