Monday 19 February 2024

Newspaper column 19th February 2024 - Michael Gove's visit to St Agnus and reformed planning for short-term lets.

Last week saw another really positive development in my campaign towards addressing the impact of holiday lets on communities in Truro and Falmouth, when the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Communities and Local Government, Michael Gove, visited St Agnes to announce a major new Government policy.

One of the biggest issues that I am often contacted about locally is the lack of affordable accommodation for local people, particularly in our rural and coastal communities.

This was really brought home to me following the pandemic when in one of my first constituency advice surgeries since restrictions lifted, held in St Agnes, within two hours, I had had 15 constituents and families through the doors, and every single one was either being evicted or their rent was going up so much that they could not stay. Pretty much all those properties were going to be flipped into Airbnbs.

Since then, along with Cornish MP colleagues, we have been lobbying the Government to make changes in this area to ensure that we do not let this continue to happen.

A lot of these changes to better restrict the holiday let industry and correct the imbalance of these properties towards those occupied by local people all year round have been made possible through the Government’s landmark Levelling Up Act, which came into law last year.

The Levelling Up Act has already given local authorities like Cornwall Council the power to double council tax on existing second homes, something I know that Cornwall Council have welcomed and will be bringing into practice from April 2025, the earliest that they are able to.

But the Government has gone further and last year consulted on giving additional powers to local authorities via the Levelling Up Act to hold mandatory registers of all holiday lets, and also to allow local authorities to make people who want to turn existing residential properties into holiday lets to have to do so via making a planning application for change of use, therefore giving the local authority the ultimate decision as to whether to allow holiday lets into communities or not. These powers will give local authorities the tools to be able to see the scope of the problem and identify where there are large numbers of holiday lets overwhelming communities, and then give them the power to do something about it, by giving them a say via a planning application.

I very much welcomed the consultation by the Government last year, and was delighted to see Michael Gove, speaking to myself and residents of St Agnes last week, commit the Government to adopting these proposals in full. This will give local authorities like Cornwall Council more powers to do something about holiday lets in communities that are adversely affected by them, and in doing so, will also encourage landlords to keep their properties in the open market, and sell or rent to local people who will occupy them all year round. A really good step forward, and I will continue to work to get the best deal for Truro and Falmouth, and Cornwall, now and in the future.

As always, I am fully focused on the job at hand and if there is ever anything at all I can do to help, then please do not hesitate to contact me. Please get in touch with me by email at Cherilyn.mackrory.mp@parliament.uk , or by telephone on 01872 229698. My regular constituency advice surgeries are held in a covid-safe environment at my office, so please do get in touch should you wish to meet me about any matters that I can be of assistance with.

Friday 16 February 2024

Campaign Reply - The Syria Campaign

Thank you for contacting me about earthquake relief in Syria.

I offer my condolences to all those affected by this tragedy, particularly those who lost loved ones. The UK Government offered support to Syria only hours after the earthquake struck, and continues to support their long-term recovery efforts.


In the aftermath of the earthquakes, the UK immediately announced an additional £800,000 to the UK-funded White Helmets, who immediately mobilised their response in north-west Syria. The White Helmets volunteers carried out search and rescue operations in 60 villages across 182 locations, helping thousands of civilians. Furthermore, to protect survivors and support those who had been critically injured, the UK also sent a world-class team of UK medics and announced £8 million of lifesaving support to both Turkey and Syria, which was used to provide survivors with vital items, like tents and blankets, meeting the needs of up to 15,000 people. The UK Government also matched the £5 million raised by the Disaster Emergency Committee’s (DEC) joint appeal for UK humanitarian operations in Turkey and Syria. As the focus moves from rescue to recovery, the UK has continued urgent humanitarian assistance with a further financial package of £25 million.

 

Despite this, efforts to provide humanitarian aid have been hindered by ongoing conflict in the region and the Assad regime’s sustained use of aid as a political weapon. Despite earlier opening three crossings on the Syrian border, Turkey has now closed these access points due to ongoing clashes in northern Aleppo. This followed Russia’s decision to veto a compromise solution that would have extended UN operation through Bab al-Hawa crossing for a further nine-months.

 

I will happily join you in condemning the Assad regime, calling for all parties in Syria to observe their commitments under ceasefire agreements and to work towards sustained, calm and unhindered humanitarian access through all modalities. The UK Government is not the only aid providing organisation to call for this; I note the UN Special Envoy for Syria’s assertion that “2023 [...] saw the worst eruptions of violent conflict in years, further exacerbating the worsening humanitarian situation, and a lack of meaningful progress on the political process”. Likewise, I will openly criticise Russia for its breaches of international rules and norms and promise my support to measures being taken by the UK Government to hold them to account.

 

Regardless, I can confirm that I will support the UK Government’s plans to spend up to £150 million in 2023/24 to support the Syrian people and refugee-hosting countries. I know the UK Government remains updated, via the British Embassy in Ankara and aid agencies on the ground in both countries, and is committed to supporting the long-term recovery effort. I will continue to follow developments with keen interest.

Campaign Reply - NHS Privatisation

Thank you for contacting me about independent sector providers and the NHS.

The Government is clear that the NHS will always provide healthcare free at the point of delivery, regardless of ability to pay. This principle applies whether NHS-funded care is being delivered by an NHS, voluntary or independent healthcare provider.

Under the NHS Constitution, patients have “the right to access certain services commissioned by NHS bodies within maximum waiting times, or for the NHS to take all reasonable steps to offer you a range of suitable alternative providers if this is not possible.”

As we seek to reduce the treatment backlog built up during the Covid-19 pandemic, independent providers have a valuable role to play in reducing NHS waiting times, by allowing patients to be treated in a private healthcare setting whilst being funded by the NHS, freeing up capacity in NHS hospitals.

The Government is ensuring the NHS has the necessary investment to deliver better care for patients, providing an extra £45.6 billion in funding for health and social care to 2024-25. As set out in the 2021 Spending Review, NHS England’s day-to-day budget is set to grow by 3.8 per cent on average up to 2024/25, supporting the NHS to tackle the treatment backlog, and deliver its Long Term Plan.  A further £4.7 billion in funding will be provided to support adult social care and discharge in 2024/25.

In addition, the Government is making the largest health capital investment in a decade, including the hospital rebuilding programme, and funding for new community diagnostic centres, surgical hubs and mental health urgent and emergency care facilities.

Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.

Campaign Reply - Skilled Foreign Workers (Salary Threshold)

Thank you for contacting me about the increase in salary threshold for skilled workers.

I welcome that the Government is taking decisive action to curb the levels of legal migration. The steps being taken will ensure that immigration always benefits the UK, while ensuring that the NHS and the country's most innovative businesses always have access to the talent they need to succeed.

As such, the Government has taken the decision to increase salary thresholds for skilled workers by 48 per cent to £38,700, in line with the median full-time wage for equivalent jobs. The current general salary threshold is £26,200. I understand that the increase will take place from March.

However,  those coming in on the Health and Social Care visa route will be exempted so that the country can continue to bring the healthcare workers that the care sector and the NHS need. If these new rules were in place, they could have prevented over 10,000 individuals and their dependants coming to the UK in the year to September 2023. In future, this will mean that employers are not incentivised to undercut UK workers with cheaper overseas workers and instead invest in the skills of the domestic workforce.

Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.

Campaign Reply - Diabetes

Diabetes is a leading cause of premature mortality, doubling an individual's risk of cardiovascular disease. It costs over £10 billion every year to manage and results in over 22,000 additional deaths each year. That is why I believe it is important that high quality diabetes care is available.

 

A total of £5 million was provided in 2021/22 in a national recovery fund to support the recovery of routine diabetes care through innovative projects. The programme approved 28 projects with delivery in 2022/23. A further £75 million of funding is also being allocated between 2020/21 and 2023/24 for the treatment and care of people living with diabetes. NHS England continues to work to identify and develop plans to address gaps in the provision of services.

 

The Government also supports work to prevent the development of diabetes. The NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme operates to identify people who are at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes and refers them on to a nine-month, evidence-based lifestyle change programme. Latest figures, published in February 2023 shows a 20 per cent reduction in risk for those who are referred to the programme compared to those who are not.

 

Finally, the Government has announced its intention to develop and publish a Major Conditions Strategy. The strategy will set out a strong and coherent policy agenda that sets out a shift to integrated, whole-person care. Interventions set out in the strategy will aim to alleviate pressure on the health system, as well as support the Government’s objective to increase healthy life expectancy and reduce ill-health related labour market inactivity. Diabetes is one of the six major conditions included in the strategy.

 

A call for evidence was launched for the Major Conditions Strategy which ran until June 2023. The Government is analysing responses and will respond shortly.

 

Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.

Campaign Reply - People's Plan for Nature

Thank you for contacting me about nature.

Biodiversity loss is a global problem that needs a global solution. I welcome that at COP15, the UN biodiversity summit held in Canada in December 2022, almost 200 countries agreed a new deal to protect nature. The Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) includes a commitment to halt and reverse biodiversity loss by 2030 and to protect 30 per cent of land and oceans by 2030. The GBF also commits to ending human-induced extinctions of known threatened species.

 

The UK played a leading role in the negotiations, building on the UK’s COP and G7 presidencies, including the Leaders' Pledge for Nature. This commits world leaders to taking action to drive sustainable food production, end the illegal wildlife trade and tackle climate change. Climate and Environment Ministers of the G7 have committed to the GBF’s swift implementation, as well as international climate finance to nature-based solutions.

 

Domestically, the Environment Act 2021 sets a legally binding target to halt the decline in species abundance by 2030. Biodiversity net gain and a strengthened biodiversity duty on public authorities will create and restore rich habitats that enable wildlife to recover and thrive, while conservation covenants will secure habitat for the long-term.

Further, through the Sustainable Farming Incentive, farmers are paid for actions that support food production and improve farm productivity and resilience, while also protecting and improving the environment. This includes actions relating to soil health, hedgerow management, providing food and habitats for wildlife, and managing pests and nutrients.

 

When adopted at scale by farmers, these actions will make a significant contribution to the Government’s environment and climate targets, and support objectives to maintain food production and improve farm productivity. This includes the aim published in the Environmental Improvement Plan of between 65 and 80 per cent of landowners and farmers adopting nature-friendly farming on at least 10 to 15 per cent of their land by 2030.

 

Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.

Campaign Reply - Salt, Sugar and Fat in Food and Drink Products

The Government has committed to a salt reduction programme to reduce the consumption of salt and the associated health risks

 

Work is also ongoing to reduce levels of calories in savoury foods. These programmes cover all sectors of the food and drink industry – supermarkets, manufacturers and the many places we buy from, and eat at, out of the home.

The salt reduction programme sets out clear salt targets for 84 different food products that contribute the most to people’s salt intakes and are set to be achieved by 2024. There are also targets for maximum salt quantity per serving designed specifically for the hospitality, takeaway, and delivery sectors.

Average sugar reduction across all food categories currently stands at around 3.5 per cent. However, some individual product categories have delivered greater reductions, such as 14.9 per cent for breakfast cereals, 13.5 per cent for yogurts/fromage frais and 7.2 per cent for ice cream.

There has been clear progress in reducing the salt content of foods since salt targets were first set in 2006, such as a 20 per cent reduction in salt in bread. The latest analysis has shown that more progress needs to be made, particularly by the eating out of home sector.

As part of the Health and Care Act 2022, the Government legislated for further restrictions on TV and online advertising of less healthier food and drink products.  It is important that industry has time to prepare for these measures, so the Government has delayed their implementation until 1 October 2025.

I can assure you that addressing obesity remains a priority for the Government, with restrictions on the location and promotion of products high in fat, salt or sugar currently in force. Restaurants, cafes and takeaways are also now required to list calories for food on menus. 

 

Thank you again for contacting me.