Peter Heaton-Jones MP
Working Hard for North Devon
News Update -
Date: 30th September 2019
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The government has announced that North Devon is set to get a brand new district hospital.
The plans were revealed at the start of the Conservative Party Conference when Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Health Secretary Matt Hancock unveiled the government’s new Health Infrastructure Programme.
It will see 40 new hospitals built at a total cost of £13 billion. Six will be built in the next five years, with a further 34 - including in Barnstaple - planned for the second half of the decade. The North Devon NHS Trust will get ‘seed funding’ straight away to cover the planning costs.
When Matt Hancock told me, I was delighted. He congratulated us on putting up such a robust argument for more investment in North Devon. He said he hoped this would end once and for all any uncertainty about the future of services here.
The government wants to move quickly and is providing funding upfront for the planning process. Patients, staff and the wider community will undoubtedly have many questions. Chief amongst them will be when the new hospital will open, where will it be, and what services it will provide.
We also need to be sure that the provision will be sustainable in terms of staffing and truly accessible for all people in North Devon.
This was one of the points I raised when I questioned the Health Minister, Ed Argar, in the House of Commons today. You can see the clip here (please note this may not work on all devices):
I have already spoken to the Chief Executive of the Health Trust and we have agreed to work closely as this exciting project moves forward.
In the last four years I’ve raised the need for more local investment time and time again in Parliament. We’re now getting more than ever before – for the Link Road, for our schools and now for our health services. I’m proud that I, and this government, are delivering for North Devon. Watch this space.
The Election in North Devon
Regular readers will know I try to steer clear of party politics in this newsletter. However, if only for the sake of completeness, it would be wrong not to mention the news about our local situation.
The resignation of the Liberal Democrats' North Devon parliamentary candidate was sadly inevitable following her remarks on national radio about our area and why we voted Leave. On a personal note, I wish her and her family all the best with their future plans.
The Lib Dems will now change their candidate, but that won't change their party's overall view. We now know that their official policy is simply to dismiss the majority of voters in North Devon and ignore the referendum result. This will be the wholly undemocratic position adopted by the new Lib Dem candidate, whoever it is.
And changing candidates also doesn't change the reality that voting for the Lib Dems simply increases the risk of Jeremy Corbyn becoming Prime Minister. Labour's conference has just confirmed that they would form the most left-wing government for decades, with radical socialism at its core. The best way to prevent that is to elect a Conservative MP in North Devon. This is the case whoever the other party's candidates might be.
Due to the Supreme Court decision, I was unexpectedly back in Parliament last week; and this week I have decided not to attend the Party Conference in Manchester but to work instead in Westminster and North Devon.
That’s allowed me to speak in the Commons about our hospital, as mentioned earlier, and also to help arrange a crucial meeting with a senior minister about funding for our Police service.
As the photo shows, MPs from across the south west met policing minister Kit Malthouse on Thursday to hand over Devon and Cornwall’s bid for additional funding to help police deal with the impact of millions of summer visitors.
Police and Crime Commissioner Alison Hernandez headed to Westminster with a delegation of councillors and police representatives from across the force area to hand the bid in.
The Devon and Cornwall force is the largest in England and receives more tourists than any other force outside London, yet has one of the lowest police officer densities in the country.
Officers and staff struggle to cope with an 11% rise in crime in the months between April and September, a 14% rise in incidents and an 18% increase in missing people.
The bid details £17.9 of expenditure over three years that is linked to the ‘summer surge’ and requests compensation for this.
The Commissioner and her team have put together an impressive bid, and I will be joining other MPs in continuing to argue our case.
Just before the summer recess, I had a meeting with the then Defence Secretary and SW business leaders about the future of Appledore Shipyard, which closed earlier in the year.
The yard is in Geoffrey Cox’s constituency but provided work for many people from North Devon, so he and I have been working closely together on this.
Last week, Geoffrey convened a further high-level meeting at 10 Downing Street with the Government’s Taskforce dedicated to reopening the yard.
The taskforce, led by the Chairman of the SW Business Council, Tim Jones, has been working with us since the disappointing withdrawal of Babcocks and the closure of the Yard in March. We’re now cautiously optimistic about its future, particularly now that the Government has announced its intention to revive British shipbuilding.
The meeting heard about the shipbuilding heritage and of the unique community that surrounds the Yard and its iconic importance within the local economy.
The Prime Minister made clear his personal commitment to reopening Appledore Shipyard and has assured the Taskforce that the necessary help will be given.
We shouldn’t get over-excited, but there is now real hope that months of work will lead to the reopening of Appledore Shipyard in the near future.
As I always say, when parliament is not sitting it allows me to do so much more in North Devon! While the recent prorogation was underway, I was able to be a guest of the Mayor of Barnstaple at the historic proclamation of the town’s fair.
This is a delightful ceremony whose origins are largely lost in the mists of time. It involves, among other things, a decorated glove, a procession to the town gates, and even a secret recipe for the alcoholic toast. Aside from the traditions, the important message is that of welcome from the townspeople of Barnstaple to all those attending the fair.
It was an honour to be asked to take part, and it is so good to see these historic events maintained in the present day.
Peter Heaton-Jones MP
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