Peter Heaton-Jones MP
Working Hard for North Devon
News Update -
Date: 15th September 2019
Thank you and welcome to my latest Newsletter. Please do forward this on to someone who you think may be interested, and urge them to sign up.
North Devon Link Road
As the photo shows, planting of around 20,000 trees has got underway as part of advanced work ahead of the start of major improvements to the North Devon Link Road.
I was honoured to be asked to join Devon County Council Chairman John Mathews and Vice Lord-Lieutenant Lady Arran MBE DL in planting the first trees last week.
The trees will be planted over a distance of 10km between Filleigh and Portmore, where work on widening the A361 is due to start in 2021.
The planting at the side of the road will help establish ecological habitats ahead of the Link Road being widened, and it will also screen the road from surrounding areas.
This is another important step forward in the ambitious scheme to deliver major improvements to the North Devon Link Road. We’ve achieved the biggest investment North Devon has seen in recent years, with more than £80 million from the government and £10 million from the County Council.
The environmental aspects of this scheme are incredibly important, which is why I’m so pleased that an extensive tree-planting programme is now getting underway.
This was a very significant day for North Devon and I was delighted to be able to take part.
You can read more about it, and see a video of the event, on Devon County Council’s website, here:
There have been so many twists and turns since the last newsletter, so it seems sensible to start by reiterating my overall view of the whole Brexit issue.
In the 2016 referendum, 58% of North Devon's voters supported leave. Then in the 2017 General Election, I was re-elected on a platform of delivering Brexit.
I will not ignore those results or break the commitments I made to the people of North Devon, and neither will the government.
I want the UK to leave the EU with a deal, and so have voted for the agreement at every opportunity in the House of Commons. Unfortunately, too many MPs from all parties have failed to support the deal. Had they voted for it, we would not be in this situation now. I want to avoid a no deal Brexit, as does the government, and the best way to achieve that is to vote for a deal.
On the question of the prorogation or suspension of Parliament, I do understand the concerns about this. However, prorogation is a normal part of the parliamentary process which happens before every Queen's Speech. We have not had a Queen's Speech for more than two years, so it is long overdue.
It is true that this period of prorogation is longer than has recently been the case, but that's because it incorporates the Conference recess. When that is taken into account, only six planned parliamentary sitting days are actually lost.
It is also worth reflecting that the next EU Council meeting does not take place until 17 October, and Parliament will indeed have returned by then.
And on the legal question, the Supreme Court will make its final ruling as to whether the prorogation is lawful next week. The High Court in England has already contradicted the Scottish judges and said in effect that the prorogation is lawful – although that doesn’t seem to have received much publicity.
There is a common link between all these factors, which is the preservation of our precious democracy.
It was the democratic choice of the UK's voters to leave the EU, and this government will deliver on that result.
It is the democratic right of a new Prime Minister to prorogue parliament and set out their government's legislative programme in a Queen's Speech, and that is what’s happening.
And democracy would be best served by having another general election to break the current impasse in parliament, which is what the government has proposed.
Sadly, our opponents have sought to block these moves at every turn.
It is this government which is seeking to uphold our democracy by delivering Brexit, with a deal, on October 31, and I will continue to support that.
My first priority is to get the best possible outcome for North Devon, which respects our area's democratically-expressed view and delivers an orderly Brexit. I and the government will continue to work hard to achieve that.
High Streets Fund for Barnstaple…
On to other matters. Last week I had a very productive meeting with Jake Berry, the Minister for Local Growth. It came after the announcement that Barnstaple has been selected to go forward to the next phase of the Future High Streets Fund.
This is a substantial pot of government money which has just been increased to a billion pounds and is designed to help councils transform local high streets.
When Jake Berry wrote to me, he said, ‘An ambitious vision for Barnstaple has been put forward, with the potential to build on its position as a regional economic centre and a tourist town with a rich history’.
With warm words like that, I knew it was likely to be a productive meeting. But I was delighted when the Minister asked me to pass on an invitation for Barnstaple to bid for up to £150,000 straight away, just to put together the business case. Let’s be clear, this is money to help with the bidding process; the actual grant could be many millions of pounds.
North Devon Council is now being invited to submit that full business case, and I will continue to support it however I can.
Of course, Barnstaple is not our only town in North Devon in need of investment. During the summer recess, I spent considerable time in Ilfracombe, meeting many community groups and hearing about some of the challenges faced by the local community.
So I took the opportunity of asking the Minister what help might be available for Ilfracombe too. He has pointed me towards the £3.6billion Towns Fund, and says there will be further tranches of the Coastal Communities Fund as well. I will make sure Ilfracombe is at the front of the queue when this new money is being distributed.
It’s this personal relationship and influence with ministers which is so helpful, and I will continue to use it unashamedly to get what we need for North Devon.
This month’s Spending Round announcements by the Chancellor, Sajid Javid, contain much welcome news for North Devon.
First and foremost, schools will benefit from an overall funding increase of £2.6 billion next year. This means per pupil funding of at least £5,000 in secondary schools and £3,750 in primaries. This fairer funding is something for which I have lobbied hard on behalf of North Devon, so I'm delighted the Chancellor has listened.
Here's a video of me making this point to the Education Secretary in the House of Commons on Monday, and inviting him here to see for himself why we’ve been fighting:
For further education, there's a £400 million increase in funding. This is a direct result of lobbying by colleges such as Petroc which I've strongly supported, and is the right decision for our young people.
The Chancellor also confirmed an extra £750 million to recruit 20,000 new police officers, and I will continue working with our Police & Crime Commissioner, Alison Hernandez, to make sure Devon & Cornwall's force gets fair recognition for the demands placed upon it, especially during the summer months.
Sajid Javid also made clear that we'll start seeing the £33.9 billion cash increase for the NHS making a real difference to our frontline services, and I know this will be welcome news for staff and patients at North Devon District Hospital.
Overall, the Chancellor announced that every government department will see a real-terms increase in funding next year. This is only possible because of the Conservatives' careful management of the economy and the hard work of staff in our public services. I will continue lobbying to make sure North Devon receives its fair slice of the cake.
Peter Heaton-Jones MP
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Barnstaple, North Devon, EX31 1DE
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