Peter Heaton-Jones MP
Working Hard for North Devon
News Update -
Date: 17th June 2018
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This newsletter is a little later than usual because I wanted to wait for today’s announcement by the Prime Minister about NHS funding.
Theresa May has revealed that the health service will receive an extra £20 billion a year in real terms funding by 2024. It means an average annual increase of 3.4%. However, it’ll be ‘front-loaded’, to use the jargon, so in the first two years the increase will be 3.6%.
This is extremely welcome news. The government has actually been increasing spending on the NHS every year (contrary to reports), but the funding hasn’t kept pace with rising costs and certainly hasn’t been enough to cover the growing demands on our health service.
The government has had to take difficult decisions to keep the economy strong and get spending under control. But today’s announcement shows we’re coming to the end of what many people have called ‘austerity’.
It comes only a couple of weeks after the health service unions agreed to a package of pay rises which will see substantial increases for all staff, with those on the lower grades quite rightly benefitting the most.
There’s been a lot of talk today about where the extra money is coming from, with arguments as to whether or not this is the so-called ‘Brexit dividend’. Just for the record, the side of that famous bus claimed Brexit would mean £350million a week more for the NHS; what the PM has announced today amounts to much more.
The truth is that taxes and borrowing will have to rise; the government doesn’t have any money of its own, it can only borrow money which it has to pay back later or take money from us in the form of taxes. That’s why all spending decisions have to be carefully considered. It’s very easy to argue for more spending and say this should have come sooner, but such decisions impact the whole economy and have to be balanced with all the other factors.
But we’re there now, and that’s great. We now need to have a proper discussion about where the money should be spent to benefit patients the most. Of course, I’ll continue lobbying hard to ensure North Devon gets its fair share.
Point of Light
On Monday the Prime Minister named Lisa Wallis from North Devon as the latest winner of a prestigious Point of Light award. I was honoured to present Lisa with her certificate and personal letter from Theresa May, as the photo shows.
Lisa, from Fremington, is the latest recipient of the award, which recognises outstanding volunteers who are making a change in their community and inspiring others. Each day, one person somewhere in the UK is selected to receive the award for their remarkable achievements.
Lisa is the founder of the charity ‘ChemoHero’, an organisation that spreads kindness by sending boxes of treats to patients undergoing chemotherapy. Lisa was inspired to act after undergoing the treatment herself.
The boxes are filled with useful products to help with the side effects of treatment, luxury goods to make patients smile and items to keep their loved ones occupied while they sleep during treatment. Many of the items are donated by local businesses in North Devon. Lisa has been diagnosed with terminal cancer but hopes that ‘ChemoHero’ continues to provide boxes of kindness to chemotherapy patients for years to come.
The work she does is inspiring and helps people at the most difficult time of their lives. My own family has been affected by cancer and I know just how important this sort of work is, both to patients and their loved ones. I congratulate Lisa wholeheartedly and was honoured to have been asked by the Prime Minister to present her with the award.
Ilfracombe Academy success
A few weeks ago I visited Ilfracombe Academy to meet a fantastic group of students who have set up a Young Enterprise company called Save Our World (SOW) Books. They produce children's books to educate youngsters about the dangers of pollution, especially plastic, in our oceans. They’re taking part in a charity competition called Young Enterprise that aims to teach young adults more about business and finance.
The group have produced a number of books featuring various sea creatures who experience the danger that plastic pollution can cause. It’s not only educational; any profits are being donated to the charity Surfers Against Sewage.
The group are certainly making a name for themselves. Save Our World Books recently won an Outstanding Achievement award at the North Devon Manufacturers Association awards. They also won the Devon heat of the Young Enterprise awards. And last Wednesday they represented our county at the South West Finals in Exeter.
And the news is…they won! This is a fantastic achievement, and means they go forward to the national finals in London.
Last week it was my pleasure to introduce some of the group to Environment Secretary Michael Gove when he visited North Devon. He was incredibly impressed with their work and enthusiasm, as am I.
Best of luck for the finals – representing Ilfracombe on the national stage is a brilliant opportunity.
Speaking of Michael Gove…
As mentioned, the Secretary of State at the Department of Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (to give him his full title) made a two-day visit to our region at the end of last week.
On Thursday I joined him just over the border on Exmoor, to hear about the Exmoor Ambition project. This is a blueprint for the way farming on the uplands can develop over the coming years.
Then last Friday, Mr Gove was in North Devon itself. We visited a farm in Bishops Nympton which is leading the way when it comes to diversification and environmental stewardship.
This was far more than a photo opportunity: Mr Gove was quite rightly asked (and answered) many challenging questions, especially the impact of Brexit on the farming industry.
I try to bring as many senior ministers to North Devon as possible; we’ve had more in the last four years than anyone can remember. We’re on the map like never before and I’ll keep using my contacts and influence to bring the decision-makers here.
Peter Heaton-Jones MP
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