Peter Heaton-Jones MP
Working Hard for North Devon
News Update -
Date: 11th May 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.
Last Thursday we went to the polls to elect a new set of district councillors for North Devon. I would like to congratulate all the winners, and I look forward to working with the new administration.
I’ve already written to the leader of the Liberal Democrat group, Councillor David Worden, offering my congratulations and suggesting an early meeting.
This was a disappointing night for the Conservatives in North Devon, there's no getting away from it. We actually did better here than in many other areas, but at this mid-term point in the electoral cycle it was always going to be difficult. We had a lot of seats to defend, because the last council elections were held on the same day as the 2015 general election when Conservatives did particularly well. Also, some of our most experienced councillors have retired, including the former leader.
We have lost some good, hard-working, long-standing councillors as a result. This is clearly a reflection of the national mood and not a reflection of their hard work or achievements over the years. I send my commiserations to them.
But the most important message is this: I look forward to continuing working with the District Council to get the very best for North Devon, party politics aside.
I’m annoyed, angry and frustrated that we’re having to hold elections for the European Parliament on May 23rd. We should have left the EU by now. That’s what the country voted for, and it’s what North Devon supported by an even bigger margin.
I’ve voted in the House of Commons to deliver Brexit at every opportunity. Sadly, too few of my fellow MPs have done the same.
I hope we can break the impasse soon. We have to.
On Thursday, as the photo shows, former Brexit Secretary and potential future Prime Minister Dominic Raab visited North Devon.
Mr Raab, who is widely seen as a leading contender to replace Theresa May, was guest speaker at a Conservative Party event at Highbullen Hotel in Chittlehamholt. I invited him here as part of a series of visits which will see a number of leadership candidates and government ministers coming to North Devon.
Dominic Raab, who controversially resigned from the Cabinet over Brexit policy, spoke to around 60 guests at the dinner on Thursday night. He gave a really interesting speech, setting out his vision for Brexit and for the future of politics more broadly.
Although he didn’t say so outright, it’s pretty clear he plans to contest the Party leadership when Theresa May steps down. That means he could be our next Prime Minister – possibly as soon as this summer – and so I’m delighted he accepted my invitation to come to North Devon. I took the opportunity of course to talk to him about some of the fantastic work we’re doing here, the concerns we have, and how we want to keep moving forward.
This event came in the week which marked my fourth anniversary as North Devon’s MP. In that time, I’m proud to have brought a large number of ministers and government figures here – more than we’ve ever seen in the past. That sort of personal contact and influence with the decision-makers is paying dividends in the amount of investment we’re now getting, such as the huge funding for improvements to the Link Road.
I’m already planning more visits. One of the other leadership contenders – Rory Stewart, who’s just been promoted to the Cabinet – is due to visit later in the summer, and new Cabinet Office Minister Kevin Foster is also coming next month.
Last week saw the very welcome government announcement that more than £25 million will be allocated to a hundred areas across the country, including North Devon, to help the most vulnerable rough sleepers off the streets.
North Devon is set to receive more than 83 thousand pounds as part of this funding, which will help provide rough sleepers with the specialist support they need. Councils will use this investment to fund innovative local schemes aimed at supporting vulnerable people so they are able to get into stable accommodation where they will then receive tailored care.
The government is working hard to ensure no one has to spend a night on the streets, and this investment will provide vulnerable people in North Devon with the support they need to get off the streets for good.
The Council will be able to use the funding to develop the right support for vulnerable rough sleepers in the local area. These are people who may be dealing with complex mental health problems or addictions, and require specialist support to tackle these issues and turn their lives around.
The funding will ensure those sleeping on the streets in North Devon have access to the professional help and guidance they need to get back on their feet – taking us one step closer to ending rough sleeping for good.
This £83,500 coming to North Devon forms part of the Government’s £100 million plan to end rough sleeping by 2027. Progress is already being made with the first fall in rough sleeping since 2010 and falls of almost 20 per cent in the worst-affected areas. Schemes like this will help us achieve our ambition of being a country in which no-one needs to spend a night on the streets, and I am pleased the North Devon will be playing its part.
In Parliament 1
Last week, I spoke in Parliament in a debate about the future of free TV licences for people over the age of 75.
The BBC – an organisation I love and for whom I worked, on and off, for twenty years – accepted responsibility for this concession as part of its long-term funding settlement in 2015. This deal gave the BBC a guaranteed real-terms funding increase from licence-payers until at least 2020. Last year the Corporation’s total income was more than five billion pounds. And yet, the BBC says it’s not sure whether it can afford to continue giving the free licence to all those over 75.
I say it should. The BBC must live within its means, recognise it has a funding deal that commercial organisations can only dream of, and use its generous public income to continue providing this important concession.
You can watch my speech here (please note this link may not work on all devices):
In Parliament 2
Also last week, I asked a question about the support being received by people with disabilities under the new Universal Credit benefits system. You can watch my question, and the minister’s answer, here:
Peter Heaton-Jones MP
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