Monthly Archives: October 2012

rory calls on the government to help communities access new localism act right

Rory, as chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Local Democracy, last week hosted a meeting of the APPG around the issues of ‘community right to challenge’. He was joined by Ben Llewellyn, Deputy Director of Decentralisation and Big Society at the Department for Communities and Local Government, Karen Mellanby, Director of Programmes at Locality and representatives from Uppingham Town Council and West Bletchley Council.

The ‘community right to challenge’ was introduced when the Localism Act and came into force in June 2012. It will allow communities to challenge and take over local services where they believe they are able to run them more effectively. Other associated rights introduced by the Localism Act are the right to bid and the right to build.

Karen Mellanby told the group there has been a large and diverse amount of interest from communities around the right to challenge and what it means for local governance. There was discussion from all members of the assembled group around the best ways to increase understanding of the new right amongst community groups.

Rory said: “It is great to hear that there has already been strong interest coming from communities, interest in the new rights associated with the Localism Act. But we do need to do more to encourage people to take advantage of these rights in their local communities to improve their local services. That’s why I on behalf of the APPG will be writing to Eric Pickles at the Department for Communities and Local Government to ask him to set up funding for pilot communities who want to lead the way in using their new rights. We have found pilots to be very successful in broadband, big society, and market town initiatives. It would be great to see Cumbria leading the way on this as well.”

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rory helps launch cumbria’s ‘share the warmth’ winter appeal

Rory has joined fellow Cumbrians the Bishop of Carlisle James Newcome, Sir Melvyn Bragg, Sir Chris Bonington, and fellow MPs Tim Farron and Sir Tony Cunningham to help launch Cumbria Community Foundation’s 2012 Winter Warmth Fund Appeal. The MP for Penrith and the Border on Friday joined school children at High Hesket Primary School to help raise awareness about this important fund – now in its third year. He met and chatted with teachers and children, who had been busy knitting and building from Lego the Winter Warmth Fund’s logo – for which they will be in with a chance of claiming £200 worth of Derwent Pencils for their school. The pencil company has kindly given six prizes – one for each council district – for the school that comes up with the best recreation of the fund’s logo.

Rory said: “It’s a fantastic honour to once again be supporting Cumbria Community Foundation’s Winter Warmth Appeal this year. Yet again Andy Beeforth and his team have planned an excellent awareness-raising campaign, and I’ll be doing my bit to encourage Cumbrians to contribute if they can. Many homes in my constituency are of traditional construction and away from mains gas, so are expensive to heat and hard to insulate. This makes staying warm and safe especially challenging, and that is why I fully support this important Appeal.”

The aim of the fund is to prevent needless suffering of the elderly and those in need by asking for donations from the community. Many donations come from older people who get the Government’s Winter Fuel Payment, but feel they don’t need it as much as others.

Andy Beeforth, Director of Cumbria Community Foundation, explains the difference the Winter Warmth Fund has made: “In the first year we raised and distributed a pot of £10,000. Last year our donations quadrupled, bringing in £42,000 which directly helped 433 pensioners in need. We’re hoping people will be generous so we can help even more older people this winter.

Bishop James Newcome said: “I was touched by the stories of some of the many hundreds of people who were helped by last year’s Winter Warmth Appeal. Their bodies were warmed by other people’s generosity and so was my heart.  I do hope that this year’s appeal will be equally successful.”

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a call to vote: penrith and the border nominee in final of nw digital heroes award

Chris Elphick of Ravenstonedale Parish Council and its Fell End Community Broadband project have reached the final for a TalkTalk Digital Heroes award. Cumbrians who are interested should register their vote in the national competition to find a local ‘digital hero’ for the north-west.

TalkTalk’s search for the nation’s Digital Heroes has discovered three worthy local candidates, who will now go head to head to win a £5,000 technology grant to help further their cause. All over Cumbria and the north-west, people are being urged to vote for their favourite local Digital Hero at http://www.talktalk.co.uk/digitalheroes/vote-map.php, where they can click on a digital map of the north-west region to register their vote.

Rory said: “Once again, our own digital heroes are leading the way in this national competition. Please take a moment to visit the site and vote for my nominated digital hero, Chris Elphick of Ravenstonedale Parish Council, sponsors of the Fell End broadband project. Thanks to their dedication, hard work and unrelenting belief in the real advantages that super-fast broadband can bring to our most remote areas, they have come up with the first national community ‘build-and-benefit’ model, showing how communities can work with government and the private sector to build business cases to connect those final few homes. This prize money represents almost a third of the total cost of bringing super-fast broadband to almost 60 properties. Fell End have shown how this can be done, and the broadband spotlight continues to be shone on our constituency. It would be absolutely fantastic to recognise how important this project is for the entire nation.”

The TalkTalk Digital Heroes Awards, in conjunction with Citizens Online, is the only award of its kind to celebrate outstanding people who are using digital technology to bring about positive social change. After calling for entries over the last eight weeks, TalkTalk has shortlisted the most deserving candidates from each of the UK’s twelve main regions and have now opened up the final vote online to the public.  The individuals with the most votes from each of the twelve regions will be honoured at a ceremony at the House of Lords judged by a panel that includes UK Digital Champion and dotcom entrepreneur Martha Lane Fox and Carphone Warehouse’s Charles Dunstone.

More information can be found at www.talktalk.com/digitalheroes

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Rory Congratulates Wigton’s Successful ‘Town Team’ Application

Rory has congratulated the Wigton’s ‘Town Team’ applicants and Allerdale Borough Council on their successful application to become a Town Team partner, following his endorsement of the town’s application.

Wigton will now be able to access a support package designed by the Association of Town Centre Management. The support package aims to promote shared learning and best practice amongst the many Market Towns which applied for funding under the recent Mary Portas Town Team Initiative. The package includes help from retail experts and other Town Teams from across the country. In addition, each Town Team Partner will be receiving £10,000 to help towards putting some of their plans into action.

Rory said: “I’m delighted that Wigton has been one of the successful applicants to become a Town Team Partner, particularly given the very hard work they put in to become a Portas Pilot. I very much look forward to supporting them in their efforts to improve and revitalise the local area, and to build on the excellent work that Wigton’s community are already doing to regenerate the town.”

Mark Prisk MP, Housing Minister, said: “I look forward to hearing how Wigton takes forward their plans for revitalising the town. I am in no doubt that I can count on the town’s continued efforts to make the most of this opportunity.”

 

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Rory Hails Town Team Successes for Eden’s Towns

Rory has praised the success of the three Eden towns that he endorsed to become Town Team Partners, all of which have been successful in their applications.

The three successful projects – Alston Moor Partnership, Heart of Eden Development Trust and the Penrith Partnership – have all been informed of their success, as has Eden District Council, which also supported the applicants. Each of the areas will now be able to access a support package designed by the Association of Town Centre Management. The support package aims to promote shared learning and best practice amongst the 360 Market Towns which applied for funding under the recent Mary Portas Town Team Initiative. The package includes help from retail experts and other Town Teams from across the country. In addition, each Town Team Partner will be receiving £10,000 to help towards putting some of their plans into action.

Rory said: “It’s fantastic that all three of Eden’s applications have been successful. Penrith had already put in an extremely convincing application to become a Mary Portas Pilot, and it was disappointing that they were not chosen; however, it is right that all market towns with the energy and commitment to improve their environment benefit from this initiative, and so the shared learning that will come from being a Town Team Partner will, I am sure, be invaluable. I offer my congratulations to Penrith, Alston Moor and Heart of Eden on their success, and for continuing to dedicate themselves to the improvement of our market towns.”

Malcolm Smith, Planning and Economy Portfolio Holder, said: “I’m delighted that a number of our communities will be benefiting from the advice and finance to take a number of their projects forward. The project is especially welcome because it helps our planning and economic policies to support key service centres as vibrant places for the benefit of residents and businesses alike.”

Pat Godwin, Eden District Councillor and member of the Alston Moor Partnership said, “The timing of this could not be bettered as we have just appointed a project officer to deliver items identified in our Community Plan and other projects to improve prosperity in Alston Moor. This money will enable that officer to have a central base/shopfront from which to function and be an information hub. It will also fund us to advance work on Walkers/Cyclist are Welcome, set up QR points and seasonal markets.”

 

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Rory supports energy saving week ahead of winter

Rory this week gave his support to Citizens Advice as it launched its Big Energy Saving Week (22-27 October) to help people cut their winter fuel bills. The campaign aims to give people practical advice on how they can ‘check, switch and insulate’ to make savings on their energy bill.

Fuel poverty is a key issue in the constituency of Penrith and the Border, the most sparsely populated constituency in England.

According to new figures from Citizens Advice, two thirds of people think their energy bill will be higher this winter, with many living in colder homes than they would like. The figures also show that 62% do not have the heating on as much and 18% are not using some rooms in their home in a bid to cut the size of their energy bills. Despite this only a quarter had checked with their supplier to see if they were on the best deal.

Rory said: “It is vital that we do what we can to help the vulnerable this winter with regard to their energy bills. This is a particularly important issue in Penrith and the Border, due to its unique rurality. That’s why I am backing Big Energy Saving Week, and proud to be involved in the Fair Fuel Campaign. I am also pressing to develop “smart meter” grid in the town of Wigton.”

Citizens Advice, Chief Executive, Gillian Guy said: “People must check, switch and insulate to make sure that they’re getting the best deal for their energy. Big energy bills and rising daily costs are putting extra pressure on household budgets that are already stretched thin. We’re worried that some people are finding themselves unnecessarily hard-up because they’re paying more than they have to for their fuel bill and aren’t getting all of the help that’s available to them. Throughout Big Energy Saving Week we’re helping the nation prepare for winter and putting money back in people’s pockets.”

To ease the strain of energy bills on your budget you can get advice online at  www.bigenergysavingweek.org.uk, on the phone 0300 123 1234 or through your local CAB and at local Big Energy Saving Week events.

Rory welcomes distinction between rural and urban policing in run up to Cumbria PCC elections

Rory has this week welcomed the ‘Rural Crime Manifesto’ published by the Country Land and Business Association (CLA), which draws attention to the different challenges rural and urban police forces face. The manifesto’s release comes ahead of the approaching Police and Crime Commissioners elections in November, which aim to bring increased democratic accountability to the police force. In it, the manifesto identifies metal and fuel theft, poaching and fly-tipping as crimes that have a particularly significant impact on rural businesses and communities. Environmental crime such as fly-tipping is estimated to cost private landowners up to £150 million a year to remove.

Speaking on the matter, Rory said: “The findings of the CLA’s manifesto are quite right: rural crime is an immensely pressing problem that we need to grapple with, and one which the new Police and Crime Commissioner will have to engage in. Our Cumbrian police already do a fantastic job in difficult terrain, and I believe they respond well to local people and issues. It is vital therefore that those standing in the election for the Cumbria Police and Crime Commissioner recognise the nature of rural crime and propose measures which seek to address it. Rural communities must be assured that the crimes and concerns which matter the most to them are now being properly addressed.”

Rory has offered his strong backing to local Conservative PCC candidate Richard Rhodes. Should he be elected as a local PCC, Richard Rhodes has stated that his aims would be to establish an Executive Committee to oversee policy and strategy deliverable within budget; to create an Office of Public Engagement to ensure better dialogue with constituents; a programme of Victim Support, to allocate compensation and support to victims of crime; and to target some of the key issues that are problematic in Cumbria, particularly rural crime.

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Rory welcomes encouraging employment figures at both a local and national level

Rory has welcomed the encouraging figures released this week which show that Government is making progress in its efforts to address the problems facing the UK’s labour market.

In Rory’s own constituency – Penrith and the Border – latest statistics show unemployment to stand at 2% of the working population, one of the lowest figures in the UK.

The figures come alongside the release of business statistics which show that national unemployment is down by 50,000 since the last quarter and there are almost 750,000 more people in employment now than at the election in 2010. Additionally, findings show that there are more than a quarter of a million more businesses this year than there were last year – a record increase.

Rory commented: “We are extremely lucky in this constituency to have the low level of unemployment that we do. Of course we must continue to ensure that we are doing everything we can to help those out of work find a stable source of employment, and the focus now has got to be on using government initiatives like the NEA to make sure this happens. We need to continue removing unnecessary regulations, reforming welfare, and providing the funding necessary to allow people to unlock the entrepreneurship in our economy, but I think we are making a great start at boosting employment prospects in Penrith and the Border.”

The government says it is doing everything possible to grow Britain’s economy and allow the private sector to build sustainable jobs, making it quicker and easier for people to work hard, get on and set up their own business. In an effort to boost entrepreneurship, Minister of State for the Department for Work and Pensions, Mark Hoban MP, has this week announced that due to its success, the New Enterprise Allowance will be further expanded, making it even quicker and easier for people on Jobseekers’ Allowance to set up their own business. Over 8,180 new businesses have been set up since April 2011 thanks to the New Enterprise Allowance (NEA). Those who produce a viable business plan will also be able to get access to £2,000 worth of financial support from day one – reduced from the previous six month wait.

 

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Cumbrian Committee announces inquiry into Nuclear Repository

The All Party Committee of Cumbrian MPs announced today that they expect to be hearing evidence on the implications for nuclear repository

in Cumbria in November.

The committee consists of Rory Stewart MP, John Stephenson MP, Tim Farron MP, John Woodcock MP, Jamie Reed MP and Tony Cunningham MP.

Rory Stewart MP said: “Very large numbers of constituents have raised concerns about safety and safety is paramount. Equally the nuclear industry is the backbone of the West Cumbrian economy and so we are keen to support. We would therefore like to invite representatives from both sides of the argument and have the opportunity to hear about the geology and safety of repositories and plans for nuclear expansion.”

Tim Farron MP said: “Storing nuclear waste in our county that will remain dangerous for tens of thousands of years is a very big risk and one that Cumbrians shouldn’t take lightly.  I have been contacted by people on both sides of the debate and I am keen that we make a wise choice for the future of our county. It is vital that we listen to experts in this field on both sides of the debate to hold them to account and ensure that government makes decision on the basis of balanced evidence, using the full facts.”

Jamie Reed MP said: “As someone who has a detailed knowledge of these issues stretching over 15 years it’s essential that these issues are subject to an informed debate. As a great deal of unscientific scaremongering is likely to continue –  much of it funded from outside of Cumbria and certainly from outside Copeland – then we have a responsibility to make sure that all of the credible individuals, agencies and government departments with an interest in this issue can air their expert views. The greater the issues are understood, the more the myths are dispelled and this is clearly better for everyone. Clearly this process has no official or binding implications whatsoever, but it will usefully allow the issues to be aired. If this is done honestly, then I’m sure all Cumbrian MPs will join me in ensuring that the nuclear industry in West Cumbria will provide the growth that the Cumbrian economy badly needs.”

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Cumbrian MPS win guarantee on Rural School Funding Formula

On Monday 22nd October 2012, the committee of Cumbrian MPs met with Education Minister David Laws, who has confirmed that funding for rural schools would be protected in the education reforms. The meeting followed weeks of debate about how to allocate funding between rural and urban schools, with many urban schools claiming they were under-funded, and rural schools anxious that they would lose out. The committee of Cumbrian MPs who met Education Minister Laws included Rory Stewart, Tim Farron, John Stevenson and a representative from John Woodcock’s office. Sir Tony Cunningham was in his constituency, but sent a detailed submission to the Minister.

The committee of Cumbrian MPs expressed their broad support for the Minister’s plans but highlighted the need for time and support, especially in regard to Human Resources. They drew the Minister’s attention to the unique rurality of Cumbria, as one of the most sparsely populated areas of the United Kingdom, and the need for policy and help to reflect this.

The Minister explained that the purpose of the reforms was to introduce a simpler funding formula, which was fair across the country, and which focused on factors such as the number of pupils and the level of deprivation in each school. He accepted, however, that this could have involved reducing funding for certain schools, as well as increasing it for others. He confirmed that money had been made available to help schools make the transition to the new formula. He also confirmed that existing arrangements for Cumbrian schools would be protected until at least 2015, that no school would lose more than 1.5 per cent per year, and that they will undertake a full review of the formula ending in spring 2013, giving time to make the case for special treatment for extreme rural areas.

Rory Stewart MP said: “It is great to see Cumbrian MPs working again together on a cross-party basis. This is not simply about what happens in the classroom. Our rural schools are cores of our community: children and young families bring life to our villages. We have lost far too many rural schools over the last decades. And schools with very few students are always in a tight financial situation. I feel the government’s decision to protect the current situation till at least 2015 shows flexibility and imagination, and is a good sign that they are listening to rural communities.”

Tony Cunningham MP said:  “It is important for cross-party work on this issue. I was delighted to be able to raise the issue of school funding and the University Technical College of West Cumbria.”

Tim Farron MP said: “We’ve won a very important victory for our schools by working together across parties.  We now know that no school in Cumbria will be pushed over the edge, so every parent can have complete confidence in their local school as they choose their children’s future.  We are also delighted that David Laws promised to make Cumbria a major case study as he looks to review the funding formula – normally we in Cumbria are forced to accept a model developed in London, but now we hope to see the system built to meet the needs of our rural communities in Cumbria.”