The Prime Minister was upbeat and passionate about the changing face of the UK in his conference speech on Tuesday. He correctly identified and I quote that ‘the UK economy had some chronic underlying problems: long-term failure to tackle the deficit in skills, inadequate transport infrastructure, not enough homes people could afford to buy, especially young people – and far too many people, across the whole country, who felt ignored and left out, that the government was not on their side; and so we cannot now define the mission of this country as merely to restore normality.’
Two areas I particularly want to highlight from the speech are the commitments to help first time buyers and become a world leader in low cost clean energy generation. On housing, first time buyers have the chance to take out a long-term fixed rate mortgage of up to 95 per cent of the value of the home, vastly reducing the size of the deposit, and giving the chance of home ownership – and all the joy and pride that goes with it – to millions that feel excluded.
On low cost clean energy in ten years time offshore wind will be powering every home in the country, helping to create 60,000 jobs in this country – and meet the net zero carbon emissions commitment. These two areas offer considerable opportunities for Cornwall.
On a less cheerful note figures show that almost a third of the people who have died in England with coronavirus had diabetes.
I chaired an expert working group last week organised by Novak Nordisk and supported by the Association of British Clinical Diabetologists because we have an important opportunity right now to improve care and outcomes for people iving with diabetes. Diabetes needs to be given a higher profile in relation to policy-making within the NHS. There is also a great opportunity to empower empower GPs and primary care professionals, including pharmacists, with the resources and tools they need to ensure people receive the tailored treatment and support they need.
People living in West Cornwall can now get up to £5,000 of energy-efficient home improvements funded by the government as part of a new scheme.
The Green Homes Grant will not only enable households to improve their energy efficiency and cut down on bills, but help protect the environment and jobs, livelihoods and the local economy by creating more work for local tradespeople. The new scheme covers a range of energy-saving measures at home, including insulation for floors and roofs, double or triple-glazing and draught-proofing. Under the terms of the Green Homes Grant, the government will offer vouchers to cover up to two-thirds of energy-efficient home improvements – worth up to £5,000.
The challenge and possible failure of this policy is that it requires tradespeople in Cornwall and on Scilly to carry out this work and I know that households cannot find firms who have signed up to this scheme. I urge local construction firms to register to provide this work. Otherwise we will see a repeat of previous schemes where tradesmen and women travel cross-country into Cornwall, sometimes carrying out very poor workmanship and giving customers very little after service care. We want this money to benefit the local economy wherever possible and for homes to be improved to a high standard.
The Green Homes Grant also offers vouchers up to £10,000 for low-income families and is available to some landlords as well as homeowners.
The Green Home Grant scheme opened for voucher applications at the start of October and vouchers must be redeemed, and improvements completed, by 31 March, 2021; for full details about the Grant, who is eligible and how to apply, go to www.gov.uk/GreenHomesGrant.