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The Big Issues facing Cornwall

This week, I wrote about the big issues facing us in Cornwall and the fact that we’re not getting the big responses we need from Government to cope with them. In fact, many of our representatives in Parliament aren’t even turning up to talk about them! ————————————————- • This week there was a debate in Westminster on the housing crisis in Cornwall and Devon. Regularly now in Cornwall, families with children are evicted from their private rented homes with only 2 months’ notice, so they can be sold at the top of the market or turned into lucrative Airbnbs. The private rented sector has collapsed and over 21,000 people are on the waiting list for social housing. The current definition of ‘affordable’, at 80% of market value, is an impossible dream for people on local incomes. Luke Pollard and Ben Bradshaw, our nearest Labour MPs, attended that debate and made our case to the Housing Minister. Unfortunately, only 1 of the 6 Conservative Cornish MPs bothered to turn up and speak.

In Labour controlled Wales the council tax premium on second homes has been raised to a maximum of 300% from April 2023. Other suggestions include: raising stamp duty for second home purchases; suspending right to buy and freezing rents; defining ‘affordable’ as 30% of local incomes; licensing and capping numbers of second homes and Airbnbs; and of course, providing more council and social houses. It came as a surprise therefore when Boris Johnson suggested at the weekend that Housing Associations should be forced to sell off their social housing at huge discounts. A policy that fell flat on its face in 2015 when David Cameron suggested it. The CEO of Shelter said: “There could not be a worse time to sell off what remains of our last truly affordable social homes. The cost of living crisis means more people are on the brink of homelessness than homeownership. Right to buy has already torn a massive hole in our social housing stock as less than 5% of the homes sold off have ever been replaced.” It feels like Johnson isn’t listening and cares more about flinging out half-baked policies which he thinks will save his skin at this week’s local elections, than he does about helping people in Cornwall and elsewhere struggling with rent and homelessness.

• To help with the cost of living spike, Labour has been calling for an emergency budget, cancellation of the National Insurance rise and charging fossil fuel companies a windfall tax to knock £600 off energy bills. But last week, Rishi Sunak said it would be ‘silly’ to take any action on energy bills now and Conservative Cabinet ministers have instead suggested that we should be saving money by not getting our cars MOT’d every year and giving nursery staff more than 4 toddlers each to look after. As if working with children and babies isn’t hard enough! Again, it feels like the Conservatives are throwing out ridiculous, ill-conceived ideas rather than being serious about helping people facing desperate times and rising bills.

• And while people outside Westminster struggle with housing and the cost of living, in Parliament there are 56 MPs who have outstanding allegations of misconduct. The culture in the Commons is worrying and must change. On Saturday, I was at Youth Council in County Hall with our young politicians of the future. They deserve better than this: more respect; more diversity. Neil Parish apologised and resigned on Saturday for watching porn in the Chamber. There are others in his party who should have resigned some time ago following breaches of the law and ministerial code. Hopefully Boris Johnson will now see what is expected of him, but I shan’t hold my breath.

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