The autumn budget was published by the Chancellor last week and included several key announcements that will positively impact the constituency. A £675 million Future High Streets Fund is being made available to support councils in implementing plans for the transformation of their high streets. Businesses rates for small businesses will also be cut by one third for two years. This is for retailers with rateable value of under £51,000, saving up to 90 per cent of all shops up to £8,000 each year, and building on previous reductions worth more than £12.5 billion. A tax on sales generated in the UK by big tech firms was also announced which will help to level the playing field between high street and digital shops.
I was happy to see social care be given a £800 million boost which recognises the immediate pressures local authorities are facing in providing care. The boost is made up of £650m grant funding for adult social care in 2019/20, £55m extra for the Disabled Facilities Grant in 2018/19 and £84m over the next five years for up to 20 councils with ‘high or rising numbers of children in care’. The funding will enable local councils to provide greater support for older people with care needs as well as help more children to live safely at home. This extra investment is very welcome but a long-term funding solution for social care is still needed.
In the budget I was pleased to see a commitment to work beginning this November on the essential works at Dawlish to strengthen the cliffs and protect the seawall. It is vital that these works are untaken as soon as possible to secure the line.
The Public Accounts Committee last week took evidence on improving children and young people’s mental health services. I was a lead Committee member questioning representatives from the Department of Health and Social Care, NHS England and Health Education England. 10 per cent of 5 to 16 year-olds have a mental health condition, with this figure expected to rise when new data is published at the end of year. Therefore, it is vital that NHS has provision in place to handle the situation. The government has committed to providing ‘parity of esteem’ for mental and physical health services but there is still some way to go in order to achieve this.
On Tuesday, I chaired the first session of the APPG on Rural Health and Social Care’s Parliamentary Inquiry into issues facing rural health and social care. We welcomed 8 witnesses to give evidence including representatives from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Public Health England, the Royal College of GPs and NHS trust representatives. Also present were a number of observers from a range of organisations including charities, rural groups and universities.
It was an incredibly illuminating and productive meeting, generating a depth and quality of discussion of the highest calibre. The group identified a number of key themes going forwards including, the importance of appropriate definitions, the availability of the right level of expertise in rural health and care settings and the need for more analysis into the underpinning determinants of health and care. The next session will take place in January 2019.
On Wednesday, I met with Cllr Andrew Leadbetter, Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care and Health Services on Devon County Council to receive an update on adult social care services in the constituency. We discussed a number of issues including the current problems with recruitment and retention within the sector. Potential solutions to this issue include the Proud to Care campaign. Proud to Care South West is a partnership of 16 local authorities and Health Education England working together at a regional level to raise the profile of a career in care and health.
My next surgery is on Friday 16th November at 2pm in Newton Abbot. Please call my office on 01626 368277 to arrange an appointment.