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July update from Sir Hugo Swire MP

Dear Constituent, 

It has been a good time to get out and about across East Devon to speak to as many of you as possible about the improvements and actions we need to see in our area. 

Parliament has been in a lull over the past few weeks with the ongoing leadership contest. Now we have a new Prime Minister, we need to deliver Brexit without further delay. 

These e-bulletins are for those who live and work in East Devon who wish to be kept informed about what's happening in our area and my work on your behalf. The most important part of my work as an MP at Westminster is in representing East Devon. 

You can see a flavour of my activities below. This edition covers further education options at Exeter College, how to keep our hospitals such as Ottery St Mary open, Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service's consultation, mental health funding for our schools, and how to tackle problem gambling - among other things! If you would like to stay up to date, make sure you follow me on Twitter, like me on Facebook, and visit my website. 

With best wishes, 

Website Facebook | Twitter | YouTube
East Devon
Putting local matters first

It was a pleasure to speak to students from Exeter College about the benefits of BTECs and other vocational qualifications.

At Exeter College's main site to discuss college funding and the curriculum

The Department for Education is proposing to withdraw funding from BTECs and other qualifications known as ‘Applied General Qualifications’ that supposedly overlap with A Levels (which Exeter College also offer) and the new proposed T Levels, a vocational qualification available from September 2020.

This proposed measure would render unavailable a popular educational qualification currently chosen by many young people. These are more technical and professional in nature than A-Levels and focused on broad career areas.

Exeter College was graded ‘Outstanding’ by Ofsted at its last inspection report. FE Week placed Exeter College as the best college in the country in its annual league tables in 2016 and 2017. It has a training centre at Exeter International Airport which has been developed in partnership with Flybe.

Thank you to John Laramy and his team for inviting me, and to the students who shared their experiences of studying at Exeter College.

Securing further confirmation on the future of our hospitals from health ministers

I continue to press the Government to protect our community hospitals from excessive rents charged by the state-owned NHS Property Services

It is welcome to receive further confirmation that both Budleigh Salterton Health & Wellbeing Hub and Ottery St Mary Hospital will play an integral part in East Devon's future healthcare provision - alongside Exmouth and Sidmouth hospitals.  

Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock visiting Budleigh Salterton and Ottery St Mary hospitals last year

The National Audit Office has suggested hospitals nationally may be at risk of closure were rents on their estate to rise at the next set of reviews in 2021. 

NHS trusts, however, can now bid for the ownership of their estate if they can demonstrate the benefits of taking over the buildings in question. We should be delivering services closer to the community - and make the case that our hospitals must remain open to manage an ageing population and provide the best quality care close to home

Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service are consulting on proposed changes
I spoke to Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service Chief Lee Howell about plans to reallocate fire engines and crews across the region, which could result in Budleigh Salterton and Topsham stations closing. Mr Howell stressed that his service wants to continue with its more proactive prevention work to keep bringing the number of incidents down.

The number of call outs for the fire service has reduced over time. Tougher furniture regulations and lifestyle changes mean that fires nationally have fallen by 33 per cent over the past 10 years. 

It is my view that we must ensure no reduction in coverage or incident response times from these changes. The fire service plays an integral role in many serious road traffic accidents. I therefore encourage you to please take part in the consultation to have your say (here). 
EDDC needs to review its plans for the expansion of Cranbrook

Last week, I asked the newly constituted 'independent' East Devon District Council to review its plans for the expansion of Cranbrook.

Following a significant volume of letters and emails from the residents of Cranbrook, Whimple, Rockbeare and surrounding areas, we must: 

  1. Halt plans to expand Cranbrook south of the London Road B3174;
  2. Concentrate on delivering a proper town centre for Cranbrook with some iconic buildings; 
  3. Spread Gypsy and Traveller sites fairly across East Devon.
Funding our schools 

With a new Prime Minister coming through the doors of Number 10, there has been a lot of talk about primary and secondary school funding. 

Each child in a Devon school still receives £304 less than the national average, meaning that Devon misses out on £27 million per year.

I was pleased to sign a letter from the f40 campaign for fairer school funding. The f40 group represents the 40 worst funded local education authorities in England. I recently met East Devon headteachers to discuss funding issues and then spoke to the Education Secretary about this. I sincerely hope we can have a good news announcement in due course.
Devon is one of the lowest ranked local education authorities in England on per pupil funding
Children and young people in East Devon are to benefit from additional mental health support - though there is still much more to do

Gambling addiction

Elsewhere, the government announced that the UK's biggest gambling firms – William Hill, Ladbrokes Coral, Paddy Power Betfair, Skybet and Bet365 – have taken the decision to increase their voluntary levy on gambling profits from 0.1 per cent to 1 per cent up to 2023.

This will create a contribution of £60 million which will help to fund treatment for problem gamblers.

The government must do more to tackle the social costs of problem gambling - I spoke in Parliament to call for a mandatory levy on gambling firm profits

Some years ago, as shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, I witnessed the then Labour Government and their mammoth explosion of gambling, both online and elsewhere. 

However, despite repeated warnings, successive Governments have failed to tackle what is a pernicious problem, particularly among those less well-off and the most vulnerable in our society.

In the future, mandatory levies on gambling profits may be required to tackle the full range of social costs attributable from problem gambling. There are many of us on all sides of Parliament who want the government to do much more.

Quizzing the PM on our response to the Hong Kong protests 
The last days of Theresa May

I was fortunate to get a slot to ask outgoing Prime Minister Theresa May a question at the weekly PMQs. 

For a change, I didn't grill her about Brexit! 

Last month, there were widespread protests in Hong Kong over a controversial extradition bill, which could be used to send political dissidents from Hong Kong to mainland China.

It was useful to entice the PM to respond in the clearest possible terms. The Sino-British joint declaration of 1984 obliges the Chinese government to uphold Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy and its rights and freedoms. We should keep pressing the Chinese government to do so, as many British citizens live and work in the territory. 

After PMQs, I also asked the Prime Minister to respond to the alleged torture and death of the navy captain Rafael Acosta Arévalo in Venezuela at the hands of Maduro's henchmen. Those responsible must be held to account by the UN or through the usual channels such as the Hague. You can watch this here
Good discussion at the Great South West All-Party Parliamentary Group with fellow MPs - focused on asks ahead of Budget, particularly to improve our transport infrastructure
Congratulations to Chris Rook, Parking Manager at Devon County Council, for his award at the Parking and Traffic Regulations outside London (PARC) Awards 2019 - pictured here with PARC interim chair Cllr Stuart Hughes
We must act fast to protect our oceans - pleased to support the ongoing Surfers Against Sewage campaign
An award-winning garden at the Chelsea Flower Show, representing The Donkey Sanctuary's work around the world, has been rebuilt at the charity's Sidmouth base - I had the pleasure of visiting the garden in May
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