MP’s Column

Last December Post Office Limited received a further £370m (over three years) from Government for the network, of which £160m is to be used to protect village community branches.

Back-bench MPs including myself pressed Government for more help for rural post office services. This extra money is welcome as in recent months we have seen some challenges regarding rural post office branches including the closure of Heamoor before Christmas and now Newlyn’s Post Office, closed once again due to staffing.

I’ve argued for months that the ‘offer’ to run sub-post offices is not sufficient and does not recognise the challenges that hosting such a service presents.

My view is that Post Office Ltd lack vision for rural post office services and must act quickly and use this money to deliver bespoke solutions for our much-loved post offices.

I’ve launched a petition calling on Post Office Limited to reopen Newlyn Post Office and ensure that a suitable solution can be found to keep post office services open.

As we see high street banks close, the post office network becomes even more essential to local communities. A year ago the banks came to an agreement that most banking transactions can be carried out in your Post Office. I’d strongly recommend this service if you have a post office nearby.

In pouring rain in Penzance on Saturday I was greeted by a jovial group of campaigners having walked from Mousehole to hand over a petition calling on Government to take further action to support local people to get the homes they need.

Whilst the protest was good humoured the issue raised is hugely important and I want to pay credit to Alana Bates in particular who organised the petition and has engaged so constructively with me in recent months on this campaign.

The petition wants local areas to be able charge a council tax premium on second homes and use planning law to support local families. This is an issue I’m already engaged in quite simply because in West Cornwall and in particular on Scilly more money is required to provide homes for local people.

On January 23rd I raised the idea of a council tax premium in a meeting with Communities and Local Government Secretary Sajid Javid and representatives from the Council of the Isles of Scilly. Currently an empty home incurs a council tax premium after two years and in Wales they can apply the same to second homes. I see no reason why we should not apply this in the worst affected areas in Cornwall and on Scilly. This is not the entire solution.

I’m still committed to bringing back empty homes into local use and have argued that Cornwall Council should apply for Government funding to assist in this.

We need to accelerate the building of sites that have planning permission and I’ve argued that Cornwall Council should allow the RentPlus model for these undeveloped sites. This is where tenants can rent at an affordable rate and have the opportunity to purchase the property at a later stage.