Central Devon is one of the largest constituencies in the country comprising 125 towns and parishes and I work hard to keep in touch with constituents. Over 200 volunteers deliver my updates door to door at no charge to the taxpayer. I also provide email newsletters - register for these at www.melstridemp.com. My favorite way of keeping connected is canvassing and last week I was again out on the doorstep listening to local concerns. What issues were raised? Healthcare and community hospitals were near the top of the list and I have been busy attending local consultations, meeting with the CCG and pressing on these issues with ministers. We are very fortunate with the quality NHS care locally. The RD&E NHS Trust, which owns some of our vital community hospitals – including Crediton and Okehampton – has increased the number of clinical staff by around 10% since 2010 and the Government has reaffirmed its commitment by increasing healthcare spending in England by £10 billion in real terms per annum by 2020. Education was raised with me particularly fairer funding for Devon schools – I held a useful meeting with South Dartmoor College on this recently and continue to press for a favorable outcome to the current consultation. Teachers in our constituency do an outstanding job – Okehampton and South Dartmoor Colleges have both exceeded the national and local averages for those pupils achieving A*-C GCSE’s (including in English and Maths) and 92% of our primary schools are ranked as ‘Good’ or ‘Outstanding’ by Ofsted.
Affordable housing was also raised and continues to prove a significant challenge. Earlier this year I had the pleasure of opening a new affordable housing development in Upton Pyne, which is part of the nearly 300,000 affordable homes that have been built nationally since 2010. Of the local authorities in Central Devon, the level of house building completion now dwarfs that of 2010 and the Government has announced that the housing budget is to be doubled from 2018-19. Local policing was also discussed. Officer visibility in rural areas remains a challenge but I am encouraged that the latest crime statistics show that crime has fallen by 25% since 2010. This suggests that police reform is working, with, nationally, 420,000 fewer violent incidents a year. Crime has fallen in Central Devon over the past 12 months, with the instances of burglary, theft and criminal damage all down. Farming also featured and matters hugely to us with agriculture contributing £1.7 billion to the South West’s economy last year. Since 2010 the Government has signed trade deals to open 600 new overseas markets to British farming and exports have grown sharply. One of the biggest challenges facing cattle farming today is bovine TB. We are taking firm action to deliver a 25-year strategy to eradicate the disease and protect the future of the UK's dairy and beef industries something that I have wholeheartedly supported. If you have issues you wish to raise with me please contact me at www.melstridemp.com.