• Busy

    Mid Devon Advertiser
    03 March 2017

    Last week I was busy focusing hard on two hugely important local issues – Education and Health. The new national funding formula for schools is currently out for consultation. The proposals see the majority of schools in our constituency receive increased funding but an important minority including our 3 secondary schools would see a reduction. So last week I had separate discussions with the Head Teachers of our primary schools in Bovey Tracey, Chudleigh, Buckfastleigh, Exminster and Crediton (Landscore) having previously also met with the Heads at Christow and Okehampton primaries along with meeting with the Heads and Governors at Dartmoor College (Ashburton), Okehampton College and QE in Crediton. Getting around our schools is quite a task as there are around 50 of them but I wanted to make sure that I had a really good understanding of what those who do such a fantastic job teaching our children have to say about these important changes. To understand the impact of the various elements of the formula (which is in itself rather complex) on local education.  These conversations informed the subsequent meeting I held this Monday with our schools minister, Nick Gibb. I pressed the minister especially hard on the weighting that deprivation assumes within the new formula and which currently works against us along with reinforcing the arguments around the various challenges associated with rural sparsity. Whilst I am doubtful that additional money is going to be provided by the Chancellor (the country is still running a significant deficit) I do believe that the minister is firmly in listening mode and that some positive changes to the formula might be possible going forward. My role is to fight for our schools and I will be keeping up the pressure in Westminster. Regarding health and hospitals, in the Southern part of our constituency the decision has now been taken by the CCG to remove the beds from Ashburton & Buckfastleigh hospital and in the case of Bovey Tracey hospital to close it. In each of these communities it is proposed that Health and Wellbeing Centres will be created to provide a variety of medical and care services – some within the centres and some in people’s homes with the wellbeing centres being the hubs from which they will be provided. The current likelihood is that these centres will be provided in Ashburton and Bovey with that in Ashburton possibly located in the current hospital buildings. I spoke last week with the Chairs of both the Friends of Ashburton & Buckfastleigh Hospital and Friends of Bovey Hospital about some of the ideas around how the these services can best be organised to properly suit the needs of our local communities. I see my role now as helping to co-ordinate our collective efforts and to make sure that we hold the CCG’s feet to the fire on delivery. Last week I also had a helpful discussion with the Chair of Chagford Parish council to catch up with local issues.