• Supporting businesses and retaining Fire and Rescue Services

    The Moorlander
    01 July 2019

    Despite having left the Treasury Department for my new role as Leader of the House of Commons it felt like I was still there this week during interesting visits to Crediton and Okehampton. During a tour of Sandford Cider Works I listened to concerns about the level of taxation imposed on ciders, specifically for the new mid-strength band (6.9%-7.5% abv) that was introduced in February. I then headed to Okehampton to join local businesses for the Google Digital Garage high street tour. The initiative provides free digital skills training to businesses, helping them make the most of the digital economy. Supporting our high streets was one of my top priorities during my two years as Financial Secretary to the Treasury and I was proud to have reduced business rates for the majority of local traders (those with a rateable value of below £51,000) by a third and for the two years in the run up to the next rates revaluation.

    Last week Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service announced that it is considering operational changes which they describe as potentially the biggest shake-up in 50 years. Their proposals, which will go to a 12-week public consultation, may affect three fire stations in Central Devon – Ashburton, Crediton and Okehampton. All 6 options on the table would see the closure of Ashburton Fire Station, 4 would see one of the two fire engines at Crediton Fire Station removed, and 1 of the 6 would result in a change to how the two fire engines at Okehampton are crewed, although both would be kept. The key argument being made by the service is that some stations across the two counties attend only a handful of fires each year and have more resources than they need whereas in other areas more resources are needed due to to improve the response the service can provide. While I understand the argument, I am very concerned about any loss of service in our constituency and would argue that although rural areas may experience fewer incidents than more populated areas, help is often further away when needed. Ashburton, Crediton and Okehampton are all important stations not just for the three towns but for dozens of smaller rural communities which surround them. I will be writing to the service asking for more detail and strongly urge residents to take part in the consultation at

    This week I also wrote to Royal Mail about the potential closure of Moretonhampstead Post Office which provides a range of valuable services to local residents and has become even more important after the closure of Lloyds bank, with the banking services available at the post office a lifeline for many personal and business customers. I have also been in contact with the South West representative of the National Federation of Sub Postmasters and will do whatever I can to support the branch.

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