• Dartmoor, the Children's Funeral Fund and Start-up Loans

    The Moorlander
    22 July 2019

    Although it comes with its challenges, I have always considered myself very fortunate to represent one of the most rural constituencies in the country. Whether I am in the north of the patch near Hatherleigh or Chawleigh, in the east of our constituency in the Exe Valley or in the south within the boundaries of Dartmoor, whenever I am driving across Central Devon between meetings the scenery never fails to inject a moment of relaxation and a smile into a busy and demanding day. Last week I was in Dartmoor in Manaton to speak at an event organised by Moor than Meets the Eye, a landscape partnership scheme that is bringing communities and organisations together to protect Dartmoor’s heritage, conserve its wildlife, keep its traditions alive and help young people develop the skills to look after it for future generations. Key to the future of Dartmoor will be striking the right balance between improving infrastructure while protecting its landscape, wildlife and history. By infrastructure I mean roads, cycle paths and better access for those with disabilities, sufficient business units to support a strong local economy, improving mobile phone coverage and broadband speeds (I have met with AirBand twice this year who have done excellent work in bringing faster broadband to Dartmoor through wireless technology) and the contentious issue of housing. It is vital that the environmental impact of any homes built within the park are fully considered and that any development includes a proportion of affordable homes where local families have priority. In terms of protecting Dartmoor’s landscape and wildlife I was delighted to learn that in the past couple of years Moor than meets the eye has started offering apprenticeships to help young people develop the skills and experience they need to embark on a career in heritage conservation and that the scheme is heavily involved in wildlife conservation work. For more information please visit – it is well worth a look.

    New figures recently released have shown that 84 businesses in Central Devon have benefited from over £800,000 of Government-backed start-up loans since 2012. As someone who started my own business from scratch I know how tough it can be setting out on your own and how essential it is to have sufficient financial backing at an early stage. I urge anyone looking to set up their own business to visit and explore whether a start-up loan would be helpful to them.

    Wednesday 23rd July saw the establishment of a Children’s Funeral Fund for England (CFF) to cover the costs of funerals for those who pass away under the age of 18. Although some local authorities have previously waived the costs and some parents were entitled to means-tested support, there was clearly need for reform and now financial support will be universally available to all bereaved parents who have lost a child under 18 regardless of their means.

    For more from Mel follow him on twitter @MelJStride or visit