In advance of next week’s budget, Copeland MP, Jamie Reed has written to the Chancellor to make the case for greater investment in West Cumbria.
In a comprehensive and wide-ranging letter to the Chancellor, the West Cumbrian MP outlines the challenges facing West Cumbria such as infrastructure, health care, and the cost of raising fuel duty. In his letter, Jamie Reed MP calls for:
- Investment in the A595,
- A freeze on fuel duty to stand up for those living in rural areas who depend on their cars,
- Support to boost local NHS recruitment, and
- Funding to proceed with Phase Two of the redevelopment of West Cumberland Hospital
Copeland MP, Jamie Reed said:
“West Cumbria stands on the verge of a truly transformative era. The single biggest private sector investment in our community in the shape of new nuclear reactors at Moorside – a project that has taken ten years to reach this point – gives our region a huge opportunity and the Government must ensure that we have the tools we need to take this opportunity.
“Our infrastructure is in desperate need of investment, specifically the A595. The road as it is isn’t fit for purpose and if we are to build a 21st century economy in West Cumbria, we need 21st century infrastructure. Our local health services are under tremendous pressure and the Chancellor must take this opportunity to invest to support our key services.
“West Cumbria’s best days are ahead of us, but the Government must give us the opportunity to succeed. Only by improving our key services and our infrastructure will we be able to reach our potential.”
Read Jamie Reed’s full letter to the Chancellor:
Rt Hon George Osborne MP
Chancellor of the Exchequer
Her Majesty’s Treasury
1 Horse Guards Road
9th March 2016
Dear Mr Chancellor,
Budget Priorities: West Cumbria
I am writing with regard to the forthcoming Budget Statement on Wednesday 16th March.
West Cumbria stands on the verge of a truly transformative era; the area has the opportunity to become one of the fastest growing sub-regional economies in the whole country. The single biggest private sector investment in our community in the shape of new nuclear reactors at Moorside gives West Cumbria a remarkable opportunity that we must be allowed to take. This project has taken over ten years to reach this point.
Currently, there remains substantial barriers in place of achieving our economic potential and it is my hope that you will use your financial statement to the House of Commons next week to invest in West Cumbria and to provide the resources needed to remove these barriers.
The keystone for any economic development and growth in a region is the infrastructure it is built upon. This week, Transport for the North published the Northern Transport Strategy Spring 2016 Report detailing infrastructure investment in the North of England and west Cumbria’s major road artery, the A595, was not included in any proposed works. The A595 requires significant improvement. Between 2004 and 2013, the A595 was closed or subject to restricted access on more than 700 occasions; this equates to once every five days. Over the same period, there were over 1250 personal injury road traffic accidents. The A595 is the main artery for my constituency. Tens of thousands of workers, including the thousands travelling to the Sellafield site, use the road every day. The road cannot cope as it is, but the increased population and works traffic resulting from the new nuclear reactors at Moorside will put even more pressure on it.
The case for improving this road is overwhelming. A significant 18-mile section of the A595 remains under the authority of Highways England. This section runs from Sellafield to the A66 and carries a majority of the traffic seen on the road.
The whole of the A595 is in need of significant improvement works. The recent flooding and the cuts you have already imposed upon local government means that Cumbria County Council does not have the resources necessary to undertake the improvement works on the scale that is required. I hope that you will use the financial statement to commit to improve those sections of the A595 under the authority of Highways England. In addition, I hope that you will commit to working with Cumbria County Council to ensure they have the resources necessary to improve the other sections of this key road.
On the issue of transportation, the rurality of Cumbria means that many have little option but to use their own car or other forms of personal transportation. The burdens on drivers mean that this already comes at a significant personal costs. Reports over recent days suggest that you intend to increase fuel duty in order to plug the gap in your spending plans caused by your failures to meet your own targets.
My constituents would rightly resent you penalising drivers in rural areas, who rely on their cars, in order for you to achieve the spending targets that you continue to miss. I would urge you to reconsider any attempts to raise fuel duty and if you do press ahead with this tax increase, use the powers available to you to introduce some mitigation of the negative impact of the raise on rural communities.
National Health Service: Recruitment
The issues surrounding the NHS in Cumbria are well known and well documented. The challenges associated with providing health care in an area with the geographical and health inequality challenges of Cumbria are significant. The doctors and nurses that provide the care we receive locally work incredibly hard and in incredibly trying circumstances. One of the main underlying causes of many of the issues is recruitment. I have made representations to Government repeatedly over many years, only for my calls for intervention to fall on deaf ears.
With regard to staffing at the North Cumbria University Hospitals Trust, the Care Quality Commission recently stated:
“The recruitment of nursing staff also remained an on-going challenge. At the time of our inspection nurse staffing levels, although improved, were still of concern and there was a heavy reliance on staff working extra shifts and on bank and agency staff to maintain staffing levels. There were times when the wards were not appropriately staffed to meet the needs of patients.”
Additionally, the most recent NHS Staff Survey showed that 58% of staff at the Trust believe there are not enough staff at the organisation for them to do their job properly. A third of staff say they are unable to meet all the conflicting demands on their time. More than 1 in 10 also say they work six or more unpaid hours each week on top of their contracted hours.
This is a situation that cannot be allowed to continue. The scrapping of bursary support for trainee nurses will exacerbate this already precarious staff shortage. The 29th Report of the NHS Pay Review Body, published on the 8th March 2016 states: “…the removal of the incentive of the bursary could have an unsettling effect on the number and quality of applications for nursing training places in the early years.”
I hope that you will you use your budget to reverse your cuts to nurse bursaries and create new incentives to improve recruitment of NHS staff in rural communities.
West Cumberland Hospital: Phase Two Redevelopment
The last Labour Government committed to the redevelopment of West Cumberland Hospital, Whitehaven. Following the election of the Coalition Government, this project was scrapped along with other major capital spending projects. The funding was only (partially) reinstated after significant pressure and much hard work from my community.
Last October, the new West Cumberland Hospital opened its doors to patients. It is a fantastic facility with a committed workforce. Sadly, Phase Two of the redevelopment process is still not underway. This phase of the redevelopment is crucial to providing key services at the West Cumberland Hospital and its delay is damaging. I hope that you will now commit to ensuring that this project has the funding that is required to ensure it can get underway as soon as possible.
Building a bright future for West Cumbria
As I said at the beginning of this letter, the future of West Cumbria is bright. Our best days are ahead of us. To achieve our potential, we require the help of government. The forthcoming budget gives you the opportunity to provide this help.
With investment from Government, West Cumbria can remove the barriers that currently prevent us from achieving our economic potential. I hope that you will use your budget to better enable West Cumbria to achieve the economic growth that I know is possible. Ultimately, this will not be just for the benefit of my constituents, but the country as a whole.
Jamie Reed MP