Damian Heholt standing in St Agnes for Cornwall Council
Hi, I am Damian. I have been lucky enough to have lived in Cornwall with my partner and 2 kids for nearly 6 years. The stunning beauty of the countryside and sea has captivated me. The County as a whole is vibrant and forward looking. My family have benefited greatly from the many fine facilities and opportunities for both adults and children. While enjoying all that Cornwall has to offer, I cannot help but notice that all in the garden is not rosy.
As renters, we are painfully aware of the appalling lack of family homes available. As potential buyers, we are also aware of the huge cost of properties in Cornwall, especially relative to our income. The homeless people on the streets, in their cars or hidden away in tents have not escaped my attention.
I believe we need a rent cap, an end to the bedroom tax and to provide 5 year tenancies for all renters. An MOT type inspection (paid for by landlords) would ensure that properties are maintained to a high standard. We need to utilise the thousands of empty properties in Cornwall before we consider new developments. At the moment, hundreds of perfectly good houses in holiday villages can only be bought as second homes.
I would like to see that restriction removed to allow local people the opportunity to buy, rent and live in those houses and provide the school places, health care and transport infrastructure to meet their needs. I welcome tourists, but to house them in ghetto villages which are empty for 44 weeks of the year is a shocking waste. I will push for a rethink on Council Tax. Did you know that a billionaire in a Westminster mansion pays less council tax than we do for our 3 bedroom flat ?
I will fight, as will all my Labour Colleagues, to save Community Hospitals throughout Cornwall and against any cuts to the budget of NHS Cornwall. The Labour Party locally and nationally is the only hope of saving the NHS from degradation, privatisation and a slow death.
Employment in Cornwall needs a radical rethink. Beyond the tourist, hospitality and health sectors there is very little available. Low pay, zero-hours contracts and under-employment are rife. Cornwall is one of the poorest regions in Europe. I want to see Cornwall develop an industrial base to generate wealth, employment and connections with the rest of the country and the world.
We are uniquely placed here to capitalize on green and renewable energy. With our long coastlines our near constant winds and our high hours of sunshine (compared to the rest of the UK!) and the experience and expertise already here we are ready to become a world-class centre for renewable energy research and implementation.
We are facing cuts to the education budget in Cornwall, a short-sighted continuation of failed Tory austerity. Almost every school in Cornwall will be affected. Our children are precious, our teachers are precious and the future is in their hands. I will campaign against any cuts on education. I also recognise the professionalism and dedication of teachers and support staff (many on minimum wage) and will fight for pay to reflect that. I also believe in equality of opportunity and so oppose the reintroduction of grammar schools. A good education is not a privilege, it is a right.
Cornwall should welcome refugees. There are many private initiatives already in place to support and welcome refugees, which sent aid to ‘The Jungle’ in Calais or send clothes to Syria. Cornwall Council needs to embrace that spirit of compassion and internationalism and to initiate and support projects to help those affected by disasters both natural and man-made.
And Devolution? Yes! We must demand the power to raise tax and establish a Cornish Investment Bank. Too long forgotten by Westminster, now cut off from European Union aid, we need more than ever the ability to chart our own destiny.
As a widely travelled, relative new comer, I believe I have the energy, imagination and fresh eyes to be able to make a real difference to our lives here in Cornwall.