Hello, I am Kate Thomas. I grew up in Falmouth near the Art College and thought the students added a welcomed diversity to the area, and still think so today. Indeed, I did a Foundation course there but ultimately felt that there were a lot better artists around than me and went on to get a good degree in economics instead, which led to a career as a professional statistician in the Civil Service where I served in various Government Ministries.
I was fortunate to have a mother, Annie McStay, who instilled in her children respect for all people regardless of ethnic origin, sexuality or creed. That’s stood me in good stead all my life and it’s why I’ve been a lifelong socialist, and in Cornwall a member of the Labour Party.
Like many young people living in Cornwall in the late 70’s early 80’s, I left to get work. I returned to Falmouth 30 years’ later, to work for Cornwall Council as part of the social services safeguarding the many vulnerable children in Cornwall.
I enjoy the Falmouth events and despite my small frame joined the Falmouth Gig Club and indeed spent some time as the secretary of the club.
On the surface Falmouth is now more vibrant, busier and in some regards better.
However, the undercurrent of the low-waged economy persists and in some ways its worse. We always had seasonal work, and for some, money was tighter in the winter months. Now zero-hour contracts and low paid insecure work is all too pervasive. Back then with a small student body that had grown over 100 years or so, the pressure on housing was insignificant.
With the aggressive expansion of Falmouth University in particular, housing has hit crisis levels and has priced 1,000’s of people out of the area. This pressure on housing has pushed up rents and made housing scarce.
I joined with Save Our Falmouth to oppose raising the cap on student numbers and was quoted in the Daily Mail,
Kate Thomas, chair of the Save Our Falmouth Group, which organised the protest, said: The importance of this demonstration is to bring the locals, students and lecturers together to say keep the cap. There has been such a rapid expansion over the last ten years. The locals have been evicted out and students are paying higher rents to stay in family homes. There has been a rash of applications for unsuitable accommodation which is high density in areas not suited to having huge number of students.
With expenditure on housing now nearing half of peoples’ income, this impacts money available for people to spend within the local economy. This affects everyone, especially as much of the rental income drains out of the local area to outside investors.
Unlike Council tenants, private sector tenancies tend to be 6 month contracts. Along with high rents this housing insecurity can cause great anxiety and depression, affecting both performance at work and a greater burden on the NHS. I am saddened to see more rough sleepers, people living in camper vans on our streets, in caravans, on boats because people can’t afford the high rents and housing shortage, or forced temporarily into holiday homes.
For decades, successive Governments have left the provision of homes to the market. During 3 decades over 2 million council houses have been sold off. For some this provided an opportunity to own their own home. Unfortunately, many of those council houses are now rented out at market rates. This approach hasn’t worked, but instead it’s caused a housing crisis and an increased level of mental health issues within our communities.
Under a Labour Government, we would build 1 million houses, half of which would be council houses. We'd introduce not-for-profit lettings agencies and introduce national standards and active regulation of private rented properties.
The powers vested in a local Councillor are limited, but if elected I would do all in the available power vested in a Councillor to redress the housing crisis in Falmouth. I support Falmouth’s Neighbourhood Plan and the Article 4 Directive.
Health & Social Care
I’m incensed by our current Government’s attitude to health and social care. It’s obvious that with an ageing population the demand for both is going to increase. Nationally over-65’s are nearly 17% of the population, in Cornwall it’s nearly 19%. Demand on health & social care in Cornwall is obviously greater. Restructure maybe, but not as cynical drive to bring down costs as they have done in the Sustainability & Transformation Plans (STP) with the intention to cut Cornwall’s budget by £264 million.
In Cornwall, we’ve seen private care homes close and horrific abuse of our older people. Left to the market, care home owners cut costs, by driving down wages and employing increasing levels of untrained staff. With little facility to support people with mental health issues, people are sent out of county for treatment and people can wait for months for appointments or treatments.
I have been campaigning with others in Falmouth against Cornwall’s STP, to keep Falmouth Hospital open and oppose any cuts in health spending and would continue to do so if elected.
Under a Labour Government, health & social care would be fully funded. Labour would end health service privatisation and bring services into a secure, publicly-provided NHS.
Development & Environment
We need more, better paid secure jobs in Falmouth. The Port of Falmouth is an opportunity for growth in employment. I have issues with the plan to dredge in Carrick Roads to enable larger cruise ships to dock in Falmouth. Like the local fishermen, I am concerned about the environmental impact, because the spoil is the most toxic known in the UK after centuries of mining and marine activity.
The largest recent dredge took place at North Parade for the marina and the spoil was just over 80,000 tonnes, the current proposal is 3 times that much at a quarter of a million tonnes.
I believe we need a rethink about the dredging and to look at other ways of securing the viability of our port and expanding job opportunities. If elected I would work with our port, businesses throughout Falmouth and employees to secure employment in Falmouth.
The expansion in Falmouth of the new digital industries, of which we have many small businesses in the town, is exciting and encouraging for the future of our young people to be able to find a career here and not leave like I had to.
A future Labour Government is committed to regional and national investment banks to promote our new manufacturing industries and build the infrastructure for them to thrive. We need to build a knowledge based, high skilled, high tech, low carbon economy that can end austerity and will leave no one and nowhere behind. Cornwall is well placed to benefit from this.
We have some excellent green spaces in Arwenack and I believe in maintaining and sustaining our green and marine environments fully as they are essential for the health and wellbeing of our community. From our parks, beaches and green corridors, if elected to Cornwall Council I would work with Falmouth Town Council to ensure that they are protected and I would oppose any new developments on Pendennis Point.
It’s very easy to blame the crisis on migrants, they’re an easy target, but it’s not them that have caused low wages, insecure employment or homelessness.
Many Europeans have made their homes here in Britain over the last 3 decades. I don’t think that their right to remain should be a bargaining tool in the Brexit negotiations. I think all Europeans resident here on the 23rd June 2016 should be given the right to remain.
As a matter of decency and fairness I believe the Government should immediately grant full residency to those Europeans who have already made their homes here. It is intolerable the uncertainty these families are faced with.
I am proud of our unique Cornish culture and heritage. Cornwall has been a maritime international trading nation for 1,000’s of years. We have had a cosmopolitan and outward looking attitude and long may it continue.