Newsletter 13th June 2014

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It’s a dog’s life!
This week I had the pleasure of visiting the Dogs Trust at their newly-refurbished South-West HQ on the A361 between Braunton and Ilfracombe.  The Trust is the UK’s largest dog welfare charity and has been around since 1891 – it was known as the National Canine Defence League until ten years ago.
The Ilfracombe centre is one of only 19 across the UK which care for 17,000 dogs each year. They never put a healthy dog to sleep, and work tirelessly to try and find them happy homes after they’ve been abandoned.
I was given a tour of the wonderful facilities there, which were upgraded in a major refurbishment completed just last year.  I also got to meet two of the residents – as you can see!
My visit coincided with a number of important initiatives being undertaken by the Dogs Trust in North Devon.  Firstly, they’re promoting the fact that every dog must be microchipped within less than two years.  The Trust are organising sessions where owners can get this done for free – the next two are at The Landmark Theatre, Ilfracombe, next Wednesday and Pets At Home in Barnstaple next Thursday, 10am-3pm on both occasions. I would urge all dog-owners who haven’t yet had their pet chipped to take advantage of this service.
There is also a major campaign encouraging owners to pick up after their dogs.  Most owners are responsible and already do this, but there is sadly a minority who make it unpleasant for everyone else.
I was really impressed with the work the Dogs Trust are doing, and take my hat off to all the staff and volunteers at the Ilfracombe base.  Thank you for the warm welcome.
Unemployment down again
This week’s unemployment figures in North Devon are extremely encouraging.  The district recorded the biggest fall in the number of JSA claimants in the entire county - a remarkable drop of 11.5%.
It means the unemployment rate in North Devon is now just 1.2% of the working-age population.  The equivalent figure for the UK as a whole is 2.7%, so our district is performing incredibly strongly compared with the rest of the country.
This is extremely welcome news, but of course there is more to do.  The Conservatives' long term economic plan is working and the economy is growing, and we must stick to that course.
One of my top priorities is to focus on how we get more investment, more business and therefore more jobs into North Devon, and I'll continue to work hard to build on the success of today's figures.
Queen’s Speech
As I write, the House of Commons is continuing to debate the Queen’s Speech and the government’s plans for the year ahead.  The programme of proposals announced last week shows that the Conservative-led government is determined to continue with its longterm economic plan, as well as introducing a number of welcome, progressive reforms.  Taxes will be cut, businesses boosted, and there will be a married couples' allowance to recognise marriage in the tax system.
One of the measures which will benefit thousands of people in North Devon is the major shakeup of pensions. Retired people will be given far greater control over the money they've worked so hard to save through their working lives.
For families, there will be more help with childcare costs and moves to ensure there are adequate school places.
There is also the proposed 'carrier bag tax' which will have huge environmental benefits, encouraging shoppers to re-use our bags and cut the number going to landfill.
The planning system will be reformed to encourage the building of much-needed new houses. This is something I will be watching closely in North Devon where there are a number of concerns over proposed developments.
There was also an important reform announced for the way our National Parks – including Exmoor – are managed.  The government plans to introduce direct elections for some members of the authorities which run the parks.  This has been widely welcomed as a step forward for greater public accountability.
Overall, I believe this is a broad-ranging package of measures which will be welcomed by many people across North Devon.  Do let me know what you think.

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Many thanks. 
Until next week......
Peter Heaton-Jones
Conservative Parliamentary Candidate