From this week, the £2 bus fare cap in England will be extended thanks to savings from HS2 – taking the long-term decisions to deliver a better transport system and help millions of passengers with the cost of living. Buses are the most popular form of public transport so keeping bus fares down will benefit far more people than the previous HS2 project. That is why we are extending the ‘Get Around for £2’ scheme all the way to December 2024 – which has only been made possible by redirecting HS2 funding as part of Network North, taking total government investment in keeping bus fares down to nearly £600 million. Our £2 bus fare cap has helped the cost of bus fares fall across England outside London by 7.4 per cent.
I am very pleased to learn that we will meet our target to open 160 community diagnostic centres, including Bodmin, one year early, as we invest in the long-term future of our NHS and cut waiting lists. Millions of patients are already benefitting from earlier diagnostic tests closer to home thanks to the rollout of 127 new community diagnostic centres, delivering more than five million additional tests, checks and scans across England. That is why we have accelerated the opening of further community diagnostic centres, meeting our target to open 160 centres by March 2024 – a year earlier than the original March 2025 target. Backed by £2.3 billion in capital funding, the programme is the largest central cash investment in MRI and CT scanning capacity in the history of the NHS. We are continuing to invest in the long-term future of our NHS as we speed up access to potentially lifesaving tests and checks and help cut waiting lists right here in North Cornwall.
The announcement that Cornwall Council have agreed to a £792,000 funding package for Launceston Leisure Centre over the next three years has been welcomed by local people. This funding was previously tied up, but following the intervention of Cllr John Conway and the Mayor of Launceston, the Council Leadership approved the bid. This is great news for everybody in Launceston and I am very pleased that another of North Cornwall’s leisure centres is secure. As regular readers will remember, Wadebridge Leisure Centre was recently awarded £935,000 from the Government to secure its long-term future. North Cornwall’s leisure centres were threatened with closure due to the inadequate contract that was signed by the previous Lib-Dem-led council administration, so I am very pleased to see our current leadership at County Hall ensure Launceston remains open.
The clean-up from Storm Ciarán will continue throughout the week after 419 separate incidents were reported to the highways team during the height of the severe weather. I am told that Cormac received 282 calls reporting fallen trees or large branches at locations across Cornwall, and 112 individual reports of isolated flooding on the roads or in individual properties. My gratitude goes to all those who worked hard to keep Cornwall moving through the terrible weather.