Sunday, 22 February 2009

How not to run a democracy!

It has been a busy week for news on the unitary council. The council tax increase for 2009-2010 will average 2.6% across Cornwall – the maximum possible due to the decision to equalise payments across the six districts – with the Penwith area about to experience a 4.9% increase. So much for the alleged savings.

A total of 400 job losses have also been announced and the date of the election has been set for 4th June.

Many people thought that it was likely that elections would be delayed until October but the minister has chosen to hold elections earlier on the draft proposals for council divisions – not final ones agreed after consultation.

For me, it is testing time. As an employee of the County Council, do I give up my job to stand for the Council or not? At the moment, it is impossible to take a decision as no work has been done on what allowances would be paid to councillors – making it very difficult for working people to make decisions on their future.

The whole thing is a bit of a shambles and does Cornwall and its democracy no favours.

The Liberal Democrat MPs claim that the calling of the election is a victory of democracy over delay. They need to remember that it is the Liberal Democrats with the assistance of the Labour Government that has got us in this mess.

Here are few more things that they should remember.


· MK opposed the proposal for a single unitary council for Cornwall, which was also opposed by the vast majority of local people.

· When the decision was taken, MK backed calls for an early election to give democratic legitimacy to those people setting up the new Council. This was opposed by Liberal Democrat county councillors who argued it was important to properly sort out the new ward boundaries for the Council ahead of elections. Central government decided to set up an appointed Lib Dem dominated Implementation Executive to oversee the transition period.

· The subsequent boundary review fell into disarray when a minority of local councillors led by Lib Dem leader David Whalley argued that there should only be ninety councillors instead of the 100-164 suggested in the bid that they themselves had submitted to government.

· Draft proposals were finally launched by the Boundary Committee in December, though these contained many errors and problematic suggestions which did not respect local community boundaries.

· By this time, it was clear that the actions of the local Lib Dems and the inefficiency of the Boundary Committee meant that it was unlikely that the new boundaries would in place for an election in the first half of 2009.

· Central government also decided to move all local elections due on May 2009 to June to clash with the European Parliamentary elections, showing their contempt for the importance of local elections which MK argued should be fought on local issues.

· In the consultation on the date for the first elections to the unitary authority, most principal councils in Cornwall reluctantly took the view that the elections should be delayed to October in order for the new council divisions to be in place. This was latterly opposed by the Lib Dem MPs.

· When it was thought likely that there would be a six months delay between the abolition of the existing councils on 31st March and the election in late October, it was announced that the county councillors along with the district councillors on the Implementation Executive would continue, as well as a number of district councillors who would be co-opted to simply exercise planning and licensing functions.

· Due to the need for the planning representatives to reflect the political make-up of the County Council, this meant that the majority of councillors to survive for this period – now only two months - would be Lib Dems.

· MK research shows that of the 113 Liberal Democrat councillors on one or more principal authorities 71 would continue in some form and 37% would cease to be councillors. By contrast, 74% of Conservative councillors would be abolished and 61% of Independent councillors would cease to be councillors. Eight of the nine MK councillors (89%) would also cease to be councillors. Is this democracy?

· The announcement on the 19th February stated that the election will take place on 4th June on the draft boundaries which have been out to consultation until very recently and therefore the view of local people will not be taken into account on the make-up of the divisions.

Saturday, 14 February 2009

Parka to Penhale Walk

Fraddon and Penhale Enhancement Association has just launched a new booklet to promote a local footpath. I had the privilege to help with this project by formatting the booklet and helping write the text.

The booklet includes a map of a circular walk which starts at the Blue Anchor public house, leads towards St Columb Road before heading back through farmland to Barton Lane and then on to Penhale. It is illustrated with a series of sketches and small water colour paintings produced by Catherine Collingridge as part of a Falmouth College of Arts project a number of years ago.

The walk is 2.5 miles long and should not be too strenuous for the relatively fit walker. It passes through the heart of our village community and a medieval landscape, associated with farms that are over one thousand years old. Various historic features, such as buildings and the remains of Parka Mine near St Columb Road and the Penhale Moor Mine, can also be noted along the walk.

The publication of the booklet was supported with a grant from Restormel Borough Council’s China Clay Area Committee and a donation from John Hill, manager of the nearby McDonalds Restaurant, who has been a long-standing supporter of the work of the Fraddon and Penhale Enhancement Association.

Copies of booklet are being sold for one pound in the local area. It is available at Fraddon Post Office, Blue Anchor pub, Kingsley Village and McDonalds at Fraddon, or direct from either Wendy on (01726) 860178 or Janet (01726) 860975. All the proceeds will be used in projects to enhance the Fraddon and Penhale areas.

The above picture shows the Fraddon and Penhale Committee at the start of the walk outside the Blue Anchor public house. From left to right: Jeanette Cox, John Hill (sponsor from McDonalds), Wendy Fitton, Rod Cox, Joanna Bojko, Janet Brough, Denis Sutcliffe and me.

What a contrast between Councils

On Wednesday morning, the Liberal Democrat Executive of Cornwall County Council voted to support to the eco-town proposal for St Austell. Councillors from places such as Bude, Launceston, Goonhavern, Marazion – and Roche – voted to ignore the strong objections from Restormel Borough Council.

Restormel Borough Council meanwhile met in the evening to consider the further information about the application for an incinerator at St Dennis. We strongly re-affirmed our objection to the proposal.

Isn’t it a shame that Restormel has only weeks to exist and then the County Council gets to continue for six months before an election is called? How many more inappropriate decision are we going to see?

Sunday, 1 February 2009

Cornish Nation hits 50!

Mebyon Kernow publishes a quarterly magazine Cornish Nation that has just reached its fiftieth edition.

Over the years, Mebyon Kernow has regularly produced a magazine under the title of Cornish Nation. It was first produced in a duplicated form in 1967 by Len Truran and thrived as a quarterly magazine between 1970 and 1975 when it was edited by James Whetter. The magazine continued until 1982, under a number of editors, before it ceased production. Cornish Nation was relaunched in 1996.

Free copies of Cornish Nation are available and can be requested by writing to Mebyon Kernow at Lanhainsworth, Fraddon Hill, Fraddon, St Columb, TR9 6PQ or via