Wednesday, 16 February 2011


The Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill went through the House of Commons tonight. And the Conservative and Liberal Democrat Coalition, which did everything in its power to oppose the arguments put by Keep Cornwall Whole to prevent the creation of a Devonwall seat, sanctioned another exceptin within the Bill.

It agreed that there should be two seats on the Isle of Wight (with 55,000 votes each instead of the 76,000 quota for everyone else) but continued to refuse to protect the territorial integrity of the historic nation of Cornwall.

Not happy. I will post again soon in more detail, but for now ... hypocrites.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Cuts at County Hall

Today, the Conservative and Independent councillors on Cornwall Council voted to reaffirm the emergency budget agreed in early December.

Speaking on behalf of the MK group, I started by condemning the extent of the cuts to the public sector being imposed by the Conservative and Liberal Democrat Coalition.

We also hit out at the Council’s business plan and associated paperwork which talks about this being an “exciting time” or a “unique opportunity” for reform or that we are part of some imaginary big society.

Taking the opposite view, and believing that the public sector is under attack, I told the meeting that it was time to stop seeking plaudits for early cuts. It is surely time that the Conservative-led Council did more to oppose the cuts and put pressure on the Conservative-led Coalition to rethink its approach to local government funding.

The main debate around the budget focussed on the 40% cut to the Supporting People budget, which would lead to less monies for partners to provide important services to support vulnerable people.

We challenged the Cabinet to rethink the extent of cuts in the Supporting People budget, but the budget was passed.

It was supported by 65 Conservative and Independent councillors and opposed by 40 others (MK, Liberal Democrats, Labour, one rebel Conservative and one rebel Independent).

The records will show that I was not there for the actual vote. As the new Chairman of the China Clay Area Local Action Group (LAG), I had to leave County Hall to attend a meeting of LAG chairs to discuss future funding arrangements.

I was able to do this because it was clear from the early exchanges in the budget debate that the vote was not going to be close. The Conservatives and Independents were determined to vote the budget through and, as it showed, they had the numbers to do this with ease.

Friday, 11 February 2011

95% of Conservative / Liberal Democrat peers oppose amendment to Keep Cornwall Whole

Printed below is the MK press release that has just gone out concerning the failure of the Cornish amendment in the House of Lords.

Mebyon Kernow – the Party for Cornwall has accused the Conservative / Liberal Democrat Coalition of treating Cornwall with absolute contempt.

This follows the debate in the House of Lords on the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill which, if left unaltered, would lead to the creation of a Devonwall parliamentary constituency.

An amendment was moved by Lord Teverson to ensure that “all parts of Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly must be included in constituencies that are wholly in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.”
Peers voted down the amendment. It was lost by 250 votes to 221 votes, with 95% of Conservative and Liberal Democrat peers voting against the amendment.

Speaking on behalf of Mebyon Kernow, Deputy Leader Cllr Andrew Long said: “It is unbelievable and truly shocking that so few peers from the Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties voted to Keep Cornwall Whole.

“During the election, both parties promised that they would stand up for Cornwall. But Cameron and Clegg have devised this Bill which will breach the territorial integrity of Cornwall.

“Coalition MPs refused to support Cornwall when they had the chance and now 95% of Conservative and Liberal Democrat peers have voted to force through the creation of a Devonwall seat.”

The 221 members of the House of Lords who supported the amendment included a single Conservative peer, only 11 Liberal Democrats, 177 Labour members and 32 others.

The 250 members of the House of Lords who opposed the amendment included 153 Conservatives, 63 Liberal Democrats and 34 others.

Cllr Dick Cole, the Leader of Mebyon Kernow who has been involved with the Keep Cornwall Whole campaign, described the vote in the House of Lords as “extremely disappointing.”

“The Keep Cornwall Whole campaign has been truly cross-party, bringing together individuals from across the length and breadth of Cornwall. We have worked together to stand up for the integrity of Cornwall, but we have been let down by Westminster politicians who seem hell-bent on pushing this Bill through.”

Cllr Cole reserved particular criticism for two leading Liberal Democrat peers who had visited Cornwall to speak at events arranged by the Cornish Constitutional Convention in support of the campaign for a Cornish Assembly.

“I am dumbstruck that two Lib Dem peers, with whom I have shared platforms at Cornish Constitutional Convention events voted against Keeping Cornwall Whole.

“I do not understand how they could have the nerve to come to Cornwall to speak in support of greater Cornish self-government, but when given the chance to support Cornwall’s democratic future they stab us in the back.”

Mebyon Kernow is calling on Cornwall’s six MPs to oppose and vote against the Bill when it returns to the House of Commons.

For the record, the Liberal Democrat peers who visited Cornwall were Lord Wallace, the former MP and Leader of the Liberal Democrats in the Scottish Parliament, in 2001, and Lord German, the former Leader of Liberal Democrats in the Welsh Assembly, last year.

My thoughts on the "Big Society"

In this week's Cornish Guardian, I have used my column to consider what the new Government's Big Society actually is. The article is printed below:

As a councillor, I hear a lot about the new government’s drive for a “Big Society.” And here in the Duchy, we even have a Conservative-led Council mimicking central government with its own “Big Cornwall” project.

But what is this “Big Society” concept and what is David Cameron actually trying to achieve through it?

Launching the initiative back in July 2010, the Prime Minister claimed it was about “transferring power from the state to individuals … allowing communities and voluntary groups to help run public services.”

He suggested that community groups should, for example, be able to run post offices, libraries and transport services, with charities also providing services previously delivered by the government and local councils.

I consider that these plans are misguided and totally unworkable.

I look around Cornwall and I already see local people doing an enormous amount of work to safeguard or improve public services in their communities – helping to manage village halls and play facilities, running nurseries, community groups and clubs, also reaching out to the vulnerable and those in need in their locality.

These wonderful people do fantastic work, often on very limited budgets. What is more, they do not operate in isolation. They are often dependent on support from local councils and grant bodies, to assist them in their activities.

Take the example of Liverpool. Six months ago, the city was chosen as one of four pilot areas to demonstrate the merits of the “Big Society” in partnership with the government.

The leader of Liverpool City Council has since pulled the council out of the arrangement.

In a letter to the Prime Minister, he wrote that they could no longer support the “Big Society” and its aim to “help communities do more for themselves.” He stated this was as a direct consequence of the Government’s funding decision, which meant that the council would be forced to cut financial lifelines to hundreds of vital and worthwhile community groups.

In these austere times, local community groups and volunteers need real support to help them improve what they can do for their areas. We do not need the promotion of some dubious concept by the government, which is being used to justify their deep cuts to funding for the public sector.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Tories and Lib Dems vote for Devonwall seat

I have just got home from a three-hour Parish Council meeting to find out the result of the House of Lords vote on amendment 25 on the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill.

This amendment, initially moved by Lord Teverson, sought to ensure that “all parts of Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly must be included in constituencies that are wholly in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.”

The amendment failed. It was lost by 250 votes to 221.

A summary of the vote shows that the amendment was supported by a single Conservative peer, 177 Labour members, 11 Liberal Democrats and 32 others. It was opposed by 153 Tories, 63 Liberal Democrats and 3 others.

I am amazed that so few Conservative and Liberal Democrat peers supported the amendment. I am particularly dumbstruck that two Lib Dem peers who I have shared platforms with at Cornish Constitutional Convention events voted against Keeping Cornwall Whole. How can they support greater Cornish self-government and then attack Cornwall’s territoriality in this way?

MK will be putting out an official comment tomorrow.