Friday, 30 October 2015

Celebrate our Cornish language

In this coming week’s Cornish Guardian, I have chosen to focus on recent publicity about the Cornish language and to publicise the news that the unitary authority will be adopting a new Language Plan next week. Thanks to Pol Hodge for the translation. The article will be as follow:

The Cornish language has been in the headlines quite a bit lately and, this week, Cornwall Council will be agreeing a new Cornish Language Plan.

Media stories have included the call from acclaimed poet Benjamin Zephaniah for a greater awareness of the "different cultures and languages" of Britain, when he also expressed the view that Cornish should be taught more widely.

The erection of a prominent “dual language” sign on the police station in Truro was also widely covered, while Cornwall Council’s confirmation that it would be encouraging reception staff to sometimes use Cornish phrases made it into a host of UK-wide and regional newspapers.

Much of the coverage has been extremely positive, and I was very pleased that a poll on the Daily Mirror website found over 90% agreed “Cornwall’s old language” should be preserved.

But sadly, illiberal comments on newspaper websites such as The (Manchester!) Guardian continue to show considerable disrespect to Cornwall and its identity, while TV comedian Jimmy Carr even got in on the act with offensive comments about the Cornish which he could not have made against other ethnic groups.

I hope that we can rise above such comments and use them as a catalyst to work even harder to promote our distinct national identity.

Yth esa an yeth kernewek y’n pennlinennow menowgh a-gynsow hag an seythen ma y fydh Konsel Kernow owth akordya Towlen Yeth Kernewek nowydh.

Yn-mysk hwedhlow media yth esa gans bardh a-vri Benjamin Zephaniah rag moy arwodhvos a’n “gonisogethegow ha yethow dyffrans” Breten Veur, pan wrug ev profya tybyans rag Kernewek bos dyskys moy ledan.

An sav bannek a arwodhyow “diw yeth” orth gorsav kreslu yn Truru o merkys o derivys yn efan. Ha’n konfirmyans Konsel Kernow a wra kolonnhe mayni degemerva dhe dhevnydhya lavaryow Kernewek.

Meur a’n derivans re beu pur bosedhek, hag yth en vy pes da gweles poll-govyn yn gwisva Daily Mirror bos 90% akordys y tal bos gwithys “yeth koth Kernow.”

Mes yn trist, kampollow anlarj yn gwisavaow paper-nowodhow avel The Guardian (Manchester) a bes diskwedha anvri dhe Gernow ha’y honanieth, ha komeder PW Jimmy Carr a wrug y rann gans kompollow divlas a-dro dhe’n gernowyon na yll ev gul er bynn ken bagasow ethnek.

My a wayt ni dhe sevel a-ugh kampollow a’n par ma ha’ga devnydhya avel catalyst rag oberi kalessa hwath rag avisya agan honanieth kenedhlek diblans.

The result in St Austell Poltair

I have just got back from the Council offices in St Austell and I can report that MK’s Olie Allen polled 97 votes in the town council by-election.

The seat was won by long-term Poltair resident Andrea Lanxon for Labour. She has stood on many previous occasions, and I have to say I am very pleased for her.

The full result was as follows:

Labour - 246 (33%)
Conservative - 226 (30%)
Liberal Democrats - 166 (22%)
Olie Allen (MK) - 97 (13%)
TUSC - 13 (2%)

Olie is quite pleased with his first outing and, as I told him at the count, his share of the vote at 13% is exactly what I managed in my first election. I am very proud of the effort he has put in, and I am certainly looking forward to working with him for a long time to come.

Thursday, 29 October 2015

Central government police cuts will be disastrous

The news tonight is almost unbelievable.

According to a leaked internal staff briefing seen by the BBC, the Devon and Cornwall Police could lose around 1,300 members of staff over the next five years.

The document included a revised analysis of expected budget cuts which could lead to the axing of 760 police officers and the force’s 360 police community support officers.

This is all down to ridiculous central government cuts being forced through by an increasingly regressive Conservative Government. The reductions in funding have gone to far and will truly disastrous for Cornwall and strike at the heart of those key public services which aid our local communities.

It also highlights yet another broken Conservative promise.

Prior to coming power in 2010, they pledged that there would be “more police on the street, fighting crime and protecting local communities” – but they are now aiming to dismantle local policing, which is shameful.

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Good luck to Olie Allen

Thursday 29th October is polling day in the St Austell Town Council by-election (Poltair Ward) and I would like to offer my best wishes to our candidate Olie Allen.

Olie is a fantastic candidate and I really hope that he does well. I have certainly enjoyed helping with his campaign and getting out all those leaflets.

If you live in Poltair, please consider giving Olie your support. He would make a great councillor for the town of St Austell.

Monday, 26 October 2015

Monthly report to St Enoder Parish Council

My latest monthly report will be presented to tomorrow's meeting of St Enoder Parish Council. It covers the time period 21st September to 26th October 2015, and will be as follows:

1. Council meetings

I have attended a range of formal meetings over the last month. These included: Strategic Planning Committee (x 2), Central Sub-Area Planning Committee, Constitution & Governance Committee, a Group Leaders’ meeting, and a meeting of the China Clay Area Network Panel. I also took the lead in six meetings / pre-agenda / preparatory sessions and local briefings about progress towards the preparation of a Local Plan for Cornwall (through my chairmanship of the Planning Policy Advisory Committee).

In addition to the formal meetings listed above, I have had numerous meetings with council officers and others to discuss a range of issues.

2. Penare Pig Farm, Higher Fraddon and associated AD plant

- Strategic Planning Committee

The three planning applications for Penare are scheduled to be presented to the Strategic Planning Committee on 19th November, now that the previously anticipated committee date of 22nd October did not prove possible. The reasons for the delay are that the committee report took longer to complete due to the complexity of the planning and legal issues relating to the proposals, as well as the need to consult on the addition of two bio-filters to certain buildings within the pig farm complex.

- Public Meeting

As previously reported, I formally requested that Cornwall Council hold a public meeting in Fraddon to allow residents from the local community to address the members of the Strategic Planning Committee.

This meeting took place on Wednesday 23rd September at Kingsley Village and, in advance of the actual meeting, the Cornwall Councillors held a site meeting at Higher Fraddon and spent over an hour looking around the biogas plant and the pig farm.

I thought everyone who spoke at the meeting did extremely well and the councillors I saw after the meeting were very complimentary about the very dignified, professional and measured manner in which local residents put their views across.

The highlight for me was when Tony Bullows criticized the so-called non-material amendment which changed the whole nature of the biogas proposal as “the worst decision since Noah invited two woodworm onto the ark!”

- Letter to Highways England

As also reported last month, following the visit of Roads Minister Andrew Jones MP and Steve Double MP on August 5th, I ensured that a letter was sent from Cornwall Council, Greener for Life and the pig farm to Highways England and Andrew Jones MP.

A response has been received from Highways England which has stated that it would be extremely difficult to justify an alternative access off the A30, but that they would be wiling to meet with Cornwall Council. I have asked senior officers to fast-track arrangements for this meeting.

- Higher Fraddon Community Forum

Because of the imminent meeting of the Strategic Planning Committee, there have been no meetings of the Higher Fraddon Community Forum since 2nd September. I am however continuing to liaise with a range of individuals about the planning applications, the ongoing concerns about traffic movements and smells, etc.

- Recent developments

Since my report to the September Parish Council meeting, I can also report the following:

(i) The biogas plant has been taking more pig slurry in recent weeks, but it is still taking less than it needs to be fully operational. The pig farm is still taking excess slurry out in tractors and tankers.

(ii) Problems at the plant have caused the flare to go off repeatedly which has caused concern and discomfort for local residents.

(iii) In recent weeks, there have been a number of traffic-related incidents on the Higher Fraddon road, which has included blockages caused by large vehicles meeting each other in the lane and damage to trees.

(iv) I managed to get Cornwall Council’s new “sustainable drainage” officer to visit the site to address my concerns about the drainage proposed for the biogas plant and the pig farm. She has raised a number of concerns of her own which have been passed to the case officer.

(v) Cormac carried out the patching of the top section of the Higher Fraddon road in late September and early October. Some additional works were carried at on an adjacent ditch at this time.

3. Redevelopment of Kingsley Village

The planning application for the redevelopment of the Kingsley Village complex (to include a Marks and Spencers store) was presented to Cornwall Council’s Strategic Planning Committee on 22nd October. The planning officer’s report recommended approval; the Parish Council’s support for the proposal was presented by Cllr Jackie Baker, while I spoke in detail about the nature of the suggested conditions.

I had been told by council officers that the application would not be placed before the Strategic Planning Committee until November. This was because, at the end of September, the unitary authority was awaiting further information from the applicant and statutory consultees.

I was surprised when it was brought forward to the October in “something of a rush,” with some issues such as the concerns of Highways England not having been fully addressed.

At the committee meeting, I made it clear that there was strong local support for the proposal but I was also disappointed that the applicant had positioned the building so close to the residents in Penhale Cottages and that I had made representations on this matter. I explained that the applicants had agreed that a 2.5m high acoustic fence be erected around the affected properties, but I added my disappointment that they were otherwise unwilling to move the new building further away from the residents.

I also expressed my disappointment at the flawed nature of a number of the proposed conditions, which I felt was a consequence of the report being brought forward so quickly.

I will just give a few examples.

Many conditions sought further information to be submitted at a later date, such as opening hours for the retail units and controls on when the new car park would be locked. I argued these controls should be agreed and properly conditioned at this time.

Condition 7 referred to the submission of detailed plans for the new junction on the B3275. I noted that the junction would be within the 30mph speed limit but was extremely close to the 60 mph limit. I successfully requested that this condition be strengthened to include the extension of the lower speed limit away from the junction and to ensure that there be additional lining / signing on the B3275 to calm traffic.

Condition 13 meanwhile referenced the acoustic fences which would be constructed around the nearest neighbouring properties. It incorrectly stated that the fence would be 1.8m high, and added that the fences should be erected prior to the car park coming into use. I successfully requested that the fences be erected prior to the commencement of development (including demolition) in order to reduce the impact on the amenity of local residents.

I also sought a guarantee that a Post Office would be retained at the Kingsley Village complex and requested a unilateral undertaking to this effect. Representatives of the applicants (Kingsley Developers and CPG) reassured me that the Post Office would not be lost, but I am still seeking a written commitment to this.

The application was passed, subject to Highways England being satisfied with the road network, and improvements to the conditions presented to the meeting. Also, due to the nature of the application, it will also have to be referred to central government.

4. South West Water improvements at St Columb Road

South West Water is presently replacing over 200m of old water pipes at St Columb Road. There are presently four-way traffic lights at the crossroads, which have caused traffic problems while the local shops have reported a significant drop in trade linked to this.

Radio Cornwall did visit the area and interviewed a number of local people, including myself. It was broadcast on 23rd October. I strongly made the point that St Columb Road was still “open for business,” but also welcomed the investment in the improved piping.

I have been in contact with South West Water and they have confirmed that the works at the actual junction will be completed within two weeks. New piping will then be laid towards the Halloon roundabout, when there will only be two-way traffic lights and the congestion at the crossroads is likely to be much reduced.

5. Flooding problems at Trevarren

As I have reported previously, South West Water are also making improvements to the sewerage network in the greater St Columb area. Members will be aware that I have been making representations on behalf of the residents of Trevarren for over a decade.

The residents remain concerned about the surcharge of waste from the foul water sewer onto the highway at Trevarren, and I am pleased to be able to report that the water authority were due to hold a meeting on 26th October to decide which one of two potential schemes could be implemented in the hamlet. I have also been informed that the works would be undertaken within this financial year.

6. Bus services to Summercourt

Following the open meeting with First which took place in Summercourt New Memorial Hall on 27th August, I have continued to communicate with Alex Carter, the managing director of the bus company.

Members will recall that Mr Carter gave a firm commitment to include a once-an-hour Summercourt stop on the Newquay / Truro route (both directions), and stated that he would work with the local community and Cornwall Council to finalise the details of how this would happen.

It is taking a little longer to arrange than Mr Carter stated at the meeting, but he is still committed to making the improvements. He is meeting with Cornwall Council this week and, having spoken to him last week, I anticipate that I will be able to produce a newsletter to inform local residents about progress within the next ten days or so.

7. Planning

I have been actively involved with a large number of ongoing applications. Listed below are a couple of examples, though this list is by no means exhaustive:

- Mobile homes on the Kelliers (PA15/06186)

As we know, this part-retrospective application for mobile homes on the Kelliers was refused. I am continuing to liaise between local residents and enforcement officers about investigations into the present unconsented activity on the site.

- Single affordable home at Whitecross (PA15/02753)

This application for a single affordable home was considered at the meeting of the Central Sub-Area Planning Committee on 26th October. Michael Hopkins represented the Parish Council and spoke in favour, as did I. It was approved with conditions.

8. Discussions with Cormac

On Tuesday 6th October, I met with the new Cormac team in our area to discuss a range of issues. I am awaiting detailed feedback on most points and I will update whenever I receive more information. The discussions included the following:

- Poorly-maintained areas

I once again raised concerns about the brambles and unkempt / damaged entrance to Heather Meadow, Fraddon, and other areas such as the grassy bank at the top of the Drang, Indian Queens. The present lack of resource means that it is unlikely that the tidying up of such areas are to be prioritised, and now is probably the time for the Parish Council to start a serious dialogue with the unitary authority about taking control over some additional areas as part of our grass cutting.

- Queries from local residents

I reported a number of issues from local residents about health and safety concerns, slight flooding, the untrimmed nature of hedges through Fraddon and towards St Columb Road, as well as infestations of Japanese Knotweed.

- Update from Asset and Design team

I have formally requested an update from the above team on progress with those possible schemes referred to them. These include the need to improve the drains through Fraddon and address the rising water problem in the pavement to the east of Queens Garage

- Requests for speed checks

I have reaffirmed my requests for a number of speed checks to build up evidence to better assess local problems with speeding traffic.

Blue Anchor, Fraddon
Chapeltown, Summercourt
Newquay Road, St Columb Road
Moorland Road, Indian Queens / Toldish
School Road, Summercourt
Sea View Terrace

In addition to my meeting with Cormac, I have written to Cornwall Council for an update on those traffic schemes which I, last year, submitted for consideration by Highways officers.

These included:

· Entrance points into the main built-up areas of St Enoder Parish and other key locations.

· Measures relating to the expansion of Indian Queens Primary School and ongoing problems with traffic congestion / conflict with local neighbours (see School Travel Plan by Hyder Consulting).

· Traffic management measures to combat traffic congestion, parking problems and conflict between car drivers and local residents around the Co-op and along St Francis Road.

· Pedestrian crossings at Summercourt crossroads.

· 20 mph speed limit by Summercourt Primary School, potentially linked to gateway features.

9. Open space at Fairview Park

I continue to speak the owners of this land (Kingsley Developers) on a weekly basis to encourage them to speed up the transfer of this land into the ownership of the Parish Council as previously agreed.

10. Panel to choose new Chief Executive

Some months ago, I was appointed to the interview panel to select a new Chief Executive for Cornwall Council.

I have found the whole process extremely frustrating and, thus far, most of the meetings were arranged around the diaries of certain Cabinet members. It meant that most meetings were timetabled when I was either on holiday or had other existing commitments.

The actual interviews for the applicants will take place over two-days and now clash with Strategic Planning Committee on 19th November when the three applications from Penare will be debated.

I have therefore withdrawn from the interview panel.

11. Inquiries

During the last month, I have also helped numerous people and local organisations with advice and guidance on a wide range of issues.

Sunday, 25 October 2015

Time to cancel the tax credit cuts

The Prime Minister and the Chancellor claim that low income households will not lose out if the Conservatives go ahead with slashing tax credit payments. They continue to argue that the low-paid will be more than compensated through a package of other changes including increases in the minimum wage (renamed as the so-called "national living wage"), the increase in the tax-free allowance and increased childcare support.

But a host of “experts” and think-tanks strongly disagree. The independent Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) has written that it is “arithmetically impossible” for poorer families not to lose out, while even the “free market” Adam Smith Institute (ASI) slammed the proposed cuts.

The ASI commented that “working tax credits are the best form of welfare we have, and cutting them would be a huge mistake” adding that “cutting tax credits would disincentivise work and hurt those at the bottom of society.”

It was certainly claim and counter-claim in the House of Commons last week when MPs debated a motion to cancel the tax credit cuts, which was lost by 317 votes to 295.

The opposition parties were united in demanding a rethink, but most Conservative MPs dutifully and repeatedly trotted out those same soundbites uttered by George Osborne in recent weeks.

Independent Northern Ireland MP Sylvia Hermon expressed her embarrassment and anger that she had previously voted in favour of the cuts “on the clear understanding that there would be mitigation … of the worst effects of the cuts,” though this had since been ruled out by the Conservative Party.

But most telling of all, a small number of Tories went off-message, rejected the arguments of their leaders and attacked the tax credit cuts.

Cambridgeshire MP Heidi Allen warned that the cuts were "too hard and too fast." She said: “Everything we do must pass the family test, but cutting tax credits before wages rise does not achieve that.” The MP added: "Sending a message to the poorest and most vulnerable in our society that we do not care does not achieve that either."

Plymouth MP Johnny Mercer meanwhile urged caution and appealed to the Chancellor to do “something – anything – that might mitigate the harshest effects of this policy on our most vulnerable.”

It seems to me that if the Conservatives do refuse to rethink their tax credit cuts, they will themselves have made a mockery of their oft-repeated and often ridiculed claim to be a “compassionate” party.

[This will be my article in this week's Cornish Guardian].

Monday, 19 October 2015

Cuts to Police funding have gone too far

In this week’s Cornish Guardian, my column again addresses government cuts and the chronic under-funding of public services in Cornwall. It will be as follows:

Last week’s announcements by the Devon and Cornwall Constabulary related to their decision to close 34 police stations show that the funding reductions really have gone way too far.

This follows the loss of around 500 police officers and numerous civilian support staff, while the Police and Crime Commissioner has warned there could still be worse to follow.

Interviewed this week, the Commissioner’s Chief Executive told reporters that: “Until recently the plans were based on us having to make £29 million worth of savings but we are now expected to make an additional £25 million savings – bringing the total to £54 million.”

This is frankly ridiculous and I consider it unconscionable that local policing is being undermined by such devastating cuts.

And I also find it absolutely shameful that the cuts are being pushed through by a political party which, during the 2010 General Election that brought them to power, promised to protect policing.

I still have copies of their leaflets distributed in Cornwall at that time.

One stated: “We have done the sums and can say with confidence that we will … put more police on patrol.”

Another included a statement from the-then shadow Home Secretary Nick Grayling, who said: “It is dishonest to claim that we will cut police officer numbers. In fact, our plans to cut bureaucracy and red tape mean that there would be more police on the street, fighting crime and protecting local communities.”

Such mock outrage now looks pretty threadbare.

I have glanced through the 2015 Conservative manifesto to see what they are now saying about falling police numbers. They actually, somewhat cynically, claim that they are increasing the “proportion of officers working on the frontline …”

Talking of promises, there is growing anger that David Cameron has also gone back on his promise not to cut tax credits.

The Conservatives may claim that people will not lose out due to other changes, such as the increase in the minimum wage, but the Institute for Fiscal Studies disagrees.

The independent institute says that it is “arithmetically impossible” for families not to lose out from the cuts, while some of our poorest households could lose over one thousand pounds a year.

Surely it is time for the Government to rethink its approach on these two issues.

Sunday, 18 October 2015

A date for your diaries: MK 2015 Conference … 14th November

It is less than four weeks to the MK Annual Conference. It will take place at New County Hall on Saturday 14th November.

Doors will open at 9.15, with the Conference itself getting underway at 10.00. Non-members are also welcome to attend the afternoon session, which will begin at 2.00, and include my keynote address along with discussions about MK’s campaign priorities.

I would be really delighted to see you at the event.

The Conference paperwork will soon be available and I will post further details on this blog. The paperwork can also be requested from me at

MK meeting in St Austell & Newquay Constituency: Friday 23rd October

A meeting for Mebyon Kernow members in the St Austell & Newquay Constituency has been arranged for the evening of Friday 23rd October. The meeting will take place at ClayTAWC in St Dennis and start at 7.30.

Issues for discussion at the meeting will include future local election campaigns, raising the profile of Mebyon Kernow in Mid Cornwall, campaign activities in the area and organising a social event for local members and supporters.

Anyone from the St Austell & Newquay Constituency, who would be interested in attending and finding more about MK, can call me on 07791 876607 for more details.

Monday, 12 October 2015

Cameron's approach to "affordable housing" will be a disaster

It is less than one month since I wrote about affordable housing. You may recall that I was extremely critical of how, over the last five years, central government has hiked up the price of new “affordable” properties for rent.

Since then, the Prime Minister has declared that he intends to change planning rules, again, so that property developers no longer have to build affordable homes for rent.

What David Cameron actually said at the Conservative Party Conference was: “For years, politicians have been talking about building what they call ‘affordable homes’ – but the phrase was deceptive. It basically meant homes that were only available to rent. What people want are homes they can actually own.”

I was horrified at his speech, which was even factually inaccurate.

Here in Cornwall, we have been providing “discounted homes for sale” for many years. Found on numerous developments, both large and small, these properties were controlled via a legal agreement known as a “Section 106.”

The “106” restricts the value of the property, in perpetuity, as a percentage of OMV (open market value). Put in simple terms, when the property is resold, it must be on the same terms that it was initially purchased; ensuring that the affordable home benefits future generations.

Cornwall Council recently updated this element of its affordable housing policy. It set out, for example, that the percentage discount for a two-bed house should achieve a figure of £87,000 while for a three-bed house it should equate to £104,500.

It is an approach that has worked well, but it has been undermined by central government and the banking sector. Most banks and building societies are now refusing to grant mortgages for such properties, making it very difficult for local developers to identify purchasers.

Cameron’s new alternative approach is to build what he calls “starter homes,” which would be sold at a 20% discount. But according to government documents, outside London, the discounted price for these properties “should be no more than £250,000.”

It really does beggar belief that some MPs think a £250,000 property is affordable.

The Government has also made it clear that these “starter homes” would not be “affordable” in perpetuity. The Government states that the discount would be a “one-off,” benefiting just a single family, and after five years the property could be sold at its open market value.

Is it any wonder that the housing charity Shelter branded Cameron’s so-called starter homes as “unaffordable,” while the homeless charity Crisis condemned the plan as “disastrous.”

[This article will appear in this weeks Cornish Guardian].

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Olie Allen is standing for election in St Austell

Mebyon Kernow is on the election trail once again. We have selected Olie Allen to contest the by-election for a seat on St Austell Town Council (Poltair Ward).

Olie is an outstanding candidate who would make a great representative for the people of Poltair. Born and raised in St Austell, he works as an NVQ assessor for health and social care, visiting care homes across Cornwall.

He once appeared on the BBC’s “Weakest Link” and, having faced Anne Robinson, he tells me that he is not daunted by the prospect of being a town councillor.

If anyone would like to help Olie’s campaign, please get in contact with me on 07791 876607.

Monday, 5 October 2015

Westminster parties are failing to organise on a Cornwall-wide basis

I have just returned from a lovely week-long holiday in Wales. In between dragging my body to the summit of Snowden and watching a rugby game in Cardiff, I also took the time to catch up on political developments on the western side of Offa’s Dyke.

Welsh devolution certainly means that politics as practised in the principality is so very, very different to that experienced in Cornwall.

Political parties in Wales are almost all organised on an all-Wales basis, with most having their own elected leaders. Alongside Plaid Cymru’s outstanding Leanne Wood there are, amongst others, Carwyn Jones (Welsh Labour), Kirsty Williams (Welsh Liberal Democrats), Pippa Bartolotti (Wales Green Party) and Nathan Gill (UKIP Wales).

These may not be household names for everyone in Cornwall, but the political scene which they inhabit does ensure that every single economic, environmental or social issue is “framed” within a Welsh context, that really does engage the wider population.

What a contrast to Cornwall.

The Conservative Party does not principally operate on a Cornwall-wide basis, but across a “South West region” that extends as far as Wiltshire. It is the same with its various associated groupings such as Conservative Future (for younger people) or its Women’s Organisation.

The Labour Party is also organised on a “South West” basis with a regional office in Bristol, while the Lib Dem website states that “Devon and Cornwall is one of 11 regions of the English Liberal Democrats.”

The failure of the larger Westminster parties to even recognise Cornwall as an entity in their own organisational structures is extremely telling. It shows that we are not one of their main priorities when compared, for example, to Westminster or the devolved administrations in Scotland and Wales.

This is surely unacceptable, and it is my heartfelt belief that all politicians should be unashamedly developing a more “Kernow-centric” approach to politics, that gives a much-needed boost to the visibility of Cornwall and the issues which affect our communities.

Also last week, BBC’s Question Time debate was broadcast from Cardiff and four of the five panellists were prominent politicians and public figures from Wales.

How different from the most recent Question Time debate hosted in Cornwall, when not one panellist had the slightest connection to our area. A stronger Cornish politics would surely put an end to such invisibility!

[This article will appear in this week’s Cornish Guardian].

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Central government is to blame

In June, I was one of the speakers at a Conference about the future governance of Cornwall, organised by the Cornish Constitutional Convention. Also present was Conservative MP George Eustice, and it is fair to say that we did not agree on very much.

A good friend of mine addressed the Conference from the floor of the event. With a great deal of sarcasm, he “congratulated” Mr Eustice on how his somewhat “non-stick” Government had reduced funding for local government, but had taken little of the blame for the resultant problems, or the drops in local service provision.

My friend was spot on. From 2010 onwards, the Conservative-led Coalition slashed millions from local councils and put intolerable pressure on local administrations to provide services in a “different” manner. By this, they basically meant the privatisation or out-sourcing of services.

Indeed, local authorities are being pressured to become little more than “commissioning” authorities.

I have always objected to this approach to local government, which I will do my utmost to oppose.

The consequence of such government cuts is that there is growing criticism of County Hall – whether it relates to how the Council is dealing with toilets, leisure centres, the maintenance of play areas, the failed BT contract … the list goes on.

And every week, it is Cornwall Council that gets the blame from local residents – not central government, which reduced the funding and caused the problems in the first place.

But local politicians are also proving to be their own worst enemies. Instead of working together to construct a convincing “narrative” about the funding cuts and building a strong movement to oppose the approach of central government, they seem more interested in gaining some illusory short-term political advantage.

Take the example of public conveniences. Local Conservatives are presently being very critical of the approach of the Independent / Liberal Democrat administration on the unitary authority. But when the Conservatives were in charge at County Hall, their approach was very similar – when it was condemned by the Lib Dems.

In such local “narratives,” it would seem that central government cuts do not feature at all!

This is not an isolated example and such short-termism does no-one in Cornwall any favours. Surely now is the time for all of Cornwall’s local politicians to stop playing political games and to consistently demand fair funding for Cornwall’s public services.

[This was my article in last week's Cornish Guardian].

Back in circulation

I have just got back from a wonderful week’s holiday in Wales. The weather was fantastic, Ann and I even staggered to the summit of Snowden, and then enjoyed the New Zealand versus Georgia at the Millennium Stadium.

But I am now back in circulation and starting to work my way through a mass of email, phone and other messages. Please bear with me over the next dew days, as I get on top of my backlog.