Thursday, 28 December 2017

Cornish Guardian backs tickbox campaign

I am very pleased to see that the Cornish Guardian has backed the campaign for a Cornish tickbox on the 2021 census through its editorial in this week’s paper. It is as follows:

It’s time for the Government to give all Cornishmen and woman the recognition they deserve. Mebyon Kernow leader Dick Cole has led a delegation from Cornwall to Westminster to call for the Cornish tickbox option to be included on the next national census.

This cost-neutral gesture would allow Cornwall to be recognised on the same level as its Celtic cousins, Wales, Scotland and Ireland, all of which enjoy the privileges of a tickbox in the census.

In the last census in 2011, 13.8% of people in Cornwall self-identified as Cornish, using a blank box in the “other” section. Since then, Cornwall Council has been leading the campaign for change ahead of the next census in 2021.

Mr Cole, a fine champion for all things Cornish, correctly states that “the Cornish were officially recognised as a national minority more than three years ago.” The Council of Europe made a specific recommendation to the Office of National Statistics that it should consider the possibility to identify as Cornish in the next census. The time has come for ministers to embrace this simple but significant act.

Report on visit to London to push for tickbox

My report on my recent visit to the ONS policy forum to lobby for a Cornish tickbox on the 2021 census has appeared in this week’s Cornish Guardian

It is as follows:

On Wednesday 13th December, I was privileged to represent Cornwall Council at a Population and Public Policy forum in London. The event was organised by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) to discuss the nature of certain questions on the upcoming 2021 census.

Topics included ethnicity / national identity and I was tasked to make the case for a Cornish tickbox, which followed a meeting with senior representatives from the ONS in August. Officers at the unitary authority have also submitted further documentation making the case for inclusion in the census, which is presently being considered by the ONS.

In my contribution to the London meeting, I reminded everyone present that, in April 2014, the UK Government had recognised the Cornish as a national group through the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities; and that it was stated the Cornish would be treated in the same manner as the “UK’s other Celtic people, the Scots, the Welsh and the Irish.”

I suggested to the seventy-plus delegates that it would therefore be inequitable if the Cornish – unlike the other national minorities – did not have a tickbox.

In addition, I thanked the ONS for their time but did it in Cornish and, surprisingly, for an event concerned about matters of identity, it was the only time that a language other than English was used!

In one presentation, it was confirmed that more than fifty groups had made representations on related matters, and I was particularly impressed by the strong attendance by members of the Sikh community at the Queen Elizabeth II Centre.

These included Preet Gill MP, chair of the All-Party Group for British Sikhs, who recently wrote that a Minister from the UK Government had told her they had an “open mind on the inclusion of a Sikh ethnic tick box in the 2021 census.”

Their campaign is certainly very cohesive and effective. An adjournment debate is planned in Westminster, and the ONS have had meetings with academics and organised interviews with leading members of the Sikh community, plus a targeted online survey, to understand the need for statistics about the Sikh community.

Interestingly, in 2011, a total of 83,362 individuals self-identified as Sikh in the Cornwall, England and Wales census – a total similar to those who “wrote-in” Cornish (83,499) in the absence of a tickbox.

I therefore find it frustrating that the ONS has not been equally proactive in support of the Cornish case – especially as it is more than three years since official governmental recognition.

Looking forward, there is much campaigning still to be done, and it is my hope that Cornwall’s six MPs will follow the example of Preet Gill MP and get actively involved in lobbying the Government and the Office of National Statistics for a Cornish tickbox on the 2021 census.

Sunday, 24 December 2017

Best wishes for Christmas and the New Year

As we edge ever closer to the festive break, I would like to wish everyone a very Happy Christmas and a prosperous and healthy New Year.

I would also like to thank all those people who have been supportive of my work throughout 2017, as both the councillor for St Enoder and as the leader of Mebyon Kernow.

I can assure you all that I am most grateful for the help and encouragement I have received. It is much appreciated.

Nadelik Lowen ha Bledhen Nowydh Da.

Thursday, 21 December 2017

Cornwall has the lowest economic performance of any nation in UK

The Office of National Statistics (ONS) has just released its latest GVA (gross value added) figures, which record economic performance across the UK.

GVA is traditionally known the “measure of the growth of national income” but, this year, the ONS has revised its methodology and now produces what it terms GVA (balanced).

The latest figures are for the year 2016 and show that Cornwall has the lowest economic performance of any nation in the United Kingdom.

In 2016, England had a GVA per head of £27,108, which was 102.9% of the UK average, followed by Scotland with a GVA of £24,800 (94.2%). Doing less well were Northern Ireland and Wales, with GVA figures of £19,997 (75.9%) and £19,140 (72.7%) respectively.

By comparison, the figure for Cornwall (including the Isles of Scilly) was only £17,069, which was 64.8% of the UK average.

Compared to previous years, ONS’s new approach to the statistics seems to show the gap between Cornwall and the other nations of the UK to be wider.

The statistics also show that the United Kingdom has massive economic inequalities between the regions and nations of the UK, which the Westminster Government has failed to address.

Surely, it is time for an Economic Fairness Act to ensure a more proportionate approach to regional investment from the UK Government.

Sunday, 17 December 2017

Concerns about the loss of PCSOs

My article in this coming week's Cornish Guardian looks again at the potential loss of PCSOs. It will be as follows:

Some nine months ago, I wrote about the new Police and Crime Plan (2017-2020) for the Devon and Cornwall Constabulary and raised concerns about the proposal to phase out more than half of their Police Community Support Officers.

I am a strong supporter of PCSOs and appreciate the fantastic work they do across Cornwall. Local officers have been very effective in their roles, they understand local communities and have built strong working relationships with Parish Councils and other bodies.

It is my view that a reduction in their numbers will have a devastating impact on community policing and, along with a number of other Cornwall Councillors, I have repeatedly challenged the Constabulary on this matter and requested a rethink to this aspect of their Plan.

I was therefore pleased when the Crime and Police Commissioner, Alison Hernandez, spoke at a Cornwall Council briefing in late September and indicated that she and the Chief Constable were going to review the extent of reductions in PCSOs.

You can imagine my disappointment, last week, when I attended a China Clay Area network meeting at which a representative of the Commissioner seemed unaware of any lessening in the PCSO cuts.

We were treated to an update about the Neighbourhood Policing Review, now known as “Project Genesis,” but it is fair to say that there was considerable frustration in the room.

The report referenced “consistent communications” with local stakeholders and communities, which was not what the people present had experienced.

We heard about the possibility of volunteering roles and “the scope for neighbourhood special constables,” a “new demand modelling tool,” as well as “specialist training programme” plus “activity analysis” and “transitional arrangements.”

It all seemed a bit vague, but we were informed that the number of PCSOs had already fallen from 360 to 280 and the intention was still to reduce them further to only 150 across the whole of the force area.

I remain extremely worried at possible changes to the community policing in my home area and elsewhere across Cornwall, and it is my intention to continue to challenge the Police Commissioner and others on this issue.

Colleagues and I are already preparing for the next meeting of the China Clay Area Network on 12th February, at which Alison Hernandez herself has promised to be in attendance and to personally consider our concerns.

Friday, 15 December 2017

On the Daily Politics

Today, I did an interview on the Daily Politics show in which I made the case for a Cornish tickbox on the 2021 census. This follows the meeting with the ONS that I attended in Westminster on behalf of Cornwall Council on Wednesday.

If you didn’t get the chance to see the piece, it can be viewed at:

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Back in Cornwall … report on ONS meeting to follow

Pleased to be back in Cornwall after today’s Office of National Statistics meeting in Westminster’s Queen Elizabeth II Centre (above) at which I represented Cornwall Council and made the case for a Cornish tickbox.

The visit to London has been covered by the Guardian:

In the next few days, I will be producing a report for the unitary authority, and I will also post a summary of the nature of today’s discussions on this blog in a few days.

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

The 50,000 declarations - 16 years on!

Sixteen years ago today (12th December 2001) I was part of a delegation which presented 50,000 declarations demanding a Cornish Assembly to 10 Downing Street.

I am extremely proud to have authored the actual declaration, which had been launched by Mebyon Kernow on St Piran’s Day in 2000.

The declaration was clear and forthright.

It stated that: “Cornwall is a nation with its own identity, culture, traditions and history” while noting that it suffers “severe and unique economic problems.”

In addition, the declaration stated that “important decisions about our future are increasingly taken outside of Cornwall” and concluded that “the people of Cornwall must have a greater say in how we are governed … we need a Cornish Assembly that can set the right democratic priorities for Cornwall and provide a stronger voice for our communities in Britain, in Europe and throughout the wider World.”

In a period of less than twenty months, teams of volunteers under the inspirational leadership of Paddy McDonough visited town after town, setting up street stalls and getting the individual declarations signed.

It remains a truly amazing achievement that over 50,000 people – more than 10% of the adult population of Cornwall – signed the declaration in such a short period of time, and it is my view that these declarations continue to represent a great statement of intent from the ordinary people of Cornwall. And we must continue to campaign hard to secure meaningful devolution for Cornwall.

Sunday, 3 December 2017

Singing in Cornish - a celebration

Having seen Gwenno in concert at the weekend, my column in this week's Cornish Guardian celebrates those who sing in the Cornish language. It will be as follows:

There are many truly wonderful aspects to Cornwall’s identity and culture, and I consider the most important factor in our distinctiveness to be the Cornish language.

This is because, to me, the continued existence of our own Celtic language, emphasises that we have a national identity, rather than simply a regional or county character.

For many decades, there have been a large number of people who have worked so incredibly hard to promote and celebrate Cornish, and it is right that we pay a heartfelt tribute to them all.

If we look back to the 1970s, at the forefront of the promotion of the language – through song – there was the much-loved and internationally respected folk singer Brenda Wootton.

She performed and recorded many Cornish language songs which included the 1973 LP Crowdy Crawn, produced in partnership with Richard Gendall. Richard, who passed away in September at the age of 92, wrote over 450 songs for Brenda, of which about a third were in Cornish.

The Davey family meanwhile formed a group called Bucca and released an LP in 1980 titled “An Tol an Pedn an Telynor” (The Hole in the Harper's Head), which included Cornish songs and was distributed in 13 countries across the world.

As a consequence of the foresight of Richard, Brenda, Bucca and many others, the Cornish language is now a natural and an increasingly prominent part of modern life in the Duchy.

At last year’s spectacle surrounding the “Man Engine,” which was a positive, inclusive and unashamed celebration of Cornwall, the language was ever-present, showing it to be a vital and living part of our present and future.

Like Brenda Wootton, many modern-day performers, with well-deserved high profiles, have regularly sung and recorded in Cornish.

These include the traditional music specialists Dalla and The Changing Room, who saw their video for a track off their latest album, “Gwrello Glaw” (Let It Rain), viewed by over 500,000 people online.

And this weekend, I was privileged to be able to attend a joyous concert at Falmouth’s The Poly by well-known Welsh singer Gwenno and her support act, Hanterhir, who both sang in Cornish and were both fantastic.

Gwenno was brought up in Cardiff speaking both Welsh and Cornish – her father is a Cornish poet – and it was indeed inspiring to see her showcase her new album (due out in March). It is entirely in Cornish and is already receiving significant coverage throughout the music world, positively promoting Cornwall’s national language to a much wider audience.

There is so much to be positive about and I would heartily recommend the music of Gwenno and groups such as The Changing Room, Dalla and Hanterhir, who really appreciate the importance of Cornish. Why not check them out?

Friday, 1 December 2017

Parliamentary Constituencies (Amendment) Bill - an end to Devonwall in sight?

I am pleased that the Parliamentary Constituencies (Amendment) Bill has today passed its latest hurdle in the House of Commons, when it was read for a second time.

It seeks to amend the Parliamentary Constituencies Act 1986 “to make provision about the number and size of parliamentary constituencies in the United Kingdom; and for connected purposes.”

In particular, it specifies that the number of UK constituencies should 650 and that “the electorate of any constituency in Great Britain shall be (a) no less than 92.5% of the Great Britain electoral quota, and (b) no more than 107.5% of that quota.

If this Bill makes it into legislation it will end the present Boundary Review that is seeking to reduce the number of MPs to 600 and would create an unpopular cross-Tamar parliamentary constituency.

Today’s division was 229 votes in favour of the Bill and 44 against.

Three Conservatives voted with the opposition and in favour of the Bill. Only one of Cornwall’s six Tory MPs took part in the vote, with George Eustice voting against the Bill.

It is very disappointing that he and his colleagues did not use the opportunity to vote against Devonwall.