Friday, 23 March 2018

A lovely evening at Rescorla

Thanks to Terry Gosden, Paul Hopewell and Garry Tregidga for providing the wonderful entertainment at tonight's social evening for MK members and supporters at Rescorla,

Thank you also to everyone who battled through the horrible weather to enjoy the evening with us.

I do not support the proposals for planning and housing in "New Frontiers"

This coming Wednesday, amongst other things, Cornwall Council’s Cabinet will be discussing a document entitled “New Frontiers.”

The associated blurb in the report adds that it is a proposition from the Cornwall Leadership Board (which brings together people from across the public sector) and states it is a “proposition to Government that builds on the Cornwall Deal and increases our economic, environmental and social resilience.”

It would be churlish to say that there is not some reasonable stuff in the document, but there is also much content with which I fundamentally disagree.

It is often referred to as “Devo 2” – but there is no proposal for meaningful devolution, as in Wales and Scotland, proposed within its pages. It seems to be about “asks,” “offers” and “policy enablers.”

“New Frontiers” was discussed at a Scrutiny Committee on Wednesday, and I had quite a few things to say.

I raised concerns about democratic legitimacy of the proposals and how the democratically-elected councillors had had little opportunity to be involved with the formulation of what had been drafted.

I queried why there was not one single reference to the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, for example, but focused most of my feedback on matters relating to planning and housing.

The document does not seek the devolution of planning matters but offers to build houses at a faster rate than set out in the Cornwall Local Plan and seeks financial support for developments such as the so-called eco-town / eco-village / garden village near Penwithick – which, as most people will be aware, I opposed for a decade!

The document also seeks the ability to build new settlements in the future.

Those people at the meeting were left under no illusion about my views on the planning aspects of the document – and that it most certainly does not have my support.

Thursday, 22 March 2018

Cornwall needs its own National Planning Policy Framework

My article in this week’s Cornish Guardian explores the proposed changes to the UK Government’s National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). It is as follows:

The UK Government recently launched a consultation on a revised version of its National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) which dictates how local councils deal with planning matters.

The NPPF has often been described as a “developers’ charter” and the so-called “presumption in favour” of growth has certainly led to much development which has been opposed by local communities.

I am presently working my way through the document and trying to understand the implications of the changes. A briefing from Cornwall Council states that there are over 80 reforms, though “mostly these are minor changes” or clarifications of ministerial statements.

But this includes confirmation that housing targets for council areas will be calculated using a top-down “standard method,” and Cornwall Council has already advised that “the scope for local influence over the target is very small to nil.”

As a local councillor, I was heavily involved in the production of the Cornwall Local Plan. This contains Cornwall’s present housing target, which covers the period 2010-2030, but the process of finalising the target was a charade and local politicians ended up having to agree what was acceptable to the UK Government.

This latest NPPF announcement finally removes the illusion that such important decisions are actually being taken locally. 

In addition, the revised NPPF confirms that an uplift in housing delivery would happen in 2021, from which point it would be expected that 2,900 new properties should be built each year – up from the annual target of 2,625 in the Local Plan.

The tone of the consultation launch was also quite bombastic. The Housing Minister, Sajid Javid, announced that the UK Government would take planning powers away from local councils if they did not meet central government targets for house-building.

He even told a Sunday newspaper that he would be “breathing down” the necks of local authorities and threatened that, instead of councillors, government inspectors could make planning decisions in their areas.

On behalf of MK, I condemned the threat as an “undemocratic outrage.” It will certainly take local planning decisions even further away from local communities, and I do not believe, for one second, that Government officials inside the M25 corridor know what is best for Cornwall and its people.

If remains my view that the people of Cornwall should be making these important decision for ourselves. That means we need a National Assembly of Cornwall, with power over all aspects of planning and housing through a Cornish NPPF which would allow housing and other targets to be agreed locally without interference from Whitehall.

Tuesday, 20 March 2018

All invited to an MK social event

The St Austell and Newquay Constituency Party of Mebyon Kernow will be holding a social event on Friday 23rd March at the Rescorla Centre, in Rescorla near Penwithick.

There will be some musical entertainment and a few snacks, plus an opportunity to talk about politics (or something else) with leading members of MK.

All are welcome to attend.

And if you would like to find out more about the Party for Cornwall … why not come along and meet with us on the 23rd!

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Cornish Nation no. 77 … available now!

Mebyon Kernow has just published the latest edition of its Cornish Nation magazine, which is in the process of being sent to MK members.

If you are not already a member and would like a complimentary copy, please get in contact via

Please specify whether you would like a paper or digital copy.

This latest includes information about the Cornish language album from Gwenno Saunders, plus other features on the many people who have also promoted Cornish through song, the efforts of MK members and others in trying to secure a Cornish tickbox on the 2021 census, MK campaigns to protect our public services, a tribute to Richard Gendall, and so much more.

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Looking back: South Crofty, a rally in Redruth and Cornish Millennium Convention

When I got up this morning, it had not dawned on me that today was the 20th anniversary of the closure of South Crofty tin mine, and it has been heartening to hear about the new efforts to restart tin mining at the site. 

Looking back twenty years, I have dug out some photographs to share from that time.

MK parliamentary candidates Ruth Lewarne and Paul Dunbar (right and far right) visiting the mine in the run-up to the 1997 General Election.

Cornish Nation magazine from Spring 1998.

Greg Woods speaking at a rally in Redruth on Saturday 7th March 1998; other speakers seated include Bert Biscoe, Colin Murley, myself and Andrew George.

Launch of Cornish Millennium Convention on Monday 9th March 1998 (left to right): Alastair Quinnell, Mark Kaczmarek, Deborah Clark, Ann Jenkin, me, Philip Payton and Andrew George. This was the first attempt to build a cross-party campaign for greater powers for Cornwall, but didn’t really get off the ground.

Monday, 5 March 2018

Gool Peran Lowen! Happy St Piran’s Day!

I would like to wish everyone the very best on St Piran's Day!

It is fantastic that the 5th of March is now such as important part of our calendar as people come together in the name of our national saint to celebrate Cornwall’s unique identity.

Cornwall has a powerful national identity, reflected in the Cornish language, our music, dance, sport and a range of traditions – all of which are vitally important to our sense of place and the very well-being of our local communities.

But as we celebrate the distinctiveness of Cornwall today, I would like to repeat a key message that Mebyon Kernow makes each and every year on St Piran’s Day.

The promotion of Cornish distinctiveness is not something that should be restricted to once a year in March. We should be doing all in our power, each and every day, to promote and enhance our identity and heritage.

Sunday, 4 March 2018

On the dunes with St Piran

It will not come as a surprise to anyone that I today spent the afternoon on Gear Sands near Perranporth, supporting the annual “St Piran’s Day” commemoration with hundreds of others progressing out to St Piran’s Oratory and the medieval church.

Well done to all those who organised the event and everyone who supported it in today’s “glorious” weather.

It was lovely to see my good friend Pol Hodge playing the role of St Piran – could there ever be a more saintly man to inhabit the role of our national saint?

Sunday, 25 February 2018

Remembering Sophie Scholl, Hans Scholl and Christoph Probst

In this coming week’s Cornish Guardian, my article remembers Sophie Scholl, Hans Scholl and Christoph Probst who were executed 75 years ago this month. It will be as follows:

Some years ago, I purchased a book titled “Conscience in Revolt” at what I remember was a bric-a-brac shop in Tintagel. Translated from the original “Das Gewissen Steht Auf,” it contains the life stories of 64 men and women from Germany who opposed Nazism between 1933 and 1945, and who all lost their lives as a consequence.

It is a truly compelling publication and details many acts of extreme courage. One of the biographies is that of Sophie Scholl, a 22-year-old student, who along with her brother and a friend were executed on 22nd February 1943.

Seventy-five years on from their deaths, it is important that we never forget what happened.

Sophie was the daughter of a local mayor in Forchtenberg in northern Baden-Wurttemberg, and she was born in 1921. For two years, she trained to be a kindergarten teacher, but in May 1942 matriculated to study biology and philosophy at Munich University, where her brother Hans was already studying medicine.

Hans belonged to a non-violent resistance group known as the “White Rose,” made up of “students, artists and scientists” which called on people to oppose Hitler’s regime through passive resistance. He had assisted in the production of pamphlets, and Sophie joined to help.

During 1942, three pamphlets were distributed around Munich. A famous extract from one of the leaflets stated: “We grew up in a state in which all free expression of opinion is unscrupulously repressed. The Hitler Youth, the SA and the SS have tried to stupefy us, subvert us, in the brightest years of our lives. We want genuine learning, real freedom of expression.”

The Scholls were arrested on 18th February 1943, along with Christoph Probst – who had three children, the youngest of which was less than one month old.

Four days later, they were paraded in front of the maliciously misnamed “People’s Court” and found guilty of treason. Later that same day, they were all executed by guillotine.

Sophie’s cellmate recorded her last words as she was being led away to be beheaded. She said: “It is such a splendid sunny day, and I have to go. But how many have to die on the battlefield in these days, how many young, promising lives. What does my death matter if by our acts thousands are warned and alerted.”

Such resolute calmness in the face of a violent death is truly inspiring.

And it should impress on us all – whatever our grumbles – how very fortunate we are to live in an open, 21st century, democracy where there is real freedom of expression.

Local Government Boundary Review and stuff

My article in last week’s Cornish Guardian once again addressed issues of democracy. It was as follows:

A key priority of my political life has been a range of campaigns to strengthen democracy in Cornwall. Obviously, this has included the promotion of the case for a Cornish Assembly and greater control over all aspects of life in Cornwall.

Looking back over the last couple of decades, it has certainly been difficult to get the UK Government – of whatever political persuasion – to support such much-needed reforms.

Sadly, what changes we have seen have actually damaged democracy in Cornwall. Instead of achieving more powers through our own legislature, as in Scotland and Wales, Westminster politicians have centralised local government and further undermined it through under-funding and other changes.

It is just over ten years since the Labour Minister John Healey MP ignored the views of the majority of the people of Cornwall and made the official government announcement that a unitary authority would be imposed on us.

At the time, I was among those who opposed the change and raised significant concerns about the democratic deficit that would befall Cornwall with the cull of over 200 principal authority councillors.

We have since seen a considerable drive from the UK Government to set up numerous unelected bodies of limited democratic legitimacy, which have done much to sideline the democratically-elected representatives of local communities.

In 2015, we had the so-called “devolution deal,” which was frankly extremely feeble and, I would argue, not really about devolution at all. And it transpired that the Government had an expectation that there should be a “boundary review” and the Local Government Boundary Commission for England (LGBCE) subsequently ruled that the number of elected representatives in Cornwall should be reduced to 87 in 2021 – a further cut of 36 local advocates.

It is well documented that I opposed this cut – not least because Cornwall already has fewer elected representatives (per head of population) than most parts of the UK – but I have found myself in the position of having to help manage this backward step as the vice-chairman of the Council’s Electoral Review Panel.

This work has certainly dominated much of the last few months as we have tried to come up with possible boundaries for the 87 divisions via an LGBCE consultation, which has just closed. It has been a time-consuming process, trying to propose divisions with roughly the same number of voters while respecting community identities – which has proved extremely difficult in a number of localities.

Watch out for the LGBCE formal proposals which will be published for consultation in early May.

I just hope that the next time I am involved with facilitating democratic change, it is a positive change!

Monday, 19 February 2018

Parliamentary boundary review in the news again

Bernard Jenkin, the Chairman of the Public Administration Committee, is calling on MPs “to decide at the earliest opportunity whether to cut the size of the Commons …”

A report on the BBC states that “many MPs do not now support [the boundary review] and could reject it in a vote this autumn” adding “the Public Administration Committee said there would then be no time to start again and the 2022 poll would be held on out-dated boundaries.”

An extract from the BBC report states the following:

In the meantime, the mood in Westminster has hardened against the idea of smaller Commons. The cross-party committee said it was “unlikely” that MPs would support the move later this year and that there had to be a Plan B for Parliament to consider.

“The time to decide this in principle is now,” said Bernard Jenkin, the Tory MP who chairs the committee.

“If the government waits until the autumn, Parliament will be faced with an invidious choice - either approve the new boundaries or hold the next election on boundaries that will be over 20 years out of date.

“But if we decide this now, it would be possible to change the law so new boundaries at 650 seats can be in place before the next election.”

The Boundary Commission for England, which completed its consultation on its revised proposals in December, said Mr Jenkin was correct there would not be enough time for them to restart their work should the existing review be rejected.

Friday, 16 February 2018

Update on planning appeals for biogas plant at Higher Fraddon

Last week, many local residents and I attended a planning hearing into the appeals for two applications to modify aspects of the biogas plant at Higher Fraddon.

I have just been informed that the appeal inspector has ruled in favour of Fraddon Biogas Ltd and agreed the requested changes. 

Am I surprised? No. Am I annoyed? Damn right.
In summary, both applications related to condition 14.

(i) The condition agreed by the previous appeal inspector stated that the types of HGVs accessing the site must be agreed in writing through the condition, but the operators wanted this to be left very open-ended and not to specify the principal use of the “duoliner” vehicle that they had previously pledged they would use during the planning process.

(ii) In addition, they sought to modify condition 14 (by increasing the number of small vehicles to the plant).

On behalf of the Parish Council, I submitted a detailed planning statement in opposition to the two appeals and along with others made the arguments at the actual hearing.

The operators also submitted an appeal for costs, ie. that Cornwall Council should pay Fraddon Biogas Ltd costs as they had been “unreasonable.”

This was rejected and, in the supporting text, there was some limited criticism of the appellants as follows:

“10. I do not believe that the Council’s stance has been unreasonable as such. It has responded to complaints received from the local community, the local councillor and the Parish Council. I believe the previous Inspector in framing condition 14 did have in his mind the use of the Duoliner – indeed he saw during his site visit (as I did) the use of this vehicle in operation. I have no doubt whatsoever that the appellant at the 2016 appeals made great play about its benefits. I can therefore fully understand why the Council has sought to negotiate its use as the primary vehicle. I find no criticism in that as the vehicle, by the applicant’s own admission, is more efficient, quieter and has greater manoeuvrability. I was impressed by a particular comment from a local resident who whilst acknowledging the swept path analysis undertaken by the applicant’s consultants, nevertheless pointed out that the HGVs would need to utilise much of the carriageway width with some of the larger HGVs also needing to ‘oversail’ the adopted carriageway to negotiate the 90 degree bend. I saw some evidence of this during my site visit with rutting of grass verges at several points along the highway.

“11. Whilst the local highway authority did not raise objection on highway grounds, the local planning authority is charged with considering wider amenity and convenience issues in addition to technical highway matters. I have no doubt that pedestrians in particular have to be particularly watchful of traffic using this lane. I do not believe that the Council can be criticised in the stance that it has adopted, which was a precautionary stance in all respects. Evidence is not confined to hard technical evidence; planning is bound by both objective and subjective assessments.”

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

CND - sixty years old

My article in today’s Cornish Guardian marks the 60th anniversary of the launch of CND. It is as follows:

This week marks the 60th anniversary of the launch of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament at a massive public meeting in London on 17th February 1958. Soon after, the first Aldermaston March attracted a significant amount of attention and it was around this same time that the famous CND or peace symbol designed by Gerald Holtom, incorporating the semaphore letters N and D (for nuclear disarmament), was unveiled.

I have been a member of CND for more than 25 years, and I am proud to lead a political party that has had a manifesto commitment of complete nuclear disarmament since the early 1980s.

It is my view that the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 must forever remind us of the destructive power of nuclear weapons. And this needs to make us vigilant in our efforts to rid the World of such weapons of mass destruction and prevent the terrible human tragedy, that would unfold, should they ever be used again.

CND has been extremely effective and has been an important force in pressing the UK Government and others to conclude a number of treaties such as the Partial Test Ban Treaty, the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.

I believe that CND is as relevant now as it was back in 1958, not least because there is a great deal of work still to be done to achieve the goal of a nuclear-free world.

I was certainly very disappointed by the parliamentary vote in June 2016, when MPs voted by 472 votes to 117 to renew the Trident weapons programme and press on with the manufacture of a new generation of nuclear submarines.

The United Kingdom is one of only two countries in Western Europe which hold nuclear weapons and I can see no logical or strategic reason why this should continue.

CND has estimated that the lifetime costs of Trident would be a massive £205 billion, while Crispin Blunt, the former Chairman of the influential Foreign Affairs Committee, told the House of Commons that these costs would be a still substantial £179 billion.

I find it especially unpardonable that many of those politicians wishing to spend such a ridiculous amount of money on Trident are the same people who have unleashed devastating cuts to our vital public services through austerity, which continue to be greatly under-funded.

Just think how much good £179,000,000,000 would do if it was instead spent on social housing, education, health, policing, job creation, community groups and so much more.

Sunday, 4 February 2018

Backing Cornwall Council's fair funding campaign

My article in this coming week’s Cornish Guardian is backing the unitary authority’s new campaign for fair funding. It will be as follows:

The unitary authority has launched its latest “fair funding” campaign with the publication of a handful of startling statistics. It has, for example, compared Cornwall with Camden and concluded that, if we had the same level of funding as the London borough, “we would have £212 million more each year for public services.”

The Council has also pointed out that “Kensington and Chelsea delivers the same range of services as Cornwall but has 48% more funding, per resident, to do this with.”

It is the case that the UK Government has slashed funding to local authorities, forcing them to increase council tax significantly in an impossible attempt to fill the void, which is adversely impacting on many people already struggling to pay their day-to-day bills.

This is therefore an important campaign and the leader of Cornwall Council is asking residents to sign a “Stand Up for Cornwall” pledge, which can be found at: I fully support this initiative, and hope you will as well.

Campaigning for fair funding for Cornwall is not new, but the need for this latest effort shows that the Westminster parliament has not been listening.

In preparing this week’s article, I have looked back at many, many examples of inequitable funding across the UK and how it affects Cornwall. Here are just a few:

- 2013: A report “Rebalancing Our Cultural Capital” noted that, in 2012-2013, Arts Council England distributed a total of £320m of taxpayers' money. London received £20 per head of population, compared to £3.60 per person elsewhere. DCMS meanwhile distributed £450m of public funding to “major national cultural institutions.” London received £49 per head compared to just £1 per person on average elsewhere.
- 2014: Research from LG Futures (Costs of Providing Services in Rural Areas) demonstrated that the “cost of providing services in a rural area is greater than in an urban area” – but the government funding formulae failed to reflect this in its calculations.
- 2015: Reports showed that the residents of Cornwall and Devon receive “less government funding than other police areas,” and paid “39% of the local policing bill through council tax.” The comparable figure is so much lower elsewhere, for example, in Merseyside (17%), Greater Manchester (22%) and London (27%).
- 2016: In the debate lead by members of the Rural Fair Share Group, Conservative MPs lined up to criticise the “extraordinarily unfair” funding arrangements with one arguing that, in the future, local government would be neither “sustainable nor deliverable.”

It is clear that we must continue to put great pressure on the United Kingdom’s Conservative Government – including six MPs from Cornwall – which has the collective ability and power to deliver fair funding.

Thursday, 1 February 2018

Framework Convention to protect national minorities is 20 years old today

Twenty years ago today (1st February 1998), the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities (FCNM) came into force.

An important treaty, it was the mechanism through which the Cornish achieved formal governmental recognition as a national minority in 2014.

It is certainly the case that, over the last two decades, the Advisory Committee on the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities (ACFC) has done a significant amount of work to advise on the implementation of the FCNM and to give visibility to national minorities.

For more information, see:
Council of Europe celebrates 20 years of Framework Convention

This includes a link to a report on the Framework Convention, both looking back over the last 20 years and ahead to what the future may hold.

Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Campaigning together for the NHS

My article in today’s Cornish Guardian looks at the need for more funding for the National Health Service. It is as follows:

Sarah Wollaston, former GP, MP for Totnes and the Chair of the House of Common’s Health Select Committee, has called for all political parties to “work together to solve the problem of NHS funding.”

She is one of the more out-spoken members on the Conservative benches and it is almost exactly twelve months ago since Dr Wollaston condemned the UK Government’s response to the crisis in the National Health Service as “dismal.”

It has also been just one month since she roundly condemned a junior Health Minister for a “disingenuous” use of statistics, when he responded to concerns about bed occupancy levels by quoting the figure for Christmas Eve!

But her latest intervention is compelling and frankly needs to be taken seriously by MPs of all political persuasions.

She said: "We need a proper review of funding. And we need to see political parties working together to get it delivered. We know all the possible solutions and people expect parliament to get their act together on how we are going to deliver it."

A former Health Minister in the Coalition Government, Liberal Democrat Norman Lamb, has meanwhile called for a cross-party commission on the future of the NHS and social care.

A fundamental review of the sustainability of health and social care funding settlements, “involving patients, staff and the public,” is certainly a good idea.

He was right when he added: “We know the future of our NHS is simply too important to let it suffer because of party political divides, and because those in power want to bury their heads in the sand.”

Senior MPs are from all Westminster parties - ranging from Jeremy Corbyn to Boris Johnson – have been making public statements calling for more money for the NHS, though it seems that the issue is not getting adequate traction with the Prime Minister and her Cabinet.

Members of Parliament really do need to unite on this issue and put co-operation ahead of short-term political advantage.

They would do well to follow the example of the people of Cornwall, who came together so strongly, in recent weeks, to oppose the possible loss of radiotherapy services.

It has been heartening to see health campaigners, advocacy groups such as West Cornwall Health Watch, the Sunrise Appeal, health professionals, patients past and present, MPs, councillors and more, all speaking up for Cornwall on this issue.

Indeed, everyone who took the time to respond to the radiotherapy consultation should be congratulated for standing up for the health service in Cornwall.

Tuesday, 23 January 2018

My latest monthly report

My latest monthly report will be presented to tonight’s meeting of St Enoder Parish Council. It covers the time period: 27th November 2017 – 21st January 2018 and is as follows:

1. Council meetings

During the last two months, I have attended a range of meetings relating to my duties as a Cornwall Councillor.

These included: Economic Growth & Development Overview and Scrutiny Committee (2), plus an informal committee briefing and a preparatory session for an upcoming inquiry into the Council’s approach to parking which I will be involved with; a briefing to a joint meeting of the Customer & Support Services Overview & Scrutiny Committees; China Clay Area Network meeting and an associated meeting of Cornwall Councillors from Clay Country; a pre-agenda session for the next meeting of Full Council; a Group Leaders’ meeting and a one-to-one session with the Chief Executive. As one of the Group Leaders on the unitary authority, I was interviewed as part of Corporate Peer Review, and also for an ongoing review into the future direction of CORMAC.

I am the vice-chairman of the Electoral Review Panel and I have spent a significant amount of time in recent weeks involved with the work to prepare a scheme of 87 divisions for the next round of elections to the unitary authority. This has included two formal panel meetings, three informal panel meetings and four preparatory meetings, plus public meetings in Helston, Launceston, Penzance, and Truro.

In the same period, as well as a number of informal meetings with council officers and others, I attended three meetings of St Enoder Parish Council.

2. Visit to ONS consultation in London

On Wednesday 13th December, I represented Cornwall Council at a consultation event in London organised by the Office of National Statistics about the content of the 2021 census. I was there to make the case for a Cornish tickbox and, later in the same week, I did an interview with the Daily Politics to publicise the arguments I made at the consultation event.

3. Other meetings and activities

I have attended meetings of ClayTAWC (2) (where I am Chairman), the South and East Cornwall Local Action Group and the St Austell Bay Economic Forum.

4. Planning matters

The owners of the biogas plant at Higher Fraddon have appealed against the non-determination of a planning application to increase the number of LGVs visiting the site and the unitary authority’s refusal (via the discharge of a condition) to sanction the owner’s broader and less-restrictive description of HGVs able to access the plant.

The appeals will be decided through an informal hearing, which will take place at Roche Victory Hall on 7th February. I have also met with some residents to advise them about the upcoming hearing.

I can also confirm that the pig farm has submitted an application to change a condition on their consent, so that they would not have to retrofit biofilters into three of the existing pig buildings.

In addition, I am presently working on the Parish Council’s statement for the appeal into the proposal for a traveller site near Toldish. I have also met with a number of residents from the Toldish / Kelliers / Hanover Parc area to advise them about how they can make representations.

This appeal will also be decided at an informal hearing, which will take place at Fraddon Village Hall on 14th March.

5. Highway matters

In my last monthly report, I stated that, this month, I would report in more detail about a host of highway issues. Unfortunately, that has not proved possible and I am in the process of arranged a meeting with local CORMAC staff.

In addition, during the recent bad weather, I made a number of trips around the Parish to record areas of flooding and I have reported this to CORMAC and I am following up at the moment. Examples of flooding that I have reported include the road near Melbur, the roundabout at Penhale, St Austell Street into Summercourt and Trefullock, as well as some blocked drains and leaking manholes.

6. Police and Crime Commissioner

At the Clay Network meeting on 12th December 2017, representatives of the Devon and Cornwall Police were present and we raised concerns about a number of issues including the threats to local PCSOs. I can confirm that the actual Commissioner will be present at the next meeting on 12th February.

7. Electoral Review Panel

In terms of work of this Panel noted above, I can confirm that the emerging proposal for our area is a seat which would incorporate the whole of St Enoder Parish and the village of St Dennis.

8. Inquiries

During the couple of months, I have also helped numerous people with guidance on a vast array of issues.

Some thoughts on Carillion, PFI and more

My article in tomorrow’s Cornish Guardian focuses on the involvement of large private companies, such as Carillion, in public sector projects. It will be as follows:

The collapse of the large construction company Carillion has shown how involving large private companies in the delivery of public services can be disastrous.

It has also focused attention on Private Finance Initiative (PFI) deals, through which the UK Government has outsourced large projects to private firms.

Through such arrangements, investors – increasingly described by newspaper journalists as “fat cats” – have raked many millions of pounds in profits, while senior employees have reaped a small fortune in bonuses. It is indeed shocking that Carillion’s former Chief Executive received £1.5 million in salary and perks in 2016 alone, before exiting the company which he left in a downward spiral.

I have never been a supporter of PFI, which was launched by John Major’s Conservative Government but taken on with great enthusiasm by Labour under Tony Blair.

The reality is that PFI projects are very different from traditional approaches to investment, where central or local government own the assets and full take responsibility for the works – although obviously private companies are often hired as contractors.

PFIs, by contrast, “are paid for upfront by groups of private investors, who take on the risks of construction. The government pays later, in the form of annual payments called ‘unitary charges.’ These cover the costs of the services being delivered, plus the costs of interest and repayment of the debt” (source:

Time and time again, PFI has been shown as a ridiculously expensive way to deliver public sector projects, while the collapse of Carillion has left many important projects – such as the construction of two hospitals in England – in doubt. In addition, thousands of ordinary workers are facing the loss of their jobs, while a large number of small companies may not get paid for their products and services.

It is also the case that are some startling examples of large private, profit-driven, companies are using their economic muscle against the public interest.

It has recently been reported that Virgin and Stagecoach are threatening to “walk away” from their franchise to run trains along the East Coast unless the UK Government “waives up to £2 billion of contract payments.”

It is also the case that, last year, Virgin Care won NHS contracts worth £1 billion, but still had the nerve to sue six clinical commissioning groups in Surrey, plus NHS England and Surrey County Council, because it failed to win a £82 million contract which instead went to a local NHS trust and two social enterprises.

It is my view that the “public” ethos of our public services must survive and the UK Government must use its legislative authority to “take back control” from powerful private sector interests.

Monday, 22 January 2018

Conservative MPs back Cornish tickbox campaign

I am pleased that Cornwall’s Conservative MPs are supporting Cornwall Council’s campaign for a Cornish tickbox on the 2021 census.

Steve Double MP and Scott Mann MP have both submitted written questions on this matter.

This follows a significant amount of work being done by the unitary authority, and my pre-Christmas visit to London for the Office of National Statistics’ Population and Public Policy Forum. I produced a detailed follow-up report from this for a meeting, which took place about ten days ago, between Cornish MPs and the leadership of Cornwall Council. I am grateful that the report was well-received and the importance of Cornwall Council’s campaign was both acknowledged and supported.

For an update on the written questions, see:

The full written response to Steve Double's came from the UK Statistics Authority, via the Minister. It was as follows:

“As National Statistician and Chief Executive of the UK Statistics Authority, I am replying to your Parliamentary Question asking whether an assessment has been made of the potential merits of adding a tick-box for Cornish nationality in the 2021 Census (122621). We intend to recommend the inclusion of a question on national identity in the 2021 Census, along with questions for country of birth and passports held.

“National identity is a self-determined assessment of an individual's own identity with respect to the country or countries with which they feel an affiliation. This assessment of identity is not dependent on legal nationality or ethnic group.

“The national identity question included six tick box responses - one for each of the four parts of the UK (English, Welsh, Scottish, Northern Irish), one for British, and one for “Other”. Where a person ticked “Other” they were asked to write in the name of the country. The respondent is free to fill this in as they identify themselves.

“The Office for National Statistics has had discussions with representatives from Cornwall in 2017 (including a meeting with Cornwall Council in August 2017) and is currently considering extra evidence, supplied by Cornwall Council, to support a Cornish tick-box in the ethnicity question. This evidence will supplement the information gathered in the 2021 Census topic consultation and from the recent Population and Public Policy Forum hosted by ONS, and help us finalise our overall assessment. This will in turn inform the 2021 Census White Paper, planned for later in 2018.”


Friday, 19 January 2018

Councillor Spencer Wilding joins MK

At tonight’s meeting of Mebyon Kernow’s St Austell and Newquay Constituency Party, I was very pleased to welcome a new member to the Party for Cornwall.

Spencer Wilding is already a town councillor in Newquay and is now MK’s first-ever councillor in the town.

He is pictured above left with Cllr Michael Bunney, Chairman of the Constituency Party.

Welcome to MK, Spencer. 

We are really looking forward to working with you.  

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

We need to reinvigorate opposition to Devonwall again

Today, I have been in an all-day meeting of the Electoral Review Panel at New County Hall, which is coming up with proposals to reduce the number of Cornwall Councillors from 123 to 87 – something the majority of councillors opposed.

Feeling battered by having to work through this assault on Cornwall's local democracy, and have got home to see media reports stating that the Democratic Unionist Party may drop its opposition to parliamentary boundary review, after massive changes to the nature of proposed seats in Northern Ireland.

It is all frankly unbelievable and we can have no trust in the whole process. It is hardly surprising that a large number of people are already condemning the process in Northern Ireland as gerrymandering.

Does this mean that the changes might now actually get through parliament? It certainly means that we need to reinvigorate our opposition to the Devonwall seat.

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Next MK meeting in St Austell & Newquay Constituency

The next meeting for Mebyon Kernow members in the St Austell & Newquay Constituency has been arranged to take place this Friday (19th January).

The meeting will take place at ClayTAWC in St Dennis and start at 7.30.

It is the first branch meeting of 2018 and we will planning our approach to numerous campaigns and activities.

Anyone from the St Austell & Newquay Constituency, who would be interested in attending the meeting and / or finding out more about MK and its local campaigns, can call me on 07791 876607 or email

Claims of landmark change in our democracy are far-fetched

My article in this week’s Cornish Guardian looks at the Minister for the Constitution’s claim that he is pushing for “landmark change” for the UK’s democracy. It is as follows:

The Cornish Guardian has, on numerous occasions, reported on the parliamentary boundary review, through which the Conservative Government is seeking to reduce the number of MPs to 600 and redraw the political map of the United Kingdom.

Here in Cornwall, there has been massive opposition to the changes which would breach the territorial integrity of our Celtic land and lead to the creation of an unpopular cross-Tamar Devonwall seat.

There have been many reports that Theresa May intends to scrap the whole process but, at the end of last year, the Minister for the Constitution Chris Skidmore published an article in the Daily Telegraph.

In it, he criticised opponents of the Boundary Review, who he described as political opportunists attempting to gerrymander the UK’s parliamentary seats and “taint” future elections.

It was all a bit over-the-top, and the newspaper itself chimed in by stating that the present system was “slanted in favour of the Labour Party.” They went further and claimed that the previous “thwarted” boundary reforms, if enacted, would have given the Tories an overall majority.

The reality is that in the 2017 General Election, the Conservative Party won 42.4% of the popular vote but managed to secure 48.9% of the seats. Labour meanwhile polled 40% of the votes and returned 40.3% of the MPs in the new House of Commons.

It is simply unbelievable that certain Tory politicians and their cheerleaders consider it appropriate that a vote-share of 42.4% should give them the right to a majority of seats in Westminster and control of the UK Government.

It is also a reality that in many parts of the United Kingdom, the Conservatives dominate politics on a minority of the vote. Here in Cornwall, they won all six constituencies in 2017 but 52% of local residents – a majority – voted for other political parties.

In his article, Mr Skidmore even claimed he is pushing for “landmark change,” which I find extremely hard to believe. His party’s reforms are focussed on securing political advantage – not making the United Kingdom a more democratic society.

After all, Mr Skidmore and his allies all voted for the Fixed-term Parliaments Act, but ignored it when they thought they were in the political ascendancy and cynically engineered last year’s snap General Election.

If Mr Skidmore is really committed to “landmark change,” there is much he can do. How about starting with an end to the unelected House of Lords, proportional representation in parliamentary elections, a National Assembly for Cornwall, a reduction in the number of undemocratic quangos of unelected appointees, fair funding for local councils and an end to cuts in the number of local councillors?

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

NHS needs better funding deal!

My article in today’s Cornish Guardian looks at the crisis in the National Health Service. It is as follows:

Last winter, the Royal College of Emergency Medicine publicised its concerns that “emergency care in the NHS” was at “crisis point.” At the same time, the Chief Executive of the British Red Cross claimed that the NHS was facing a “humanitarian crisis.”

Twelve months on, the situation has worsened. One headline figure being quoting in many newspapers is that a total of 55,000 “non-urgent” operations are likely to be postponed to help the NHS cope with increasing demands and winter pressures, which presently include an upsurge in sickness linked to the flu virus.

Much has been made of the fact that the Health Secretary and the Prime Minister have publicly apologised to those patients who have had their operations cancelled but, it is notable, they failed to address the depth of problems facing the National Health Service.

Interviewed on the BBC at the weekend, Theresa May continued to claim that hospitals were better prepared than ever before, and winter pressures have to be dealt with each and every year.

Sadly, there was no acknowledgement that there is a significant “mismatch between demand for services and funding.”

An independent charity, known as the “The King’s Fund,” recently detailed how the demand for health care is rising. It has reported: “The population is increasing; more people are living longer, often with multiple long-term conditions; and technological advances mean that new treatments are available. As a result, health services are treating more people than ever before.”

It is accurate to state that the health budget will increase by an average of 1.1 per cent a year between 2009/10 and 2020/21, but the cost of treatments are rising and hospital admissions have been going up, year on year, by nearly 4%.

It is therefore not surprising that “The King’s Fund” and other organisations have declared that the NHS is “enduring the most prolonged funding squeeze in its history.”

Likewise, the British Medical Association has stated that: “Each winter the pressure on the NHS worsens, and politicians are not taking the long-term view needed to ensure the NHS can keep up with rising demand.”

In this context of underfunding from central government, reforms are being promoted which local campaigners, especially here in Cornwall, are right to be worried about.

The Sustainability and Transformation Plan for the local NHS does not solve, but reinforces, historic financial problems; the possible centralisation of radiotherapy provision from Cornwall into Devon would make it harder and harder for Cornish families to access vital health services; and there have even been claims that some community hospitals could be downgraded.

A massive change in approach is needed at Westminster and, in the first instance, that means increased funding for health and social care.

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

2018 – Groundhog Day?

In my article in today’s Cornish Guardian, I look ahead to 2018.

It is as follows:

When I was considering the content of my columns for the Cornish Guardian over the Christmas and New Year period, the editor suggested that I might look back over 2017 and “do a bit of a retrospective.”

It has certainly been an eventful year with council elections, a General Election and a great deal of political upheaval. But most of all, looking back and contrasting then to what is happening now, it all seems a bit “groundhog day.”

Early in 2017, we were digesting the news that Cornwall had the lowest economic performance of any nation in the United Kingdom. And now, twelve months on, the latest figures from the Office of National Statistics tell the same story.

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

Cornwall (and the Isles of Scilly) trail way behind with a GVA of £17,069 (64.8% of the UK average) and the ONS’s new approach to the statistics only seem to show the gap between Cornwall and the other nations of the UK to be wider.

So much for our call for the Government to tackle the over-centralised nature of the United Kingdom, and to end the inequalities between the various nations and regions of the UK.

Twelve months ago, I was writing about the unfairness of funding settlements for local councils and the irony of Conservative MPs lambasting their own Government for cuts that meant that local councils had not only “trimmed off” the fat, but had “gone through the surface of the bone” and, in some instances, were “sucking out the marrow.”

And yet, it has got worse, and councillors are presently having to consider sizable increases in council tax in an attempt to offset cuts in central government funding.

Twelve months ago, there was massive concern about the National Health Service, the crisis in social care, and the NHS Sustainability and Transformation Plan which would institutionalise underfunding of £270 million in the Cornish health service.

And now, the stress on the NHS continues to grow and grow, many people are worried about the possible ACO reorganisation of the health service and associated social care, and the issue of underfunding has simply not been addressed.

I could go on and list many more examples where, shamefully, little meaningful progress has been made.

And as we look ahead to 2018, it all shows that political change is desperately needed for Cornwall and the well-being of its citizens. Surely we should all be uniting to make that better deal for Cornwall a reality.