Sunday, 17 February 2019

Cornish language cheques and "Go Cornish"


My article in his week’s Cornish Guardian considers progress with the Cornish language. It will be as follows:

There are so many truly wonderful aspects to Cornwall’s identity and culture, and I personally consider that 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.

Over the years, a large number of people have worked so incredibly hard to promote and celebrate Cornish – teaching students, producing books and magazines, using the language in music and the arts, and raising its public profile. So much of this work has been undertaken by dedicated volunteers, and I believe we owe them a great debt.

Significant progress has been made in recent decades and, in November 2002, the status of the language was recognised through the European Charter for Regional and Minority Languages. This international agreement committed the UK Government to a range of measures to protect and develop the language and, in 2014, this was followed by the recognition of the Cornish through the Framework Convention for National Minorities.

But sadly, central government has failed to meet its obligations and, in 2016, it shamefully ended its funding of Cornish.

Unsurprisingly and quite rightly, in 2017, an opinion from a Committee of the Council of Europe was extremely critical of the UK Government’s failings and challenged it to act on the “linguistic and cultural rights” of the Cornish, and to rethink “the decision to cut all funding for the Cornish language in view of the disproportionate impact such a measure will have on the delicate process of revitalising a minority language when access to other public financial resources is limited.”

There were also other recommendations in the opinion, which included calls for a Cornish Language Act and for the BBC to show support for the language.

Action from the relevant authorities has not been forthcoming and it has been reported that Lloyds Bank is now refusing to accept cheques written in Cornish. I find I unbelievable that Lloyds have issued a statement saying that “it cannot take cheques in languages employees do not understand.” Really? How difficult can it be to understand “peswardhek peuns” when it is written next to “£14.00”?

Lloyds Bank accepts cheques in other Celtic languages, such as Scots Gaelic and Welsh, which further emphasises the ridiculousness of their approach to Cornish.

On a more positive note, a new online Cornish language resource has been launched by Golden Tree Productions, in co-operation with Cornwall Council. To find out more and identify your local class, log onto GoCornish.org.

Please note: the image of the cheque has been supplied by Ray Chubb from Agan Tavas, who is leading the campaign to raise awareness of the position of Lloyds.

Cornwall's so-called "devolution deal" - three years on

My article in last week’s Cornish Guardian focused on the three year anniversary of Cornwall Council’s “devolution deal.” It was as follows:

Cornwall Council recently published an impact assessment on the so-called “devolution deal,” that was agreed between it and the UK Government in 2015. The document sets out what has happened over the last three years or so.

An accompanying press statement described how the agreement was “ground-breaking,” and added that Cornwall had made history by being the “first rural authority to achieve such a deal.”

People may remember that, at the time, the UK Government claimed it was a “major step” in their commitment to “extend opportunity to every corner of our country” and that Cornwall would be gaining “historic new powers.”

I see it very differently and I do not consider that the “devolution deal” was about devolution at all. It would be churlish not to acknowledge that it contained some stuff of merit, but it was essentially an accommodation between the UK Government and local government in Cornwall on a limited range of specific matters.

I cannot see how anyone can keep arguing it was significant, especially as it did not even need legislation in the House of Commons to be agreed.

It is such a contrast to what has happened in Scotland and Wales where, this year, people will be celebrating the twentieth anniversary of the creation of the National Assembly of Wales and the Scottish Parliament.

The Scottish Parliament has planned a year-long programme of events to celebrate what has been achieved over the past two decades and it is an impressive list. It has legislated for free personal care for the elderly, free eye and dental tests, an end to prescription charges, an end to tuition fees for students, the introduction of votes for sixteen year olds, numerous land reforms and much, much more. They also brought the 2014 Commonwealth Games to Glasgow.

In addition, the Scottish Parliament has proved to be an institution which has been able to champion the best interests of Scotland. This has especially been the case in recent years, when it has fought to ensure that the Westminster Parliament knows what would be in the best interests of Scottish communities.

Here in Cornwall, we need a similar body that has the power and authority to make the key decisions about the political, economic, environmental and cultural issues that matters to us all.

Anyone interested in finding out more, can request a free copy of MK’s booklet “Towards a National Assembly of Cornwall” from me at dickcole@btinternet.com.

Sunday, 3 February 2019

Will Cornwall be a priority in a post-Brexit UK?

My article in his week's Cornish Guardian looks at whether Cornwall will get a fair share from Westminster in a post-Brexit UK. It will be as follows:

Last week, Mebyon Kernow’s economy spokesman Andrew Long challenged the Prime Minister and Cornwall’s six MPs to “come clean” about their post-Brexit plans for regional investment.

In particular, he sought confirmation whether Cornwall will receive the same level of investment from the UK Government that it would have done from EU structural funds.

The reaction to our statement, on social media and elsewhere, was quite varied. Given the manner in which Brexit continues to dominate political discourse across the UK, I suppose I should not have been surprised that some considered it scaremongering or simply another aspect of an anti-Brexit “project fear.”

But MK’s challenge is very important. It follows new analysis from the Conference of Peripheral Maritime Regions (CPMR) about the regional development funding that would come to the United Kingdom in the 2021-2027 period if it stayed in the European Union.

The CPMR report clarifies that the low level of economic performance in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly means it would continue to be classed as a “less developed region” and, along with West Wales and three parts of northern England, it would have received the top level of structural funding.

Andrew Long has pointed out that “there is great inequality across the United Kingdom” and Cornwall has received significant structural funding, not least because of “decades-long under-investment” from central government.

I share his lack of faith in the present UK Government and fear that Cornwall will not be a post-Brexit priority for May and her colleagues.

I was fortunate to be able to raise some of these concerns on a recent edition of BBC Radio 4’s World at One programme, but I was very disappointed with the response from George Eustice, Fisheries Minister and MP for Camborne and Redruth.

He spoke about how future regional funding would be through a “Shared Prosperity Fund,” though the UK Government has yet to publish meaningful information about how this would work.

Mr Eustice also said that the total amount of money in the Fund has not yet been decided, adding it “may be a little less” or “may even be more” than has come through the EU structural funding in recent years. Worryingly, he gave no specific commitment to Cornwall.

In addition, there have been multiple reports about a Government plan to support a number of deprived areas in the north of England and elsewhere with extra cash, as long as their Labour MPs back Theresa May’s Brexit deal. This would presumably mean there would be even less regional funding available for investment in Cornish communities.

Monday, 28 January 2019

£250,000 WASTED ON POLICE MERGER PLANS!

In my article in this coming week’s Cornish Guardian, I have written about the quarter of a million pounds wasted on efforts to promote a police merger. It will be as follows:

In last week’s newspaper, I defended one of the recent investment decisions of the “Devon and Cornwall” Police Force. It related to the erection of two flagpoles at the Bodmin offices, one of which will fly the flag of St Piran, and I very much stand by what I wrote.

But before the article was even published, it was announced that the failed attempt to merge the local constabulary with that of Dorset had cost a quarter of a million pounds.

The Police & Crime Commissioner, Alison Hernandez, has argued that “it was right and proper that we explored in detail the implications of a potential merger.” She has spoken of how the collapse of the initiative had the “positive effect” of freeing up thirty senior officers who are “now able to focus on frontline policing once again” as that is “where the public want them.”

But she continues to miss the point that the public did not want thirty police officers wasting their time on an ill-judged merger in the first place.

The decision to spend £250,000 in such a manner simply cannot be defended. It was a ridiculous waste of money, and Ms Hernandez and her advisors need to refocus on policing rather than bureaucratic reorganisations.

But it seems that changes are still afoot, though not in a very public manner.

Along with many other people, I have just received a letter from the GMB union, which states that the “entire forensic capacity” of the “Devon and Cornwall” Constabulary is being transferred to the Dorset Force with “no consultation with affected communities.”

The letter adds that “victims of crime will have seen the reduction in service provision already, with many instances of Scenes of Crime Officers not attending crime scenes they previously would have done. Combined with the fear that this process is designed to drive down wages of a highly professional body of people, you will easily imagine how low morale has become. We don’t feel this vital policing service can be used to cut costs.”

In addition, they are challenging Ms Hernandez to reverse this decision and safeguard “local control over a crucial frontline service.”

I find this whole situation to be very worrying and I feel now is the time for the Chief Constable and the Commissioner to give Cornish residents a guarantee that their policing service will not be further denuded.

For anyone who is interested, the Commissioner is also running an online poll about council tax levels for 2019/2020. It can be found at:
https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/GXPM5LX

Thursday, 24 January 2019

My latest report to St Enoder Parish Council


My latest report was presented to St Enoder Parish Council on Tuesday. It covered the time period from 28th November 2018 to 20th January 2019. It was as follows:

Listed below are some examples of the work that I have undertaken during the last two months.

1. Council meetings and related activities

I attended a number of formal meetings at Cornwall Council, which included Full Council (and two pre-meeting briefings), the Economic Growth and Development Overview and Scrutiny Committee, Electoral Review Panel and training session for upcoming community governance review, Group leaders’ meetings (2), China Clay Network, meetings about a regeneration strategy for the working group on national minority status (2), the “Positive Parking Review” panel, member briefing sessions on the unitary authority’s investment programme and the Community-led Local Development funding programme.

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

2. Other meetings and activities

I also attended meetings of the Leader Local Action Group for South and East Cornwall, the Community-led Local Development Local Action Group for South and East Cornwall (Vice-chairman) and Indian Queens Pit (trustee).

It has certainly been a varied few weeks. Last week, through my work with the Cornwall Heritage Trust, I helped out with the filming of a short film about St Piran. I even got to play the part of “Boar” who, along with “Badger” and “Fox” got to welcome the saint to Cornish shores.

3. Neighbourhood Plan


It is a very important time for the development of planning policies in St Enoder Parish.

I am pleased to have worked with other parish councillors to complete a “pre-submission” draft of a Neighbourhood Plan for our parish. The Plan has been produced to complement other planning documents such as the UK Government’s National Planning Policy Framework, which came into force in 2012, and Cornwall Council’s Local Plan, which was adopted by the unitary authority in 2016.

It has also been based on feedback that we have received from local residents and we believe that it sets out a positive vision for the villages of Fraddon, Indian Queens, St Columb Road and Summercourt, as well as surrounding rural areas.

The document can be viewed on the Parish Council website and a six week consultation, which is taking place between Monday 7th January and Monday 18th February.

Comments should be sent to the Parish Clerk at St Enoder Parish Council, Foxleigh, Treviglas Lane, Probus, Truro, TR2 4LH, or via clerk@saintenoderparishcouncil.org.uk,

After final modifications, the Plan will then be submitted to Cornwall Council for a further round of consultation. It will then be reviewed by a government inspector and will go to a referendum of local residents.

4. Thomas Playing Field

Helping the Parish Clerk, Amanda Kendall, and Cllr Mark Kessell to monitor the installation of the new play equipment at the Thomas Playing Field at Summercourt has taken a lot of time. But I am pleased that the final works have been done and we are awaiting a visit from an inspector. Once he has confirmed it is all in order, the playing field will be re-opened.

Thank you also to everyone who helped with the turfing that was carried out on 11th January.

5. First World War project

In the last few weeks, I have helped to sell copies of the Parish Council’s book about the 73 local men who lost their lives in the First World War. I am most grateful for all the positive comments we have received about the publication and pleased to be able to report that eighty copies have been gifted to local libraries, local archives and regimental museums.

6. Traffic issues

In my last report, I gave an update on the range of key traffic matters. It is my intention to give a further update in my February report. However, I can confirm that Cornwall Council has carried out improvements at the entrance to Gaverigan Farm which regularly flooded.

7. Electoral Review Panel

The Local Government Boundary Commission (LGBCE) has published the final boundaries for Cornwall Council divisions at the 2021 elections. I can confirm that, at the next election, the local division will cover the parishes of St Enoder and St Dennis and, based on electorate forecasts, it will have the greatest number of voters of any of the new seats.

The Electoral Review Panel at Cornwall Council, of which I am vice-chairman, has now been tasked to carry out a “community governance review,” which will include requests for changes to parish boundaries and other democratic arrangements.

8. Cornish tickbox campaign

I have been heavily involved with the campaign for a Cornish tickbox on the 2021 census but, in December, the UK Government published a White Paper which did not recognise the Cornish case. I am working with a number of campaigners to put pressure on the UK Government to reverse its present position.

9. Newsletter

I have started to distribute the latest edition of my parish newsletter, which I bring out every six months or so. Content within this latest edition includes information about the Neighbourhood Plan consultation and the promotion of the Parish Council's book about the First World War.

It has been a slow start because of the weather, but I hope to get around the majority of the Parish by the end of this month. Any help with the newsletters would be much appreciated.

10. Inquiries

During the last two months, I have helped numerous people with guidance on a range of issues.