Friday, 11 July 2014

The result in Illogan

The by-election in Illogan Division has been won by the Liberal Democrats, with MK’s Stephen Richardson coming second out of the seven candidates.

The full result was:

Liberal Democrat  -  277
Stephen Richardson (MK)  -  217
Conservative  -  215
UKIP  -  156
Labour  -  129
Liberal  -  121
Green  -  50

Almost all of the parties put a great deal of work into the election and I would like to congratulate Stephen for running such a very strong campaign. Stephen should be extremely proud of the hard work he put into the fight and, in such a fevered political atmosphere, he did well to out-poll the Conservatives, UKIP, Labour, the Liberals and Greens.

Well done on a campaign well fought.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

On the campaign trail


Today I spent a few days on the campaign trail in Illogan leafletting in support of Stephen Richardson (above), MK's candidate in next week's by-election for a seat on Cornwall Council. All in all, it was a fun few hours and I do hope that local people support Stephen's campaign, because he would be an outstanding councillor for the area.

No to privatisations ...

My latest article for the Cornish Guardian hits out at the ongoing privatisation of public services across Cornwall and the wider UK. It was as follows:

Even though it was blindingly obvious, it was still quite refreshing – at a recent meeting – to actually see Conservative councillors openly acknowledging that the ongoing cuts from the Conservative-led Government were ideological in nature.

Those local Tories – having to deal with the deepest public spending cuts in living memory – were certainly expressing a different view to their political masters in Westminster who, in 2010, guffawed at the claim by the former shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer Alan Johnson that “the cuts” were what many of them “came into politics for.”

It is certainly my view that the recent economic crisis was caused by an over-heating housing market, the failure to regulate the financial sector, a credit bubble and irresponsible lending.

And yet the Coalition wielded an ideological axe to turn a crisis caused by the private sector into a crisis for public services throughout the United Kingdom, in which they are seeking to fracture the very “public” ethos of service provision.

Make no mistake, the savage cuts of the Coalition are having a devastating impact on local government, the National Health Service, policing and a wide host of public bodies.

More and more council services are being delivered by private companies and our local authorities are increasingly becoming shells of their former selves, unable to provide all of the services that local people should have a right to expect.

Devon and Cornwall Police are cutting more police officers and are reducing the number of enquiry offices that will be open to the public.

And the NHS – the jewel in the crown of public service provision – is seemingly facing endless privatisations.

We have had the recent decision of the Royal Cornwall Hospital Trust to privatise hotel services, such as cleaning, portering and catering, which Rik Evans – who resigned from the Board in protest - described as moving some of the lowest paid staff over to a private company that simply wants to increase its bank balance.

And now we have the Government’s Health and Social Care Act which is forcing local commissioning groups – such as NHS Kernow – to open up their services to private companies. NHS Kernow has already put a series of "non-complex" procedures worth around £75 million out to tender and newspaper reports have stated how this will “let the NHS and private firms battle it out” as to who would provide a range of services.

Speaking for myself – enough is enough. It is time that we all put more pressure on central government to properly fund our services and to end the privatisations that are undermining and fragmenting our public services.

My latest monthly report to St Enoder Parish Council

My latest monthly report to St Enoder Parish Council, for the period 23rd May – 22nd June 2014, was as follows:

1.         Council meetings

I have attended a range of meetings over the last month. These included: Environment, Heritage and Planning Policy Advisory Committee (PAC) (an associated informal meeting plus two associated pre-agenda briefings/meetings); Partnerships PAC; Transport and Waste PAC; a briefing on the Homechoice housing register, which allocates social housing on behalf of Cornwall Housing and a number of registered providers such as Ocean Housing; and the SITA Incinerator Liaison Group (also attended by Cllr Austin).

2.         Other meetings

I also attended meetings of the Indian Queens Pit Association; the Rural Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Partnership; the Leader / Community Led Local Development working group (Chairman), and associated officer group, which is devising the “Local Action” aspect of the next phase of European funding between 2014-2020.

3.         St Austell Bay Economic Forum

I have been invited to be involved with the Economic Forum, which is bringing together a range of business and other interests from the wider St Austell area.

It is my understanding that this invitation comes because on my experience with the Clay Country Local Action Group and related groups, while the Forum also appreciates the need to link its own activities to the surrounding areas including the five parishes of the China Clay Area.

4.         Works on the local road network

At last month’s meeting, I reported on a range of planned works on local roads (for this financial year) which included surface dressing along the old A30 between Fraddon and Indian Queens, and a significant amount of patching. I am hopeful that a number of these works will take place in the very near future and I will report more at the next meeting.

5.         Potholes

Further to the above, potholes have been filled in a number of rural locations including Trefullock Moor, Resurrance and Resparva (near Summercourt), as well as part of Narrow Lane approaching St Enoder Churchtown.

6.         Drains in Fraddon

The survey of the road drains throughout Fraddon was carried out in the first week of June and the resultant report is expected soon. I will report back on the findings at the next meeting.

7.         Mobile library services

I attended the Partnerships PAC on 16th June, when it was discussing the way forward for the unitary authority’s approach to mobile library and mobile one stop shop services. As you will recall, I drafted a detailed response to the consultation from the Parish Council’s response and co-authored a further response from the China Clay Area Network Panel.

Three options were presented at the meeting:

Option 1 - Retain two mobile library vans (visiting stops for ten minutes only, fortnightly or monthly) and expand the Home Library Service (a partnership between the Royal Voluntary Service with volunteers delivering books to people in their own homes).

Option 2 - Cease all mobile vans and replace with targeted service provision including creation of community/micro libraries and expansion of the Home Library Service.

Option 3 – Retain one mobile library van (visiting stops for twenty minutes only on a monthly basis), community/micro library support and expansion of Home Library Service.

All three options would mean the end of the Clay Bus. I argued that all three options were unacceptable and would be extremely damaging to the China Clay Area, because our communities do not have a permanent One Stop Shop or any static libraries.

I made these – and a range of other points – at the meeting, but the members of the Committee did not reflect these comments in any of their deliberations. A number of “non-committee” members argued for the continuation of the mobile library service in a variety of forms, but the PAC voted to recommend option 2 to the Cabinet. The vote from the ten-strong Committee was four votes in favour and three against. There was one abstention and two committee members were absent.

It is my intention to make further representations at the Cabinet meeting in July.

8.         Planning matters – general

I have been in contact with planning officers on a range of planning applications. This includes the application by Rags SW for revised conditions for the warehouse store at Toldish, the proposal for 40-plus holiday cabins at Carvynick and the proposal for housing to the rear of Kilburn in Fraddon.

9.         Planning matters – wind turbines

As promised at a previous meeting, I have continued to make inquiries about the planning consent for two wind turbines near Goonabarn, which was granted in 2013.

I also attended one of the “pre-application” presentations on the proposal for three turbines of Pines Tip near Fraddon.

10.       Vandalism at Indian Queens Pit

As members of the Parish Council will recall, there was a verbal report at out last meeting about recent vandalism at the Pit (which included the destruction of a Parish Council seat) and it was agreed to gift our spare CCTV recording device to the Pit Committee. I am pleased to be able to report that cameras have already been erected at the Pit and I would like to extend my thanks, and those of the Pit Committee, to the Parish Council for its kind support.

I would like to invite everyone to our annual fete which will take this coming Saturday, starting at 2.30.

11.       Fairview Park, St Columb Road

As suggested at the April meeting, I have undertaken a survey of the residents of Fairview Park about the future of the small open space, where a play area was not provided. The closing date for the consultation was 20th June. I will report the findings and the nature of possible options at the next meeting of the Parish Council.

12.       Traveller encampment

For the second time in a matter of weeks, there has been an encampment of travellers within the Parish. The first was at the Indian Queens Industrial Estate, from where they were moved on in a matter of days. More recently, in the second week of June, another group moved into a field (in St Enoder Parish) but on the very edge of Mitchell. They were moved on but shifted themselves to Mitchell’s playing field. Over the last couple of weeks, I have been in regular contact with the Gypsy and Traveller Liaison Officer and the elected member for my neighbouring division.

13.       European funding

Since 2000, EU funds have been, to a reasonable degree, managed from within Cornwall but the Government recently announced that the new programme for the next six years would be run from London. I was pleased to be one of the signatories on a letter, from all the party group leaders on the unitary authority, which was sent to Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg to express our dismay at the proposed centralisation.

Recent reports have made it into the local press which suggests that the Government is about to do a U-turn.

14.       A visit to Flanders and France

I also had a week’s holiday in early June, when my wife and I visited Belgium and France. We visited a number of World War 1 cemeteries, and took a series of photographs of graves of servicemen from Fraddon, Indian Queens, St Columb Road and Summercourt who were killed or died in the First World War.

Hopefully some of the images will be usable for the book which will be at the heart of our project to remember the 1914-1918 War. I will report back on progress with this project – which will hopefully also include interpretation materials for local village halls and St Enoder Church and Indian Queens Methodist Chapel – at the next Parish Council meeting.

15.       Charity cricket match

I also took part in a charity cricket match between councillors and officers at Cornwall Council. For the second time in a row, the officers were victorious, but it was quite close at the end.

16.       Inquiries

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

Monday, 16 June 2014

SAVE THE ST AUSTELL SKY TIP

I have just completed my article for this coming week’s Cornish Guardian. It expresses my “disquiet” (under-statement) about plans for the eco-town near St Austell and it will be as follows:

It is well-known that I have been a long-standing critic of plans to construct a so-called “eco-town” in the China Clay Area.

I disagreed with the Whitehall mandarins and Government ministers in the last Labour Government who, in July 2009, took the decision that a new settlement – spread across five different sites – should be built in mid Cornwall

At the time, I despaired at the top-down nature of the decision, which was disrespectful to the local planning process. I was astonished that central government could so casually impose 5,000 new properties on Clay Country which had, over the previous twenty years, constructed more houses than any other area in Cornwall.

I also challenged a number of the claims, including the one that all the housing would be on “previously disturbed land.”

The whole scheme may have temporarily stalled because of the recession, but it now seems to have gained a fresh momentum as – to quote the official paperwork – it is now a “joint venture between Cornwall Council, landowner Imerys, and developer Eco-Bos, with the planning process funded by a £1.4 million government grant.”

The latest proposal is for 1,500 new properties at West Carclaze, and it was with considerable trepidation that I visited the recent consultation in St Austell’s White River Place.

There were three – very similar – options on display and I was dismayed at what I saw.

It did not really surprise me that most of the housing is now proposed on greenfield land rather than “previously disturbed land.”

And I was horrified to see that the “joint venture” now wants to destroy the iconic sky tip that sits centrally within the proposed development area.

Two of the options are to “remove” the sky tip, while a third claims that it would retain the sky tip, but transform it to “improve safety for ease of public access” and sculpt it to “provide a new viewpoint.” Do not be mistaken by such “sculptured” language – this also equates to the removal of this important historic monument.

And yet the Eco-Bos website still describes the West Carclaze area as a “dramatic setting defined by the landmark sky tip,” while a masterplan document, from not so long ago, pledged that the sky tip would become a “beacon” at the heart of the development with a buffer zone around it.

I cannot comprehend this sudden desire to wreck such an important part of the industrial heritage of mid Cornwall and, to be frank, it saddens me greatly.

Make no mistake, the destruction of the sky tip is unacceptable and we must do all that we can to stop such cultural vandalism.

Cynical note - previously the eco-town developers even incorporated the sky tip into their logo. See below: