Saturday, 29 August 2015

“The honours that shame Britain"

David Cameron has just created another 45 peers to sit in the House of Lords, bringing the total membership of the so-called “Upper House” to 826.

And somewhat predictably, this latest list of new Lords include retired MPs, a number of MPs who lost their seats at the recent General Election, political fixers, various donors to the Conservative Party and corporate lobbyists.

Some of the newly ennobled former MPs had even been caught up in the 2009 expenses scandal, such as the Conservative Douglas Hogg who left the House of Commons after being pilloried for claiming taxpayers’ money to, amongst other things, clean the moat at his rather impressive country house.

Other new boys and girls on the block include James Lupson, a city financier, who has donated around £3 million to the Conservative Party; Ruby McGregor-Smith from the out-sourcing company Mitie whose “MiHomecare” branch has recently been exposed for paying its staff less than the minimum wage; and Spencer Livermore, a Labour “strategist” who worked for Gordon Brown and Ed Miliband.

As a life-long campaigner for democratic reform, I am appalled that such unelected and unaccountable individuals, appointed through political patronage, will be allowed real and far-reaching legislative influence.

Is it any wonder that the Scottish National Party has branded the new peers to be a “sorry list of rejected politicians, cronies and hangers-on with big chequebooks.”

It is certainly to be welcomed that there has been a massive backlash against the latest appointments from across the whole of the United Kingdom, both in the media and local communities.

One newspaper headline rightly screamed: “The honours that shame Britain … PM accused of stacking Lords with cronies in undemocratic outrage.”

Another newspaper resorted to sarcasm, telling its readers: “Selling peerages is illegal, and there is nothing to suggest wrongdoing on behalf of anyone in today’s list, but an academic study has shown that giving large sums to a political party does have a remarkedly positive effect on the chances of said donor having their talents recognised in an honours list.”

The present House of Lords is an out-dated institution that has no place in twenty-first century Britain. For the sake of our democracy, it must be reformed into a fully elected second chamber or abolished altogether.

[This is my article which will appear in this coming week’s Cornish Guardian].

Friday, 28 August 2015

Update on First Kernow meeting at Summercourt

Thanks to the sixty-plus people, who attended last night’s meeting at the New Memorial Hall in Summercourt to find out more about First Kernow’s plans for bus services in the area.

It was a very positive meeting and I am especially grateful to Alex Carter, the managing director of First Kernow, and four members of his management team, for coming to meet local people in the village.

Further to my blog post on Monday, Mr Carter gave a firm commitment to include an hourly stop at Summercourt (both directions of the Newquay / Truro route) in the very near future. 


He intends to work with Cornwall Council to sort out the details and I gave a commitment to further consult with residents where appropriate. The change will then have to be agreed through the traffic commissioner, though this could take a number of weeks.

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Kernow King at Indian Queens Pit


Kernow King will be performing his latest show “Minority Rapport” at Indian Queens Pit on Saturday 12th September.

Why not come along and enjoy what the King has to offer in one of Cornwall’s most iconic venues.

Tickets cost £10.00 and will be available on the gate, though local people can get them in advance from me on 07791 876607. They are also available online at http://www.eventbrite.co.uk/o/the-kernow-king-1939102361

The gates open at 7.00, with the gig starting at 8.00.

Be great to see you at the Pit …

 

Monday, 24 August 2015

Open meeting with First Kernow

I have organised an open meeting in Summercourt, which will take place on Thursday 27th August at the New Memorial Hall. The meeting will be addressed by Alex Carter, the managing director of the bus company First Kernow. It will start at 8.00.

First Kernow have purchased the Western Greyhound depot in St Austell Street, Summercourt, and Mr Carter is keen to meet with local people to discuss his plans for the site and to discuss how he might be able to increase bus services to the village.

He has prepared a statement which I circulated around Summercourt today. It was as follows:

A MESSAGE FROM ALEX CARTER, MANAGING DIRECTOR OF FIRST KERNOW

In March 2015, the Western Greyhound company abruptly ceased trading, leaving users of its extensive network of local bus routes unserved. Over the course of a frenetic weekend, and in liaison with Cornwall Council, First Kernow was able to restore the majority of the routes with minimal disruption to passengers.

The additional vehicles and staff required to service these routes have placed a severe strain on First Kernow’s existing support depots, the majority of which already were operating at near capacity. The Western Greyhound administrators then placed the Summercourt premises for sale, and they were purchased by First.

Because this has happened unusually quickly compared to a normal business planning process to source and develop additional premises, our plans for the usage of Summercourt are still not fully formed. However, we envisage the following:-

We will maintain a fleet of 60 buses and coaches at Summercourt. These will be vehicles allocated to Summercourt itself, and to other non-maintenance locations, notably Eden and Newquay.

We expect the operational fleet at Summercourt to be no more than 40 of these 60 maintained vehicles. The vehicles will be a mix of single and double deck vehicles, and coaches.

Currently we are clearing, tidying and improving the site, both internally and externally. We anticipate commencing vehicle maintenance on site in early September, and bus operations from mid-October 2015.

The bus operations are likely to be predominantly double deck college services, so departing depot around 0700-0730, returning around 1000hrs, and then out again for the return run at around 1530, returning by 1900. These are Monday to Friday term time operations. There will be other standard bus routes operated, but the College services will be the majority.

So, most of the operating fleet will travel to and from the site between 0700 and 1900hrs; maintenance shifts are more likely to be spread from 0500 through to 0100hrs, as part of the responsibility will be breakdown cover for vehicles operating across the area throughout those times.

All of the above is subject to confirmation as we develop and confirm plans, but it is what we anticipate at this stage

We fully recognise the sensitivities around a bus operating centre on the edge of a rural village. We very much wish to be good neighbours and have a positive relationship with our residents in and around Summercourt. Our presence brings a source of valuable employment to these rural communities.

Fundamentally, we shall of course comply fully with our obligations under the planning permission which is granted to the site. However, we wish to go beyond that and develop a code of conduct for our staff to observe in respect of site maintenance and cleanliness, selective use of approach roads, vehicle speed, noise levels and so on. We will be happy to publish and share this with residents of the village.

We also know that bus routes serving Summercourt have declined significantly since the demise of Western Greyhound. In addition to maintaining the two hourly St Austell – Newquay service which passes through the village, which is operated on behalf of Cornwall Council, we shall examine the possibility of diverting an hourly Truro-Newquay route via Summercourt.

We look forward to meeting our neighbours and customers and having the opportunity to further explain our plans

Rethink Trident

Three weeks ago, I wrote about the 70th anniversary of the bombing of the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I expressed the view that we should all push for full nuclear disarmament, so that such weapons can never again be used. I would like to return to this topic this week.

In my position as the leader of Mebyon Kernow – the Party for Cornwall, I have just signed the “Rethink Trident” petition which is calling on central government to halt its plan to replace Britain’s nuclear weapon system.

The petition has significant support and the backing of, amongst others, the First Minister of the Scottish Parliament and SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon, Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood, and the front-runner for the leadership of the Labour Party Jeremy Corbyn.

In adding her signature, Nicola Sturgeon declared: “We must do everything we can to stop billions of taxpayers’ pounds being wasted on unusable and immoral weapons of mass destruction.” I am in total agreement with her sentiments.

Trident consists of four nuclear-armed submarines, which each carry up to 48 nuclear warheads. Each warhead has an explosive power of up to 100 kilotons, which is the equivalent of 100,000 tons of conventional high explosive. Shockingly, this is eight times the power of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945, which killed between 90,000 – 166,000 people.

I believe that the “Rethink Trident” campaign is correct to point out that “Britain’s security needs are not met by nuclear weapons which can do nothing to combat the threats posed by terrorism, climate change or cyber warfare.”

And I simply cannot understand how certain politicians are countenancing the expenditure of £100 billion on a new generation of nuclear weapons, at a time when the United Kingdom is still facing the “deepest public spending cuts in living memory.”

This is just so wrong. Surely there are better ways to spend one hundred billion pounds. How about, as suggested by the “Rethink Trident” campaign, using the money to combat child poverty and youth unemployment, to provide local needs-housing, and to invest in education and the National Health Service.

If you agree, why don’t you sign the petition as well. It can be found at: http://act.rethinktrident.org.uk/

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