Sunday, 16 July 2017

What is it to be a Cornish nationalist?

Cornwall Live has just published an article about Cornish nationalism by Graeme Wilkinson on its website. It would be fair to say that this follows the widespread and irresponsible reporting of the "fake news" of alleged terrorist activities in Cornwall.

One of the initial questions in the interview focused on what it means to be a Cornish nationalist and I have decided to also share my response on this blog.

People often ask me what it is to be a Cornish nationalist. The answer is quite simple. Cornwall is a historic entity with its own distinct identity, language and heritage – it is a nation.

Every person who seeks the greater recognition of the nation of Cornwall or campaigns for self-government for Cornwall or positively promotes Cornish identity, is therefore, by extension, a Cornish nationalist. 

What is important is that the nationalism of Mebyon Kernow is inclusive and outward-looking. I am particularly proud that we campaign for a better deal for all the people of Cornwall and are never afraid to make a stand on global issues with significance far beyond our borders.

I believe that being a member of MK is a positive statement of commitment to Cornwall and about making a real difference to our local communities.

The news article can be viewed at:
Cornwall Live article

Thursday, 6 July 2017


The next meeting for MK members and supporters in the St Austell & Newquay Constituency Party will be taking place on Friday 7th July. The venue will, as usual, be ClayTAWC in St Dennis and the meeting will start at 7.30.

All are welcome at the meeting. Call me on 07791 876607 for more details, if you would like to attend..

MK anger at Conservative / DUP deal

My article in this week’s Cornish Guardian looks at the deal between Theresa May’s Tories and the DUP. It is as follows:

The deal between the Conservative Party and Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party has been done.

The cost to deliver a working majority for the Tories has been confirmed as one billion pounds, which will be paid to the Northern Ireland Executive for infrastructure improvements, funding for the NHS and schools, better broadband and to tackle social deprivation in the province.

This equates to £100,000,000 for each DUP MP, who has promised to support the Conservative Party on key votes.

There has rightly been a massive backlash against the deal, variously described as “grubby” or “shoddy,” and much of the criticism has, not surprisingly, been sarcastic.

In the recent General Election, the Conservatives argued, time and again, that their opponents had unrealistic policies and were dependent on a fictitious “magic money tree.”

It is therefore quite predictable how many people have blasted the Conservatives by pointing out how a “magic money tree” has been secretly cultivated in the back garden of 10 Downing Street in order to deliver a billion pounds to keep the Prime Minister and her colleagues in their jobs.

And it is quite right for columnists and voters to remind May, Johnson, Gove and the others, that during the election campaign they told voters, for example, that there was no “magic” money for 10,000 new police officers (£0.3 billion) or to nationalise Royal Mail (£0.8 billion). And it was the Prime Minister herself who told a nurse in the audience of Question Time that “there isn’t a magic money tree you can shake” to provide pay increases.

Let us be clear. The payment to Northern Irish politicians – using taxpayers’ money – is a calculated and deeply political move, which is grounded in the self-interest of the Conservative Party.

But unbelievably, many Government ministers and spokespeople have had the nerve to claim that the additional investment into Northern Ireland is not because of political expediency, but due to the “distinct needs” and “unique circumstances/problems” of the area.

This is, of course, all shameful nonsense.

There is a desperate need to rebalance the UK economy and to ensure that government investment is better shared across the whole of the UK. But this cynical move has nothing to do with a fairer regional policy, and it does not represent a shift from the Government’s principal and unbalanced focus on London and the wider South East of England.

It is unjust to increase funding in Northern Ireland, while denying a similar increase in investment for Cornwall – which also has “distinct needs” and its own “unique circumstances/problems.” This, of course, includes having an even lower economic performance and a local health service under great pressure.

Just take the Cornish NHS. The present STP reforms would leave it massively under-funded – and yet here we have a Conservative Government giving over £250 million towards healthcare in Northern Ireland.

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

My latest monthly report to Parish Council

At tonight’s meeting of St Enoder Parish Council, I will be presenting my latest monthly report. It will cover the period 15th May to 25th June 2017,. It includes some information from previous blog entries, but is here for the sake of completeness. It is as follows:

1. Council meetings

Over the last few weeks, I have attended a range of formal meetings. These have included: Full Council; Economic Growth and Development Overview and Scrutiny Committee; Strategic Planning Committee; Electoral Review Panel; Group Leaders’ meeting; two-day refresher training course on planning; additional training sessions on the Council’s new computer arrangements for councillors and the unitary authority’s Code of Conduct; informal get-together for Cornwall Councillors in the China Clay Area; and a briefing on the Local Government Association and a body known as South West Councils.

In the same period, as well as a host of informal meetings with council officers, I have been at two meetings of St Enoder Parish Council, one of which was the Annual Meeting.

2. The new council

At the Full Council meeting on 23rd May, Adam Paynter of the Liberal Democrats was elected leader of the unitary authority. The MK Group supported his proposal for a joint Liberal Democrat / Independent administration – the alternative was a minority Conservative one.

3. Appointments

I can confirm that I am still the leader of the MK group on Cornwall Council and I have been appointed to two committees: Economic Growth and Development Overview and Scrutiny Committee, and the Electoral Review Panel.

The Overview and Scrutiny Committee has a massive amount of work which includes planning policy which in the previous council was dealt with by the Planning Policy Advisory Committee (which I chaired). The focus of the Electoral Review Panel is the ongoing review into the future number of councillors on the unitary authority (see below). I was elected Vice-chairman of this Panel when an independent councillor, who was due to stand, declined the nomination.

4. Review into councillor numbers

Just over twelve months ago, the Local Government Boundary Commission “for England” (LGBCE) descended on Cornwall. Councillors were informed that there was going to be a review of the number of elected members on the unitary authority, and that then new divisional boundaries would have to be agreed.

Our strong objections were ignored and we were told it had to happen – regardless of what we thought. The LGBCE met with councillors on a couple of occasions and made it clear that if the unitary authority did not propose a reduction in elected members they would impose a reduction anyway. At one point, they stated that the number needed to be somewhere in the range of 26 – 107 (allegedly based on numbers in other councils), though the logic for this was simply illogical.

Cornwall Council’s Electoral Review Panel did a massive amount of work. Evidence we presented to the LGBCE included (i) the fact that any reduction in councillor numbers would leave us amongst those councils with the lowest number of elected members in relation to population in the UK, and that (ii) the present 123 councillors, on average, already worked much more than thirty hours per week.

We attempted – maybe foolishly – to work within the constraints imposed upon us and make the “least worst” job of a bad situation! The Council’s Panel finally put forward a proposal for 99 councillors. This was backed by the majority of councillors, though the Conservative group put forward a counter-proposal for 85.

On the 13 June, the LGBCE informed the unitary authority that it was minded to set the number of councillors (from 2021 onwards) at 87!

From my perspective, I do not agree with any reduction in the number of councillors – even though we did our best to engage with the LGBCE. I find it objectionable that they have ignored all of the Council’s detailed representations, and I continue to be extremely angry at how Cornwall’s democracy is being undermined with another significant cull of our elected members, which is not being experienced elsewhere.

Prior to the undemocratic imposition of the unitary authority, Cornwall had 331 councillors on principal local authorities. That was cut to 123 in 2009, and now we are expected to withstand another reduction to only 87.

It is all frankly ridiculous and why is Cornwall being singled out for such adverse treatment. After all, in Devon and Somerset, they have nearly 500 councillors and over 400 councillors respectively!

There is another consultation on the 87 figure, which is on tonight’s agenda, and will also have to be considered by the unitary authority’s Electoral Review Panel.

5. Fraddon Post Office

Following the closure of the Post Office at Kingsley Village at the end of April, Post Office Ltd promised to provide some “outreach” services from a local village hall or similar venue, while a more permanent solution is sought.

I can report that a meeting was held with a representative of Post Office Ltd at the Indian Queens Victory Hall on Thursday. It was attended by the Clerk of the Parish Council, Amanda Kendall, and myself, plus members of the Indian Queens Victory Hall Committee. The following was noted and/or agreed:

- Two three-hour sessions from a mobile Post Office will be run each week from the ante-room of the Indian Queens Victory Hall.
- The service will be provided by the proprietors of the Post Office branch at Summercourt.
- The cost of hiring the ante-room will be covered for the next 12 months by Kingsley Developers, who previously owned Kingsley Village.

Post Office Ltd are presently arranging for BT to install a bespoke phone line into the Victory Hall, which is expected to take a few weeks. The outreach provision will be able to be commenced as soon as the line has been installed and activated.

At the present time, Summercourt Post Office is liaising with the Victory Hall Committee about which days it would be best to provide the service and what the opening hours should be. I will update again when I have more information.

In addition, it was confirmed that the Post Office and the Royal Mail are in the process of agreeing to leave undelivered parcels for collection in St Columb Major rather than Newquay. Last Thursday, we were told that this was about to be finalised, though we have had reports that some parcels have already been left in St Columb Major.

6. Update on works at biogas plant at Higher Fraddon

Further to last month’s report, I can report that Greener for Life have been carrying out (i) drainage works and (ii) the containment of the outside storage area. They also started to empty the secondary digester of material so that they could lower the height of its dome.

These works were specified by the planning consent, but the consent stated that both a Construction Management Plan and a Construction Environment Management Plan had to be agreed before the works were undertaken. However, the owners of the plant failed to do this and Cornwall Council has stepped in to inform the plant of its obligations.

7. Highway matters

I recently met with the local Cormac officer to discuss a range of highway and related matters. I can report the following:

- The 2017/2018 programme for road surface improvements include part of Moorland Road, Indian Queens; Trevarren; Watery Lane near Blackcross; Halloon Roundabout; Trefullock Moor; road to Carvynick and Pencorse; roads from A3058 along Carnego Lane and towards Goonabarn, near Summercourt. Some works at Carvynick have already been done, while works are presently ongoing on Moorland Road, Indian Queens, near the main industrial estate.

- Three improvement schemes are being moved forward as follows: (i) Cornwall Council is at the design stage for a scheme to deal with problems with rising water through the pavement to the east of Queen Garage, (ii) the Council is planning some trial holes to explore the condition of the main drainage system through Fraddon, which was a contributory factor in flooding some three-four years ago, (iii) officers are looking to design a scheme to deal with flooding of the road in area near entrance to Gaverigan Manor.

- I have also been chasing up on a number of issues, where promised work has yet to be carried out. This includes the tidying up of the garden area at Clodan Mews.

- I have reported concerns about visibility at the roundabout at Penhale, with regard to the junction with the road to Brighton Cross. Cormac have agreed to cut back the vegetation to enhance visibility.

- A flooding problem on the road to Trefullock from the A3058 has been raised with the officers, and they have agreed to investigate how to mitigate the issue.

- In addition, I have also reported a number of complaints and concerns to Cormac for their consideration, which include fears about speeding traffic and ideas on how to improve parking. I am continuing to chase up these matters.

8. Update on Carvynick

The owners of Carvynick recently met with senior officers at Cornwall Council to discuss the basis of their planning application relating to their tourism park. Attendees included the Strategic Director Economic Growth & Development, and the Head of Planning. I will give a verbal update about the nature of the discussions at tonight’s meeting.

9. Consultations

Cornwall Council is presently consulting on a number of planning policy documents, which are of some relevance to St Enoder Parish. These need to be considered at tonight’s meeting.

These include:

- Minerals Safeguarding Development Plan Document (consultation period: 12th June to 7th August). This includes the detail of buffers around the working zone for the China Clay Area.

- Community Infrastructure Levy Draft Charging Schedule (consultation period: 12th June to 7th August).

- European Terrestrial Sites Mitigation Supplementary Planning Document (consultation period: 12th June to 24th July). This involves the proposal for a surcharge on new properties to go towards the mitigation of dog use (and dog mess) on Penhale Sands Special Area of Conservation. This would impact on the western part of St Enoder Parish.

- Biodiversity SPD (consultation period: 12th June to 24th July).

10. World War 1 project

Over the last couple of weeks, I have prioritised working on the grant application for the Parish Council’s project about the Great War. I can confirm that this application will be formally submitted later this week.

11. Inquiries

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

Remembering An Gof and Flamank - 520 years on

My article in this week’s Cornish Guardian focuses on the anniversary of the 1497 rebellion and the Keskerdh Kernow 500 celebrations of 1497, for which I was on the organising committee. I simply cannot believe it was twenty years ago!

Commemorative events are being held tonight at both Bodmin and St Keverne, though I will be unable to attend as I will be at a meeting of St Enoder Parish Council.

My article is follows:

This week marks the 520th anniversary of the execution of Cornish patriots Michael Joseph An Gof (St Keverne) and Thomas Flamank (Bodmin) who rebelled against the English crown in the late 15th century.

The documented catalyst for the 1497 rising was additional taxation towards a war with Scotland and, in a feat of great endurance, many thousands of men marched from Cornwall to London in protest. They arrived at Blackheath on 16th June but, on the following day, the Cornish host was attacked and defeated by a large military force of King Henry VII.

On 27th June, An Gof and Flamank were drawn through the streets to Tyburn, where they were hung, drawn and quartered, though prior to his death An Gof bravely claimed that he would have “a name perpetual and a fame permanent and immortal.”

It is also the 20th anniversary of the quincentennial celebrations of 1997, when more than forty people re-traced the entire route from St Keverne to the outskirts of London, with thousands more joining the march for shorter distances along the way.

As well as the march itself, a statue was erected in St Keverne and plaques were placed in a number of locations; there were numerous cultural events, plays and concerts; while new educational materials were used in many local schools.

It was all geared to be a “celebration of Cornish identity, Celtic heritage, Cornish ability, language and history” – and it was a great success.

One local newspaper described the events of 1997 as a “magnificent spectacle,” adding that “as an advertisement for Cornwall and all things Cornish, it was brilliant. As pageant, it was superb. And as an achievement for those who took part, it was truly magnificent.”

But it was not just cultural and, at the culmination of the march, the main participants published their own declaration. This document recalled how the original rebels had fought to “protect their distinctive way of life and to challenge economic injustice” and how, in more recent times, Cornwall had not been treated fairly “in comparison with the assistance rendered to our Celtic cousins in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland.”

Specific demands included greater local control over economic development, opposition to wider regional bodies, the need for a university campus in Cornwall, and greater teaching of Cornish history, culture and identity.

Two decades on, there has been considerable progress. The cultural confidence on show in 1997 has continued to grow. Just look at last year’s amazing Man Engine and performers such as The Changing Room. The marchers’ demand for a university campus is now a reality, thanks to EU funding secured via the acceptance of Cornwall as an economic region.

But our area remains one of the poorest parts of the UK and our public services still suffer under-investment from the UK government. Cornwall is being denied meaningful devolution and the Government it is failing to act on their recognition of the Cornish as a national minority.

Two decades on, there are many, many campaigns we have yet to win.