Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Join Mebyon Kernow today

The last few months have demonstrated solid progress for Mebyon Kernow – the Party for Cornwall.

At our National Conference in November, we celebrated sixty years as an organisation. Days later, Loveday Jenkin won a fifth seat for MK on Cornwall Council in a by-election at Wendron, out-polling Liberal Democrat, Conservative, Labour and Independent candidates.

In December, we marked the tenth anniversary of the 50,000 declarations for a Cornish Assembly being presented to Downing Street and our ongoing campaign for greater Cornish self-government received a boost when Plaid Cymru tabled a supportive Early Day Motion.

As a consequence of this and the wider debate around Scottish Independence, MK members have been featured on local television and radio, Newsnight Scotland and Radio 5live, and in newspapers including the Daily Star, Daily Telegraph, Financial Times, The Guardian, Independent, Morning Star, Scotsman, and Western Mail.

MK is making advances and I would like to extend an invitation to all readers of this blog – who are not already MK members – to join the Party.

The cost is only £12 for an individual membership, £15 for a family membership and £120 for life membership. There is a reduced rate of £6 for people who are unwaged. Members receive Cornish Nation magazine four times a year while new members will also receive a complimentary copy of the recent MK history and a membership badge.

Join MK today and help us fight for a better deal for Cornwall. Anyone interested in more details can email me on dick.cole.mk@gmail.com.

The latest (January) edition of Cornish Nation has just been and complimentary copies (either as hard copy or as a pdf) are available on request from the above email address.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

"Mebyon Kernow sees the future in black and white” - The Guardian

MK has had more positive publicity in recent days. I was featured on Radio 5live and Cllr Loveday Jenkin appeared in a piece on Newsnight Scotland.

The Guardian has also just published an on-line article by Steven Morris titled “Cornish party Mebyon Kernow sees the future in black and white” following interviews with myself, Cllr Loveday Jenkin and Cllr John Rowe in December. It is a positive article, but I really don’t like the accompanying photograph (see above). The article was as follows:

Loveday Jenkin was growing up, the Cornish flag was rarely seen. Now the white cross on a black background is ubiquitous, fluttering outside county hall in Truro and printed on everything from souvenir boxes of fudge to pasty packaging and car bumper stickers.

"I think it shows what a long way we've come in just a few years," says Jenkin, the latest member of Mebyon Kernow (MK) – the Party for Cornwall – to be elected to Cornwall council. "Everyone is so much more aware that we are separate, different, not a part of England and should have the right to govern ourselves."

Scotland has its own parliament, while the assemblies in Wales and Northern Ireland are maturing nicely. And in the far south-west MK is leading the campaign for a referendum on a Cornish Assembly.

It is demanding a meeting with David Cameron and Nick Clegg to ask why a petition of 50,000 names, the equivalent of a tenth of the Cornish adult population, appears to have been ignored. The Welsh nationalist party, Plaid Cymru, has laid down an early-day motion in the Commons supporting the call for devolution.

MK, which has just celebrated its 60th birthday, is beginning to do well in local elections, holding five seats on Cornwall council – four more than Labour. The party hopes that the unpopularity of the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition will lead to it taking a leap forward at the next general election, and believes it is starting to attract younger voters disillusioned with the bigger parties.

"Being Cornish is about belonging to the place of Cornwall but also having a particular way of thinking about things," says Jenkin, a biochemist.

"We do things differently. Our culture is different, we have our own language. People ask why I identify myself as Cornish. It's simply because I am Cornish. We have more in common with Brittany and Wales than the south-east of England but we're subsumed into English decision-making."

Cornwall council has been discussing some interesting ideas that would help set the region apart from the rest of the UK. It has approved the idea of having a Cornish bank holiday at a different time to England. It has moved to stop people who have second homes in Cornwall voting there rather than where they live permanently. The possibility of setting its own tax on visitors has also been floated.

But MK wants to go much further. It does not want full independence but a legislative assembly responsible for health, education, training, local government, housing, economic development, transport, energy, law and home affairs, environment, agriculture, forestry and fishing, sports and the arts.

Like Plaid, MK often talks about social justice. Dick Cole, the party's leader who gave up his job as an archaeologist to become a full-time councillor, says that over the past 40 years Cornwall's economy has been fractured.

"Jobs have been lost, centralised out of here," he said. "Cornwall is now one of the worst places for wages and the living costs are getting ever higher. We are one of the most deprived areas and the over-centralised nature of the British state has done us no good."

MK's policies include more affordable housing, "fairer taxation" under which the richer pay more and the poorer less, and – like the Welsh government – pushing for what it sees as an equitable funding deal from Westminster.

The unpopularity of the coalition could be just what MK needs. Cole says that during last year's election campaign, voters told him they wanted to back MK but felt they had to vote Lib Dem to keep the Tories out, or vice versa.

"Then the next thing was we have a Conservative-led coalition. People think they have been sold a pup and are telling us they will vote for us next time." When the Guardian ran its Disunited Kingdom series of articles about devolution, it asked readers to say how they defined themselves in terms of nationality. The Cornish results were dominated by people who preferred to call themselves "other" rather than English or British. They were not given the option of describing themselves as Cornish.

Both Cole and Jenkin say they are Cornish first but British second. "If you do the history, the Celts are the ancient Britons. Being Cornish and British is completely logical," says Cole.

Jenkin points out that there had never been an act of union between Cornwall and England as there was between England and Scotland and England and Wales. She thinks of the monarch as "the queen" rather than "her queen", though MK would be prepared to let her open an assembly building if they get one. Jenkin also believes Prince Charles, the Duke of Cornwall, could do more to help champion the cause of Cornish separatism.

Cole and Jenkin are veteran MK activists but believe a new generation is beginning to take an interest; people such as John Rowe, a 25-year-old MK parish councillor.

Like many young Cornish people, Rowe admits he did not understand his identity until he left his family farm to go to university in Bath. "It may sound trite but I did not realise what Cornwall was all about until I left it," he said.

Rowe noticed not only the cultural differences – the language, the art – but also the economic differences between a relatively wealthy city such as Bath and the former mining town where he grew up, Camborne.

So will he see a Cornish assembly in his political career or even lifetime?

"I feel the tide is turning in our direction," he says. But he concedes that the turn could be slow.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

I oppose the sale of the Council Offices in St Austell

Today, Cornwall Council’s Cabinet voted to sell the former Restormel Council Offices to a developer, so that they could build yet another supermarket.

I fundamentally disagree with the decision, which I believe is short-sighted and does not make financial sense.

The Council owns significant land in this location and the offices are good. And yet the decision was to sell off three-quarters of the land, knock down perfectly good offices, and use the receipt from the sale of the land to build new (smaller) offices with less car parking, squashed up on the remaining land, with no space for future expansion.

It makes no sense and I will continue to oppose this sale.

We need an accommodation strategy for Cornwall Council that reflects the needs of Cornwall Council – and is not driven by developers and supermarkets.

A bad day and an agenda-rant!

This morning, I had car problems. I won’t go into the boring details, but thought it would get sorted and I would be able to get to the Cabinet meeting by ten. This did not prove possible and I dived onto the 597 bus to Truro, knowing I would get there by 11.00.

It was my intention to speak on items relating to the sale of the Restormel Offices (see next post) and Old County Hall in Truro. There were many significant items on the agenda, including the development brief for land to the west of Truro. I knew that if I was there by 11.00, I would be in plenty of time to make my contributions.

I was therefore horrified to arrive to find that both items had been debated and voted through. It turned out that the Leader and some of the Cabinet members were not present at the start of the meeting in order to meet with representatives of the Local Government Chronicle. Something about nominations for awards!

Due to their absence the agenda was rejigged and the most controversial item deferred until later in the meeting – which led directly to me being denied the ability to make the representations that I had wished.

To say that I was angry would be a massive understatement.

For the record and apart from anger at the agenda shift, there were some positive decisions taken at the meeting. Members voted, for example, to increase funding to safeguard bus services (I still have to study the detail); and also to add mixed plastics and tetrapaks to what would collected as part of the kerbside recycling contract.

But this may be overshadowed by the blogosphere outrage at Alec Robertson’s decision to “ban” tweeters from Cabinet meetings. You can read about all that elsewhere …

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

How many new properties for Cornwall by 2030?

In this week's Cornish Guardian, my column is a "balanced" attempt to encourage people to comment on the draft Core Strategy. It is as follows:

How many properties do you think should be built in Cornwall over the next twenty years?

The unitary authority’s Core Strategy document, which is out to consultation until 2nd March, recommends that 48,000 new housing units should be constructed between 2010 and 2030.

Before Cornwall Council’s ruling Cabinet agreed on this figure, it undertook a consultation exercise in which it sought views on three possible housing targets: 38,000 (described as low), 48,000 (medium) and 57,000 (high). Individuals and groups were also invited to put forward their own alternative proposals.

Most written responses from Parish Councils and local groups supported the low to medium options. Developers meanwhile mostly argued for the high option, while a number of them proposed even higher levels of growth.

Following this initial consultation, council officers presented a report to the Planning Policy Panel at Cornwall Council, which I continue to chair. It recommended a housing target for the Core Strategy of 54,000! The Panel did not agree and proposed a lower target of 40,000 new homes, which was more in line with the early soundings taken in local communities. This was, however, over-ruled by the Council’s ten-strong Cabinet, which plumped for 48,000 new properties.

There are many groups arguing for lower levels of housing growth, including the Cornish Social and Economic Research Group.

CoSERG points out that over the last 50 years, Cornwall’s population has grown by over 200,000 people and the number of houses has doubled from 132,000 to 255,000.

Back in 1989, this organisation produced a book titled “Cornwall at the Crossroads.” It called for a breathing space so that “Cornwall and its communities could cope with this unprecedented growth, safeguard the environment and retain what makes our place special, its Cornishness.”

Over these last two decades, approximately 45,000 new properties have been completed in Cornwall – something CoSERG has described as a “juggernaut of housing and population growth.”

CoSERG strongly argues that the proposed levels of growth in the Core Strategy are unsustainable and would lead to “the loss of significant areas of countryside, the urbanisation of our towns and villages, much more traffic and congestion, and the irresponsible depletion of our natural resources.”

So what do you think? Who do you agree with – CoSERG, Cornwall Council, developers?

Please take the time to find out more about the arguments and have your say on housing, the environment, employment land, and so much more.

The Core Strategy documents can be viewed online at www.cornwall.gov.uk, where there is an online consultation system, or in libraries and one stop shops, where feedback forms are available.

You can also call 01872 224283 to request copies of the documents and feedback forms to be posted out to you.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

A referendum for Scotland: what about Cornwall?

My column in last week's Cornish Guardian focussed on the coming referendum on Independence for Scotland. It was as follows:

Rows over the forthcoming referendum on Scottish independence has dominated the United Kingdom media, with numerous headlines referring to the potential “Break-up of Britain,” or a “Battle for Britain” pitching “Braveheart versus Lionheart.”

This follows the electoral success of the Scottish National Party in 2011, when it won overall control of the Scottish Parliament. It has announced a multi-option referendum for 2014, which will allow the people of Scotland to choose between (i) the status quo, (ii) the devolution of further powers (described as “devo-max”) to their existing Parliament or (iii) outright independence.

The SNP and Mebyon Kernow are both members of the European Free Alliance – a federation of political parties campaigning for varying degrees of greater self-government.

I follow the progress of sister parties such as the SNP with great interest but, as a Cornishman and a resident of Cornwall, it is not for me to say what is right for Scotland. The decision on their future governance is clearly one for the residents of that historic nation to take and we should fully respect their decision.

But whatever happens there are implications for the whole of the United Kingdom.

Recent days have already seen a series of increasingly fractious rows between the SNP and an alliance of politicians from the Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat parties.

The debates have certainly been robust. The SNP, for example, challenged the mandate of David Cameron to “interfere” by commenting that there were more Giant Pandas in Edinburgh Zoo than Conservative MPs north of the Tweed.

But much of it has been extremely bad spirited and I was particularly appalled to watch last week’s Question Time (held in London) and witness the aggressive hectoring of the SNP’s Deputy Leader Nicola Sturgeon.

It is also interesting to note that the arguments being wheeled out against Scottish independence – it is too small or too poor or too weak to stand on its own feet – bear a striking resemblance to arguments used against Cornish demands for greater powers within the United Kingdom.

It is my view that, over the next two-three years, and irrespective of happens in Scotland, there needs to be a mature, respectful and wide-ranging debate about the future of the United Kingdom, and how it is governed.

Surely now is the time to address the unequal constitutional relationships between the various nations and regions of the UK, and to tackle the centralising influence of London and the South East of England.

And as part of this debate, we must be allowed to make the case for the meaningful devolution of political powers to Cornwall.

Monday, 9 January 2012

Please make your views known on the Core Strategy

In last week’s Cornish Guardian, my column was critical of the failings of government and council consultations (“The concept of consultation has been undermined;” 4th January).

But this week, and with a little irony, I am seeking to encourage as many people as possible to respond to an extremely important consultation from Cornwall Council.

The Council is seeking views on a series of documents relating to future planning policies for Cornwall. This includes a “preferred approach” for its Core Strategy which, when finally agreed, will be the blueprint that will guide development between now and 2030.

As well as Cornwall-wide policies, booklets have been produced which illustrate potential options for each of the Council’s 19 community network areas, though the extent of detail does vary depending on the amount of local work that has been done.

A further booklet sets out specific options for energy, minerals and waste.

I have been heavily involved with the preparation of these documents, which were agreed by the Council’s ruling Cabinet at a meeting in October.

As the Chairman of the Planning Policy Panel, I encouraged local members to feed their views in for consideration but, like many others, there is much in the documents which I do not agree with.

For example, I do not support the proposal to build 48,000 new properties in Cornwall by 2030, which I consider to be too many. And personally, I disagree with the proposed approaches to waste management and eco-town developments, as well as the likely locations for large amounts of housing.

The consultation will last from 9th January until 2nd March 2012, and I think it is vitally important that local people tell the Council what they want for Cornwall as a whole and what they want for their own communities in particular.

There are numerous ways in which local residents can have a say and I hope thousands of people will give their views on housing, the environment, employment land, community facilities, leisure, retail and so much more.

The documents can be viewed online at www.cornwall.go.uk, where there is an online consultation system, or in libraries and one stop shops, where feedback forms will be available.

A series of exhibitions will be held across Cornwall, which everyone is welcome to attend. You can also call 01872 224283 to request copies of the documents and feedback forms to be posted out to you.

Please have your say. No promises, but I pledge that I will do everything in my power to ensure that your views are listened to and taken into account by the Council as it finalises its Core Strategy.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

When consultation is a farce

In my column in last week's Cornish Guardian, I wrote about the failings of governmental and council consultations. It was as follows:

What is consultation? What does it mean to consult?

Well, I have looked up “consult” in a couple of dictionaries for a clear definition. According to the experts it means to “have discussions with (someone), typically before undertaking a course of action” or to “discuss something with someone before you make a decision.”

Sadly, the whole concept of “consultation” has been undermined and devalued by successive governments, as well as councils and other bodies the length and breadth of the United Kingdom.

We are often asked our opinions on proposals, policies and documents. But time and time again, we are only being told what action a public body is planning to take, and any comments we make are inevitably discarded and ignored.

It seems to me that the powers-that-be have forgotten the bit about seeking views before decisions are made and that discussion is a two-way process.

Probably the worst example of this has been the government's recent consultation on solar panels and the feed-in tariff (FIT) paid to individuals and groups for the electricity generated by domestic-scale schemes.

The consultation ran from 31st October until 23rd December and one of the proposals was for the feed-in tariff to be reduced from 43p to 21p for each kWh. But the controversial cut in the tariff came into force from 12th December – two weeks prior to the closing date of the consultation exercise.

Is it any wonder that comments on the consultation have included:

· “This consultation is a hollow exercise with no intention of the feedback from the consultation making any difference.”

· “The consultation is a sham.”

· “The decision has already been made.”

· “Everyone thinks it’s a foregone conclusion.”

· “It’s just another cynical exercise in ‘consulting’ and then doing what’s already decided anyway.”

· “A waste of time.”

Whatever the merits of the proposed changes, I welcome the news that the High Court has overruled the government’s decision and that the Judge has described the decision of the Department for Energy and Climate Change as “legally flawed.”

It is about time that consultation does actually equate to consultation – and the views of ordinary people are listened to properly.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

MK campaign featured in Scotsman and Western Mail

MK’s campaign for a Cornish Assembly was today featured in both the Scotsman and the Western Mail newspapers. David Willcock’s article which appeared in yesterday’s Independent was in the Scotsman under the heading “We want to be just like Scotland, say Cornish nationalists.”

The Western Mail article was meanwhile titled “Plaid Cymru backs devolution bid by fellow Celts in Cornwall” and included the thoughts of Labour MP Paul Flynn. It was as follows:

A campaign for devolution for Cornwall is being backed by Plaid Cymru.

Plaid MP Jonathan Edwards, who represents Carmarthen East and Dinefwr, launched an Early Day Motion in Parliament calling “for the formation of a democratically elected Cornish assembly to take decisions for the benefit of the people of Cornwall”.

The motion commemorates the 10th anniversary of the presentation of a petition to Downing Street signed by 50,000 people, equivalent to 10% of Cornwall’s population, demanding a referendum on devolution.

Mr Edwards said the campaign chimed with Plaid’s call for greater powers for the National Assembly.

“The Cornish people feel they have a distinct national identity and that needs to be reflected,” he said.

“If I was a unionist what I would be putting forward would be a vision of a federal British state, with equal powers for each of the historic nations.”

The motion was signed by a number of other Welsh MPs – Plaid Cymru’s Elfyn Llwyd and Hywel Williams, as well as Labour’s Paul Flynn, who also lent his support to what he described as “one of the great issues of the day”.

“Cornwall is the one [region of England] which has the strongest identity,” said Mr Flynn.

“The Celts were driven west by the barbarous Anglo Saxons who were all dressed in wool and dyed blue.

“The civilised Celtic people were driven to the edges.

“I have been a lifelong advocate of devolution and I am keen to see as much devolution as possible to the other Celtic nations.”

That was echoed by Mr Williams, who said: “After successful referendums in Scotland and Wales in 1997 it was commonsense that the next should be in Cornwall.

“Plaid Cymru’s sister party Mebyon Kernow (Sons of Cornwall) collected 50,000 declarations in support of a Cornish Assembly but the Labour government of the time confusingly started the process of English devolution in the North East rather than Cornwall where there was a clear level of support.

“The ongoing constitutional change – in Europe, in Wales and with the upcoming independence referendum in Scotland – make it appropriate to put a Cornish assembly back on the agenda.”

The move is not the first attempt to secure devolution for Cornwall.

In 2009, Liberal Democrat MP Dan Rogerson presented, The Government of Cornwall Bill to Parliament calling for devolution on the grounds that: “Constitutionally, Cornwall has the right to a level of self-Government, as demonstrated by the Cornish Foreshore Case in 1858 which confirmed that Cornwall is legally a Duchy which is extraterritorial to England.”

Cornwall is considered to be one of six Celtic nations in Europe, along with Wales, Scotland, Ireland, the Isle of Man and Brittany.

It has its own language, similar to Welsh and which is still spoken, albeit by a far smaller percentage of the population. According to a study by Exeter University, only 0.1% of the population are competent conversationalists in the tongue.

However the language, Kernowek, has been undergoing a revival, with dual-language road signs an increasingly common sight and the opening of a creche teaching young children the language.

Although the Mebyon Kernow party, which campaigns for Cornish independence, is yet to rise to national prominence, it won three council seats in 2009.

Councillor Dick Cole, the leader of Mebyon Kernow, said: “It remains a disgrace that Tony Blair’s Labour government – which supported devolution to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – dismissed the declarations and refused to consider demands for greater powers for Cornwall.”

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

“Cornish devolution campaign revived by show of pan-Celtic political unity" - Independent

MK’s campaign for greater self-government was today featured in the Independent newspaper. Written by David Willcock, it appeared under the heading “Cornish devolution campaign revived by show of pan-Celtic political unity.” The article was as follows:

A campaign aiming for devolution for Cornwall as a “historic Celtic nation” within the United Kingdom has been revived, with fresh support from Welsh politicians.

Cornish nationalist party Mebyon Kernow is repeating its “ambitious” call for an elected assembly and ultimately devolved powers from Westminster similar to those enjoyed in Scotland, ten years after 50,000 people - 10% of the population of Cornwall - signed a petition supporting its aims.

In a show of pan-Celtic unity from across the Bristol Channel, Plaid Cymru has given the campaign its backing, with MP Jonathan Edwards (Carmarthen East and Dinefwr) launching an Early Day Motion (EDM) calling “for the formation of a democratically elected Cornish Assembly to take decisions for the benefit of the people of Cornwall”.

It comes after Cabinet Secretary Sir Gus O'Donnell, one of the country's most senior civil servants, said holding the United Kingdom together will be an “enormous challenge” in years to come.

Councillor Dick Cole, the leader of Mebyon Kernow, said it was hoping to “breathe new life” into the campaign under a new Government. “What we are campaigning for is devolution within the UK and for powers similar to those of the Scottish Parliament,” he said.

“We will campaign and campaign until we are successful.

“It remains a disgrace that Tony Blair's Labour government (which supported devolution to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) dismissed the declarations and refused to consider demands for greater powers for Cornwall.

“The previous Labour government spoke a lot about devolution, local control and democratic change. The present coalition Government also speaks a lot about devolution, as well as localism.

“But these were, and are, hollow words as far as Cornwall is concerned. Blair and Brown ignored calls for a Cornish Assembly, a situation that is being replicated by the present coalition Government.”

The nationalists argue that Cornwall has never politically officially been a county of England but is a separate country.

So far signed by ten MPs from his party, Labour and the Liberal Democrats, the EDM also “expresses disappointment that the then government did not act upon the subject of the petition” a decade ago.

It has been signed by Cornish Lib Dem MPs Andrew George (St Ives), Stephen Gilbert (St Austell and Newquay) and Dan Rogerson (North Cornwall), fellow Lib Dem Mike Hancock (Portsmouth South), Mr Edwards, Elfyn Llwyd (Dwyfor Meirionnydd) and Hywel Williams (Arfon) from Plaid Cymru and Labour's Jeremy Corbin (Islington North), Paul Flynn (Newport West) and John McDonnell (Hayes and Harlington)

Mr Edwards said the campaign chimed with Plaid's campaign for greater powers for the Welsh Assembly.

“The Cornish people feel they have a distinct national identity and that needs to be reflected,” he said.

“If I was a unionist what I would be putting forward would be a vision of a federal British state, with equal powers for each of the historic nations.”

Cornwall's “Celtic” cultural identity has been growing in prominence in recent years. Its language, Kernowek, has been undergoing a revival, with dual-language road signs an increasingly common sight and, in January 2010, the opening of a creche teaching young children the language.

On December 22, Sir Gus warned that the question of whether the UK stayed together would be a major issue in the coming years.

His warning, on the eve of his retirement at the end of the year, came as the SNP administration in Scotland committed to holding a referendum on independence before 2016.

Writing in The Daily Telegraph, Sir Gus said: “Over the next few years, there will be enormous challenges, such as whether to keep our kingdom united.”

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

41% of children recorded as Cornish

The findings of the Pupil Level Annual School Census (PLASC) show that more and more families are choosing to identify themselves as Cornish.

Last year (2011), 41% of pupils were recorded as Cornish compared to 37% in 2010. A total of 28,584 pupils out of 69,811 said they were Cornish, compared to 23,808 out of 70,275 in 2009.

Schools are required to complete the annual pupil census by the Department for Education. It recommends that parents and guardians should determine the national identity for their children at primary schools, but pupils at secondary schools should decide their own ethnicity.

For many years, families were denied the opportunity to self-identify as Cornish but, following a strong campaign by various cultural, language and political groups, the option was inserted for the 2005 survey. In 2006, 24% of children were recorded as Cornish, which steadily rose to 27% in 2007, 30% in 2008 and 34% in 2009.

It is good to see the growing confidence of so many families, who are keen to record their national identity as Cornish.

No to regional pay

It is 2012 ... so back to blogging. First up is my article published in the Cornish Guardian over the Christmas break. It was as follows and focussed on central government plans to introduce regional pay:

Earlier this month, George Osborne announced plans to end “national” pay rates for people working in the public sector.

It has also been reported that he wishes to declare areas like Cornwall to be “low pay zones.”

Put simply, it would mean that teachers, nurses and civil servants in Cornwall would get less pay than someone doing exactly the same job in areas such as South East England.

I fundamentally believe this is wrong. Surely it should be an important principle that people are paid the same rate for the same job.

Quite rightly, business leaders and unions have joined together to slam Osborne’s announcement.

Tim Jones, Chairman of the Devon and Cornwall Business Council, has said that the move would be "unsustainable and devastating,” adding that the cuts would have a “horrendous” impact on the local economy.

The General Secretary of the PCS union, Mark Serwotka, meanwhile said it was “economically incoherent for the Chancellor to say he wants to help regions outside London and the South East, then say public sector pay there should be even lower than it already is."

The reality is that there is already great inequality across, and between, the nations and regions of the United Kingdom.

And I strongly believe that central government should be working to reduce this inequality but if Mr Osborne gets his way it will get even worse.

Indeed, his actions could depress local economies that are in need of investment as yet more money is siphoned off to be spent in London and the South East.

Cornwall suffers from the lowest average wages in the UK. And yet the cost of living is especially high, thousands are struggling to access housing at a price they can afford, while government cuts are having a devastating impact on public services and the local economy.

Cuts to Cornwall Council’s budget alone represent a cumulative reduction in spend of around £500 million in the Cornish economy over a four year period.

I consider it a disgrace that the Coalition wishes to consign us to a second class future, entrenching Cornwall as a low-pay economy in both the public and private sectors.

And it is unbelievable that they expect people in areas like Cornwall to subsidise richer areas.

How about some UK-wide parity from the Government in 2012?