Sunday, 20 August 2017

Keeping up the pressure for a Cornish tick-box


In this coming week's Cornish Guardian, my article reports on the recent meeting between Cornwall Council and officials from the Office of National Statistics. It will be as follows:

Earlier this month, prominent officials from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) visited Cornwall to meet with representatives of the unitary authority.

The visitors included the Acting Director for the 2021 census, the ONS’s Head of Census Statistical Design & Outputs, and a senior research officer; and the main focus of the meeting was to discuss our demands for a Cornish tick-box on the next census.

In the last census in 2011, the question on national identity gave a choice of five tick-boxes: English, Welsh, Scottish, Northern Irish and British. There was also an “other” box, which invited people to “write in” their nationality.

In the event, a total of 73,220 residents of Cornwall described themselves as Cornish, which equated to 13.8% of the overall population. On a local basis, the top five parishes for self-identification were St Dennis (22.0%), St Hilary (21.6%), St Wenn (21.4%), Carharrack (21.3%) and Warleggan (21.3%); the lowest was Botus Fleming (4.0%).

It is impressive, and significant, that nearly 14% of people in Cornwall took the initiative to self-identify as Cornish in the 2011 census but, if there had been a tick-box option, the number of people registered as Cornish would undoubtedly have been considerably higher.

This can be shown by what has transpired in Wales. In 2001, there was no Welsh tick-box on the census, but 14.4% of residents in Wales self-identified as Welsh using the “other” option. A decade on, the inclusion of a tick-box option in the 2011 census meant that 66.6% of people in Wales expressed their national identity as Welsh – a greater than four-fold increase.

In its initial feedback, the ONS indicted that they were not minded to include a Cornish tick-box in the 2021 census but, at the recent meeting, we made a strong – and I would say unanswerable – case for parity with other UK nationalities.

We pointed out how, since the last census, the UK Government had recognised the Cornish as a national minority through the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, affording them the “same status” as the “UK’s other Celtic people, the Scots, the Welsh and the Irish.”

We reminded the ONS that, in their Opinion Report, the Council of Europe has made a specific recommendation that a Cornish tick-box be included to ensure compliance with the Framework Convention. And we made it clear that by excluding a Cornish tick-box from the 2021 census, the UK authorities would be actively discriminating against the Cornish national minority that they themselves had formally recognised in 2014.

The discussions with ONS are ongoing and Cornwall Council is preparing additional briefing information for the organisation. I will report back again soon on what progress is made.

Diplomacy and international relations

My article in last week's Cornish Guardian pondered international relations in the age of Donald Trump and his Presidency of the United States. It was as follows:

August 9th 2017 marked the 72nd anniversary of the dropping of an atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Nagasaki, which had followed the nuclear attack on Hiroshima three days earlier.

All in all, more than 140,000 people died in the initial blasts over the two cities, or lost their lives as a consequence of their injuries, radiation poisoning and other factors.

Just over twelve months ago, Barack Obama, in his final months as US President, visited Hiroshima. Speaking at the main memorial in the settlement, he told a large and sombre crowd: “On a bright cloudless morning, death fell from the sky and the world was changed. A flash of light and a wall of fire destroyed a city and demonstrated that mankind possessed the means to destroy itself.”

He spoke about how the “image of a mushroom cloud” that twice rose in the clouds over Japan was a stark remainder of “humanity’s core contradiction” and that the “very spark that marks us as a species,” such as “our thoughts, our imagination, our language, our toolmaking, our ability to set ourselves apart from nature and bend it to our will,” also equates to a “capacity for unmatched destruction.”

How right Obama was to urge the world to “choose a future when Hiroshima and Nagasaki are not considered the dawn of atomic warfare but as the start of our own moral awakening.”

This week, I have read a number of personal recollections of people from Nagasaki and the terrible horrors they experienced in 1945 and the years that followed.

One man called Hirotami Yamada, who was a child at the time, has recalled how “the flash and heat from the detonation felt like the sun had fallen from the sky; then everything went dark. When the light returned, much of Nagasaki had been vaporised in a cloud of smoke and dust that barrelled a mile up into the clouds.”

Most of his family initially survived because they were some distance away from the centre of the blast, but in the coming days he had to watch heartbroken as his siblings succumbed to death.

Such awfulness should never be forgotten and it must reinforce why everyone should be working to get rid of all weapons of mass destruction.

It is therefore truly disturbing that it was on “Nagasaki Day” that the new President of the United States, Donald Trump, intensified his war of words with the belligerent leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-Un, threatening "fire and fury like the world has never seen;" before following this up with a statement that his military was “locked and loaded.”

Such outrageous and intemperate language makes the world a much less safe place, and world leaders need to rise to the challenge to put real diplomacy at the heart of international relations.

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Continuing the campaign for a Cornish tick-box


Last week, I was one of the four councillors present at a meeting with senior officers from the Office of National Statistics about the need for a Cornish tickbox on the 2021 census.

It was a positive meeting and we left the ONS in no doubt about the significance of this issue.

Further representations are planned and a press release has been published today by Cornwall Council. It is included below for information.

Cornwall Council press release
Council pushes for formal recognition of the Cornish in 2021 census


The Cornish could be recognised in the 2021 Census if the latest efforts by Cornwall Council are successful.

Last week Cornwall Council Deputy Leader Julian German, Cornwall Councillors and Council officers met with senior officers from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) in Truro to discuss the inclusion of tick boxes for the Cornish and Cornish language on the Census.

In March 2017, in its Fourth Opinion to the UK Government on the Council of Europe’s Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, the Council of Europe made a specific recommendation to the ONS stating it should “take the necessary measures to include the possibility to self-identify as Cornish, through a ‘tick-box’ in the next census.”

In the last census in 2011, the Cornish did not have the option to tick a box to say they identified as Cornish like the Welsh, Scottish, Irish and Northern Irish and could only write Cornish under the ‘other’ option.

Deputy Leader Julian German said the meeting was an important milestone. “Cornish people have a proud and distinct identity. We are proud of our history and language and want this to be reflected in the way the census captures data so it’s not an ‘other’ field in the language and identity section.

“We believe this will provide a more accurate reflection of the number of Cornish in Cornwall and across the UK.

“An accurate count of Cornish language speakers is a key factor in influencing funding and devolution – this is key to helping us get a better deal and more funding for Cornish people and culture,” the Deputy Leader said.

Although no commitment has been made from the ONS on the inclusion of the Cornish as a tick box option, the Office reaffirmed their commitment to support ethnic groups across the UK.

“Our meeting identified some really helpful points in the development and operation of the next census where ONS and Cornwall Council can work together to have a successful census in 2021,” said Ben Humberstone, Programme Director, 2021 Census, ONS.

The meeting is the latest push to gain more recognition for the Cornish and comes three years after the UK Government gave Cornish the same status as other Celtic communities the Scots, Welsh and Irish. This recognition by the UK government within the Framework Convention is not affected by Brexit.

The media and being a Cornish nationalist ...

The headline speaks for itself. My article in today’s Cornish Guardian is as follows:

During the last few weeks, I have been approached by a number of “up-country” journalists. All were keen to find out more about Cornwall and, in particular, Cornish nationalism.

It would have been nice to think that Mebyon Kernow had generated this interest; possibly through specific campaigns that we had been running, or due to some of the key arguments we had been making for a better deal for Cornwall.

But sadly, the journalists were following up on the widespread and irresponsible reporting of the "fake news" of alleged terrorist activities in Cornwall.

For those of you that missed it, there was an electrical fault at a bin store, associated with fish and chip shop in Porthleven. This lead to a localised fire, for which an organisation claimed “responsibility.”

It was, of course, all nonsense, but that did not stop newspapers such as the Sun, Daily Mirror and Daily Mail, printing a series of unfortunate articles.

One local man – a former MP – interviewed for a feature on Radio 4 was cheeky enough to suggest that the claims were some sort of “Cornish humour” to see how many of the “metropolitan elite” would be daft enough to give credence to the claims.

That said, I do find it extremely infuriating that legitimate political and other stories from Cornwall – such as the 50,000 declarations for a Cornish Assembly in 2001 – are so often ignored by the mainstream media and “Fleet Street,” and yet they fall over themselves to publish stories lacking in substance.

In the recent interviews that have followed, I have often been asked what it means to be a Cornish nationalist. At this time, I thought it would be good to share my response in this article.

To me, the answer is quite simple. Cornwall is a historic entity with its own distinct identity, language and heritage. It is a nation – just like Scotland and Wales.

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 our approach to politics 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.

Cornwall does need to be “brave and bold” …


My article in last week’s Cornish Guardian addressed the two-year anniversary of the so-called Cornwall Devolution Deal and the “state of Cornwall” address by the leader of Cornwall Council. It was as follows:

In recent days, there has been quite a focus on the two-year anniversary of the “Cornwall devolution deal,” with senior elected members on the unitary authority and council officers talking up the “historic” nature of the arrangement.

It would be churlish not to admit that the “deal” contains many elements of merit, such as the achievement of Intermediate Body status which allows Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly some greater local control over the allocation of EU funding to projects.

But overall, it does not include the shift of meaningful political power to elected politicians in Cornwall.

For example, in this past week, I was twice at meetings which covered the heritage aspects of the “deal.” Part of this related to a “study of the cultural distinctiveness of Cornwall's historic environment.” Obviously, I welcome this, but the “deal” included no powers over heritage policy or the management of state-owned historic assets in Cornwall.

From my perspective, what was agreed two years ago was not devolution as understood in other nations such as Scotland and Wales. It was an accommodation between the UK Government and local government here in Cornwall on a range of specific issues, but which still left central government in the driving seat.

And while this “devolution” debate has been ongoing, central government has offloaded certain local functions to unelected bodies such as the Local Enterprise Partnership, which is hardly an advert for democratic reform.

In his “state of Cornwall” address to the unitary authority at last week’s Full Council meeting, council leader Adam Paynter spoke about Cornwall being “brave and bold” and pushing for “more powers” and “greater autonomy from the Government.”

Adam also called for politicians to “work together” and “put the future of Cornwall first.” But having spoken about the primacy of Cornwall, he went on to undermine that by arguing that we should submerge ourselves into some kind of “strong south west offer” when dealing with the centre.

Recent history shows that whenever Cornwall is incorporated into a south west block, it inevitably loses out to Exeter, Taunton or Bristol.

I do agree with Adam Paynter when he says that we need to be “brave and bold,” but surely that means always standing up for Cornwall as a distinct unit in all things. And it means not allowing Cornwall to be seen merely as the western tenth of a synthetic south west region.

Sunday, 30 July 2017

My latest monthly report

At last week’s Parish Council meeting, I presented my most recent monthly report. It covered the time period of 26th June to 23rd July, and was as follows:

1. Council meetings

Over the last few weeks, I have attended a range of formal meetings. These have included: Economic Growth and Development Overview and Scrutiny Committee; Constitution and Governance Committee; Electoral Review Panel (2) and a number of additional informal meetings through my position of vice-chairman of the Panel; a briefing on the Council’s approach to the development of a new waste collection strategy; a Network meeting for the China Clay Area; a Group Leaders’ meeting; and a briefing in advance of this coming week’s Full Council meeting.

In the same period, I have also been at two meetings of St Enoder Parish Council.

2. Other meetings / events

In addition, I have attended meetings of ClayTAWC (2) of which I am Chairman, Indian Queens Pit (trustee), a sub-group of the St Austell Bay Economic Forum (SABEF), and the Annual General Meeting of the St Piran Trust.

Last Sunday (23rd July) I was very pleased to be invited to open the second day of the Rescorla Festival at the old chapel in the village, which has been converted into a cultural centre. It partly clashed with a concert by Indian Queens Band in the Pit, but I was able to get to both.

Because of the work that I have done across the China Clay Area, I also received an invitation to attend Carclaze Primary School for a presentation from the children about the china clay industry through words and dance. It was really great to see.

3. Economic Growth and Development Overview and Scrutiny Committee

At the second meeting of the above committee, councillors discussed the work programme for the coming months. A “task and finish” group has been set up to review the Council’s arrangement for parking, which will include enforcement matters. Much of the discussion from the officers and other councillors focused on the towns and I had to speak up for rural areas such as ours. As a consequence of this, I have become a member of the “task and finish” group.

4. Briefing on waste

At the briefing into the Council’s approach to the development of a new waste collection strategy, I raised queries about the low number of public waste bins in areas such as ours. I received an assurance these concerns will be addressed in the review.

5. Electoral Review Panel


As I wrote in my last monthly report, I have been elected as the vice-chairman of this Panel and I am heavily involved in its ongoing work producing a response to the consultation from the Local Government Boundary Commission for England that states Cornwall Council should only have 87 members from 2021 onwards.

Given that the initial view of the unitary authority (105-115 councillors) was deemed unacceptable by the LGBCE, the Panel has reaffirmed its view that there should be 99 councillors on Cornwall Council. This is in spite of the fact that many Cornwall Councillors, myself included, would prefer the number of elected members not to be reduced. This recommendation will be presented to Full Council this week.

6. Regeneration study for St Austell and the China Clay Area

On 18th July I attended a workshop on behalf of St Enoder Parish about the regeneration of our area. I am also involved with this through SABEF, but I am worried that there is an inadequate focus on the actual China Clay Area. I am making representations about this and will report more in my next monthly report.

7. Update on works at biogas plant at Higher Fraddon

Further to last month’s report, I can add that Greener for Life is about to start emptying the secondary digester of material so that they can lower the height of its dome. Cornwall Council has agreed extra vehicle movements for this work in line with a submitted Construction Management Plan and a Construction Environment Management Plan. However, the Council has insisted on two banksmen (at the top and bottom of the lane) to ensure that HGVs do not meet in the lane.

I also hosted a meeting between residents and three officers from Cornwall Council to discuss progress with the discharge of the conditions for the planning permission. Some of these updates have been featured in recent monthly updates and the minutes for this meeting are available on request.

8. Planning matters

Members will recall that, about nine months ago, the unauthorised caravan site on the Kelliers failed to secure planning permission through an appeal to the Planning Inspectorate. The owners were also told that they had to remove the caravans by 18th July 2017, but they have failed to do this. Cornwall Council is looking to ratchet up enforcement actions.

I am continuing to liase with officers on a range of planning applications and I will update more fully in my next monthly report.

9. Bus shelters

The issue of the maintenance of Cornwall Council-owned bus shelters was a key topic at the recent meeting of the Network Panel for the China Clay Area. I have also made further representations and some of the bus shelters were recently cleaned. I made further representations that not all were done and I have asked for the job to be completed.

10. School visit

On 14th July, 35 children from Indian Queens School visited New County Hall. I was pleased to be able to assist with the event and I was one of three councillors who answered some very searching questions.

11. World War 1 project

I can confirm that the application for funding towards a Parish Council project to remember the local war dead of the Great War has been submitted. I am now waiting on the response.

12. Inquiries

During the last month, I have also helped numerous people with advice and guidance on a range of problems.

The BBC and wage inequality


In last week’s Cornish Guardian, my article focused on the “fall-out” from the BBC’s announcement about the salaries of its top celebrities. It was as follows:

The formal publication of the salary levels for the highest paid employees in the BBC was one of last week’s big news stories.

There has been considerable anger that certain presenters have been paid hundreds of thousands of pounds from the UK’s public broadcaster, while there was also a significant focus on the “gender gap” between male and female high-fliers. One newspaper has even renamed the Corporation as the “Bloated Blokes Club.”

And is it any wonder, when the tabloids print stories about how certain BBC celebrities have spent more on a single wristwatch than many Cornish residents – myself included – earn in a year?

For me, this all focuses attention on the inequality that pervades the United Kingdom – with some people earning so much, millions earning less in real terms than previous years, and many earning so little that they are struggling to make ends meet.

This is a massive issue in Cornwall, where low pay is an entrenched problem with average wages long having been more than 20% below the UK average.

Looking back, I remember that a couple of years ago I wrote about the Resolution Foundation report titled “Low Pay Britain” which set out concerns about the well-being of the five million British workers in extremely low-paid work.

Report after report shows that the situation has not improved for so many individuals and families. For example, a recent study from the Institute for Fiscal Studies about male employment shows that “twenty years ago, only one in 20 men aged 25 to 55 worked part-time with low hourly wages. Today one in five of this group works part-time.”

Public sector workers have also lost out because of the continuation of austerity measures and I am pleased to have been able to back the GMB’s campaign against the ongoing pay freeze. The union rightly makes the case that “the financial crash wasn’t caused by teaching assistants, council officers or hospital porters. And it’s outrageous that they are still expected to pay the price for the banking crisis over a decade later.”

It also points out how, since 2010, the wages of public sector workers' “have been frozen, or have increased below inflation, which means their cost of living is rising faster than their pay, leaving them out of pocket.”

The GMB estimates that the average worker delivering vital public services has lost £9,000 over the last seven years and face losing another £4,000 in the next three years.

Surely, this all demonstrates that building a more equal society must be a key priority for all political parties going forward.

EU funding stats and Cornwall


Somewhat belatedly, I am posting my article which was published in the 19th July edition of the Cornish Guardian. It was as follows:

Since 2000 Cornwall has received the highest level of structural funding from the European Union (EU), because its gross domestic product (GDP) was below 75% of the EU average.

A couple of weeks ago, it was reported that Eurostat (the statistics office of the EU) had changed the way in which GDP figures are calculated and produced retrospective data going back to 2000.

This led to reports from the BBC that “Cornwall may not have been poor enough to justify receiving £1 billion of EU funding,” was “officially not that poor” and that the statistics were wrong.

This was, of course, nonsense but it was all replicated in a host of other media outlets. I have seen a Cornwall Council briefing which even described it as a “somewhat counterfactual situation.”

Eurostat has indeed adopted a new accounting system, but the revised figures for past years are based on the present-day 28-state EU.

In the late 1990s when Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly qualified for Objective One funding, there were only 15 states in the European Union. That was before the accession of a number of poorer countries, which significantly lowered the “per capita” economic performance across the whole of the EU. Likewise in 2006, when we qualified for Convergence funding, there were 25 states in the Union.

But moving away from the misleading headlines, Cornwall is still one of the poorest parts of the United Kingdom, and it is extremely worrying that it’s GDP for 2015 (the last year for which figures are available) is still only 76% of the EU average.

Of the 40 (NUTS 2) regions in the United Kingdom, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly is ranked 37th, ahead of only South Yorkshire (75%), Tees Valley & Durham (74%) and West Wales & the Valleys (68%).

Compared to the other nations of the United Kingdom, Cornwall is also at the bottom of the pecking order where it is tied with Wales (76%) and below Northern Ireland (78%). Scotland is much more prosperous and the figures for England are well over 100% of the average.

But the tone of this debate does worry me greatly. I fear the impact it could have on future considerations about regional funding post-Brexit and limit the amount of investment that can be secured for Cornwall, its local communities and its local businesses.

We hear much from local MPs about the UK Government’s proposed “Shared Prosperity Fund” and how it will “recycle some EU money back into the economy,” along with their assurance that Cornwall will get a share.

That is not good enough, as we have no idea what this “share” would equate to. The evidence and the statistics demonstrate that Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly should be a priority for investment, and we need cast-iron guarantees from central government that this will happen.

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

NEXT MK MEETING IN ST AUSTELL & NEWQUAY - FRIDAY 7th JULY


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.

Monday, 26 June 2017

Update on (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, and 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.

Saturday, 24 June 2017

Cornwall marginalised by SW Councils


Earlier this week, I attended a briefing about the work of the organisation known as South West Councils. It’s website claims that it seeks to, amongst other things, “support authorities in having a voice, built on consensus, of issues on national policy and funding working with national Local Government Group, when this is deemed appropriate by Members.

Members of the group include the leaders or deputy leaders of all council’s in the Government’s “south west region,” representatives of certain fire authorities, and ten additional nominees in an (unsuccessful) attempt to secure some form of political balance.

In total, there are over fifty people on South West Councils.

But because of the way that the organisation is set up, Cornwall only has a single principal authority and therefore there is only one representative from west of the Tamar. There is not even a Cornish representative on the top-up list.

By contrast, the Isles of Scilly – with a population which is significantly less than my local parish – also has a single representative, while Devon has representatives from Devon County Council, two unitary authorities and eight district councils!

Once again, the democratically-elected representatives of the Celtic nation of Cornwall is managing no more recognition than a host of district councils.

WHAT A DISGRACE,

DEMOCRACY UNDER THREAT IN CORNWALL








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 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 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” of a bad situation! The Council’s Panel finally put forward a proposal for 99 councillors. This was backed by the majority of councillors, while 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!

It has opened a consultation on this figure with three questions:

1. Do you think 87 is the right number of councillors to be able to take decisions effectively?
2, Would a council size of 87 enable the Council to represent the interests of all Cornwall’s communities?
3, If you don’t agree that Cornwall should be represented by 87 councillors, what would your alternative number be, and why?

Comments should be sent to the following address by 7th August 2017:

Review Officer (Cornwall)
LGBCE
14th Floor Millbank Tower
Millbank
London
SW1P 4QP

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, Cornwall had 331 councillors on principal local authorities. That was cut to 123 in 2009, and now we are expected withstand another reduction to only 87.

It is all frankly ridiculous. After all, in the English counties of Devon and Somerset, they have nearly 500 councillors and over 400 councillors respectively!

Please join me in making representations to the LGBCE.

I can further report that I have just been elected vice-chairman of the Electoral Review Panel and will be heavily involved with the Council’s response to LGBCE.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Who is standing up for Cornwall in Westminster?


It was the Queen’s Speech in the House of Commons today, while my article in the Cornish Guardian addressed the post-election turmoil as the Prime Minister attempts to court the DUP. It is as follows:

As I sit writing this week’s column, it is ten days since Theresa May’s snap General Election gamble destroyed her majority in the House of Commons.

Having spent much of the election scaremongering about a possible “coalition of chaos” with Jeremy Corbyn and others, it is now the Conservatives who are engaged in lengthy discussions with Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party to reach an agreement that will prop up Theresa May as PM.

As one Scottish National Party MP wrote this week: “In the past two General Elections, the Tories raised the spectre of the SNP controlling a Labour-led coalition, enticing fear in voters that the SNP would force our policies on the rest of the UK. Yet they are now climbing over themselves to get the DUP to sign up to some form of a deal to ensure their continued survival.”

The leader of the DUP, Arlene Foster, says that their ten MPs want to focus on bringing “stability to our nation.” But most of all, it is clear that the DUP is demanding massive investment in Northern Ireland through a new “economic package.”

Arlene Foster told the media that: “I make no apology for wanting the best for Northern Ireland” though one newspaper put it more bluntly: “Give us billions to back you.”

I cannot criticise the DUP for seeking to use the Conservative’s lack of a majority to the benefit of the residents of their province.

Likewise, it is also telling that the 13 Conservative MPs in Scotland – up from one in 2015 – are flexing their muscles and their leader, Ruth Davidson, has made it clear that they intend “to vote as a bloc to protect the [Scottish] nation’s interests at Westminster.”

Here in Cornwall, we still have a group of six Conservative MPs and the outcome of the General Election means that their votes are just as valuable as those of MPs in Northern Ireland and Scotland.

Isn’t time that they were also throwing their weight around in the palace of Westminster, just like Arlene Foster and Ruth Davidson, in order to secure more investment in the Cornish economy and to devise new policy initiatives which meet Cornwall’s specific needs.

They now have a chance to show that they are Cornwall’s representatives in Westminster, rather than Westminster’s reps in Cornwall. The question is: will they rise to the challenge?

Symbolically, they could start by showing their commitment to Cornwall, as a political and economic unit, by using their influence to end the parliamentary boundary review, and stop the creation of a cross-Tamar Devonwall seat.

MK news update and Cornish Nation no. 75


Mebyon Kernow has just published the latest edition of Cornish Nation, which has been emailed or posted to all MK members.

If you are not already a member and would like a complimentary copy, please get in contact via dickcole@btinternet.com. Please specify whether you would like a paper or digital copy.

This edition includes a detailed summary of the recent local election campaign in which MK’s four Cornwall Councillors were re-elected to the unitary authority. It also includes a summary of the reasons why MK’s National Executive took the decision to not put forward candidates for the snap General Election which took place on 8th June. It was not an easy decision, but we concluded that it would not be possible to prepare or finance a meaningful campaign while our immediate priority had to be the local elections.

As you will see, we felt that we needed to focus our immediate efforts on “building local support and boosting our all-year-round campaigns for Cornwall, while supporting the key work of MK councillors recently re-elected onto the unitary authority, along with our representatives on town and parish councils.”

If you are not already actively involved with your local branch, I would appeal to you to get in contact to find out more about what you can do:

- For Mid Cornwall, ring me on 07791 876607.
- For North and East Cornwall, ring Cllr Andrew Long on 07812 597257.
- For West Cornwall, ring Cllr Loveday Jenkin on 07718 763566.

And if you live outside of Cornwall, please consider how you might be able to assist us through social media or some other means.

It is also the case that the failure of the Conservatives to secure an overall majority on 8th June has raised the prospect of another General Election. With this in mind, MK‘s National Executive will be meeting within a couple of weeks or so to discuss how we would approach such a contest. We will, of course, keep all members informed about our plans.

Saturday, 3 June 2017

Soundbites and policy chaos

My article in this coming week’s Cornish Guardian is unsurprisingly about the General Election. It will be as follows:

In the pages of this newspaper, I have already expressed my exasperation at the cynical manner in which the Prime Minister called this snap General Election.

The Conservatives had certainly honed their soundbites in advance and it sometimes seems to me that they are struggling to utter a single sentence without saying “strong and stable.” I am likewise fed up with the ever-present and deceptive claim that other parties believe there is a fictitious “magic money tree.”

But I am astounded at how the policy basis of the Conservative campaign has been shambolic. This is very disturbing as they are the present party of government, but have nonetheless chopped and changed their policies during the election campaign.

First up, there was the announcement of their new approach to adult social care, which fell into disarray when it was widely branded a “dementia tax.” The Tories did a dramatic u-turn, but further let themselves down by repeatedly claiming that nothing had changed.

And then there was housing. I was quite surprised – but also pleased – when the Conservatives pledged they would build “a new generation of homes for social rent.” But they have already backtracked, saying that the properties would have to be “let at significantly less affordable rents.”

Worryingly, the Government’s housing minister tried to downplay the change which left professionals questioning whether he understood his own brief to provide genuinely affordable homes for local communities.

The extent of funding cuts to the Police has also been a massive issue during this most recent campaign, particularly following the terrible events in Manchester. The Chairman of the Police Federation has even gone public to raise concerns about the level of resources for local constabularies, while other officers have claimed that they are “desperately understaffed.”

Government MPs claim that since the 2015 Spending Review they have protected “overall police spending in real terms.” But they seem to forget to mention the massive cuts since 2010 which led to loss of 20,000 police jobs.

I am afraid that I cannot forget or forgive them for their broken promises from the 2010 General Election. In one local leaflet, the-then shadow Home Secretary claimed: “It is dishonest to claim that we will cut police officer numbers. In fact, our plans to cut bureaucracy and red tape mean that there would be more police on the street …” The local candidate in St Austell and Newquay added that her party did not “make any uncosted promises” adding “we have done the sums and will … put more police on patrol.”

As a councillor from the China Clay Area, who is presently campaigning against the loss of local Police Community Support Officers, I feel it is unconscionable that representatives of the present government failed to live up to their past election pledges and claims.

More representative sport for Cornwall?


My article in the most recent edition of the Cornish Guardian took its start from the “county championship final.” It was as follows:

Along with many other Cornish people, my wife and I were away from Cornwall last weekend. We made the trek to Twickenham to watch rugby’s “county championship” final between Cornwall and Lancashire.

Having won the title in 2015 and 2016, the Cornish boys sadly fell at the final hurdle on this occasion. But throughout the whole of this latest campaign, the players were truly magnificent and played their hearts out. The 45-28 victory over Hertfordshire in front of 3,500 people at the Recreation Ground in Camborne – which secured this latest final appearance – will certainly live long in my memory.

It was great to see a large amount of black and gold on display at “Rugby HQ” – a wonderful display of Cornishness. It was also heartening to be part of such a good-natured contingent from the Duchy, making a massive amount of noise and taking over the “Line Out Bar” for a raucous sing-song lead by our very own Betty Stogs.

The team in black and gold has always been an important part of our Cornish identity, but there have been some recent reports – quoting senior figures at the RFU – that question the value and very existence of the championship.

In years past, Cornish teams even played a number of games against other national teams, including Japan and Russia, but opportunities for representative rugby have become much more limited following the advent of professionalism in the sport.

And I think that any attempt to dismantle or undermine the present championship would be a very sad day for Cornish rugby.

In this column, I often write about our campaigns to secure greater political recognition for Cornwall and the 2014 recognition of the Cornish as a national minority and the ongoing fight to get central government to act on its obligations.

But this need not just be about politics, economic matters and culture. Why shouldn’t it also be about sport? Why shouldn’t this greater recognition for the historic nation of Cornwall also lead to more opportunities for sportspeople to play representative sport for Cornwall?

Just look at the 71 nations at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. As well as contingents from Scotland and Wales, there were also teams from other parts of the British Isles such as Guernsey, Jersey and the Isle of Man – all with populations much less than that of Cornwall!

Indeed, Cornwall was the only Celtic part of the United Kingdom without a team at the 2014 Games.

Surely it would be right for the Cornish nation to be represented at future Games, with our national team in black and gold playing in the rugby sevens competition, and our flag flying proudly alongside those of other Commonwealth countries, both large and small.

Friday, 26 May 2017

Where do the Westminster parties stand ...


My article in this week’s Cornish Guardian addressed the failure of the largest Westminster parties to mention Cornwall in their manifestos and MKs challenge to all General Election candidates. It was as follows:

The decision of Mebyon Kernow not to contest the General Election has been quite widely reported.

This year, our focus was on the local elections and the timing of the announcement during these council contests meant that, with our level of resources, it would have been frankly impractical to put together and finance a meaningful campaign.

MK will not be formally endorsing any other political party though, of course, our individual members will be making their own choices as to how they engage with the election.

As an organization, we will be actively lobbying would-be MPs on those issues which we believe are important for the residents of Cornwall. With this in mind, I have looked at the manifestos of the three largest Westminster parties.

I was very disappointed – but not surprised – that the Conservative Party (even with six MPs in the Duchy) did not once mention Cornwall in its policy document. The Labour Party manifesto likewise failed to mention Cornwall at all, though in both documents there are plenty of references to Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, London and a host of other places.

To be fair to the Liberal Democrats, in their manifesto, Cornwall does get a couple of mentions in their sections on constitutional reform. But it is all a bit garbled and mixes up local and regional government – they promise” devolution on demand” and “greater devolution” of powers to “Councils or groups of Councils working together – for example to a Cornish Assembly …”

This week, I have written to all candidates standing in Cornish constituencies and asked what they would do on four key issues if elected.

The first issue is fair funding. It is well known that public services in Cornwall have received less funding than other parts of the United Kingdom for many years. This situation has been worsened by massive cuts from recent governments, and surely local people need to know how would-be MPs and their parties would tackle this issue.

Second, Cornwall’s economic performance is less than 75% of the EU average. Brexit means that Cornwall will lose structural and other funds, causing great uncertainty for local businesses, farmers and others. We need to know which parties will guarantee investment to Cornwall in lieu of the EU funds and not just in the short term.

Third, many people in Cornwall are frustrated at the lack of local control over a host of issues. MK has long campaigned for greater self-government for Cornwall through the creation of a National Assembly, but we have called on would-be MPs to campaign for the devolution of all aspects of planning to Cornwall.

And fourth, in 2014 the UK Government recognised the Cornish as a “national minority” and agreed to a wide range of obligations through the Framework Convention. But sadly, it has since failed to act on these duties and our question to the candidates is simple. What will you do for the Cornwall’s unique identity?

My latest monthly report

At last week’s meeting of St Enoder Parish Council, I presented my latest monthly report. It covered the time period 27th March to 14th May 2017. It was as follows:

1. The result of the election

The last few weeks have been dominated by the elections to Cornwall Council and I am very pleased to have been re-elected to serve my home parish on the unitary authority.

I would like to say a massive thank you to everyone who voted for me, and I would also like to thank the many people for their kind comments and support throughout the election campaign.

The full result was as follows:

Dick Cole (MK) - 1,090
Rachel Andrews (Con) - 143
Kate Martin (Lib Dem) - 74

This level of support is truly humbling and I will continue to work really hard for St Enoder Parish and do my best to repay the faith that local people have shown in me.

2. Council meetings

There have been a limited number of formal meetings in recent weeks, principally because of the unitary authority elections. I have attended three Cornwall Council meetings: Full Council, Constitution and Governance Committee, and the “national minority” working group tasked with the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities and how it affects the Cornish. In addition, I have attended a range of informal meetings about local issues.

Since election day, I have attended two induction days for councillors and a host of training sessions are being arranged for members of the unitary authority in the coming weeks. Indeed, it has been a bit “déjà vu” since I was re-elected and last week I attended meetings with planning officers about (i) the ongoing issues relating to the biogas plant at Higher Fraddon and (ii) the planning applications relating to the Carvynick – see below for more detail.

In the same period, I have also been at three meetings of St Enoder Parish Council and the Annual Assembly, at which I presented my annual report for 2016/2017.

3. Other meetings

I have also attended three meetings of the board of ClayTAWC at St Dennis, of which I am Chairman.

4. Fraddon Post Office

Fraddon Post Office closed on 24th April and the Parish Council Clerk and I are continuing to put pressure on Post Office Ltd to reinstall provision in the eastern end of the Parish. We met with two representatives of the organisation on 3rd May.

The situation was little changed from the meetings in March and Post Office Ltd is still adamant that the provision of a local Post Office needs to be in partnership with a local retail unit. We continue to point out that such options are not apparent in the Fraddon / Indian Queens / St Columb Road area at this time.

There were also discussions at that meeting about the need for outreach to serve the eastern part of the Parish, though Post Office Ltd are still stating that they would be looking to only do two three-hour sessions each week. A number of local Post Office branches (with the relevant equipment and trained staff) have been approached to provide the outreach but all have declined.

Post Office Ltd is looking at where the outreach services might be provided and the options as to who might provide the actual service.

In addition, we have asked Post Office Ltd to liaise with Royal Mail about how they deal with mail that could not be delivered. We expressed concern that local people are having to drive to Newquay to pick up post and they stated that they thought it would be possible to involve a Post Office branch that was much closer to our area.

The Parish Council has also launched a petition which will hopefully show the strength of local feeling on this issue.

5. Update on biogas plant and pig farm at Higher Fraddon

I attended a meeting with planning officers on 12th May for an update about the above planning permissions and the discharge of various conditions.

In terms of the consent for the biogas plant, which was granted on 6th September, the update is as follows:

Condition 1 states that, “within 9 months of the date of this permission,” the height of one of the secondary digester should be reduced. It is highly unlikely this will be achieved within the above time-frame, and Greener for Life have tried to submit a further planning application to reduce the amount by which the height must be reduced. I have however since heard that the company no longer intend to submit such an application.

Condition 4 states that “within four months of the date of this permission, a detailed `Construction Management Plan' (CMP) … shall be submitted to and approved in writing by the Local Planning Authority (LPA) … for the reduction in height of the secondary digester and other necessary construction works including surface water drainage and the commissioning phase of the anaerobic digester plant.” A CMP has not been agreed and the Council is looking to serve a “breach of condition notice.” Greener for Life has just submitted further information for the discharge of this condition.

Condition 5 states that “prior to the reduction in the height of the secondary digester and other works, a scheme for the control of pollution during the works shall be submitted to and approved in writing by the Local Planning Authority (LPA). This should take the form of a Construction Environment Management Plan (CEMP) …” This has not yet been done, even though the timetable states that the works on the dome should be completed by June 6th 2017. Greener for Life has just submitted further information for the discharge of this condition.

Condition 6 which sets out the “details of a scheme for the provision of surface water management” has been agreed, but cannot be actioned because the CMP (condition 4) has yet to be agreed.

Condition 14 states that the “definition of Heavy Goods Vehicles shall be agreed between the applicant and the Local Planning Authority [and] within one month of this decision a list of vehicles types (including dimensions) of this class that will service the plant.” Cornwall Council has twice refused to discharge this condition as, even though Greener for Life has repeatedly promised to use the douliner vehicle, they did not wish to have any restriction on what sort of HGVs could access the plant. The Council is looking to serve a “breach of condition notice” in relation to this condition.

Condition 16 (approval of a Vehicle Management Policy) has been discharged.

Condition 17 (approval of a scheme of landscaping) has been discharged, but the condition states that “all planting … shall be carried out within six months of the date of this permission …” Because this deadline has not been met, the Council is looking to serve a “breach of condition notice” in relation to this condition.

Condition 20 (agreement of an Odour Management Plan) has been discharged.

Greener for Life also submitted a Section 73 application which sought to modify condition 14 to allow an increase in the number of smaller vehicles accessing the plant, which the Parish Council objected to. Cornwall Council is still accessing this application, though it is clear that more vehicles are travelling to the site than specified in the condition, which the owner repeatedly said was appropriate at the Planning Appeal.

There are also some outstanding issues with the redevelopment of the pig farm, in terms of the insertion of biofilters, surface water drainage and landscaping.

The following letter was received from a representative of the pig farm in late April.

“Progress in respect of the full implementation has been delayed due to a number of factors mainly associated with the procurement and availability of sub-contractors and issues with the availability and delivery of the bio-filters. I am now able to confirm the following:

“Condition 2 – The work on the construction of the surface water drainage and attenuation has now commenced and will be completed in due course.

“Condition 5 – Biofiltration – The retrofitting of the biofilters for buildings 4 and 5 will commence very shortly. However it is not proposed to install the biofilters on buildings 2 and 3 until the biofilters have been installed on buildings 4 and 5 and to allow sufficient time to assess their performance. My clients need to be certain that the biofiltration system on buildings 4 and 5 is fully functional before making any commitment with any further installation. We will therefore provide an update on the performance of the biofilters in respect of buildings 4 and 5 in due course.

“Condition 11 – Landscaping – The work to implement the landscaping scheme has commenced on site and this work will be completed in the current planting season.”

6. Update on Carvynick

I attended a meeting with planning officers on 11th May for an update on progress with the application to remove holiday conditions on the holiday park complex. The meeting was also attended by three representatives from Kingsley Developers.

There was a significant difference in perspective between the planning officers and the owners of the complex. I understand that discussions will be continuing and I will update when there is more clarity.

7. Broadband in Summercourt

As reported at the Annual Assembly, the eastern part of Summercourt around the primary school has had a very poor broadband signal for many years. On behalf of the School and local residents, I made representations to British Telecom on this matter and I am is pleased to be able to confirm that BT has confirmed that the improvement works will be carried out within this financial year and hopefully prior to Christmas.

8. Out and about

One advantage of an election campaign is that you get to stomp around every bit of the Parish and to review progress on matters that have been reported in previous weeks and months. I am presently chasing up on a number of issues and will report in more detail in my next monthly report.

It will come as no surprise to anyone that the issue most often raised with me during the election was traffic, parking, etc. I will be submitting further information to Cornwall Council about concerns at a number of locations and will also report in more detail in my next monthly report.

9. Inquiries


During the couple of months, I have also helped numerous people with advice and guidance on a range of problems which have included anti-social behaviour, housing problems and traffic concerns.

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

News from Full Council; 23rd May 2017


The first meeting of the new Cornwall Council took place today.

It was a relatively subdued affair which commenced with a minute’s silence for the victims of the terrible attack in Manchester. This was followed by a series of heartfelt tributes to Cllr Steve Rogerson who passed away suddenly during the local election campaign. A further minute’s silence was held in his memory.

Mary May (Penryn) and Hilary Frank (Saltash) were elected to serve as Chairman and Vice-Chairman of the Council. Their’s were the only nominations and both votes were unanimous.

The contest for leader of the Council was between Adam Paynter, representing the Liberal and Independent groups, and the Conservative’s Phil Seeva, who proposed a minority Tory administration.

Adam was successful – with 70 votes against the 44 secured by his Tory opponent. There was one abstention. I can confirm that the MK group voted for the Liberal and Independent administration.

And obviously, there was also time for the “first day at school” group photograph.

Thursday, 11 May 2017

The absurdity of election coverage …


As someone who has fought a lot of elections for Mebyon Kernow, both at local and parliamentary level (Westminster and European), I have worked ridiculously hard to generate coverage in the mainstream media. And it has been very, very difficult to get fair coverage for MK.

Today, MK announced that it would not be contesting seats at the 2017 General Election. It was not an easy decision. The statement can be found at: Statement on General Election

As a consequence, I have spent much of the day dealing with the media. I did a live interview with Radio Cornwall at 7.00 this morning, and I have also recorded interviews with both ITV (top left) and BBC Spotlight (top right).

It all seems so strange. We pretty much got zero coverage of our local election campaign on television and really struggled to get meaningful coverage during previous elections - even when we announced candidates!

And yet we announce we are not going to do something – we get much more coverage.

Saturday, 6 May 2017

Mebyon Kernow is top choice in Clay Country


MK activists in the St Austell and Newquay constituency focused resources on five seats for the Cornwall Council elections on May 4th and the results show that, in the local elections, MK was the most popular choice for voters.

A summary of the popular vote in the China Clay Area was as follows:

Mebyon Kernow (five candidates) – 2,383 votes
Conservatives (six candidates) – 1,739 votes
Independents (six candidates) – 1,712 votes
Liberal Democrats (six candidates) – 973 votes
UKIP (one candidate) – 100 votes

Matt Luke and I successfully defended our seats, and we achieved two second places. The others seats were won by the Conservatives (2) and independents (2).

The full results were as follows:

Bugle
Conservative – 488
Garry Tregidga (MK) – 360
Liberal Democrat – 354
Independent – 84

Penwithick and Boscoppa
Matt Luke (MK) – 397
Conservative – 381
Liberal Democrat – 174

Roche
Independent – 601
Brian Higman (MK) – 369
Conservative – 140
UKIP – 100
Liberal Democrat – 72

St Dennis
Independent – 363
Independent – 271
Independent – 199
Conservative – 103
Liberal Democrat – 39

St Enoder
Dick Cole (MK) – 1,090
Conservative – 143
Liberal Democrat – 74

St Stephen
Conservative – 484
Liberal Democrat – 260
Independent – 194
Jerry Jefferies (MK) – 167

In the town and parish council election, five members were elected unopposed. These were Michael Bunney (St Goran), myself (St Enoder), Brian Higman (Roche), David Holman (St Mewan) and Matt Luke (Treverbyn).

Matt Facey stood in Mevagissey and topped the poll for the Parish Council with 515 votes, while Julie Fox polled 348 votes for a seat on St Austell Town Council – missing out on election by only 22 votes.

Well done all for your hard work and support.

Friday, 5 May 2017

A thank you to all MK candidates


As the leader of Mebyon Kernow, I would like to personally thank all the MK candidates who stood in the elections yesterday. Thank you for always having the best interests of Cornwall at heart, and thank you for having the courage to put yourselves forward. I am proud of you all.

It was another difficult election, largely because of the decision of the Westminster Parliament to call a General Election which, as someone who has been on the campaign trail across Cornwall, I know completely overshadowed local considerations.

And in this political context, I am very pleased that MK’s four existing councillors (Loveday Jenkin, Andrew Long, Matthew Luke (above) and myself) have been re-elected. This is especially so given what has happened to other “small” political parties in Cornwall and across the UK, and maintaining our strength at "County Hall" is not an insignificant achievement.

I am though gutted for Zoe Fox, who missed out on election to Cornwall Council (in Camborne Trelowarren) by only six votes, but I am pleased with strong showings in Clay Country (two second places), Breage, Germoe & Sithney (another second place) and Harrowbarrow, St Dominick & Kelly Bray (a solid third place).

[A more detailed update on the election results (including the town and parish contests) will follow in the near future].

Thank you also to all MK members and supporters who have helped out on the campaign trail. Your help and support has been greatly appreciated.

1,090 VOTES ... THANK YOU

It has been a long day at the election count and, now that I am home, I would like to say a MASSIVE THANK YOU to everyone who voted for me on Thursday. I would also like to thank the many people for their kind comments throughout this day via facebook, text and phone.

For those of you who may nor have seen the full result, it was as follows:

Dick Cole (MK) - 1,090
Rachel Andrews (Con) - 143
Kate Martin (Lib Dem) - 74

This level of support is truly humbling and I will continue to work really hard for St Enoder Parish and repay the faith that you have shown in me.

THANK YOU

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Update on situation with Fraddon Post Office


As everyone is aware, Fraddon Post Office will close on Wednesday, due to the shutting of Kingsley Village in advance of its redevelopment into a retail park.

The Clerk of St Enoder Parish Council and I have had a number of meetings with a local representative of Post Office Ltd, though this organisation has not yet sorted anything in terms of a replacement local Post Office.

Post Office Ltd have approached retail units in the Indian Queens and St Columb Road area, but none have felt themselves to be in a position to take on the service.

As a short-term alternative, Post Office Ltd states that it will look to provide an outreach service (perhaps in a local village hall), but the Parish Council has been told that they would only look to provide a total of six hours a week spread over two sessions. It is also the case that none of those existing Post Offices (with the equipment to do outreach) have yet expressed an interest in the work.

We have challenged the “offer” of six hours, which is “inadequate.” We have also pointed out that other communities have a greater amount of outreach, such as Mevagissey which has 18 hours spread over four days.

The Parish held its Annual Assembly on 11th April at which councillors fostered a discussion on the situation. As well as parish councillors, this meeting was attended by parishioners and representatives of local groups, and there was considerable anger which is reflected throughout the wider community. A resolution from the floor to make additional representations to senior management of Post Office Ltd was agreed.

In the subsequent wide-ranging letter, which also sought an urgent meeting with senior figures in Post Office Ltd, it was stressed how Fraddon Post Office serves the eastern part of St Enoder Parish (with a resident population of over 4,000 people) and that is incomprehensible that this area would not have its Post Office.

The letter also formally requested that Post Office Ltd is more proactive and that “urgent talks” are held with the new owners (CPG) of Kingsley Village, who were agreeable to a Post Office remaining at Fraddon in the new complex. The planning approval for the site even states that: “A Post Office shall remain within the development,” and it is clear that we need to understand how this might happen and what the timetables will be.

The MP for St Austell and Newquay, Steve Double, has also been contacted and his office is making representations to their contacts within Post Office Ltd.

We know that, at this time, it is vitally important that local people put pressure on the Post Office Ltd to do more to ensure a decent Post Office service in the eastern half of St Enoder Parish. A petition on this important issue is presently being prepared and will be considered at the next meeting of St Enoder Parish Council (Tuesday 24th April).

In addition, we can report that it has just been confirmed that we have secured a meeting with the External Relations Manager from Post Office Ltd on Wednesday 3rd May.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Statement on General Election

As the leader of Mebyon Kernow, I have published the following statement on the announcement of a 2017 General Election.

“Theresa May’s decision to announce a General Election for June 8th represents a political cynicism of the worst kind. Her decision is manifestly not about Brexit; it is all about the self-interest of the Conservative Party.

“In recent months, the Prime Minister has repeatedly stated that there would be no snap General Election, but today’s declaration shows that she has been deliberately and shamefully misleading voters and other political groups - giving the Conservatives a massive organisational advantage.

“It is also disrespectful to call a General Election during the local elections presently taking place in Cornwall, Scotland, Wales and across much of England.

“The lead-up to the June contest will inevitably over-shadow the elections to Cornwall Council and shift the focus away from important local issues and onto Westminster party politics. It also reflects the disregard that the UK government has for local councils and the work that they do.

“I have no wish to hide from the simple fact that such a snap election is very difficult for a political party such as Mebyon Kernow, which lacks the financial resources of the large Westminster political parties.

“At this point, I can confirm that MK’s Executive Committee will be meeting in the near-future to consider the 2017 General Election and our approach to it.”