Tuesday, 17 October 2017

MK calls on Theresa May to end farce of Boundary Review

MK has just released the following statement concerning the Boundary Review:

The leader of Mebyon Kernow – the Party for Cornwall has today called on the Prime Minister to make a formal announcement that she will scrap the Boundary Review that would lead to the creation of an unpopular cross-Tamar constituency.

He was speaking after the Boundary Commission announced revised proposals for constituencies for the next General Election – which included a cross-Tamar seat.

Cllr Dick Cole said: “As someone who has campaigned against the imposition of a ‘Devonwall’ parliamentary constituency for a number of years, I was pleased to see numerous recent newspaper reports that the Conservatives intended to scrap the Boundary Review.

“But I am perplexed that that Theresa May’s Government is allowing the Review to continue – especially as they no longer have a majority in the House of Commons and the recommendations of the Boundary Commission will almost certainly not be supported by opposition MPs or their friends in the Democratic Unionist Party.

“Senior Conservatives have already admitted that their attempt to reduce the number of MPs from 650 to 600 is doomed to failure, and I call on Theresa May to end this farce of a Boundary Review and think again.

“We will certainly be continuing with our campaigns to protect the territorial integrity of Cornwall, and for Cornwall to be treated as a distinct entity for the purposes of governance.”

Boundary Commission proposes Devonwall seat ... AGAIN!

The Boundary Commission for England (BCE) has today published revised proposals for new constituency boundaries tomorrow and commenced an eight-week consultation.

The BCE is still recommending a cross-Tamar Devonwall constituency, and has glossed over the massive level of opposition to this breach of Cornwall’s historic integrity.

At the Boundary Commission hearing in Truro in November, I argued that the whole process – with regard to Cornwall was flawed – and appealed to the BCE that they should recognise this and join us in making representations to central government to rethink their approach, to modify the existing legislation and make sure that a cross-Tamar “Devonwall” constituency is not created.

I am very disappointed, but not surprised, that the BCE has chosen not to do this.

Relevant extracts from the document published today are as follows:

“We noted that the electorate of Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly was 393,874 and that if we were to allocate five constituencies, the average electorate of those five constituencies would be 78,775, which is more than 5% above the electoral quota, and therefore outside the permitted electorate range. We were aware that there would be opposition to the creation of a constituency that crossed the Cornwall county boundary, but we considered that the ‘Rules for distribution of seats’ in Schedule 2 of the Parliamentary Constituencies Act 1986 (as amended) meant that we had no option but to recommend a constituency that crossed the county boundary between Cornwall and Devon.”

“There was a large amount of support for our proposed sub-regions. The main political parties all submitted counterproposals that adhered to the sub-regions, while acknowledging that there were objections to the creation of a ‘Devonwall’ cross-county boundary constituency. For example, the Liberal Democrat Party (BCE-32821) said ‘We protest at the creation of a “cross-border” seat. We recognise the legal and population requirements. We accept the proposed boundaries and name of the cross-border Revised proposals for new constituency boundaries in the South West 13 seat as “Bideford, Bude and Launceston”.’ There were a number of objections from respondents in Cornwall to the combining of Cornwall and Devon, with many citing Cornwall’s separateness from the rest of England – see the Cornish Nationalist Party (BCE-29305), the Cornish Stannary Parliament (BCE-34907 and BCE-31410) and Mebyon Kernow (BCE-29560).”

“There was support for our proposed constituencies, but also many objections to the creation of a so-called ‘Devonwall’ cross-county constituency, as detailed previously in this report. Many of those who objected to a cross-county constituency did not submit a counter-proposal to create five constituencies wholly within Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, each with an electorate within the permitted electorate range. It was argued that Cornwall was a separate entity to the rest of England and should be treated in the same way as Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales in terms of the review. Our assistant commissioners were sympathetic to the arguments against a cross-county constituency between Cornwall and Devon, but accepted that the statutory rules left them with no choice but to recommend such a constituency.”

The consultation website is: www.bce2018.org.uk.

Monday, 16 October 2017

Revised proposals for parliamentary seats to be published tomorrow

Even though there have been numerous reports that the Conservatives intend to scrap the ongoing boundary review, which would otherwise lead to the imposition of a cross-Tamar “Devonwall” parliamentary constituency, the Boundary Commission for England (BCE) is continuing its work.

It will be publishing revised proposals for new constituency boundaries tomorrow (Tuesday 17th October).

There will then be an eight week consultation.

The BCE is stating that this consultation will be the “last chance” for people to have their say before it reports recommendations to central government in September 2018.

The consultation website is:

I will post more information as soon as I get it.

Monday, 9 October 2017

Update on Post Office “outreach” at Indian Queens Victory Hall

Over the last few days, the Clerk of the Parish Council and I have been liaising with the Post Office Ltd about the delays to the start of the Post Office “outreach” at Indian Queens Victory Hall.

I can confirm that the fault on the telephone lines, etc, has been sorted and the Post Office Ltd has today confirmed that the “outreach” service will start this coming Thursday (12th October), between 1.00 and 4.00.

The service will then happen at the Victory Hall twice a week as previously advertised (Tuesday mornings and Thursday afternoons).

Those Tory promises on housing ... some comments

In her address to the Conservative Party Conference last week, the Prime Minister has quite a lot to say about housing and, in particular, affordable housing.

Theresa May talked about the UK’s “broken housing market,” she pledged to boost investment in affordable housing by £2 billion, and spoke about “getting government back into the business of building houses … a new generation of council houses.”

This general shift in government thinking has, I think, been quite widely welcomed, though a range of housing experts have been extremely dismissive of the scale of the boost in investment.

For example, Michael Oxley, the director of the Cambridge Centre for housing and planning research described it as “chicken feed,” while Anna Minton, the author of Big Capital, called it “laughable.” She added that the number of rental homes that would be built as a consequence was “pathetic” and would make little difference to the “worst housing crisis in modern times.”

Personally, I consider the present Government and their immediate predecessors to be a key part of the problem. After all, it was the Tories who started selling off council housing in the 1980s, which was a key factor in unbalancing the housing market, and their more recent policy prescriptions have also been very damaging.

They have overseen a massive reduction in investment in affordable properties. They have re-invigorated ”right-to-buy” and stopped investing in “social rent” properties, dictated that Housing Associations must focus on the much more expensive “affordable rent” model (that sets rents at 80% of the inflated cost of private sector rents), and even came up with a nonsensical scheme for “affordable” starter homes, which would cost first-time buyers “no more than £250,000.”

It is little wonder that I remain extremely cynical about the Conservative Party’s commitment to genuine affordable housing.

But I did notice that the Prime Minister stated that the Conservatives would, once again, “allow homes to be built for social rent, well below market level.” She did, though, qualify this by specifying it would be “in those parts of the country where the need is greatest,” and I have no idea if the UK Government considers this to include Cornwall!

As a local councillor, I fully support the increased provision of “social rent” homes which often cost around £400 a month, as I have always opposed the focus on “affordable rent” properties which delivers, for example, three-bed houses with rental costs in excess of £600 a month that many low-income families struggle to pay.

At this time, we need to continue to put pressure on the UK Government to deliver genuine affordable housing and that includes converting existing “affordable rent” properties into less expensive “social rent” ones.

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

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Thank you for the messages of support

Over the last few days, I have received a large number of positive messages from people wishing to compliment me on lasting twenty years in the position of leader of Mebyon Kernow and for the work I have done in that time, for Cornwall and my local community of St Enoder Parish.

I am most grateful for everyone who has taken the time to get in contact and to express their support. Thank you.

Looking back over the last twenty years

It has been exactly twenty years since I was elected the leader of Mebyon Kernow. The role has certainly been a massive part of my adult life and little did I think that, two decades on, I would still be in post!

It has been an absolute honour to lead the Party for Cornwall, and I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has campaigned with me during this time.

It has been hard work. There have been many highs, it has often been frustrating, and there have been many lows as well.

High points in terms of MK include being the author of the “Declaration for a Cornish Assembly,” which was signed by over 50,000 people in 2000 and 2001, and still stands out as a powerful demand from the people of Cornwall for a meaningful devolution settlement.

It was fantastic to be part of the wide-ranging campaign that secured the recognition of the Cornish through the Council of Europe’s Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities.

Personally, I feel my election as a Mebyon Kernow councillor for my home parish was my key accomplishment. It has been a great privilege to have served St Enoder Parish since 1999, and I am grateful to all those local residents who have continued to support me with their votes.

But politics can be tough, and I must admit my frustrations at MK’s difficulties in making progress in a political system conducted through the prism of Westminster.

In Cornwall, MK has proved itself able to be competitive in council elections and a number of members have been elected. But it has been very different when it comes to parliamentary elections, where voters have been less willing to give MK their support. It has certainly not helped that MK, as a “regional” political party, has been denied party election broadcasts at such times, and the “mainstream” media, such as the main television channels, very rarely deem MK worthy of coverage.

But, looking back over the last twenty years, perhaps the most saddening thing has been the failure of the UK Government to act properly on so many demands coming from Cornwall.

Just take the 50,000 declarations for a Cornish Assembly and our national minority status as examples. The declarations have been ignored and, instead of bringing devolution proposals, Westminster has centralised and undermined local government structures in Cornwall. And it is also the case that central government has failed to act it on its obligations – cultural, linguistic, political and economic – enshrined in the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities.

This all reinforces to me that MK, as a pro-Cornwall political force, is needed now as much as ever, and it is my intention to continue playing my part in the years to come.

My time as leader of the Party for Cornwall will be marked at the afternoon session of MK’s 2017 National Conference, which will be held at Bodmin’s Shire House Suite on 18th November. Anyone interested in coming along would be very welcome.

[This is my article in today’s Cornish Guardian newspaper].

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Interview on Radio Cornwall tomorrow

Earlier today, I did an interview with Radio Cornwall's James Churchfield about my twenty years as the leader of Mebyon Kernow - the Party for Cornwall.

It will be broadcast on tomorrow's breakfast show.

Monday, 2 October 2017

BAD NEWS – Delay to opening of Post Office “outreach” at Indian Queens Victory Hall

This afternoon, Post Office Ltd has been in contact to say that the Post Office “outreach” will not be starting at Indian Queens Victory Hall, tomorrow, as advertised.

I have been told that this is because of a fault with the telephone line somewhere between Indian Queens Victory Hall and the Post Office branch at Summercourt, which will be responsible for the service.

As someone who has been circulating newsletters publicising the opening, you can probably imagine just how absolutely exasperated I am.

I have been in contact with a senior person in Post Office Ltd this afternoon. She has asked me to send on her apologies to the local community. She has also confirmed that BT will be on site tomorrow to deal with the fault. The Post Office Ltd will then send in their staff to configure the computers systems, etc.

This shouldn't take too long (fingers crossed) and I will let everyone know when this has been done and when we have a new start date for the service.

If you know of anyone who might have been planning to use the service tomorrow, or Thursday, please let them about the delay to save any wasted journeys.

Sunday, 1 October 2017

Cornwall Live article on my 20 years as MK leader

Thank you to Richard Whitehouse for his positive article on the www.cornwalllive.com website about my twenty years as the leader of Mebyon Kernow.

I am really quite pleased with what he has had to say.

Here is a particularly kind extract:

Dick Cole – proud Cornishman, vocal politician and all round nice guy. This is probably the description that you would get from most who have encountered the leader of Mebyon Kernow.

This week he celebrates 20 years at the head of the only purely Cornish political party …

“When I took on the role 20 years ago I had no thought that I would be doing it 20 years later,” he says with a warm chuckle.

“I just hope that it shows that I can be quite passionate in standing up for the things I believe in and my local community.”

That is a massive understatement – Dick is one of the most recognisable names and faces in Cornish politics and is well known for the passionate speeches he has given in the council chamber at Lys Kernow over the years.

When Dick stands up to speak he commands the respect of all in the chamber, no matter what their political persuasion and he is also listened to. On most occasions he is also a rare voice of reason in amongst the often party political posturing which sometimes occurs.

When it has come to issues such as the creation of the unitary authority which shut down the former borough and district councils it was Dick who spoke most passionately to raise concerns that it would lead to a democratic deficit – a similar argument he is making now about plans to cut the number Cornwall Council members from 123 to just 87.

He has also been outspoken on issues such as the incinerator in St Dennis, the plans to impose thousands of new homes across Cornwall and the proposed eco-town.

And when he fights for these issues he is battling on the side of the people and railing against the authorities which are imposing them. Above all he is always consistent and always researches his arguments to a high level.

The full article can be viewed at:
Cornwall Live article on twenty years as MK leader

Marking twenty years as the leader of Mebyon Kernow

This coming Wednesday (4th October) will mark the twentieth anniversary of my election as leader of Mebyon Kernow – the Party for Cornwall.

I will have more to say closer to the actual date of the anniversary, but the first media report of my two years at the helm of MK can be found on the Cornish Stuff website.

News report on Cornish Stuff