Wednesday, 6 June 2018

Remembering Robert F. Kennedy

My article in this week’s Cornish Guardian remembers Robert F. Kennedy. It is as follows:

Robert F. Kennedy, who was assassinated fifty years ago today, once said that “the purpose of life is to contribute in some way to making things better.” Such a simple, but also profound, statement tells us a lot about the character of a man, who we should remember today with great respect.

Robert was one of the younger brothers of John F. Kennedy, who was US President from 1961 until he was murdered in 1963. As a lawyer, Robert was active in governmental circles throughout the 1950s and served as US Attorney General during his brother’s term of office, before he was himself elected to serve on the US Senate for the state of New York.

As he grew into his public roles, he became a powerful advocate for civil rights in the United States of America, as well as human rights around the globe. And in the 1960s, he also became a champion for America’s poor, many of whom were struggling to make ends meet, both in rural areas and the cities.

Five decades on from his death, it is right that we recall his attempts to make the World a better place as well as some of his eloquence that defined the manner in which he lived his life.

Indeed, it is perhaps best, at this time, that we let his words speak for themselves.

Early in his career, in 1954, he addressed a number of South African students and famously said: “Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centres of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance."

Robert Kennedy’s also had a genuine ability to reach out and inspire people to get involved with public affairs or their community.

On one occasion, he said: “Few will have the greatness to bend history itself; but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total; of all those acts will be written the history of this generation.”

And on another: “All great questions must be raised by great voices, and the greatest voice is the voice of the people – speaking out – in prose, or painting or poetry or music; speaking out – in homes and halls, streets and farms, courts and cafes – let that voice speak and the stillness you hear will be the gratitude of mankind.”

It is right that we continue to promote such powerful sentiments and see how we can each be a force for good.

Saturday, 2 June 2018

Next MK meeting in St Austell & Newquay Constituency

The next meeting for Mebyon Kernow members in the St Austell & Newquay Constituency has been arranged to take place this Friday (8th June).

The meeting will take place at ClayTAWC in St Dennis and start at 7.30.

Party members will be planning our approach to numerous campaigns and activities in our local area – and all are welcome.

Anyone from the St Austell & Newquay Constituency, who would be interested in attending the meeting and / or finding out more about MK and its local campaigns, can call me on 07791 876607 or email

Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Great editorial in Cornish Guardian

Today's Cornish Guardian also had a positive editorial in favour of a Cornish tickbox. It was as follows:

It may not be debated with the same fervour as Brexit or the same passion as changes to the NHS, but the campaign to to have Cornish identity recognised with a 'tick box' on the next census is an important one.

Cornwall has long been considered a Celtic nation, yet it continues to be treated as a second-class citizen compared to its cousins in Scotland, Ireland and Wales. 

All six MPs representing Cornwall in Westminster have campaigned for a Cornish tick box at the 2021 census and it now may be one step closer.

Steve Double, Conservative MP for St Austell and Newquay has secured an adjournment debate in Parliament on June 11 where the case for full recognition of Cornish national identity in the next national headcount will be argued.

While there are no guarantees that the Office of National Statistics will adhere to the words of our Cornish MPs, there is no denying that the current census options do not recognise Cornwall's unique identity and the overwhelming demand from Cornishmen and Cornishwomen to be recognised as a nation of people in their own right.

Pleased to welcome support of MPs for Cornish tickbox

In today's Cornish Guardian, my article praises Cornish MPs for their support for a Cornish tickbox on the 2021 census, and looks forward at what the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities should mean for Cornwall. The article is as follows:

Cornish 'tick box' is the least we can expect from census

It is more than four years since the Cornish were recognised as a national minority by the UK Government through the Council of Europe. It was a truly landmark decision. But central government has, thus far, failed to treat the Cornish in the same manner as other national minorities, such as the Scots and the Welsh, which it promised in 2014.

An Advisory Committee from the Council of Europe visited the United Kingdom in March 2016 and, last year, published an Opinion which was very critical of how the UK Government and other public bodies were complying with the articles of the relevant Framework Convention with regard to the Cornish,

I am optimistic that this situation will improve in the coming months, and it is to be welcomed that Cornish MP Steve Double has been appointed to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

Mr Double himself has issued a serious and forthright statement about bringing his “Cornish credentials” to the organisation, adding that “it was the Council of Europe that granted ethnic minority status to Cornish people,” something he was “keen to ensure we make the most of.”

Cornwall’s MPs have thrown their weight behind the campaign to secure a Cornish tickbox on the next census, and they have secured an adjournment debate in the House of Commons to consider issues relating to Cornish identity and the 2021 census.

This is all very heartening, and I sincerely hope that the actions of local MPs also reflect a sea-change in the thinking of central government as a whole.

For the sake of Cornwall, we need to win those immediate and symbolic battles to (i) secure the tickbox to give us census parity with the other nationalities of the UK, and (ii) to protect Cornwall’s territorial integrity by preventing the creation of a cross-Tamar “Devonwall” parliamentary constituency.

But that can only be the beginning. There is so much to be done to ensure that the Framework Convention is acted upon and Cornwall gains from the national minority status of its people. As far as I am concerned this needs to include:

- Meaningful devolution to a Cornish Assembly, and the acceptance of Cornwall as a distinct national community for all forms of governance, administration and service provision.
- A formal presence for Cornwall at the British and Irish Council, where the other Celtic parts of the British Isles are already represented, along with the governments of Guernsey and Jersey.
- A Cornish Language Act, the return of the funding for our national language, and the enhanced teaching of Cornish.
- A distinct Cornish offering from the BBC, and other media outlets.

Thursday, 24 May 2018

My latest report to St Enoder Parish Council

Last night, I presented my most recent report to St Enoder Parish Council. It covered the time period: 26th March – 20th May 2018

Listed below are some examples of the work that I have been doing. Please note that this report is not exhaustive.

1. Council meetings

Over the last two months, I have attended a range of formal meetings, briefings and training sessions. These have included: Full Council, a pre-agenda session for Full Council, Cabinet (2), Economic Growth and Development Overview and Scrutiny Committee, National Minority Working Group, a workshop on the content of a Housing DPD (development plan document), meetings with local members from the China Clay Area (2), Group leaders’ meetings (2), one-on-one meeting with the Chief Executive, a training session on planning, and briefings on corporate parenting, the so-called garden village consented near Penwithick, parking, Project Genesis (developing neighbourhood policing for the future) and the stadium for Cornwall.

In the same period, as well as a number of informal meetings with council officers and others, I attended the St Enoder Parish Annual Assembly at which I tabled my annual report. I was also present at five meetings of St Enoder Parish Council and chaired the most recent meeting of the working group tasked with preparing the Neighbourhood Plan.

There was a further meeting between the operators of the pig farm at Higher Fraddon, and council (planning and environmental health) from the council, to discuss issues of odour.

2. Other meetings and activities

I have attended meetings of ClayTAWC (Training and Work Centre for the China Clay Area) (Chairman) and Indian Queens Pit (trustee), plus two meetings of the South and East Cornwall Local Action Group (one of which was the AGM) and the AGM of the St Piran Trust (trustee).

In addition, I went to the most recent meeting of the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Leadership Board (as an observer). The Board considered the “New Frontiers” document, which I wrote about in a previous monthly report.

3. Highway matters

3a. Ongoing highway issues and present work programme

As noted in my last monthly report (March), the recent bad weather has caused a number of highway problems and I have been in regular contact with staff at Cormac. I have reported a host of potholes, many of which have been patched, and raised concerns about a number of areas where the road fabric is deteriorating (eg. The Drang, Carworgie Way, Pocohontas Crescent and Toldish in Indian Queens).

I can confirm that the following areas are in the resurfacing programme for 2018/2019:

- A392 from Newquay Road turning towards White Cross.
- Carnego Lane, Summercourt.
- Road from Melbur Blockworks towards Scarcewater.
- Trefullock Moor.
- Road from A3058 towards Trendeal, as far as the turning towards Goonabarn.
- Trevarren.
- Watery Lane from Black Cross.

In addition, I can confirm that both Carworgie Way and Pocohontas Crescent are already included within the 2019/2020 resurfacing programme, but I will be continuing to lobby for these improvements to be undertaken as soon as it is practicable.

Members will be aware that I have also reported a number of problem areas to the unitary authority, which are still being assessed for inclusion within the main works programme.

Three specific updates are as follows:

- Water rising through the pavement alongside Chapel Road, to the east of Queens Garage. I have been told that the scheme is on the “long list” for consideration, but it is deemed a low priority. It has been reported to me that “the site has been visited by the design group and the asset team individually on several occasions during heavy rain whilst in the area and problems were not witnessed.” This is contrary to my previous experience and, in future, I will be monitoring episodes of rising water in this location.

- Main road through Fraddon. Following a number of flooding incidents in Fraddon in 2013-2015, it was acknowledged that the unitary authority did not fully understand the state of the road drains. Principally this is because the main pipe lies in the centre of the road and there are no manholes which allow direct access into it. In March, Cormac undertook an investigation with trial holes. I have been informed that “the survey work identified a damaged section of pipe in the middle of the road. This has now been repaired, and no other defects have been identified.”

- Flooding at entrance to Gaverigan Manor and nearby road. This is an ongoing problem linked to a road ditch, that I have been raising concerns about for some two years. I am pleased to be able to report that it has just been confirmed that mitigation works will be progressed this year.

I am continuing to follow up a number of localised issues. These include flooding problems at Trefullock, and the need for white lines around Summercourt crossroads.

I can also report that a local resident from St Columb Road, who uses a motorised wheelchair, fell into the road because of the slope linked to dropped kerbs on the pavement on which he was travelling. Cormac’s local Highway and Environment Manager is investigating this issue.

The Highway and Environment Manager has also, following a request from me, removed a redundant sign opposite the doctors’ surgery in St Columb Road, and we are making representations that Fraddon, Indian Queens and St Columb Road are given greater priority in terms of future winter gritting routes.

3b. Community Network Highways Scheme

The unitary authority recently agreed that, for each of the next four years, £50,000 will be allocated to Community Network Panels for highways improvements in their areas. This has been welcomed by Cornwall Councillors, though it is a relatively small amount of money. In the China Clay Area, it will have to be spread across six individual divisions.

How we approach the scheme locally will be discussed at the next Network Panel meeting on Monday 4th June, though it has already been stated that Cornwall Councillors and Parish Councils will need to put forward suggestions in the very near future.

It is my hope that we can have a discussion about how we collectively approach this funding at Tuesday’s Parish Council meeting.

All my previous requests to the unitary authority are still listed with the relevant officers and could form the basis of our discussions. These may be summarised as follows:

- Speed reduction measures / traffic calming at Fraddon, Indian Queens and St Columb Road, which could include traffic calming measures at entry points, possible priority build-outs through the villages, as well as permanent VAS signs.

- Speed reduction measures / traffic calming in Summercourt, which could include traffic calming measures at entry points, possible priority build-outs, as well as permanent VAS signs.

- Traffic management measures to resolve congestion, accessibility, delivery and safety issues relating to the Co-op store in St Columb Road.

- Improved pedestrian phase to existing signalised junction at Summercourt crossroads, to improve safety and accessibility.

- Access improvements at Indian Queens Primary School, which were agreed when the planning permission was granted for additional classrooms. These measures include pedestrian crossing improvements and footpath links/improvements (eg. across field to Harvenna Heights). It needs to be stated that I am continuing to push for these works to undertaken outside of the scope of this Community Network Highways Scheme.

- 20 mph speed limit and related highway improvements outside Summercourt School.

- Traffic calming at New Road near Fraddon and at Sea View Terrace on the road to St Stephen.

In addition to the above, I can report that Cornwall Council has submitted a bid to central government to make improvements along the A3058 to the north of Summercourt. It has been with the Department of Transport for a number of months, but no response has been received.

3c. Speeding traffic

I have been liaising with Cormac about undertaking some additional monitoring of traffic speeds in a number of locations, and I will make my formal requests once the Parish Council has considered its approach to the Community Network Highways Scheme.

3d. Parking matters and parking enforcement

In recent months, I have served on the “positive parking” Inquiry Panel. Obviously much of the focus has been on car parks in Cornwall’s towns but enforcement matters have also been considered.

The Inquiry has agreed a recommendation to Cabinet that there be a more equitable distribution in terms of civic enforcement and I am due to attend a further meeting to make further representations to the relevant Cabinet Member on this point.

4. Changes to bus services through Summercourt

First has announced that it will be reducing the frequency of buses between Summercourt and Truro. It is two years since we were able to get buses back onto this route (following the collapse of Western Greyhound) and I am very disappointed that this is happening.

The Managing Director of First SW has responded to my queries and stated that the decision to reduce the number of buses is because are not enough passengers. In one email to me, he stated that following;

“Over a 37 week period from last summer through to February this year, the average number of passengers either boarding a 90 bus at Summercourt bound for Truro, or arriving back in Summercourt from the Truro direction, was 0.19 per journey – so less than 1 passenger boarding or alighting for every 5 journeys we routed through Summercourt on the 90 service to/from Truro.”

The full timetable for Summercourt-Truro services from Tuesday 29th May (including both First and Travel Cornwall), is as follows;

Monday to Saturday (except Public Holidays)

Departures from Summercourt (London Inn)
0700hrs Travel Cornwall service 497
0717hrs First Kernow service 92 (MF)
0810hrs Travel Cornwall service 497 (NSD)
0810hrs Travel Cornwall service 497 (S)
0930hrs First Kernow service 95
0935hrs Travel Cornwall service 497
1050hrs Travel Cornwall service 497 (S)
1130hrs First Kernow service 95
1235hrs Travel Cornwall service 497
1315hrs First Kernow service 95
1435hrs Travel Cornwall service 497 (NSD)
1435hrs Travel Cornwall service 497 (S)
1535hrs First Kernow service 95

Departures from Truro
1010hrs Bus Station First Kernow service 95
1147hrs Boscawen Street Travel Cornwall service 497
1210hrs Bus Station First Kernow service 95
1255hrs Lemon Quay Travel Cornwall service 497 (S)
1347hrs Boscawen Street Travel Cornwall service 497
1355hrs Bus Station First Kernow service 95
1615hrs Bus Station First Kernow service 95
1715hrs Bus Station First Kernow service 92
1730hrs Boscawen Street Travel Cornwall service 484
1804hrs Lemon Quay Travel Cornwall service 497

MF: Monday to Friday only
NSD: Monday to Friday during Cornwall School Holidays only
S: Saturday only

In speaking to the Managing Director of First, I have informed him that I will continue to seek information about how well the bus services are being used, so that I can lobby for as good a service as we can get.

5. Tidy-up of the Kelliers

I was also pleased to take part in the two “tidy-up” sessions for the top part of the Kelliers on 22nd April and 20th May. The amount of rubbish on the site was very significant and I would like to thank all parish councillors and volunteers who helped out.

On 22nd April, we filled a large skip but also collected approximately 140 tyres, some gas bottles and a fridge, which were collected by Cornwall Council.

It should be noted that dealing with the fly-tipping was the Parish Council’s responsibility, as it was on Parish Council land. However, as the vast majority of the waste had been dumped prior to the Parish Council securing ownership of the site, the unitary authority agreed to dispose of the tyres and gas bottles.

On 20th May, we filled a further skip and found another twenty tyres, two gas bottles and a cooker.

6. Vote on stadium

On 17th April, councillors voted by 69 votes to 41 to agree funding of £3 million towards the stadium for Cornwall. There were seven abstentions. I was pleased to support the investment and, for me, the starting point for the debate was a simple one. It is my view that it is shameful Cornwall does not have the same sporting facilities and venues that other parts of the United Kingdom take for granted.

In addition, I could see that the £3 million from Cornwall Council would lead to spend in the local economy of £8 million from local partners and a further £3 million from the UK Government.

The funds will come from the Economic Development Match Funding pot, which must be used to boost the local economy. I must admit that I was therefore frustrated that a number of councillors argued that “public” money should not be spent on “private” projects. As elected members, they were fully aware that a great deal of “public” money – especially from EU structural funds – is granted to local businesses, large and small, to create jobs and boost productivity.

I also felt that many opponents of the proposal downplayed the importance of the role of Truro and Penwith College, which is already a significant local centre for elite sport. A stadium on their doorstep will represent a fantastic advance for educational opportunities and for local youngsters with aspirations to do well in sport.

7. PCSOs

For than 15 months, I have been making representations about the planned reduction in Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) and how this will impact on our area. I attended another meeting about “Project Genesis” at County Hall last week, when I made further comment about Clay Country and our need for PCSO coverage in our area.

I continue to be frustrated that we have yet to receive any commitments about future policing levels.

8. St Austell Story

The St Austell Bay Economic Forum (SABEF) has produced a narrative to promote economic regeneration in Mid Cornwall. SABEF is meant to cover not just the town but also the coast to the south as well as the whole of the China Clay Area.

As the name suggests, the main focus is on St Austell and reference to Clay Country is quite limited. My priority has been to speak up for the parishes of the China Clay Area, and I will be continuing to do this in the coming weeks and months, hopefully securing a stronger focus on the areas to the north and west of the town.

9. World War 1 project

The project is progressing well and a community engagement session as held on 21st April at Indian Queens Victory Hall. A number of people have supplied photographs of fallen servicemen in recent weeks. The two most recent ones were of William Nail, who was active within the congregation of Black Cross Methodist Chapel, and Albert Samuel Williams, who lived at Primrose Cottage at Toldish and whose father was a local councillor after the war.

10. Inquiries

During the last month, I have helped numerous people with guidance on a range of issues.

Wednesday, 23 May 2018

In support of PCSOs

It is some fifteen months since I first wrote about the Police and Crime Plan (2017-2020) for the Devon and Cornwall Constabulary, and raised significant concerns about the proposal to phase out more than half of the Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs).

At the time, we were informed that the number of PCSOs would be cut from 360 to just 150 across the whole of the force area (Cornwall and Devon).

It is well known that I am a strong supporter of PCSOs and really appreciate the fantastic work they do in our local communities. As I have written many times before, I consider that the officers have been very effective in their roles, understand local communities, and have strong working relationships with Parish Councils and other bodies.

Along with many other councillors, particularly my colleagues in the China Clay Area, I have repeatedly lobbied the Police and Crime Commissioner, Alison Hernandez, on this matter. And I was pleased when, at a Cornwall Council briefing (September 2017), Ms Hernandez indicated that she and the Chief Constable were going to review the reductions in PCSO number, which they suggested were actually too onerous.

I was therefore extremely disappointed to attend another update, last week, about the Neighbourhood Policing Review, now known as “Project Genesis.”

It was stated that the local police force had to react to “changing priorities,” but would retain the “ethos” of community policing and do nothing to undermine “connectivity” with local communities.

And yet, the presentation simply trotted the old line that the number of PCSOs would be cut to 150, and there was no confirmation about any lessening of staff cuts as previously stated by the Commissioner.

It remains my view that the loss of PCSOs would have a devastating impact on community policing, particularly in rural areas, and the key priority in the Police and Crime Plan of “Connecting Communities and Policing” would be massively undermined in many areas, including the parish that I am proud to represent as an elected councillor.

I have once again written to the Police and Crime Commissioner and asked her to rethink the PCSO cuts, and confirm that rural communities in particular will not lose out as a consequence of “Project Genesis.”

If you agree with me on this matter, please join me in making yet more representations to Alison Hernandez.

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

Friday, 18 May 2018

Votes at 16!

Votes at sixteen is a campaign that I have always supported and I was pleased when the Scottish Parliament allowed 16 and 17 year olds to vote in the 2014 independence referendum. It was particularly heartening when the Parliament then legislated to lower the voting age for all subsequent Scottish elections (including local councils).

Last week, a (cross-party) private members’ bill to lower the voting age to 16 for parliamentary and other elections was presented to the House of Commons for its second reading.

I found myself in total agreement with the proposers of the bill – Peter Kyle MP (Labour), Norman Lamb MP (Liberal Democrat) and Nicky Morgan MP (Conservative) – who released the following statement:

“Opponents of reform have argued that 16 is an arbitrary age. However, in many crucial areas, such as in taxation, we already treat our 16-year-olds as responsible contributors to society. We grant economic rights without the correlating political rights. This should concern any democrat. And this is just one example. The experience from Scotland is that 16- and 17-year-olds are both capable and responsible enough to meaningfully engage with, and improve the vitality of, our democracy.”

Sadly, the Representation of the People (Young People’s Enfranchisement) Bill did not proceed as it was “talked out.” One MP even accused colleagues of a “corrupt and unfair filibuster” and demanded reforms into how private members’ bills are dealt with.

This is just one example of why I think that the democratic system of the United Kingdom needs a major overhaul, and it came just a few weeks after a series of “unrepresentative” results in the recent local elections.

We all know how at the 2017 General Election the Conservative Party secured 48% of the votes but won all six seats. In addition, there were many areas in England where the Conservatives won all – or nearly all – of the seats, while Labour was equally dominant in places such as South Wales, inner London and some metropolitan areas in the north.

But in London on 3rd May, there were three boroughs (Barking and Dagenham, Lewisham and Newham) in which all the elected councillors belonged to the Labour Party, leaving the local authorities with no opposition group or groups. Taking Lewisham as an example, Labour won all 54 seats on the Council with 52% of the popular vote, while the Greens (18.4%), the Conservatives (13.0%) and the Lib Dems (11.8%) did not win a single seat between them.

This cannot be right in a modern democracy.

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

Wednesday, 2 May 2018

Have your say on the "National Planning Policy Framework"

My article in today’s Cornish Guardian is as follows:

The UK Government is presently consulting on a revised version of the National Planning Policy Framework, which sets out its principal policies on planning. The consultation ends on 10th May.

The new version still contains something called a “presumption in favour of sustainable development,” which has been consistently criticised by numerous communities and a wide range of interest groups who feel that it has often led to “unchecked and damaging development.”

I share this view and note that the document still states the “presumption” should be “sufficiently flexible to adapt to rapid change.” But surely, rapid change is, more often than not, inherently unsustainable?

The revised NPPF also includes a new and top-down “standard method” to set out (higher) housing targets for council areas, and a Cornwall Council briefing has made it clear that “the scope for local influence over the target is very small to nil.”

I remain extremely frustrated at how Cornwall’s housing stock has been growing at a faster rate than almost all other parts of the United Kingdom and yet Whitehall continues to dictate that the rate of development should be ratcheted up still further.

For me, one of the key priorities is the provision of genuinely affordable local needs housing. But this has been undermined by the NPPF and there are no improvements in the revised version.

Definitions of affordable housing in the new draft NPPF do not include “social rents,” which have traditionally been charged for council houses and housing association properties. Instead, “affordable” rents or sales are defined as needing a 20% discount off market prices, which still leaves the homes ridiculously expensive. The document further includes a ridiculous definition of “starter home,” which is being promoted for families with a “household income” of up to “£80,000 a year.”

In addition, the NPPF states that affordable housing “should not be sought” on development sites of less than ten units, except in “designated rural areas.” I continue to be extremely frustrated at how the definition of “rural” is a total mess, and this has not been addressed by central government. It is a nonsense that in my local area of Clay Country, four of the five parishes are deemed “urban” while one has been defined as rural.

There are many further areas of concern. For example, local wildlife trusts are campaigning against the proposal to reduce protections for “local wildlife sites” which cover vast tracts across the country.

On behalf of Mebyon Kernow – the Party for Cornwall, I will be sending a detailed submission to central government, and it is my hope that many other individuals and organisations will also be making representations.

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

"Pills and Profits"

For many years, I have been a supporter of the Global Justice Now organisation, which was previously known as the World Development Movement. It campaigns for a “more just and equal world,” and seeks to mobilise people across the UK with a wide range of campaigns for social justice.

Much of its focus is on less-developed countries, but it is also playing a leading role in a campaign against large corporations making massive profits from the sale of medicines.

Global Justice Now has published a report entitled “Pills and Profits,” and a central tenet of the document is that the public sector has played a pivotal role in the discovery of new medicines. It states:

“The UK government is the second largest funder country, after the US, for research and development (R&D) in diseases that predominantly affect poor countries. The UK Government spent £2.3 billion on health R&D in 2015 alone. Globally, it is estimated that the public pays for two-thirds of all upfront drug R&D costs, with around a third of new medicines originating in public research institutions. On top of this, many medicines developed by pharmaceutical companies are often built upon a large body of scientific work undertaken and paid for by the tax payer.”

The report also makes it clear that that “even when the UK Government has funded a substantial proportion of the research and development” for innovative medicines, “there is no guarantee of an equitable public return on this investment.” It is also the case there is no promise that patients in the UK and further afield will be able to access the medicine at an affordable price.

Intellectual property rights ensure that large pharmaceutical companies have time-limited monopolies and are able to generate huge private profits – charging “high prices for products with relatively low production costs.”

These companies often claim that they need a commercial incentive to undertake further research and development, but they “consistently spend more on sales and marketing.” The reality is that their priority is shareholder dividends and that is plain wrong.

Global Justice Now is right to point out that the high prices of new medicines are unsustainable for an already under-funded NHS, while many patients in poor countries around the World are denied access to new pills and treatments because of the cost.

It is good that Global Justice Now has joined forces with Missing Medicines – a coalition of UK organisations, which want conditions on all public health research to make sure the medicines developed are affordable and accessible here in the UK and across the World. Please support this campaign.

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

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

Remembering Joel Cole

This year marks the centenary of the end of the First World War and I am pleased to be involved with a project to remember the fallen from Fraddon, Indian Queens, St Columb Road and Summercourt. Organised by St Enoder Parish Council and part-funded with a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, it involves the publication of a book which will include the life stories of more than seventy servicemen who lost their lives in the 1914-1918 conflict.

I would like to share what we have found out, so far, about one of the men. He happens to be my second cousin, three-times removed, and died one hundred years ago today.

Joel Cole from Fraddon was born in 1884. Both of his parents were local to St Enoder Parish and he worked in the china clay industry. He married Laura Annie Tregunna from the parish of Veryan in 1906 and they had two children, though one died while an infant.

Joel enlisted at Newquay and served with the 7th Battalion of the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry, which was particularly badly hit during a German Spring Offensive in March 1918 near Picardy. In his history of the regiment, Hugo White has written that 18 officers and 413 solders from the Battalion “were killed, wounded or reported missing,” though “thankfully, many of the missing eventually found their way back to the Battalion or were reported as prisoners of war.”

The war diary for the Battalion listed Joel as “missing during operations 22-3-1918 to 2-4-1918,” while the Cornish Guardian in May 1918 reported he was a prisoner in Germany. Sadly, his family were unaware that he had already died, approximately one month earlier, at Cologne’s Fortress Hospital on 11th April 1918. He is buried in the city’s Southern Cemetery.

Joel’s passing was not confirmed in Cornwall until August 1918 and on the first anniversary of his death, Laura Annie Cole paid a heartfelt tribute to her husband and “darling daddy of Charlie” with a notice in the Cornish Guardian:

He dropped like a flower that’s nipped in the bud,
He has the repose of the gentle and good.
Cold, cold lies the clay of his mouldering head,
But sweet is the rest of the innocent dead.
And the love which we love him shall dwell in each breast,
Till we meet him again in the realms of the blest.

Anyone interested in finding out more about the project is welcome to view a display, which will be in the Ante-Room of the Indian Queens Victory Hall on Saturday 21st April, between 10.00 and 1.00. The Parish Council is particularly keen to hear from anyone who may have family memories and / or photographs about local servicemen from the First World War.

This is my article in today’s Cornish Guardian.

Thursday, 5 April 2018

Next MK meeting in St Austell & Newquay Constituency

The next meeting for Mebyon Kernow members in the St Austell & Newquay Constituency has been arranged to take place on Friday 13th April.

The meeting will take place at ClayTAWC in St Dennis and start at 7.30.

We will be using the meeting to plan our approach to numerous local campaigns and activities.

Anyone from the St Austell & Newquay Constituency, who would be interested in attending the meeting and / or finding out more about MK and its local campaigns, can call me on 07791 876607 or email

ONS confirm decision on tickbox has not yet been made

The Office of National Statistics (ONS) has today confirmed that it has not yet made a decision about whether there should be a Cornish tickbox on the 2021 census.

This confirmation followed a programme entitled “Thinking Allowed” which was broadcast on Radio Four yesterday (Wednesday 4th April at 4.00), on which a representative of the ONS stated it was actively considering a potential four additional tickboxes for the next census [Jewish / Roma / Somali / Sikh].

This statement was not fully accurate and based on an old briefing, published at a time when the ONS was not actively reviewing the request for a Cornish tickbox.

The Office of National Statistics has added that the full content of the ethnicity / national identity questions haven’t yet been decided, it is continuing to listen and engage with communities to inform its decision, and will soon be meeting with representatives of Cornwall Council to discuss the evidence on this matter that had been submitted to it.

Saturday, 31 March 2018

The Man Engine at Geevor

Well done to everyone involved with the Man Engine for another awe-inspiring celebration of Cornwall, our mining heritage and our very Cornishness, at Geevor today.

Loved it all and enjoyed the fun of the Cornish Embassy bus, which is supporting the push for Cornish tickbox on the 2021 census.

Highly recommended. Do go and enjoy the experience at Heartlands or the Wadebridge Showground, or even further afield, if you can.

Tuesday, 27 March 2018

Unsustainable increase in housing target does not have my support!

My article in tomorrow’s Cornish Guardian addresses the failings of the “New Frontiers” document prepared by the so-called Cornwall Leadership Board. It is as follows:

Cornwall Council’s ten-strong Cabinet will be considering a range of important items at their next meeting at County Hall (Wednesday 28th March). These include adult social care and a stadium for Cornwall, as well as a document entitled “New Frontiers,” which I wish to comment on.

The blurb in an accompanying report states that “New Frontiers” is a proposition from the Cornwall Leadership Board (which brings together people from across the public sector). It adds that it is looking to build on the so-called “Cornwall Devolution Deal” from 2015 and wishes to increase our “economic, environmental and social resilience.”

In addition, it claims that the document represents the “starting point” for negotiations with central government. In fact, it is often referred to as “Devo 2” – but there is no proposal within its pages for meaningful devolution as presently enjoyed in Wales and Scotland.

It would nonetheless be churlish to say that there is not some very reasonable stuff in the document, and much thought has gone into how Cornwall’s best interests might be safeguarded in a post-Brexit UK.

But there is also much within “New Frontiers” which I fundamentally disagree with, and when it was discussed at last week’s (excitingly-named) Customer and Support Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee, I had quite a few things to say.

First off, I raised concerns about the democratic legitimacy of the proposals, as the majority of Cornwall Councillors had had little opportunity to be involved with what was being drafted.

I have also queried why the document did not contain a single reference to the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, but I focused most of my feedback on planning and housing matters.

“New Frontiers” does not seek the devolution of planning but sets out an “offer” to build housing at a faster rate than set out in the Cornwall Local Plan, and it asks for the ability to build wholly new settlements. To my knowledge, such proposals have not been endorsed by councillors on the unitary authority.

The document further requests financial support (£60 million) for developments such as the so-called “eco-town” or “garden village” near Penwithick – which, as most people will be aware, I opposed for a decade!

It is my view that if we are able to secure a large amount of funding from central government for housing, it should be spent on proper local-needs housing where it is most needed.

Those people at the recent Scrutiny meeting were left under no illusion about my views on the planning aspects of the document, and that it most certainly does not have my support.

Sunday, 25 March 2018

St Enoder Parish First World War Project

This year marks the centenary of the end of the First World War and I am pleased that St Enoder Parish Council is undertaking a project to remember all the men from Fraddon, Indian Queens, Summercourt and St Columb Road who lost their lives between 1914 and 1918.

We have a Facebook page and we are remembering the fallen on the anniversary of their deaths.

Our most recent entry (24th March) remembers Howard Dean from Indian Queens, as follows:

One hundred years ago, Henry Howard Dean died of his wounds at the 12th General Hospital at Rouen. He had been serving with the 2nd/4th Battalion of the Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry.

A report in the West Briton (25/4/1918) stated that Samuel and Lena Dean “had been officially informed that their son, Pte. Howard Dean, has died of wounds in the chest and legs in an American hospital in France.”

Before the war, he worked as an employee of a grocery shop (Messrs. R. B. Hore and Sons) in Fraddon. He was also a member of the United Methodist Church Choir, the Queens Glee Choir and the local tent of a temperance organisation known as the Rechabites.

Howard is buried in the St Sever Cemetery Extension at Rouen, and he is commemorated on the War Memorial in St Columb.

If you have not already visited our Facebook page, why not have a look. Pease support his important project.

My latest monthly report to Cornwall Council

At this Tuesday's meeting of St Enoder Parish Council, I will be tabling my latest monthly report. It covers the period 26th February – 25th March and is as follows:

1. Council meetings

During the last month, there were less formal meetings to attend than in previous months. I was present at meetings of the Economic Growth & Development Overview and Scrutiny Committee, Customer and Support Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee, a meeting about the future work programme for the Electoral Review Panel and a training session on planning enforcement.

In the same period, as well as a number of informal meetings with council officers and others, I attended three meetings of St Enoder Parish Council and a meeting of the working group tasked with preparing the Neighbourhood Plan.

2. Other meetings and activities

I attended a meeting of Indian Queens Pit (trustee) and was pleased to help out with the planting of some thorn trees around the edge of the car park and banks.

3. Toldish appeal

On behalf of St Enoder Parish Council and local residents, I attended the informal hearing, which was held at Fraddon Village Hall on 14th March, at which the appeal was heard for a caravan site (described as a “traveller site”) near Toldish.

The basis of my comments was an 8,000 word statement that I had already submitted to the planning inspectorate. This document is available on request, and I will report back when the inspector had made her decision.

4. Customer and Support Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee; 20th March

At this meeting, a document entitled “New Frontiers” was discussed. It will be further considered at Cornwall Council’s Cabinet on Wednesday. It sets out a “proposition to Government that builds on the Cornwall Deal and increases our economic, environmental and social resilience.”

It would be churlish to say that there is not some reasonable stuff in the document – not least in terms of post-Brexit guarantees for Cornwall – but there is also much content with which I fundamentally disagree.

I spoke at the Scrutiny Committee and I raised concerns about democratic legitimacy of the proposals and how the democratically-elected councillors had had little opportunity to be involved with the formulation of what was drafted.

In my comments, I mainly focused on planning matters and noted that the document does not seek the devolution of planning matters but offers to build houses at a faster rate than set out in the Cornwall Local Plan.

This is not something I can support and more detailed comments can be found on my blog: 

5. Highway matters 

The recent bad weather has caused a number of highway problems and I have been in regular contact with the staff at Cormac, In addition, I have been following up on a host of outstanding issues. 

Members of the Parish Council will have noticed that the road through Fraddon was closed last week. Cormac was undertaking an investigation into the condition of the main road drain through the village and whether it can cope with all episodes of heavy rainfall. This follows on from flooding incidents over the last four-five years. 

I noted last month about the possibility of funding for localised highway improvements, but the information has not yet been forthcoming. 

6. Indian Queens School visit to New County Hall 

On Friday 23rd March, I was pleased to be at New County Hall when pupils from Year 6 of Indian Queens School visited and I readily took part in a question and answer session with them. 

There were many interesting, and searching, questions and comments, ranging from climate change to the Indian Queens Recreation Ground. 

7. New play equipment at Summercourt 

It was also a pleasure to visit Summercourt Primary School with the Clerk on 15th March to consult some of the pupils about potential equipment for the Thomas Playing Field. Likewise, it was good to catch up with some of the parents at the consultation event in the New Memorial Hall later that same day with the Clerk and other parish councillors. 

8. Neighbourhood Plan meeting; 20th March 

It is good that we have re-commenced meetings of the working group which is producing a Neighbourhood Plan for the parish of St Enoder. This next stage will focus on the writing a full draft of the Plan, which will hopefully be completed within the next six months. 

9. Litter pick 

I was also pleased to take part in the community litter pick around Fraddon, Indian Queens and St Columb Road on 17th March, organised by the Wesley Pre-School. Well done to the organisers and everyone who took part. 

I was part of the Moorland Road team with Wendy Glanville and her granddaughter Jess Parkyn. Together we filled nine black bags, collected five car tyres, one bicycle tyre, a traffic cone, two bras and much more. Some of the litter came from the top of the Kelliers. 

As a Parish Council, we will soon be starting the tidy-up of the Kelliers, which is now in our ownership. I was fully aware that there is much fly-tipping in the area that we needed to clear, but when we were litter-picking I was able to have a much closer look in much of the undergrowth and the extent of rubbish is greater than I feel we have anticipated. 

This is an item on the agenda for this Tuesday’s Parish Council meeting. 

10. Superfast broadband at Summercourt 

As reported previously, 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 and last year they agreed to make the necessary improvements. I am pleased to be able to confirm that BT has completed the works and local residents should now be able to sign up for an improved service. 

11. New chairs at Fraddon Village Hall 

It is good to see that the new chairs have arrived at Fraddon Village Hall, and I am glad to have been able to help with the grant application for the funding. 

12. My community fund 

Each year, Cornwall Councillors are allocated £2,000 which we, in turn, can grant to local organisations. I can confirm that for 2017/2018, I have given support to Indian Queens Band, Indian Queens Victory Hall and the St Enoder Scouts. 

I will soon receive my allocation for 2018/2019 and I am keen to hear from local groups who may need some financial assistance. 

13. Inquiries 

During the last month, I have helped numerous people with guidance on a range of issues.

Friday, 23 March 2018

A lovely evening at Rescorla

Thanks to Terry Gosden, Paul Hopewell and Garry Tregidga for providing the wonderful entertainment at tonight's social evening for MK members and supporters at Rescorla,

Thank you also to everyone who battled through the horrible weather to enjoy the evening with us.

I do not support the proposals for planning and housing in "New Frontiers"

This coming Wednesday, amongst other things, Cornwall Council’s Cabinet will be discussing a document entitled “New Frontiers.”

The associated blurb in the report adds that it is a proposition from the Cornwall Leadership Board (which brings together people from across the public sector) and states it is a “proposition to Government that builds on the Cornwall Deal and increases our economic, environmental and social resilience.”

It would be churlish to say that there is not some reasonable stuff in the document, but there is also much content with which I fundamentally disagree.

It is often referred to as “Devo 2” – but there is no proposal for meaningful devolution, as in Wales and Scotland, proposed within its pages. It seems to be about “asks,” “offers” and “policy enablers.”

“New Frontiers” was discussed at a Scrutiny Committee on Wednesday, and I had quite a few things to say.

I raised concerns about democratic legitimacy of the proposals and how the democratically-elected councillors had had little opportunity to be involved with the formulation of what had been drafted.

I queried why there was not one single reference to the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, for example, but focused most of my feedback on matters relating to planning and housing.

The document does not seek the devolution of planning matters but offers to build houses at a faster rate than set out in the Cornwall Local Plan and seeks financial support for developments such as the so-called eco-town / eco-village / garden village near Penwithick – which, as most people will be aware, I opposed for a decade!

The document also seeks the ability to build new settlements in the future.

Those people at the meeting were left under no illusion about my views on the planning aspects of the document – and that it most certainly does not have my support.

Thursday, 22 March 2018

Cornwall needs its own National Planning Policy Framework

My article in this week’s Cornish Guardian explores the proposed changes to the UK Government’s National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). It is as follows:

The UK Government recently launched a consultation on a revised version of its National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) which dictates how local councils deal with planning matters.

The NPPF has often been described as a “developers’ charter” and the so-called “presumption in favour” of growth has certainly led to much development which has been opposed by local communities.

I am presently working my way through the document and trying to understand the implications of the changes. A briefing from Cornwall Council states that there are over 80 reforms, though “mostly these are minor changes” or clarifications of ministerial statements.

But this includes confirmation that housing targets for council areas will be calculated using a top-down “standard method,” and Cornwall Council has already advised that “the scope for local influence over the target is very small to nil.”

As a local councillor, I was heavily involved in the production of the Cornwall Local Plan. This contains Cornwall’s present housing target, which covers the period 2010-2030, but the process of finalising the target was a charade and local politicians ended up having to agree what was acceptable to the UK Government.

This latest NPPF announcement finally removes the illusion that such important decisions are actually being taken locally. 

In addition, the revised NPPF confirms that an uplift in housing delivery would happen in 2021, from which point it would be expected that 2,900 new properties should be built each year – up from the annual target of 2,625 in the Local Plan.

The tone of the consultation launch was also quite bombastic. The Housing Minister, Sajid Javid, announced that the UK Government would take planning powers away from local councils if they did not meet central government targets for house-building.

He even told a Sunday newspaper that he would be “breathing down” the necks of local authorities and threatened that, instead of councillors, government inspectors could make planning decisions in their areas.

On behalf of MK, I condemned the threat as an “undemocratic outrage.” It will certainly take local planning decisions even further away from local communities, and I do not believe, for one second, that Government officials inside the M25 corridor know what is best for Cornwall and its people.

If remains my view that the people of Cornwall should be making these important decision for ourselves. That means we need a National Assembly of Cornwall, with power over all aspects of planning and housing through a Cornish NPPF which would allow housing and other targets to be agreed locally without interference from Whitehall.

Tuesday, 20 March 2018

All invited to an MK social event

The St Austell and Newquay Constituency Party of Mebyon Kernow will be holding a social event on Friday 23rd March at the Rescorla Centre, in Rescorla near Penwithick.

There will be some musical entertainment and a few snacks, plus an opportunity to talk about politics (or something else) with leading members of MK.

All are welcome to attend.

And if you would like to find out more about the Party for Cornwall … why not come along and meet with us on the 23rd!

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Cornish Nation no. 77 … available now!

Mebyon Kernow has just published the latest edition of its Cornish Nation magazine, which is in the process of being sent to MK members.

If you are not already a member and would like a complimentary copy, please get in contact via

Please specify whether you would like a paper or digital copy.

This latest includes information about the Cornish language album from Gwenno Saunders, plus other features on the many people who have also promoted Cornish through song, the efforts of MK members and others in trying to secure a Cornish tickbox on the 2021 census, MK campaigns to protect our public services, a tribute to Richard Gendall, and so much more.

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Looking back: South Crofty, a rally in Redruth and Cornish Millennium Convention

When I got up this morning, it had not dawned on me that today was the 20th anniversary of the closure of South Crofty tin mine, and it has been heartening to hear about the new efforts to restart tin mining at the site. 

Looking back twenty years, I have dug out some photographs to share from that time.

MK parliamentary candidates Ruth Lewarne and Paul Dunbar (right and far right) visiting the mine in the run-up to the 1997 General Election.

Cornish Nation magazine from Spring 1998.

Greg Woods speaking at a rally in Redruth on Saturday 7th March 1998; other speakers seated include Bert Biscoe, Colin Murley, myself and Andrew George.

Launch of Cornish Millennium Convention on Monday 9th March 1998 (left to right): Alastair Quinnell, Mark Kaczmarek, Deborah Clark, Ann Jenkin, me, Philip Payton and Andrew George. This was the first attempt to build a cross-party campaign for greater powers for Cornwall, but didn’t really get off the ground.

Monday, 5 March 2018

Gool Peran Lowen! Happy St Piran’s Day!

I would like to wish everyone the very best on St Piran's Day!

It is fantastic that the 5th of March is now such as important part of our calendar as people come together in the name of our national saint to celebrate Cornwall’s unique identity.

Cornwall has a powerful national identity, reflected in the Cornish language, our music, dance, sport and a range of traditions – all of which are vitally important to our sense of place and the very well-being of our local communities.

But as we celebrate the distinctiveness of Cornwall today, I would like to repeat a key message that Mebyon Kernow makes each and every year on St Piran’s Day.

The promotion of Cornish distinctiveness is not something that should be restricted to once a year in March. We should be doing all in our power, each and every day, to promote and enhance our identity and heritage.

Sunday, 4 March 2018

On the dunes with St Piran

It will not come as a surprise to anyone that I today spent the afternoon on Gear Sands near Perranporth, supporting the annual “St Piran’s Day” commemoration with hundreds of others progressing out to St Piran’s Oratory and the medieval church.

Well done to all those who organised the event and everyone who supported it in today’s “glorious” weather.

It was lovely to see my good friend Pol Hodge playing the role of St Piran – could there ever be a more saintly man to inhabit the role of our national saint?

Sunday, 25 February 2018

Remembering Sophie Scholl, Hans Scholl and Christoph Probst

In this coming week’s Cornish Guardian, my article remembers Sophie Scholl, Hans Scholl and Christoph Probst who were executed 75 years ago this month. It will be as follows:

Some years ago, I purchased a book titled “Conscience in Revolt” at what I remember was a bric-a-brac shop in Tintagel. Translated from the original “Das Gewissen Steht Auf,” it contains the life stories of 64 men and women from Germany who opposed Nazism between 1933 and 1945, and who all lost their lives as a consequence.

It is a truly compelling publication and details many acts of extreme courage. One of the biographies is that of Sophie Scholl, a 22-year-old student, who along with her brother and a friend were executed on 22nd February 1943.

Seventy-five years on from their deaths, it is important that we never forget what happened.

Sophie was the daughter of a local mayor in Forchtenberg in northern Baden-Wurttemberg, and she was born in 1921. For two years, she trained to be a kindergarten teacher, but in May 1942 matriculated to study biology and philosophy at Munich University, where her brother Hans was already studying medicine.

Hans belonged to a non-violent resistance group known as the “White Rose,” made up of “students, artists and scientists” which called on people to oppose Hitler’s regime through passive resistance. He had assisted in the production of pamphlets, and Sophie joined to help.

During 1942, three pamphlets were distributed around Munich. A famous extract from one of the leaflets stated: “We grew up in a state in which all free expression of opinion is unscrupulously repressed. The Hitler Youth, the SA and the SS have tried to stupefy us, subvert us, in the brightest years of our lives. We want genuine learning, real freedom of expression.”

The Scholls were arrested on 18th February 1943, along with Christoph Probst – who had three children, the youngest of which was less than one month old.

Four days later, they were paraded in front of the maliciously misnamed “People’s Court” and found guilty of treason. Later that same day, they were all executed by guillotine.

Sophie’s cellmate recorded her last words as she was being led away to be beheaded. She said: “It is such a splendid sunny day, and I have to go. But how many have to die on the battlefield in these days, how many young, promising lives. What does my death matter if by our acts thousands are warned and alerted.”

Such resolute calmness in the face of a violent death is truly inspiring.

And it should impress on us all – whatever our grumbles – how very fortunate we are to live in an open, 21st century, democracy where there is real freedom of expression.

Local Government Boundary Review and stuff

My article in last week’s Cornish Guardian once again addressed issues of democracy. It was as follows:

A key priority of my political life has been a range of campaigns to strengthen democracy in Cornwall. Obviously, this has included the promotion of the case for a Cornish Assembly and greater control over all aspects of life in Cornwall.

Looking back over the last couple of decades, it has certainly been difficult to get the UK Government – of whatever political persuasion – to support such much-needed reforms.

Sadly, what changes we have seen have actually damaged democracy in Cornwall. Instead of achieving more powers through our own legislature, as in Scotland and Wales, Westminster politicians have centralised local government and further undermined it through under-funding and other changes.

It is just over ten years since the Labour Minister John Healey MP ignored the views of the majority of the people of Cornwall and made the official government announcement that a unitary authority would be imposed on us.

At the time, I was among those who opposed the change and raised significant concerns about the democratic deficit that would befall Cornwall with the cull of over 200 principal authority councillors.

We have since seen a considerable drive from the UK Government to set up numerous unelected bodies of limited democratic legitimacy, which have done much to sideline the democratically-elected representatives of local communities.

In 2015, we had the so-called “devolution deal,” which was frankly extremely feeble and, I would argue, not really about devolution at all. And it transpired that the Government had an expectation that there should be a “boundary review” and the Local Government Boundary Commission for England (LGBCE) subsequently ruled that the number of elected representatives in Cornwall should be reduced to 87 in 2021 – a further cut of 36 local advocates.

It is well documented that I opposed this cut – not least because Cornwall already has fewer elected representatives (per head of population) than most parts of the UK – but I have found myself in the position of having to help manage this backward step as the vice-chairman of the Council’s Electoral Review Panel.

This work has certainly dominated much of the last few months as we have tried to come up with possible boundaries for the 87 divisions via an LGBCE consultation, which has just closed. It has been a time-consuming process, trying to propose divisions with roughly the same number of voters while respecting community identities – which has proved extremely difficult in a number of localities.

Watch out for the LGBCE formal proposals which will be published for consultation in early May.

I just hope that the next time I am involved with facilitating democratic change, it is a positive change!

Monday, 19 February 2018

Parliamentary boundary review in the news again

Bernard Jenkin, the Chairman of the Public Administration Committee, is calling on MPs “to decide at the earliest opportunity whether to cut the size of the Commons …”

A report on the BBC states that “many MPs do not now support [the boundary review] and could reject it in a vote this autumn” adding “the Public Administration Committee said there would then be no time to start again and the 2022 poll would be held on out-dated boundaries.”

An extract from the BBC report states the following:

In the meantime, the mood in Westminster has hardened against the idea of smaller Commons. The cross-party committee said it was “unlikely” that MPs would support the move later this year and that there had to be a Plan B for Parliament to consider.

“The time to decide this in principle is now,” said Bernard Jenkin, the Tory MP who chairs the committee.

“If the government waits until the autumn, Parliament will be faced with an invidious choice - either approve the new boundaries or hold the next election on boundaries that will be over 20 years out of date.

“But if we decide this now, it would be possible to change the law so new boundaries at 650 seats can be in place before the next election.”

The Boundary Commission for England, which completed its consultation on its revised proposals in December, said Mr Jenkin was correct there would not be enough time for them to restart their work should the existing review be rejected.

Friday, 16 February 2018

Update on planning appeals for biogas plant at Higher Fraddon

Last week, many local residents and I attended a planning hearing into the appeals for two applications to modify aspects of the biogas plant at Higher Fraddon.

I have just been informed that the appeal inspector has ruled in favour of Fraddon Biogas Ltd and agreed the requested changes. 

Am I surprised? No. Am I annoyed? Damn right.
In summary, both applications related to condition 14.

(i) The condition agreed by the previous appeal inspector stated that the types of HGVs accessing the site must be agreed in writing through the condition, but the operators wanted this to be left very open-ended and not to specify the principal use of the “duoliner” vehicle that they had previously pledged they would use during the planning process.

(ii) In addition, they sought to modify condition 14 (by increasing the number of small vehicles to the plant).

On behalf of the Parish Council, I submitted a detailed planning statement in opposition to the two appeals and along with others made the arguments at the actual hearing.

The operators also submitted an appeal for costs, ie. that Cornwall Council should pay Fraddon Biogas Ltd costs as they had been “unreasonable.”

This was rejected and, in the supporting text, there was some limited criticism of the appellants as follows:

“10. I do not believe that the Council’s stance has been unreasonable as such. It has responded to complaints received from the local community, the local councillor and the Parish Council. I believe the previous Inspector in framing condition 14 did have in his mind the use of the Duoliner – indeed he saw during his site visit (as I did) the use of this vehicle in operation. I have no doubt whatsoever that the appellant at the 2016 appeals made great play about its benefits. I can therefore fully understand why the Council has sought to negotiate its use as the primary vehicle. I find no criticism in that as the vehicle, by the applicant’s own admission, is more efficient, quieter and has greater manoeuvrability. I was impressed by a particular comment from a local resident who whilst acknowledging the swept path analysis undertaken by the applicant’s consultants, nevertheless pointed out that the HGVs would need to utilise much of the carriageway width with some of the larger HGVs also needing to ‘oversail’ the adopted carriageway to negotiate the 90 degree bend. I saw some evidence of this during my site visit with rutting of grass verges at several points along the highway.

“11. Whilst the local highway authority did not raise objection on highway grounds, the local planning authority is charged with considering wider amenity and convenience issues in addition to technical highway matters. I have no doubt that pedestrians in particular have to be particularly watchful of traffic using this lane. I do not believe that the Council can be criticised in the stance that it has adopted, which was a precautionary stance in all respects. Evidence is not confined to hard technical evidence; planning is bound by both objective and subjective assessments.”

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

CND - sixty years old

My article in today’s Cornish Guardian marks the 60th anniversary of the launch of CND. It is as follows:

This week marks the 60th anniversary of the launch of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament at a massive public meeting in London on 17th February 1958. Soon after, the first Aldermaston March attracted a significant amount of attention and it was around this same time that the famous CND or peace symbol designed by Gerald Holtom, incorporating the semaphore letters N and D (for nuclear disarmament), was unveiled.

I have been a member of CND for more than 25 years, and I am proud to lead a political party that has had a manifesto commitment of complete nuclear disarmament since the early 1980s.

It is my view that the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 must forever remind us of the destructive power of nuclear weapons. And this needs to make us vigilant in our efforts to rid the World of such weapons of mass destruction and prevent the terrible human tragedy, that would unfold, should they ever be used again.

CND has been extremely effective and has been an important force in pressing the UK Government and others to conclude a number of treaties such as the Partial Test Ban Treaty, the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.

I believe that CND is as relevant now as it was back in 1958, not least because there is a great deal of work still to be done to achieve the goal of a nuclear-free world.

I was certainly very disappointed by the parliamentary vote in June 2016, when MPs voted by 472 votes to 117 to renew the Trident weapons programme and press on with the manufacture of a new generation of nuclear submarines.

The United Kingdom is one of only two countries in Western Europe which hold nuclear weapons and I can see no logical or strategic reason why this should continue.

CND has estimated that the lifetime costs of Trident would be a massive £205 billion, while Crispin Blunt, the former Chairman of the influential Foreign Affairs Committee, told the House of Commons that these costs would be a still substantial £179 billion.

I find it especially unpardonable that many of those politicians wishing to spend such a ridiculous amount of money on Trident are the same people who have unleashed devastating cuts to our vital public services through austerity, which continue to be greatly under-funded.

Just think how much good £179,000,000,000 would do if it was instead spent on social housing, education, health, policing, job creation, community groups and so much more.

Sunday, 4 February 2018

Backing Cornwall Council's fair funding campaign

My article in this coming week’s Cornish Guardian is backing the unitary authority’s new campaign for fair funding. It will be as follows:

The unitary authority has launched its latest “fair funding” campaign with the publication of a handful of startling statistics. It has, for example, compared Cornwall with Camden and concluded that, if we had the same level of funding as the London borough, “we would have £212 million more each year for public services.”

The Council has also pointed out that “Kensington and Chelsea delivers the same range of services as Cornwall but has 48% more funding, per resident, to do this with.”

It is the case that the UK Government has slashed funding to local authorities, forcing them to increase council tax significantly in an impossible attempt to fill the void, which is adversely impacting on many people already struggling to pay their day-to-day bills.

This is therefore an important campaign and the leader of Cornwall Council is asking residents to sign a “Stand Up for Cornwall” pledge, which can be found at: I fully support this initiative, and hope you will as well.

Campaigning for fair funding for Cornwall is not new, but the need for this latest effort shows that the Westminster parliament has not been listening.

In preparing this week’s article, I have looked back at many, many examples of inequitable funding across the UK and how it affects Cornwall. Here are just a few:

- 2013: A report “Rebalancing Our Cultural Capital” noted that, in 2012-2013, Arts Council England distributed a total of £320m of taxpayers' money. London received £20 per head of population, compared to £3.60 per person elsewhere. DCMS meanwhile distributed £450m of public funding to “major national cultural institutions.” London received £49 per head compared to just £1 per person on average elsewhere.
- 2014: Research from LG Futures (Costs of Providing Services in Rural Areas) demonstrated that the “cost of providing services in a rural area is greater than in an urban area” – but the government funding formulae failed to reflect this in its calculations.
- 2015: Reports showed that the residents of Cornwall and Devon receive “less government funding than other police areas,” and paid “39% of the local policing bill through council tax.” The comparable figure is so much lower elsewhere, for example, in Merseyside (17%), Greater Manchester (22%) and London (27%).
- 2016: In the debate lead by members of the Rural Fair Share Group, Conservative MPs lined up to criticise the “extraordinarily unfair” funding arrangements with one arguing that, in the future, local government would be neither “sustainable nor deliverable.”

It is clear that we must continue to put great pressure on the United Kingdom’s Conservative Government – including six MPs from Cornwall – which has the collective ability and power to deliver fair funding.