Monday, 27 August 2007

More on unitary status for Cornwall

It is now over a month since the government gave the go-ahead to Cornwall County Council’s awful bid for unitary status. So what is happening?

There is plenty of worry from employees about their jobs and being able to continue providing quality public services, as well as concern from communities and individuals about what is happening to their local democracy.

We have had many rumours emerging from County Hall. We have heard about their ‘mobilisation phase,’ their ‘ninety day plan,’ their withdrawn ‘ninety day plan,’ various transitional arrangements and the involvement of extremely expensive consultants.

The Department of Communities and Local Government has now launched a consultation on what happens next. It strangely says that “if and when the Local Government and Public Involvement Bill is enacted the Secretary of State will take the final decisions on which unitary proposals are to be implemented,” though I have little hope that the Government will see sense and reverse its decision on the unitary proposal in Cornwall.

The consultation states that it wishes Cornwall County Council to become a ‘transitional authority’ that will then evolve over the following months into the new unitary council by April 2009.

It states that its preferred option is for existing councillors on the County Council to retire one year early in May 2008 when elections for the new / transitional body should be held. But this would mean that the elections would be held on the present electoral boundaries and there is no guidance as to whether there will even be 82 councillors or double that number as latterly suggested by the County Council and MPs. It does however offer the option that the elections could be pushed back and not take place until May 2009, which means that a review of the electoral arrangements might or might not get carried out.

All in all, with the Parliament in recess until the 8th of October and the Local Government and Public Involvement Bill only then getting to the report stage in Lords, it could be some time before the bill is even enacted.

To me, the whole ‘debate’ about unitary government in Cornwall has been farcical from day one and sadly that farce is set continue.

Wednesday, 15 August 2007

Support affordable housing petition

I am very pleased to be able to give my full support to a petition which is calling on central government to take action to alleviate the housing crisis in Cornwall.

The campaign has been set up by Kate Tregunna who, in spite of doing important work at Treliske Hospital, is unable to gain access to housing that is affordable.

The petition calls for a range of actions to be taken. These include making sure that all new developments contain 50% affordable housing and introducing planning legislation to address the second homes issue.

I hope that you will also wish to support this campaign. Further information is available on and the petition can be found at

In the coming weeks, it is my intention to comment further on the housing crisis in Cornwall.

Thursday, 9 August 2007

The strange things people say

Recent comments about the ‘unitary council’ bid have left me variously annoyed, amused and just plain confused.

I was less than impressed by Andrew George’s comments in last week’s Cornishman newspaper in which he claimed that Cornish Assembly campaigners had joined in ‘opportunistic’ criticisms of the unitary proposal while not setting out a ‘realistic route’ to show how the objective of a Cornish Assembly might be achieved.

I would remind him that Mebyon Kernow – the Party for Cornwall has been consistent throughout this entire unfortunate episode, arguing that Cornwall needs devolution – not local government reform.

Perhaps Andrew might like to explain to us exactly how his support for the centralisation of local government in Cornwall will deliver devolution when the Department of Communities and Local Government has already made it clear that there will be no extra powers for the new unitary authorities.

And then there was the Mayor of Newquay, a part-time supporter of the unitary bid who believes that Newquay might be allowed to declare UDI. At a recent meeting of Restormel Borough Council, he stood up and declared that he wished to “devolve power to the lowest common denominator.”

Meanwhile, Bert Biscoe has stayed determinedly positive. Commenting on the success of the County Council’s Bid, he concluded with the following paragraph:

“The Liberal Democrats promised to deliver a Cornish Assembly. This will be done by persuasion with an excellent and compelling case. Posturing gets nowhere in the real world. So, away with the elderflower champagne! Let’s get the collective brain in gear – it’s time to step across the unitary stone and head for the Assembly on the other bank, via the Cornish dispersed city region. The ball is firmly in Cornwall’s and Mr Whalley’s court.”

Elderflower champagne … unitary stone … dispersed city region … Whalley! I would be grateful if anyone could provide me with a translation.

Wednesday, 1 August 2007

A Cultural Strategy for Cornwall?

Mebyon Kernow – the Party for Cornwall has strongly objected to the latest new strategy document from SW quangoland entitled ‘People, Places and Spaces - A Cultural Infrastructure Strategy for the South West.’

Are you ready for this …

The authors of this document have looked at the 21 Strategically Significant Cities and Towns (SSCT) identified by the South West Regional Assembly (SWRA) in the Regional Spatial Strategy (RSS) and merged some of the SSCTs in the eastern part of the ‘South West’ to create ten Planning Areas for Culture (PAC). One PAC will see the Plymouth SSCT ‘look after’ South East Cornwall and then there is, of course, the PAC centred on the ‘Truro & Camborne / Pool / Redruth & Falmouth / Penryn’ SSCT.

Not sure how to comment further on that!

We have made the suggestion that that they put their document in the bin and instead support the production of a Cultural Strategy for the historic Celtic nation of Cornwall? That can’t be too complicated!