Monday, 31 December 2007

I am proud to be a Cornish nationalist

As the Leader of MK, I always release a New Year message. To mark the start of 2008, I have appealed to local people to become more politically active and to join Mebyon Kernow – the Party for Cornwall.

The first part of my message considered what it is to be a Cornish nationalist, as follows:

“People often ask me what it is to be a Cornish nationalist. To me, the answer is quite simple. Cornwall is a historic entity with its own distinct identity, language and heritage – it is a nation. Every person who seeks the greater recognition of the nation of Cornwall or campaigns for self-government for Cornwall or promotes the Cornish language, is therefore, by extension, a Cornish nationalist.

“What is important is that the nationalism of Mebyon Kernow – the Party for Cornwall is inclusive and outward-looking. I am particularly proud that we campaign for a better deal for all the people of Cornwall and are never afraid to make a stand on global issues with significance far beyond our borders.

“As we enter 2008, I would like to extend an invitation to the people of Cornwall to join MK and help us to build a strong pro-Cornwall alternative to the London-centred political parties.
“Joining MK is a positive statement of commitment to Cornwall and about making a real difference to our local communities.”

I also took the time to look back over the last twelve months and contrast what has happened in Cornwall to developments in Scotland and Wales.

“2007 was a landmark year for democratic renewal in both Scotland and Wales. The Scottish National Party has formed an administration in the Scottish Parliament, with all parties now actively debating the devolution of extra powers.

“In Wales, Plaid Cymru is in coalition with the Labour Party, with both parties committed to law-making powers for the Welsh Assembly.

“But here in Cornwall, we have had to suffer the undemocratic disgrace of Liberal Democrat county councillors and MPs retreating from their commitment to a Cornish Assembly and forcing an unpopular unitary authority onto Cornwall.

“Whereas the people of Scotland and Wales are progressing further along the path to greater political powers, here in Cornwall we are preparing for the backward step that will be the centralisation of our local government structures and the growing influence of unelected, undemocratic bodies and agencies.

“At the same time, we continue to suffer under-investment from central government, threats to our public services, the growth in inequality in Cornish Society as well as the ever-worsening housing crisis

“We must make 2008 a year of real political activism and fight back against those who have so failed Cornwall over the last 12 months.”

Thursday, 6 December 2007

Unitary get government go-ahead

The official government announcement has been made. In a written ministerial statement, John Healey MP has confirmed that Cornwall County Council’s bid for unitary status will proceed and that the first set of elections will take place in 2009.

Though this is not a surprise, the announcement devalues our democratic system because of the way that it has ignored the views of the majority of the people of Cornwall.

Mr Whalley needs a boat!

On Wednesday, I attended the second meeting of the 24-strong Joint Implementation Committee, which has been tasked with devising the proposed unitary council. Held at the offices of Restormel Borough Council, it was certainly frustrating for me to be there as a member of the public and unable to take part in what the generous amongst us would call the ‘debate.’

I did not go to the meeting in a positive frame of mind and left it very, very concerned about the process.

Rather than try to give a full report of the meeting, I will detail three things that I am sure people will find of interest.

First, it was announced that the Council had signed a contract with a consultancy firm to do the ‘baselining’ data collection work to inform the creation of the new council. The councillors were informed that the cost would by up to £710,000. The Committee did not vote to agree the contract – they were simply told it had been done. Where is the democracy in this?

Second, there was considerable debate around what they called the ‘localism agenda.’ It was noted that because the elections would not take place until 2009, there would be a boundary review and the proposed boundaries of the sixteen suggested area networks would also be reviewed. Lib Dem leader David Whalley pushed hard for some aspects of the networks to be piloted in some areas, even though the geography of all these areas was still to be decided. It led wonderfully to independent councillor Pam Lyne exclaiming in frustration: “With respect, Chairman, if you want to go to sea in a boat, you need a boat!”

And third, the leader of Restormel asked about the forthcoming boundary review which he rightly identified needs to be carried out in tandem with the work on the area networks. He was immediately told by one Lib Dem councillor that the issue that he had raised was ‘irrelevant.’

I don’t know about you, but I am worried for Cornwall, its communities and its public services.

Saturday, 1 December 2007

Support the Fire Service

It is good that people power is having some impact on the decision-makers at County Hall. It is to be welcomed that the Council’s Executive plan to recommend an increase in the budget for the Cornish Fire Service and to continue 24 hour cover from Camborne Fire Station.

This would not have happened if it had not been for the widespread anger of communities throughout Cornwall, the petitions, the marches and demonstrations.

The campaign needs to continue however and we must carry on showing our support for the fire-fighters, their unions and in retaining 24 hour cover at Falmouth.

Pictured above are MK councillors recently handing in over 2,000 petition forms opposing the fire cuts proposed by the Lib Dems.

The Cornish Constitutional Convention AGM

This weekend, I attended the Annual General Meeting of the Cornish Constitutional Convention in Truro.

Speaking at the event was the leader of Cornwall County Council David Whalley. His presentation was promoted with the strapline - ‘With the unitary authority secured, now for the roadmap to the Cornish Assembly!'

Apparently, the creation of a single council for Cornwall “will be a significant step towards meeting our aspiration for a more radical and ambitious model of governance, with closer integration of all public services at strategic and local level; a shift from a model of local government to one of local governance.” Words from the Convention press release – not mine!

From my perspective, David Whalley rather unconvincingly told us how a unitary authority would lead to greater powers for Cornwall, he talked about “local government” – not regional government – “structured in a different way,” steps in the right direction and bodies which could evolve.

There were also mixed messages a plenty. We were told that the government was listening, that there is an open door and that the people of Cornwall and their representatives need to tell Westminster what Cornwall needs. But that the County Council had only asked for a unitary authority as that was all that was on offer!

I raised a series of points about why I feel that the arguments for unitary local government for Cornwall are flawed and, in particular, that it was more likely to institutionalise Cornish ‘local government’ beneath a South West regional tier than deliver devolution to the Duchy.

The questions largely went unanswered as the Chair of the meeting brought a very truncated debate to a premature close.

One thing is certain however. Mebyon Kernow will continue to fight for a real Cornish Assembly and a democracy for Cornwall that is fit for the 21st century. If you are not already a member of MK – join us and help us in this campaign.