Wednesday, 23 December 2009

A two-tier democracy

The announcement that Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Nick Clegg will take part in three televised debates during the next General Election demonstrates that there really is a two-tier democracy in the UK.

The SNP and Plaid Cymru are right to be angry as it puts them at an enormous disadvantage, with these high-profile debates focussing attention on the three largest London-centred parties and only the three largest London-centred parties.

Many members of the Labour Party, Conservative Party and Liberal Democrats are already lining up to criticise Alex Salmond for his threat to take legal action on behalf of the SNP. But they would, wouldn’t they? They want to stop other parties getting fair coverage during the election period.

There is talk of single televised debates in Scotland and Wales, but these will almost certainly not include Brown, Cameron and Clegg. And the media will consequently downplay their significance as a result.

As for MK - the same media outlets are refusing to allow us a single parliamentary broadcast and ... oh, how I could go on!

Monday, 21 December 2009

Six months in - the stats

It has been just over six months since I was elected to Cornwall Council. I think now is the time to report back on my performance – statistics wise.

My role as a councillor has been full-time and then some. I have undertaken no other paid work during this period. The Council website presently records that I have an attendance record of 92%.

The stats show that since June, there have been 29 meetings of the various committees that I sit on. Of these, I have attended 24. There were three meetings that I could not attend as I was at another Cornwall Council meeting at the same time (recorded as “apologies due to council business.”) The remaining two meetings that I missed were of the Strategic Planning Committee (dealing with Binhamy Farm, Bude and the Davidstow wind turbine applications). In both these cases, I had given archaeological advice on the applications in my former role as an employee of the Historic Environment Service of Cornwall County Council. I therefore had a prejudicial interest and would not have been able to participate in the debate.

I feel I could legitimately claim to have a 100% attendance record.

As MK Group Leader, I have also set out to attend meetings of certain committees of which I am not a member in order to better understand how the Council operates. The records show that I have attended 17 such meetings in this period (recorded as “in attendance” in the stats) – the fourth highest figure for a councillor.

But this is not in any way the full picture. For all councillors, there are numerous extra meetings, briefings and informal gatherings that are not deemed ‘official’ meetings and therefore not counted.

To take last week as an example, I attended the Waste Panel on Monday (counted) and then spent three days at a Public Inquiry (not counted). In the previous week, I was at three official meetings – Full Council, Planning Policy Panel and the Central Sub-Area Planning Committee. Informal meetings included a scrutiny session on the budget process, a meeting of councillors from the China Clay Area about the eco-town and a briefing on the Council’s plans for carbon reduction. For information (and/or sympathy), extras included two meetings about the upcoming Public Inquiry into the Incinerator, a Parish Council meeting, a meeting of the board of ClayTAWC and I finished off the week with a gathering of MK’s National Executive.

There is also, of course, the challenge of addressing issues from local parishioners when not stuck in meeetings.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Three hours of cross-examination!

It is great to be at home, sitting by a glorious wood fire with a glass of wine. It has certainly been a long and tiring day.

Today, I represented Cornwall Council at a Planning Inquiry in St Austell. Earlier this year, an application was submitted for a TRSA (Trunk Road Service Area) some 500m to the east of Victoria near Roche. It was presented to the Central Sub-Area Planning Committee, which resolved it should be refused.

This was then referred to the Council’s Strategic Planning Committee (an unacceptable practice since stopped). In the meantime, the applicant appealed because the Council had not determined the application and the Strategic Planning Committee voted to contest the appeal.

And that was where I came in. As the officers had recommended that the application be approved, it was necessary for a councillor to front up the Council’s case. I was approached and agreed.

Though the Council has experienced legal support at the Inquiry, I had the task of setting out a summary of the Council’s reasons for refusal. I was then cross-examined by the applicant’s legal representatives. This started at just after 11.00, we broke for one hour for dinner, and I was finally allowed off the stand at 3.20.

I can assure one and all that the wine tastes good tonight.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Support from independent councillors

I am very pleased to make it known that four well-known and respected independent councillors are backing my campaign to be first MP for the new St Austell and Newquay seat.

Des Curnow (St Stephen), Fred Greenslade (St Dennis), Harry Heywood (Newquay Treviglas) and John Wood (Roche) will today issue the following joint statement:

“We are proud to be Independent councillors and have no intention of endorsing any particular political party at the next General Election.

“We are however pleased to be able to offer our full support to Dick Cole as an individual in his bid to become the MP for St Austell and Newquay.

“In recent years, we have worked with Dick on Restormel Borough Council and, more recently, on Cornwall Council. He has always been an extremely committed and effective councillor, who fights hard for local people.

“It is our belief that he is the best candidate to represent our area in Westminster and would make an admirable, sincere and hard-working MP for Cornwall.”

I am most grateful for their kind support and I hope that I will be able to repay the trust that they have placed in me.

The above photograph shows me with (left to right) Fred Greenslade, Des Curnow, Harry Heywood and John Wood.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Voting MK ... for a change

I am delighted to have found a recent entry on Simon Parker's blog on the Western Morning News website ( It reports on MK's recent Conference and our campaign leading up to the next General Election.

Thank you for the kind words, Simon. And for those of you who haven't read it yet, here it is reproduced below.

There’s no getting away from it... within six months we’ll be having a General Election.

For political pundits and party activists it can’t come soon enough. But for the rest of us the prospect of an imminent election, with all the endless posturing and back-biting that involves, is a source of weary resignation.

Of course, it wasn’t always like that. In previous times we, the electorate, had choices. Market forces of socialism. Nationalisation or selling the family silver. Imperialism of internationalism. The list of choices was, if not always to our liking, at least clear-cut.

By contrast, today’s choices are, well, hardly there at all, to the extent that it’s not only impossible to work out what each of the three main parties actually stand for, but that their ability to govern, to lead, is increasingly in doubt. And lads, that’s what you’re there to do – it might be worth remembering it sometimes.

So where does that leave you and I? Can we vote Conservative? No. Never again can we trust a party that presided over the wholesale destruction of our manufacturing base, smashed our traditional industries in the name of dogma, privatised our national assets and derided the very notion of society. They may not have been in power for a dozen years, but don’t be fooled, the same monstrous values still prevail in today’s Tory party.

Labour, then? No. Never again can we trust a party that led us into an illegal and immoral war that has resulted in the documented deaths by violence of at least 102,000 Iraqi civilians, not to mention the servicemen and women from Britain and other countries. New Labour has repeatedly reneged on its principles and it is an absolute travesty that those men and women who worked so hard to make Britain a better place for all after 1945 have been so badly cheated of their legacy. Labour? Clem Attlee wouldn’t recognise it.

OK, the Liberal-Democrats? When undecided on any issue, I find it useful to ask: Would David Penhaligon have voted for it? Sadly, for the unprincipled Lib-Dems – unlike the radical, caring old Liberal Party – I fear the late, lamented member for Truro would not be comfortable with the pronouncements of Nick Clegg’s version of liberalism, either at local or national level.

So that only leaves UKIP, the Green Party, the BNP or a complete boycott of the electoral process.

Only teasing. Of course we have a choice – and, what’s more, one which David Penhaligon would endorse.

It is no exaggeration to say that perhaps for the first time in a generation Cornwall has the opportunity to make a difference to its own affairs by electing a Mebyon Kernow candidate to Westminster.

The calibre of those standing this time is undisputed. At MK’s annual conference, the six candidates – Dick Cole (Newquay & St Austell), Simon Read (St Ives), Loveday Jenkin (Camborne & Redruth), Loic Rich (Truro & Falmouth), Joanie Willett (North Cornwall) and Glenn Renshaw (South East Cornwall) – displayed maturity, coherence, clear policies, confidence and determination. With the Tories, Lib-Dems and Labour in disarray and tainted by the scandal of illegal expenses claims, surely this is the hour for Mebyon Kernow to benefit from the massive unpopularity of the three main parties. After all, it’s always more effective to kick an enemy when he’s already down.

If MK has any chance of scoring what to many seems an unachievable goal, they have to first believe that an MK MP is attainable. Not only that but they have to convince the electorate that they too can believe in victory.

Many will argue that MK cannot hope to compete against the Big Three, whose financial budget dwarfs that of the Cornish party. But perhaps by putting all its efforts and resources into a simple popular slogan (something like VOTE FOR CORNWALL VOTE FOR REAL CHANGE VOTE MK) the party could tap into the frustrations of all those who feel uncomfortable voting Labour, Tory or Lib-Dem.

It would not be a protest vote but instead a positive declaration of support for Cornwall’s self-determination (I’M VOTING FOR CORNWALL I’M VOTING FOR REAL CHANGE I’M VOTING MK).

Such a campaign has the potential to generate a groundswell of popular support, appealing to a spectrum of voters:

Former supporters of the three main parties who have become disillusioned and feel cheated and want to give their own party a bloody nose.

Floating voters who have become disenfranchised through a combination of policy failures and lies by the three main parties.

Idealistic first-time voters desperate for something to believe in.

Voters who want the best for Cornwall. This is the Joker in MK’s pack and something the other parties don’t have. MK alone appeals to those who don’t love politics but do love Cornwall and feel passionately that Cornwall’s voice needs to be heard in Parliament.

Do the members of MK even realise just how close they are to victory? The notion of Cornishness has grown to a level which was unthinkable even 10 years ago – and it is that sense of distinctiveness that MK can tap into at a time when the popularity of Labour, Lib-Dems and Tories is at an all-time low.

This rise in popularity was demonstrated at this year’s European Parliament when the party polled seven per cent of the votes in Cornwall – beating Labour – and in the Cornwall Council election, which resulted in three seats for MK.

At last week’s conference, Dick Cole announced that the party was “looking forward” to the General Election. That, of course, is a politician speaking; he’s very unlikely to say his members are dreading it. But we knew what he meant.

How many party faithful in the hall truly believed that in a few months the Palace of Westminster would be welcoming its first MK MP? It takes more than hope to elect an MP. It takes confidence, tenacity, an effective campaign and a huge dollop of self-belief – something party leader Dick Cole does possess.

“Make no mistake,” said Dick. “It was a massive achievement for MK to get three councillors elected to serve at County Hall – something not achieved by a host of political parties including Labour, UKIP, the Greens and others. In the European Elections we achieved seven per cent of the votes in Cornwall, even though we were excluded from television air-time and much meaningful publicity. This shows that MK is in a stronger position than ever before.”

Councillor Cole spoke about the “immeasurable damage done to politics” by the Westminster expenses scandal and called on MPs found to have abused the system to be banned from office for life. He told party members that the challenge in the coming months would be to prove to the public that a vote for Mebyon Kernow will breathe desperately-needed fresh air into Cornish and British politics.

“We are involved in politics because we care about our local communities and because we want to win a better deal for Cornwall. Politics to us is about public service – it is about doing what is right. People do not join MK to become an MP in some safe seat or to build a career or to put their personal interest ahead of the needs of local people. Our politics is about hope for the future – not cynicism in the present.”

Another candidate speaking with confidence was Joanie Willett, who will be standing in the North Cornwall constituency in the 2010 General Election. She told the meeting: “Cornwall has been marginalised by the London-based political parties. We have witnessed and experienced the inadequacies of recent Labour and previous Tory governments. Closer to home, it has been staggering to see how the Lib-Dems have run roughshod over the people’s wishes over the past four years. This neglect is compounded by the recession, the continual erosion of public services, the lack of affordable housing and the often damaging roles of quangos. We do not need self-serving politicians not interested in democracy. We do not need overpaid and transient civil servants chasing the next lucrative job. Cornwall needs people who know what they are doing and can make the right decisions – decisions based on the needs of Cornish communities. We have to be brave, bold and be prepared to fight against the odds. When Mebyon Kernow takes to the streets we want people to look and listen and join us. While we need to recognise that we have made great steps as a political party, we need to remain grounded in active campaigning on the issues that affect thousands of ordinary people.”

Councillor Loic Rich, the prospective parliamentary candidate for Truro and Falmouth, added: “The future is in our hands. People are actively voting for us. Not reluctantly and not as a protest. They are excited about our message. They notice how hard we work. We, above anyone else, can make Cornwall a better place to live. We fight for Cornish industries, for Cornish culture, for Cornish housing and for stopping the constant loss of public services across the Tamar.”

So what is to be done? Cornwall can elect the same tired and discredited parties. Or Cornwall can elect MPs who represent Cornwall and Cornwall alone, with no hidden agenda or allegiance to a party machine.

A lot of people have never even considered voting MK in the past – certainly not in a General Election.

But when the 2010 General Election date is finally set, we will all have to ask ourselves: What’s the alternative?

Thursday, 3 December 2009

No broadcasts for MK

In September, MK made representations to the Broadcasters’ Liaison Group concerning the criteria for party political broadcasts at the next General Election. The BBC has now published its draft criteria.

It does not look good for MK. The draft states that a “registered political party which stands candidates in a minimum of one sixth of the seats up for election in a nation will qualify for one PEB in that nations.”

But this means that:

“In England, a political party will qualify for one PEB if it stands in a minimum of 89 seats.

“In Scotland, a political party will qualify for one PEB if it stands in a minimum of 10 seats.

“In Wales, a political party will qualify for one PEB if it stands in a minimum of 7 seats.

“In Northern Ireland, a political party will qualify for one PEB if it stands in a minimum of 3 seats.”

Mebyon Kernow will be standing in all six seats in the nation of Cornwall. But that does not seem to matter. Under these rules, to get a broadcast, MK would need to stand in all six Cornish seats as well as 83 other seats in England and that would only cost us an extra £41,500 in deposits alone!

Who says “democracy” isn’t biased against smaller political parties?

MPs say NO!

It is sad to hear that MPs have rejected a bid for a Cornish tickbox on the 2011 census. Dan Rogerson MP had moved an amendment to the Draft Census Order 2009 for England and Wales but it was rejected by 261 votes to 49.

It is clear that, over the next two years, we need to promote a massive “write-in” campaign that encourages Cornish people to use the census to demonstrate their strength of feeling about their own identity.

Monday, 23 November 2009

"Cornish voice"

MK's Party Conference was covered in today's Western Morning News. We even featured in their editorial. For those who have not seen it, what the newspapers printed is repeated below:

"Funny things are going on in the world of politics at the moment. Mainstream media may be relentlessly focussing attention on the three big parties, but disillusionment with MPs in general following the expenses scandal has persuaded many voters to look beyond Labour, Conservative and the Liberal Democrats in search of a more inspiring political creed.

"That has, inevitably, helped some parties at the extreme, but it has also given a new lease of life to some long-established but perhaps unfashionable causes. Mebyon Kernow, the Party for Cornwall, falls into this category. It has been around for ages and has enjoyed a modest but consistent level of support in its heartlands for a number of years.

"But could it be on the cusp of a more significant breakthrough? The creation of a unitary authority for Cornwall cannot have done MK any harm at all. The recent decision, by that very local authority, to replace English road signs in Cornwall with bilingual ones also featuring Cornish marks another move to a Cornwall more aware of its roots.

"At the last elections, for the unitary authority and the European Parliament, MK outpolled Labour. Quite a feat in a county that, until recently, boasted at least one Labour MP. At this weekend’s party conference the emphasis was on building on that success. Could next year’s General Election really put MK on the map?"

Sunday, 22 November 2009

MK Party Conference

It has been a restful day. I am taking it easy after a busy week and yesterday's Party Conference.

The AGM went smoothly, there was an inspiring talk on modern campaign techniques from two Plaid Cymru members and the speeches in the afternoon were well received.

Overall it was a very positive day, with many members reporting evidence of growing support across Cornwall. We are certainly looking forward to the General Election .

Shown below are a few photographs of the day (top to bottom); Joanie Willett (PPC for North Cornwall), Cllr John Taylor from Plaid Cymru, Cllr Loic Rich (PPC for Truro and Falmouth) and Cllr Loveday Jenkin (PPC for Camborne and Redruth).

Friday, 20 November 2009

Children in Need

Cross-party unity and cross-dressing was the order of the day at County Hall today. Four councillors, one from each of the political groups, joined with staff to raise funds for Children in Need. These 'Gentlemen' are pictured above(from left to right): Scott Mann (Con), Andrew Wallis (Independent), Jeremy Rowe (Liberal Democrat) and the deputy leader of the MK group, Andrew Long.

Don't ask me to describe what happened. All I will say is that it will live long in the memory!

Thursday, 19 November 2009

The eco-town is spreading

Lat night, I attended a public meeting at the Keay Theatre in St Austell to find out more about the proposed first phases of the ORASCOM / IMERYS eco-town. There were about 160-180 people present.

The meeting was told that local people would soon be consulted on plans to build 1,800-2,500 properties at Baal/West Carclaze and 700-800 at Par Docks – an increase in housing numbers from those previously suggested.

I took the opportunity to speak and question how the plans were evolving.

The developers continue to state that they have plans for 5,000 homes in the eco-own spread over five sites. But in the original proposals (2008), only one thousand homes were planned for Baal. Earlier this year, that figure was increased to 1,500 properties and now they say they want to build 1,800-2,500 units. The development site has been also been increased in size, taking in some areas of green field.

At Par, the original proposal (2008) was for 250-500 properties, but that has now been increased to 700-800. Originally the site also had six hectares of employment land but on the most recent plans the ‘business park’ had been removed and replaced with more housing.

Local people need to know what the developers are planning for the eco-town as a whole. Do they plan to provide less houses in Blackpool, Bugle and Nanpean? Or do they plan to increase the size of the eco-town overall? What about the employment space?

There are many questions to which local people need the answers.

Monday, 16 November 2009

Incinerator latest from County Hall

Cornwall Council has today released a statement concerning the incinerator application and the Integrated Waste Management Contract.

Key points include:

· The Cabinet of Cornwall Council now has the right to terminate the Contract with SITA (or to ask for a Revised Project Plan) because a ‘long-stop date’ in the Contract (specifying that works should commence by the end of March 2010) cannot be achieved.

· If Cornwall Council terminates the contract, it would need to meet the costs of all the facilities provided by SITA so far. This has been estimated to cost £30 million.

· The Integrated Waste Management Contract and associated procurement rules are restrictive. Within the scope of the Contract, a smaller incinerator could be built within the China Clay Area and an anaerobic digestion facility added. However, any alternative scheme involving a different technology or location outside of the Central Cornwall Area of Search could not be agreed as a modification to the existing Contract.

The Contract also included a ‘price guarantee’ to build the incinerator, but only to March 2010. This also means that if the 240,000 tonne incinerator is built, its costs will be vastly greater than originally budgeted.

Fred Greenslade, John Wood and I have released the following statement to reaffirm our opposition to the incinerator proposed for St Dennis.

“It remains our view that the proposal for an incinerator at St Dennis is unsustainable. We are working hard to make sure that SITA’s appeal does not succeed and to persuade the Council to find a better way to deal with Cornwall’s waste.

“It is our intention to do everything in our power to make sure that Cornwall Council’s Cabinet fully considers the option to terminate the Contract.”

The full statement from Cornwall Council was as follows:

Cornwall Council is working hard to find appropriate ways to deal with Cornwall’s waste. The Council is in a position whereby it has an Integrated Waste Management Contract in place with SITA, some of which is not in the public domain for reasons of commercial confidentiality. The application for an Energy from Waste plant, required by that contract, will soon be going to Public Inquiry.

Cornwall Council would like to make as much information about the situation as publicly available as is possible and in a spirit of openness makes the following statement.

· Cornwall Council has two roles – as the Waste Disposal Authority and also the Planning Authority for Cornwall.

· In 2006, Cornwall County Council agreed a 30-year £427 million contract with SITA to deliver an Integrated Waste Management Contract. This specifically included the construction of a 240,000 tonne Energy from Waste plant at St Dennis (within the Central Cornwall Area of Search as identified in the Council’s 2002 Waste Local Plan).

· In March 2009, Cornwall County Council’s Planning Committee voted to refuse the application. The reasons for the refusal included the impact of the facility on the St Dennis area. SITA has since gone to appeal and the Public Inquiry will commence on 16th March 2010.

· The Contract includes a ‘long-stop date’ clause, which states that if works have not commenced on the Energy from Waste plant by the end of March 2010 Cornwall Council have the right to terminate the contract through a ‘force majeure’ (‘no fault’) mechanism, or to seek a revised project plan.

· SITA recently wrote to Cornwall Council to confirm that it would be unable to achieve the ‘long-stop date’ because following the Planning Inquiry the decision of the Secretary of State will not be available by the due date. Cornwall Council’s cabinet will therefore soon need to take the decision as to whether or not to terminate the contract or to ask for a Revised Project Plan. If the council terminated the contract it would need to meet the costs of all the facilities provide by SITA thus far, that would otherwise have been paid for over the length of the contract. This has been estimated to cost £30m.

· The Public Inquiry will assess whether the 240,000 tonne Energy from Waste proposal is appropriate, but SITA are starting discussions on the potential for alternative proposals (the “Revised Project Plan”). They are investigating whether this could be done in a way to address the reasons for refusal (eg. the impact of the Energy from Waste building, height of chimney, etc). SITA are in discussion with Cornwall Council’s Waste Disposal team in regard to this. At the same time, Cornwall Council’s Natural Resources Team is preparing to robustly defend the existing appeal.

· If the Public Inquiry rules in favour of the Council as the local planning authority and if it looks unlikely that a revised application would be successful, Cornwall Council would retain the right to terminate the Contract through ‘force majeure.’ The costs would remain at an estimated £30m.

· One option that is being considered by Cornwall Council is a smaller Energy from Waste plant that could be built within the scope of the Contract and related procurement rules, though a significant reduction in capacity would not be acceptable in terms of procurement. The Contract also allows for anaerobic digestion to be added to those provided through the Contract.

· Cornwall’s Waste Advisory Panel is looking at alternative ways to deal with Cornwall’s waste and there are two important things to note.

a) The current policy document in place at the moment is the 2002 Waste Local Plan which specifies the construction of a single, central Energy from Waste plant.

b) It also remains the case that any alternative scheme (e.g. with a different technology, a different location outside of the Central Cornwall Area of Search, etc) could not be agreed as a modification to the existing Contract due to procurement rules and would have to be part of a new procurement.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

All welcome at MK Conference

Mebyon Kernow Annual General Meeting and Conference takes place on Saturday November 21st 2009. The venue will be the Public Rooms in Bodmin.

The morning session covers the Annual General Meeting and a discussion about campaign strategies. In the afternoon, there will be a number of speeches from leading MK members and parliamentary candidates.

This afternoon session starts at 2.00 and is open to members of the General Public. If you are not already a member of MK, why not come along and meet the MK activists in your area.? You would be most welcome.

For more information, email:

Cornish Language Policy update

It has been “interesting” to see how the decision of Cornwall Council’s Cabinet to agree a Cornish Language Policy has been reported.

The headline in the Western Morning News, for example, stated “Council divided over dual language signs” while the The Daily Mail said that “moves to make Cornwall officially bi-lingual have sparked a furious row.” Strange that – as the actual vote of the cabinet was unanimous!

The reaction of posters on the Worldwide Web was very varied, though it was good to see the results of the poll on The question was: Should signs in Cornwall be bilingual? The result was that 71% of people said that we should embrace the Cornish language.

There was sadly a lot of negative and many nasty comments on internet forums. Here are a selected sample:

“They are a funny lot down in Pointy-head Land. I lived in a Cornish village for 12 years and after about 10 years a local asked me if I was settling in alright.”

“Another example of the minority tail wagging the majority dog.”

“Yet another set of council idiots. Is this the begining of a campaign for a Cornwall parliament? I don't believe it!”

“Oooh arrr. Should keep the yokels on the right road.”

“What a sensitive lot some of you pastie eaters are!!”

“Just like Welsh … Cornish isn't a real language … it's just an ugly noise.”

Such attitudes are concerning, when all the Council is trying to do is support and positively enhance Cornwall’s cultural distinctiveness.

There were also numerous comments about the cost such as “What's the Cornish for "Complete waste of money, m'dear"???” And that was even after the newspapers had made it clear that the “changes would not cost the Council any extra as manufacturers would add the translations at no extra charge and will only apply for new signs or for signs that need replacing” (Western Morning News).

One last thing, in my previous post on this debate I neglected to record that Cllr Julian German, the Cabinet member with responsibility for the Environment, used Cornish in the actual debate to rightly illustrate that Cornish is a living language with a real future.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Cornish Language Policy

At the same Cabinet meeting, the six Conservatives and four Independents "in charge" voted to adopt a Cornish Language Policy for the new Council. A couple of councillors questioned the policy – which allowed the local press to dream up the headline “Council divided over dual language signs” even though the Cabinet vote had been unanimous.

I did speak in the debate and pointed out that it was important to protect our heritage and build on Cornish distinctiveness, which could also have huge economic benefits for Cornwall. To the doubters, I pointed out strongly that the Council’s commitment to the “Region of Culture” bid would be very hollow if we did not do all in our power to protect the Cornish Language - one of our unique selling points.

I was also interviewed by BBC Spotlight on the topic.

I can report that every time there is a “Cornish” or “Cultural” issue at County Hall, I am ritually trotted out to comment. Obviously, I am very happy to do this but have offered to comment on all manner of socio-economic and other political issues as well which is my bread and butter.

Severance packages - Round 2

Following my earlier report on the first call-in at Cornwall Council, I attended the meeting of the Cabinet on Wednesday to see it re-address its earlier decision on future redundancy packages for staff. I cannot say that I was happy at how the issue was dealt with.

The Leader allowed the Chairman of the Scrutiny Committee to speak and then announced that the discussion would be restricted to Cabinet members only. The report admitted that the process and the consultation could have been better, but that more than the bare minimum had been done. The Cabinet then voted to reaffirm its original decision with a tweak.

I was quite angry. The issue that I had raised at the Scrutiny meeting – namely that staff could end up being treated differently (see earlier post) – was not considered in the report or discussed by the Cabinet.

And as I was not allowed to speak, I could not even bring this omission to their attention.

A part-time job?

There have been a couple of letters to the papers in recent weeks criticising councillors. Some of the concerns were valid, but there were also comments about the role being part-time. The reality is that anyone who tells you being a Cornwall Councillor is not a full-time job is fibbing.

Take Monday as an example. I chaired the third meeting of the Council’s Planning Policy Advisory Panel. It was a positive meeting and only lasted five-and-a-half hours - I allowed the members a half-hour break for dinner.

It was easy going stuff. The Local Development Scheme for the Local Development Framework, a report on a scoping report for a Sustainability Appaisal, a report on the Level 1 Strategic Flood Risk Assessment for Cornwall, further guidance on flooding, as well as three reports from the Natural Resources Team on minerals/minerals safeguarding and a final document on functional areas.

I also had an invitation to attend the announcement of the first phase of the eco-town at 12.30 on the same day, which I obviously couldn't manage, and plenty of paperwork to deal with in the evening.

Not bad for a day of part-time work!

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Scrutiny demand Cabinet re-think!

There was a ‘first’ at County Hall today. It was the first meeting of an Overview and Scrutiny Committee to debate a Cabinet decision that had been ‘called in.’

The venue was the Trelawny Room. It was the Corporate Resources OSC and the subject was the Severance Policy for Cornwall Council staff. The Cabinet had decided to drastically cut the amount that would be payable in the event of future redundancies.

The call-in was arranged by Committee Chairman John Keeling, due to concerns about how the decision had been taken, the lack of consultation with the unions and other staff members, as well as a range of issues of detail. John proved to be a masterful Chair and the meeting was very much in the style of a parliamentary Select Committee, with members quizzing two senior officers of the Council, a union official and the Deputy Leader.

There was a broad consensus that the process leading up to the Cabinet’s decision had been flawed and numerous questions were also tabled about the decision itself.

I queried why certain employees who might be made redundant from 2010 onwards as a direct consequence of the move to unitary would be compensated less than those who will have left the Council’s employment before that date. I made the point that I believed all people who might lose their jobs as a result of the changes in local government should be treated the same.

The Director replied that those employees still to be affected by the ‘transition’ period would have redundancy payments calculated on the existing policies, but later job losses as part of the ‘transformation’ (whether identified in the unitary bid or not) and ‘efficiencies’ would be treated differently through the new policies.

He said this was equitable. I disagreed and described his distinction as inequitable and morally indefensible.

The Committee does not have the power to over-ride the decision but can ask the Cabinet to think again. I am glad to be able to report that the Committee voted unanimously to ask the Cabinet to revisit the decision itself and the processes it followed to come to the decision.

An update

There are two reasons why I have not blogged for the last three weeks or so. The first was my wonderful ten days holiday in Gwynedd during the middle of October (see above). And the second was the somewhat manic nature of the last couple of weeks.

It has certainly not been quiet.

Cornwall Council has gone public on its ‘bleak’ financial position and the possibility of a £15 million overspend. There has been the Ofsted inspection into Children’s Services which have been branded ‘inadequate’ on 22 out of the 33 areas assessed.

The date for the Public Inquiry into the incinerator has been set (March 16) and the STIG Strategy Group now has the task to prepare a wide range of papers (Statement of Case, Statement of Evidence, etc).

The list goes on ...

Sunday, 4 October 2009

New roles in Clay Country

In this last week, I have attended my first meetings as one of Cornwall Council’s three members on the Board of Clay Country Local Action and a Director of the ClayTAWC facility in St Dennis.

Clay Country Local Action is a Rural Development Programme and between 2007 and 2013 will invest £1.8 million in to the local area. Priorities for the programme will include (i) Harnessing the Natural Environment, (ii) Sustainable tourism and (iii) Providing new opportunities for local people.

ClayTAWC is the Clay Area Training and Work Centre, which provides support to local residents in training, education and working towards employment. It is also a wonderful local community venue for local people.

I am looking forward to playing my part in both Clay Country Local Action and ClayTAWC to the best of my ability.

St Dennis Public Meeting

On Friday (25th September), Fred Greenslade, John Wood and I organised a public meeting at St Dennis in association with St Dennis Against Incineration and the Parish Council.

The meeting was primarily to inform people about what was likely to happen over the next few months, now that SITA had appealed against the refusal of their application for an incinerator in this area.

Julian German (the cabinet member for Waste) and Corporate Director Tom Flanagan both started the meeting by assuring local people that the Council will robustly defend the appeal.

The meeting covered the content of the Integrated Waste Management Contract, the appeal (which will probably be through a Public Inquiry scheduled no later than March/April 2010), the potential outcomes of the appeal and the work of the Council’s new Waste Advisory Panel to look at all of the options available for dealing with waste in Cornwall.

We also made sure that people were aware of the limited extent to which the contract could be varied without falling foul of procurement and contract rules. But Fred, John and I pledged that we would do everything in our power to make sure that all options around the termination of the Contract were also properly investigated and considered.

I can also report that Cornwall Council has agreed to meet with representatives of the communities of St Dennis and Treviscoe in order to explore how the Council can assist local people and organisations in presenting their views to the Public Inquiry. This meeting will be organised in the near-future.

SOUL in St Austell

Once again, it has been a few days since my last post.

On Thursday (24th September), I was invited to speak at a public meeting organised by SOUL (Save Our Unspoilt Land) in St Austell. This group has been set-up following the news that Wainhomes plan to put in a planning application for 1,500 new properties adjacent to the town.

I focussed on problems with the planning system. In particular, the ridiculous housing numbers proposed for the old Restormel area (contained within the Regional Spatial Strategy) and how the recent delays in producing local planning policies (compounded by the setting up of the unitary authority) meant developers were testing the limits of what would normally be allowed.

I also appealed to the meeting to see the big picture and to also focus demands on a proper housing strategy for the St Austell area.

Since the meeting it has become clear that the Regional Spatial Strategy for the South West is in difficulties. Following legal challenges on similar documents in the East of England, the government has instructed that further work will need to be carried out on all Regional Spatial Strategies.

Sunday, 20 September 2009

An early morning

The things I do for the cause of Cornish nationalism. I have just finished my latest interview for the BBC. This time, it was Radio 5 Live and the time 6.35 on a Sunday morning. Quite a grilling, with the same and predictable old chestnuts as 'why not Lancashire?'

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Talking to the BBC

I have just got back from the Radio Cornwall studio, where I spent the last hour crammed into a small studio with Professor Philip Payton (Institute of Cornish Studies) waiting to participate in a debate on Cornish Identity for the Night Waves programme on Radio 3.

It was quite a truncated debate and lasted 12 minutes or so, with Andrew George MP also involved but from a different studio. At this stage, I am not sure if people will be able to isten to the programme again on the BBC website.

I was also interviewed by the local Spotlight team today concerning the campaign for a Cornish tickbox on the 2011 census, which will be featured on the Politics Show on Sunday.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Climate Change - the Cornish Declaration

At yesterday’s meeting of Cornwall Council, I was one of five members who sponsored a motion to endorse the Cornish Declaration. It calls on the Government to help forge a global agreement to keep the increase in temperature of the planet to below 2 C.

The Declaration, which is being spearheaded by Truro Cathedral, encourages people and organisations in Cornwall to support action to ensure that Cornwall is part of a planet which lives within its means.

The motion was proposed by Julian German, the portfolio-holder for the Environment, who stated that it was his “ambition is to turn the concept of a green Cornwall into a reality” and for Cornwall to send a strong message to Copenhagen in December.

The meeting did not go as planned. The Lib Dems moved an amendment, to the already-agreed cross-party motion. This was for the Council to support the 10 / 10 campaign which aims to reduce carbon emissions by 10% in 2010.

Cllr Julian German was happy to incorporate this into the original proposal, but it soon became clear that many members were not willing to support the campaign without further information.

In my second speech in the debate, I made it clear that I backed the 10 / 10 campaign and that I would vote for it. But realising the tone of the meeting, I suggested that we focus on the Cornish declaration and bring the 10 / 10 campaign back to a future meeting with more information.

This was not taken on board by the Lib Dems and the Council voted not to support the 10 / 10 initiative at this time. It has since been made clear that a report into the potential implications for the Council of adopting the 10 / 10 targets would be prepared and brought back to a future meeting.

I hope that the proposal from the Lib Dems was made for the correct reasons, but sadly they are already trying to make political capital out of the vote at the expense of the Conservatives. The PPC in my area has already tweeted that “Conservative-led Cornwall Council voted today to reject a motion for 10% carbon cut in 2010 - They're still the same old Tories ...”

Nonetheless, the Cornish Declaration was unanimously supported by the councillors present at the meeting.

I am pictured above with (left to right): Mike Clayton (Deputy Leader of Independent Group), Doris Ansari (Leader of Lib Dem Group), Kevin Lavery (Chief Executive), Alec Robertson (Council Leader and Leader of Conservative Group), Julian German and Independent councillor Bob Egerton.

What a difference a meeting makes!

It was following this debate that I thought back to the previous Council meeting when the Lib Dems had moved a motion to freeze councillors’ allowances and not to undertake the independent review that the Liberal Democrat-run County Council had agreed was necessary.

The three MK members did not support the motion. I will not go into detail on the many reasons for this, but we felt that it was important that the independent review went ahead.

In the campaigns for two Camborne Town Council by-elections, a short time after the debate, the Lib Dems put out a range of leaflets which misrepresented the issue and were not particularly pleasant. Literature was even circulated on behalf of Julia Goldsworthy which claimed “MK promised to stand up for local people at the last elections. Instead we find them jumping into bed with the Conservatives at the very first opportunity …”

But now that we have supported a Liberal Democrat amendment, I must ask, will the Lib Dems in the Camborne and Redruth area now be putting out a leaflet to express their anger that – shock horror – MK councillors have “jumped into bed” with the Lib Dems!

The truth is that, on both occasions, we did what we thought was right. And that is what we will continue to do!

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Planning Policy Panel

I am very pleased to report that I was elected Chairman of Cornwall Council’s Planning Policy Advisory Panel on Monday. This panel will make recommendations to cabinet concerning the Local Development Framework for Cornwall and a range of related planning and other documents.

It will be a massive amount of work and extremely important for the future direction of Cornwall.

Monday, 14 September 2009

Responding to Piran Pascoe

In last week’s Cornish Guardian and West Briton newspapers, Piran Pascoe wrote a column entitled ‘Cornwall is in England, not next to it – and the Cornish cannot be allowed to control our own affairs.’ Among other comments it referred to, for example, ‘bored individuals who refuse to grow up … insist on living on fantasy island, calling for Cornwall to become an independent nation that governs itself.’

They have allowed me to produce a response which I understand will be printed later this week. The response is shown below.

Piran Pascoe’s piece in last week’s paper was a deliciously mischievous piece and clearly written to generate a reaction.

Sadly, the press statement from Mebyon Kernow featured within the article was misrepresented and I would like to put the record straight. The point of the MK statement was that although constitutional reform has re-emerged as a political issue, following the scandal over MPs’ expenses scandal, there has been much grandstanding and political point-scoring, but Government proposals thus far have been a sadly timid series of measures on the fringes of the present arrangements.

Our press statement unsurprisingly called for the devolution of powers to a National Assembly for Cornwall and an end to the influence of unelected and unaccountable quangos based outside of Cornwall. It also included wide-ranging demands such as fixed-term Westminster Parliaments, proportional representation (Single Transferable Vote), an end to the unelected second chamber, the relocation of various government bodies and institutions away from London and the South East, as well as the strengthening of local government.

It was therefore more than a little disappointing that Mr Pascoe chose to caricature what I considered to be a balanced statement. And for our call for greater powers for Cornwall to be misrepresented as a demand for ‘Cornish independence’ is especially frustrating.

Mr Pascoe – why shouldn’t decisions about Cornwall be taken in Cornwall? Why do key decisions about housing and jobs and the environment have to be taken by unelected quangos outside of the Duchy? I truly believe that Cornwall deserves better from the present democratic set-up and that is what Mebyon Kernow will continue to campaign for - greater powers for Cornwall.

I also found it disappointing that Mr Pascoe wished to ridicule people who are passionate about their Cornish identity. I, for one, am glad that Cornwall is not an identikit English county but a historic nation, like Wales and Scotland, with a strong identity and a wide range of wonderful cultural traditions including the Cornish language.

This is something to celebrate and be positive about – both now and into the future.

Saturday, 12 September 2009

At the flower show

Today was derby day on the rugby field with Redruth RFC taking on Launceston at Polson Bridge.

I was one Redruth supporter who could not make it this year. I had the privilege to be handing out the prizes at the flower and produce show in my local Parish.

It was a well-supported show and the committee who organised the event should be congratulated on their success.

I was particularly chuffed to win a white teddy bear in the ‘guess the number of marbles in the bottle’ competition. My suggestion was 516. I was only two out - there were 518 marbles!

Well done to Launceston on their win - I am already looking forward to the rematch in January when, hopefully, the result will be different.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

SITA takes incinerator to appeal

Yesterday it was announced that SITA plan to appeal the decision of Cornwall County Council to refuse their application for an incinerator near St Dennis. Since then, press statements have been flying thick and fast, some of them very political. I made the following statement with my fellow councillors. Fred Greenslade and John Wood (above), from the China Clay Area.

“We are disappointed that SITA has chosen to go to appeal.

“The incinerator application was turned down for a multitude of sound planning reasons. We remain convinced that this was the correct decision for the people of St Dennis and Treviscoe, and Cornwall as a whole. There must be better ways to deal with Cornwall’s waste.

“As elected members for the China Clay Area, we have already sought and received assurances from the administration of Cornwall Council that they will properly resource and robustly defend the appeal. We will also do our utmost to make sure that this is the case.

“We are also actively working through the Council’s Waste Advisory Panel to explore alternatives to a single incinerator. As part of this work, we are also investigating the scope and limitations of the contract (signed by SITA and the previous Council) in order to understand what options are available to the Council.”

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Books in the West Midlands

People often complain how difficult it is to get things done in August because so many people are away on holiday with their families. I have to say that, over the last two-three weeks, I have encountered this frustration. Phone call after phone call and …

It was therefore almost with relief that my wife dragged me away to the West Midland this weekend to visit her parents.

I used the opportunity to relax and stick my head in some books. If you are interested I revisited my youth to read a Louis L’Amour western (I read dozens of his books when I was a teenager), followed that up with the biography of singer, actor and political campaigner Kris Kristofferson and then an amazing novel by Bernhard Schlink entitled The Reader.

Let us hope I haven’t got any of those names and titles wrong – see previous posting!

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Media coverage and ...oops!

Press coverage is a funny beast. Sometimes, it is great to see a campaign or an issue raised in the media; at other times, one can be disappointed at the coverage. And then there are those occasions when newspaper reports do not fully reflect what is said at meetings.

I had that experience recently following a Cornwall Council meeting when councillor expenses were debated. I made what I thought was a balanced contribution. I commented on a range of issues (which I will not go into in depth here) but included the fact that the make-up of the Council, in terms of age, etc, did not reflect the make-up of the wider population and this was partly to do with how the role was renumerated. I made a light-hearted comment about there being a lot of ‘grey hair’ in the Council chamber which was primarily a joke at myself – I may only be 42 but I certainly have few black hairs left on my head. I pointed to my head whilst making the comment and the punchline was so obvious that the Chairman of the meeting even beat me to it.

The ‘grey hair’ comment was reported in the press without the wider context, alongside a disconnected comment about encouraging younger people into politics. As a consequence, I have received post accusing me of being disrespectful to older people.

At the same time, I was pleased to be contacted by the Newquay Voice who told me they were going to report some comments I made on my blog (see my August 2nd posting) in what was last week’s paper. In the event, I was a little disappointed that the edit lost some sense of the original but they also kindly asked me to answer a series of questions (such as my favourite place in Cornwall, my three favourite films, etc) to print a profile of me in the same paper.

I was asked to produce the text within 5-6 hours and I duly obliged. It was a hard thing to do and I pondered over it quite a bit. For example, in terms of favourite books, I considered a number including Laurie Lee’s Cider with Rosie and Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mocking Bird – both of which I read as a child. Amazingly, I settled on “Laurie Lee’s To Kill a Mocking Bird” – a schoolboy error happily pointed out by Bob the Hat in his column in this week’s papers. To repeat what he said – oops!

For interest, the corrected version of my answers that were printed in the Newquay Voice is as follows:

Your three favourite books

My house is stacked floor to ceiling with books and it would extremely difficult to choose just three. But I will go for the recent biography of Gwynfor Evans (the first MP for Plaid Cymru – the Party of Wales); Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird which I first read as a pupil at Newquay Treviglas School and have re-read since; and 500 Nations: An Illustrated History of North American Indians by Alvin M. Josephy.

Your three favourite pieces of music
I have a very wide-ranging taste in music. Three favourites would be the What’s Going On album from Marvin Gaye, which mixes outstanding music with vital social comment; the Too-Rye-Ay album by Dexys Midnight Runners – a favourite of my youth – and a wonderful compilation that I have of the jazz saxophone player Paul Desmond.

Your three favourite films
I love historical epics and powerful films. Favourites would include Mel Gibson’s Braveheart (the Hollywood version of the life of Scottish rebel William Wallace); Cinderella Man starring Russell Crowe (the story of boxer Jim Braddock in the US Depression of the 1930s); and Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life starring James Stewart.

Your three favourite hobbies
My life is extremely busy and I don’t have hobbies as such. I support Redruth Rugby Club and try to get to most home games. It is also true that nothing beats a good walk on a Cornish moor or along our wonderful coastline.

Your favourite place in Cornwall
I grew up on the edge of the Goss Moor, where I am still at my most happy - especially in those more hidden areas that many walkers do not visit!

Your favourite food
My favourite would be the plate that is piled nice and high!

Your favourite shop
I love second-hand bookshops and have fond, sometimes expensive, memories of such shops throughout Cornwall and further afield.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Area networks

Today, I attended the second meeting of the Communities Overview and Scrutiny Committee. Three items were considered for further scrutiny (i) the Fire Service, (ii) a potential PFI bid for housing and (ii) Area Networks.

Unsurprisingly, I had a lot to say – particularly on the issue of affordable housing (more on that another time).

On the subject of the 19 Area Networks, there has been considerable informal debate by the members of the Council. The portfolio holder with responsibility says there is a commitment to the “Community Network Areas … as administrative areas” but some members appear less than supportive of the panels, that are planned to involve elected members and others, at the centre of the networks.

Some councillors appear worried that a large town would dominate rural parishes or indeed vice versa.

In the China Clay Area, we had a good Area Committee for many years and, for this area in particular, made up of numerous village communities, it is vital that the Network is allowed to function. A strong member-led panel in this area would be an important adjunct to what we do.

I believe there are many issues – but they are not to do with the principle of a panel. They are to do with the detail of how it would work, the links between the Cornwall Councillors, the parishes, etc. And most importantly, the main issue is the appropriate resourcing of the panel.

Take community funding as an example. Councillors have been allocated £2,200 each for a community pot – a total of £13,200 for the six councillors in our area for this coming year. By contrast, I have worked out that in the previous seven years, Restormel had awarded grants to community groups in our patch to a total of £357,000 – an annual figure of £51,000!

Monday, 17 August 2009

Getting to grips with Cornwall's waste

I have been on coach trip today with Cornwall Council’s Waste Panel of which I am a member. We started at United Mines Landfill Site (above) before moving onto the Material Recycling Facility at Pool, a Waste Transfer station and a Household Waste Recycling Centre, both at St Erth, as well as a composting facility at Splattenridden near Lelant.

We saw a lot of good practice but, at the same time, it was horrifying to see so much material, that could reused and recycled, dumped into landfill.

This certainly impressed on me the importance of the work of the Waste Panel and the need to come up with a truly sustainable way to deal with Cornwall’s waste. I am looking forward to playing my role in this.

Sunday, 2 August 2009

MK is doing well in St Austell and Newquay

Over the last six months, I have received the three or four leaflets from Stephen Gilbert, the Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate for St Austell and Newquay. His party seem to be investing a massive amount of money in the constituency – the leaflets were not delivered by Lib Dem volunteers but by the Royal Mail!

The latest one is a booklet rather than a leaflet. It is entitled “Real change for one and all” – even though he wishes to continue the Liberal Democrat representation of the area!

My presence in the race is clearly inconvenient for him. In many places in the booklet, Stephen is referred to as the “only local candidate” before it has to add “from the main political parties.” Interestingly, his localness does not extend to using a local printer. It was printed in London.

The publication does however recognise that MK is doing well in the constituency by telling people not to support us. In the past, we have always been ignored in their literature. They usually claim it is a two-horse race between them and the Tories with Labour unable to win.

This time it states “Labour and Mebyon Kernow are out of the race in St Austell and Newquay – a vote for them will only help the Conservatives win.” We even get to appear on a graph.

Thanks for the kind works and the recognition Stephen.

In the most recent elections, it was certainly more complicated than this.

In the Cornwall Council elections in this area, ten Lib Dems were returned alongside seven Conservatives, five independents and yours truly for MK. I think I am correct in saying that the Conservatives won more votes than the Liberal Democrats. MK did fairly well but only stood in four seats.

In the European Election, the votes from the ‘Restormel’ area reflect the St Austell and Newquay constituency quite well though not exactly. The result was as follows:

Conservative Party - 7,012 (26.59%)
UKIP - 6,109 (23.17%)
Liberal Democrats - 4,794 (18.18%)
Mebyon Kernow - 2,346 (8.90%)
Green Party - 1,598 (6.06%)
Labour Party - 1,250 (4.74%)
British National Party - 1,063 (4.03%)

In spite of the limited coverage given to the campaign, MK was very pleased with the result and we consider it a good base for campaigns over the next few months.

PS. It is normal practice for the Liberals to claim it is a two-horse race, even when it isn’t. In the recent Norwich North By-election, their leaflets claimed that the race was “set for a thrilling finish between local champion April Pond [the Lib Dem] and the Tory Westminster insider” and included "polling evidence" that placed the Lib Dems second. In the event, they came third.

Closer to home, two years ago in an election for a three-seat ward on Kerrier District Council, the Lib Dems put out a last minute leaflet claiming that only the Lib Dems could beat the Tory. MK actually topped the poll and, some days later, one of their activists admitted that they knew we were going to win all along but put out the leaflet anyway!

Saturday, 1 August 2009

Eco-town update

It has been interesting to note the comments on the eco-town from my political opponents in recent weeks.

Lib Dem PPC Stephen Gilbert claimed that the “eco-town could bring the Clay Area back to life” (I didn’t know it was dead) while Conservative Caroline Righton welcomed the proposals which she described as “ambitious and brave.”

Labour’s Lee Jameson meanwhile said that “Labour has come though for the people of Cornwall” before criticising the Conservatives and Lib Dems for opposing the scheme. He clearly hasn’t been in the area much in the last few months – if he had been here, he would have seen David Cameron photo-opportunities with Imerys and the Lib Dem Executive of Cornwall Council backing the scheme.

Matthew Taylor MP is also backing the scheme, which he believes is an alternative to “large-scale piecemeal low quality estates over the next few years to meet the housing needs locally without the jobs and facilities these communities need.” I believe this to be an ill-considered position. Accepting top-down diktats also runs counter to the ‘campaign’ by the MPs against the Regional Spatial Strategy.

It seems that I have a distinctive position from all the other PPCs and I will endeavour to make sure that I remain true to these principles.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

The eco-town announcement

The Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) today confirmed that Imerys’ proposal for a 5,000-property eco-town (spread over six different sites around St Austell and the China Clay Area) has been given the go-ahead.

As a prominent critic of the whole process, it will surprise no-one I consider that the undemocratic and top-down nature of the decision undermines the integrity of the local planning process.

At this time, we are waiting to see if central government will continue to push for 15,700 new properties to the built in the former Restormel area over the next twenty years. If this target is not reduced, it could mean that we would be expected to accommodate up to 10,000 new houses in and around St Austell. That is not sustainable and it is not about meeting local needs.

In the government’s mind, it appears that this inappropriate level of housing and the imposition of the eco-town are inextricably linked. Indeed, today’s announcement could make it more difficult to reduce the planned level of house-building in Mid Cornwall.

It remains my view that it is wrong for central government to decide development priorities in Cornwall. Local people and their democratically-elected politicians should be able to decide how much housing is built, where it is constructed and what sites are redeveloped for employment land.

I have always fully accepted that certain parts of the eco-town proposal do have merit. But I believe that these sites should have been assessed in competition with all other possible development proposals in St Austell and the China Clay Area as part of a local planning process with the appropriate development promoted in the agreed locations – not imposed by Whitehall mandarins and Government ministers.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Government of Cornwall Bill

Liberal Democrat MP Dan Rogerson today tabled a ‘Government of Cornwall’ Bill in the House of Commons.

Dan’s call for powers to be devolved to Cornwall and the very concept of a ‘Government of Cornwall’ Bill is to be welcomed. It is our hope that this will help to reinvigorate the debate about the need for a Cornish Assembly.

Sadly, the bill is flawed and fails to understand or make any distinctions between regional government for Cornwall and local government. The Bill proposes that powers equivalent to the Welsh Assembly should be transferred to the new Cornwall Council which would somehow also continue as a local council.

The reality is that Cornwall’s new unitary authority is a local government body – no different in legal terms, for example, to the 22 unitary councils which operate in Wales beneath the Welsh Assembly.

It makes no sense for the functions of local government (Cornwall Council) and regional government (Cornish Assembly) to sit within one body.

Cornwall needs the greatest devolution possible to a powerful Cornish Assembly (pulling down powers from regional quangos and central government) AND democratically-elected local government, delivering good quality public services.

Monday, 13 July 2009

I'm back

Once again, I have not blogged for a week or two. Part of the reason is that I did slope off to West Wales for a week to enjoy a ‘well-earned’ break to recover from the election campaign and all that went before it.

As far as Cornwall Council is concerned it is still meetings, meetings and yet more meetings. For tomorrow, it has even been suggested to me that I slice myself up into a number of chunks in order to attend all the meetings that I have been invited to.

I had been hoping to attend the Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee (10.00) and a briefing on Day Centre changes (1.15-2.15). I was then placed onto the Standing Advisory Council for Religious Education which had a training session (10.00) and then a formal meeting (2.00) – also both on the same day. But what I will actually be attending is a Homes and Communities briefing from 9.30-4.00.

Today it was a little less fraught. I took the opportunity to take an officer from the Highways Section around St Enoder Parish in order to point out the wide range of issues that had been identified in the Parish Plan and which need to be acted upon. The day finished with our second briefing on waste and the work that we need to do to deliver a strategy for dealing with it appropriately and sustainably.

More news and comment soon.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

The first meeting at County Hall

The first full meeting of Cornwall Council has been held and Conservative Alec Robertson has been elected leader of the new authority. He will front up an administration made up of six Conservatives (including himself) and four independent councillors.

I am disappointed that, given no political grouping had overall control, it has not been possible to form an Executive made up of representatives of the three main groupings, namely the Conservatives (50), Liberal Democrats (38) and Independents (31).

It would have been so much better if the best talents from all the different groups had come together to work collectively for the betterment of Cornwall.

Sadly, this was not to be. The Liberal Democrats met immediately after the election and decided that they did not wish to participate in such an arrangement and resolved to go into what they have termed ‘constructive’ opposition. As a result of this, the Conservatives and Independents have decided not allow them to chair any committees and the Lib Dems have themselves decided to form a shadow cabinet.

There has been much reporting of the launch of the new administration and I think it is important we make the position of the MK group clear.

Obviously, we are not part of the Conservative/Independent Executive/administration, but at the same time we are not in opposition – constructive or otherwise. The three MK councillors (above) are committed to playing our part in making the new Council a success for the people of Cornwall. We will be working positively with anyone and everyone to do what we think is best for Cornwall and its communities.

Monday, 8 June 2009

More on the Euro-vote

MK’s strong showing in the European elections in Cornwall has been noted by a number of mainstream media outlets including SKY News and the BBC - ‘there's pain for Labour in almost every part of the country … beaten into sixth in Cornwall - by the Cornish nationalists” - though one commentator on BBC2’s election night programme seemed to think we were the Cornish Liberals!

I have today also been forwarded the full ‘South West’ election result.

As reported previously, MK polled approximately 7% in Cornwall. On the Isles of Scilly, the vote was 4.3% whereas, unsurprisingly, the Cornish nationalist vote in the Gibraltar/Devon to Gloucestershire and Wiltshire area averaged out at a full one quarter of one percent (0.24%).

The full results were as follows:

Bath and NE Somerset - 127 (0.26%)
Borough of Poole - 51 (0.14%)
Bournemouth Borough Council - 53 (0.14%)
Bristol City Council - 287 (0.27%)
Cheltenham Borough Council - 117 (0.38%)
Christchurch Borough Council - 38 (0.23%)
Cornwall Council - 11,534 (6.9%)
Cotswold Borough Council - 70 (0.26)
Council of the Isles of Scilly - 39 (4.3%)
East Devon District Council - 86 (0.18%)
East Dorset District Council - 47 (0.15%)
Exeter City Council - 77 (0.23%)
Forest of Dean District Council - 45 (0.17%)
Gibraltar Parliament - 8 (0.11%)
Gloucester City Council - 78 (0.25%)
Mendip District Council - 92 (0.26%)
Mid Devon District Council - 45 (0.18%)
North Devon District Council - 33 (0.11%)
North Dorset District Council - 50 (0.22%)
North Somerset District Council - 154 (0.27%)
Plymouth City Council - 149 (0.26%)
Purbeck District Council - 17 (0.11%)
Sedgemoor District Council - 90 (0.29%)
South Gloucestershire Council - 183 (0.26%)
South Hams District Council - 63 (0.20%)
South Somerset District Council - 127 (0.23%)
Stroud District Council - 121 (0.22%)
Swindon Borough Council - 103 (0.23%)
Taunton Deane Borough Council - 97 (0.28%)
Teignbridge District Council - 119 (0.27%)
Tewkesbury Borough Council - 63 (0.25%)
Torbay Council - 58 (0.17%)
Torridge District Council - 53 (0.25%)
West Devon Borough Council - 47 (0.24%)
West Dorset District Council - 112 (0.32%)
West Somerset District Council - 29 (0.24%)
Weymouth and Portland Council - 54 (0.28%)
Wiltshire County Council - 406 (0.28%)

MK intends to use this information to make representations about the ludicrous nature of the South West seat and to make the moral argument that MK should have its £5,000 deposit returned as a consequence of managing to poll so well in Cornwall.

Parties needed to achieve 2.5% of the vote to save their deposit. We consider it morally wrong and undemocratic that MK, standing in Cornwall and achieving 7% of the local vote will lose its deposit – but the BNP, for example, standing and campaigning throughout the whole South West and achieving 3.9% of the overall vote, will have theirs returned.

We will be making a big issue of this in the coming weeks.

Sunday, 7 June 2009

The European Election result for Cornwall

I have just returned from the Carn Brea Leisure Centre where the Cornish votes for the European Election were counted.

MK has polled extremely well and I can report that MK achieved 11,534 votes (7%) across Cornwall. The full result is as follows:

1. Conservative Party - 46,589
2. UKIP - 39,954
3. Liberal Democrats - 29,436
4. Green Party - 13,361
5. Mebyon Kernow - 11,534
6. Labour Party - 8,483
7. BNP - 5,118
8. Pensioners Party - 3,944
9. Christian Party - 2,168
10. English Democrats - 1,781
11. Katie Hopkins (Ind) - 1,117
12. Socialist Labour - 1,058
13. NO2EU - 890
14. Fair Pay, Fair Trade - 660
15. Libertas - 608
16. Jury Team - 519
17. WA ID - 107

More thoughts on the recent elections tomorrow.

Saturday, 6 June 2009

Election news

The polling is over and the local election votes have been counted.

I am very proud to have been elected to serve my home parish of St Enoder and to have received such support from local people. The full result was:

Dick Cole (MK) - 927
Jacqui Fair (Con) - 177
Keith Wonnacott (Lib Dem) - 91

In total, Mebyon Kernow won three seats. Andrew Long won a resounding victory at Callington and Stuart Cullimore picked up Camborne South by 20 votes.

I have yet to study the results in detail, but a number of MK members managed some good results and some achieved solid second places.

I will blog again soon with more thoughts on the results and, of course, the European Election result which will be announced on Sunday.

Monday, 1 June 2009

Have you had our leaflet?

For the European election, MK has produced 272,200 leaflets (see above) that were passed to the Royal Mail on 20th May for delivery to every property in Cornwall.

The Royal Mail had seven working days to deliver these unaddressed materials - not including weekends and bank holidays. For our delivery, that equates to a total of 9 possible delivery days.

I was initially very impressed when I found that the delivery in many areas was almost instant. Residents in St Dennis received the leaflet on the following day, I received mine within 48 hours and other people, eg. at Lanner and on the Lizard, also reported prompt delivery.

All the leaflets have to be delivered by 1st June, but I have been contacted by MK members in Boscastle, Padstow, Newlyn and Summercourt who have yet to receive the mailing.

If you have not received the leaflet by the end of 1st June, please let me know.

Sunday, 31 May 2009

Election chaos

Along with many other candidates, I have been contacted by voters who have applied for postal votes which have yet to arrive.

This includes people who will be out of Cornwall next week on holiday. The paperwork should have been sent out on 22 May, but for many people the ballots had not arrived when they had to leave for their holidays.

And then there is the scandal about certain postal ballots - that did arrive - not including all the candidates’ names.

The whole thing is a disgrace and democracy in Cornwall has been even further damaged as a consequence. A full inquiry is needed.

Thank you to Radio Cornwall

It was good to take part in a Radio Cornwall debate on Thursday, alongside representatives of the three main London Parties (Gerald Chin-Quee – Labour; Jim Currie – Conservative; Ann Kerridge – Liberal Democrat) and an Independent candidate (Mike Waters). I certainly hope I did MK justice.

We were not originally invited to attend. In excluding us, the BBC had failed to take into account our success in recent district council elections. Following a discussion on election statistics, they quickly relented however.

I would like to thank Radio Cornwall for that and I hope they are equally inclusive when we get to the General Election.

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Election update

I am in sitting at my computer looking at the dreadful wet weather outside. It feels to me that I always need to be outside when it is raining and yet, when it is beautiful and sunny, there always seems to be so much going on that keeps me off the campaign trail.

That said, in my unitary election campaign, my main leaflet has been delivered to over 95% of the division and the response has been very positive. Later today, I hope to be out in some of the more rural parts of St Enoder Parish visiting a number of farms and hamlets.

I have not seen much of more election opponents, neither of whom live in the division – the Conservative is from Newquay and the Lib Dem comes from St Stephen.

For the European election, 272,200 election communications have been delivered throughout Cornwall by the Royal Mail. I remain very proud that the people of Cornwall will have the opportunity to vote for Cornwall on June 4th.

I have also been extremely busy trying to generate publicity forthis campaign. I have done interviews for Radio Gloucester, Radio Solent and Radio Cornwall, as well as BBC Spotlight, who I have been in discussions for a number of days in an attempt to get fair coverage for our campaign. Sadly, it is likely that our TV airtime will be negligible but, at least, we will be represented on a Radio Cornwall debate for the local elections tomorrow.

Radio 4 also interviewed me for a programme about the South West Euro-seat, but I had to travel all the way to Taunton for the interview. I just hope it will have been worth it.

More election updates soon.

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

MK council candidates

The unitary council nominations are in and I can report that MK has 33 candidates. This is the largest number of candidates that we have ever fielded in a single round of elections to a principal councils or councils.

In my ward, I am opposed by a Conservative from Newquay and a Liberal Democrat from St Stephen. I understand they could not find candidates from within St Enoder Parish to take me on.

The full list is as below. Why not see if there is a candidate near to you, who you could help.

Bude South - Jaqi Heard
Bugle - Alli Mills
Callington - Andrew Long
Camborne Central - Zoe Fox
Camborne North - John Rowe
Camborne South - Stuart Cullimore
Camborne West - Mike Champion
Falmouth Arwenack - Pete Dudley
Falmouth Gyllyngvase - Kat Boijer
Feock & Kea – Lance Dyer
Gulval and Heamoor - Phil Rendle
Kelly Bray - Glenn Renshaw
Ladock, St Clement & St Erme - Annie Ostapenko-Denton
Liskeard North - Roger Holmes
Lostwithiel - Julie Tamblin
Mabe - Jacqui Davey
Mount Hawke & Portreath - Ray Chubb
Newlyn and Mousehole - Simon Reed
Padstow - Ron Brown
Penryn East and Mylor - Duane Glasby
Penwithick - Matt Luke
Poundstock - Paul Sousek
Probus - Alan January
Rame - Jeremy Evans
Redruth Central - Mike Hall
St Austell Bethel - Peter Morton Nance
St Enoder - Dick Cole
Threemilestone & Gloweth - Kevin Ostapenko-Denton
Troon & Beacon -Alan Sanders
Truro Moresk - Conan Jenkin
Truro Boscawen - Joanie Willett
Truro Tregolls - Loic Rich
Wendron - Loveday Jenkin

Friday, 8 May 2009

A new future

It has been a busy few weeks and, as a result, I sadly neglected this blog for the last month or so.

To bring everyone back up-to-date, I have officially resigned my job as an archaeologist with Cornwall Council in order to stand for election to the Council. I have worked for Cornwall County Council for 14 years, but it is not permitted for employees of Councils to stand for election to the same Council that they work for.

It means a large drop in my income, but I felt I had no other option as we need MK councillors on the new Council who will speak up for Cornwall.

My colleagues at work were very kind and organised a wonderful send-off with gifts which included a wheelbarrow, a teddy bear (see right), a painting, an aerial photograph of some local china clay works and more. Their kind works were also much appreciated.

I have also agreed to become MK’s lead candidate in the Euro-elections, so that the people of Cornwall have the chance to vote for a political party 100% committed to Cornwall.

It is my promise that I will use my blog to give a regular commentary of the election campaign over the next 4 weeks.

Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Last day at Restormel

Today is my last day as a Restormel councillor. From April 1, Cornwall’s only principal council will be the new unitary authority.

Restormel's last council meeting was on Monday night.

Councillors arrived to find all the Restormel signs had already been replaced by new “Cornwall Council” signs and we entered the building to be presented with our P45s. To say we were not happy would be an under-statement.

It was an occasion of mixed emotions. We honoured eight long-serving, past and present, councillors with the position of honorary Aldermen to mark the passing of the Borough. Tributes were paid to many councillors and members of staff for their hard work for Mid Cornwall over many years, and the way in which one and all worked together as a team.

There was sadness at the ending of the council but also considerable anger at the chaos surrounding the unitary authority, the way in which it had been undemocratically imposed on Cornwall and the way in which many employees are still unsure about their jobs and their futures.

But the unitary council is with us. We can do nothing about that now and it is especially important that we now get new pro-Cornwall councillors elected in order to turn things around.

Thursday, 26 March 2009

What a great day

Today, I had the privilege to speak at the 'incinerator' Planning meeting at County Hall on behalf of St Enoder Parish Council. It was wonderful to be able to make the case against the incinerator alongside so many dedicated campaigners for a more sustainable way to deal with Cornwall's waste.

Twenty councillors voted to refuse the application, one was in favour and one abstained.

As you can see from the photograph - we are all delighted at the result.

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Standing for the European Parliament

Mebyon Kernow – the Party for Cornwall has just announced that we will be putting forward a list of candidates for the ‘South West Region’ seat in the European Parliament.

As well as well as Cornwall, the constituency covers Bristol, Devon, Dorset, Gloucestershire, Somerset, Wiltshire and the island of Gibraltar. Six MEPs will be elected via a list form of proportional representation.

This is not something we are doing lightly.

Democracy in Cornwall is at a vital crossroads and June 4th will be an important day for the future direction of our politics, with elections to both the new single tier council and the European Parliament.

It is our hope that people will take the opportunity of the elections on June 4th to demand a better deal for Cornwall by sending a strong message to both London and Brussels by voting MK.

After all is said and done, we are the only political party that does not have political masters outside of Cornwall to please.

It will be a hard fight for the Euro-seats however,

Six MEPs will be elected via a list form of proportional representation and it may be estimated that a political party would need to poll 150,000-160,000 votes in order to win a seat. And yet in the 2004 elections, 141,140 valid votes were cast in Cornwall – less than needed to win a seat!

What is more - the deposit to stand is £5,000 and parties lose this deposit unless they poll over 2.5% of the vote. In MK’s case, this equates to more than 25% of the Cornish vote.

Mebyon Kernow has also committed itself to continuing the fight for a Cornwall-only Euro-constituency that would give Cornwall a real voice at the heart of Europe.

Help us to make a success of this campaign.

Thursday, 5 March 2009

The St Piran Trust will today launch an appeal to raise funds for a project to re-excavate St Piran’s Oratory near Perranporth.

As you will know, the Oratory is one of the earliest surviving Christian buildings in Britain. It is also an iconic structure through its association with Cornwall’s national saint – St Piran. It has been lost to the people of Cornwall since 1980, when the building was buried in the sands to protect it from damage.

The St Piran Trust is working with the Historic Environment Service of Cornwall County Council (ie. me) to develop a wide-ranging archaeological project to uncover the Oratory, conserve the remains of this important building and make it accessible once again to the general public.

The Trust is also working with all the relevant statutory bodies to ensure that the project can be undertaken with no adverse impact on the environment of the Special Area of Conservation within which it lies.

Eileen Carter of the Trust has rightly described the project as extremely important for Cornwall, our history and our heritage.

Anyone can support the appeal with a donation. These can be paid directly into the St Piran Trust Project account (sort code: 30-98-76: account number 1450689) at Lloyds TSB, 7 Boscawen St, Truro, TR1 2QT. Alternatively, cheques can made out to the St Piran Trust and sent to the St Piran Trust, Penquite House, Liskeard, PL14 5AQ. All donations will be acknowledged and donors will receive regular progress reports.

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

St Piran's Day Message

Each year, as the leader of MK, I publish a St Piran's Day message. For 2009, I have called on local people to work for Cornwall – all year round - and vote for MK candidates in the unitary elections.

The statement was as follows:

"St Piran's Day represents a wonderful opportunity for local people to remember what is fantastic about Cornwall and to celebrate its distinct identity and its inclusive traditions.

“As a proud Cornishman, I would encourage everyone to get out there and to do something positive to celebrate Cornwall. But as we celebrate on 5th March, we also need to look ahead and consider how we can work for a better deal for Cornwall all year round."

“2009 is election year and, on 4th June, Cornwall will elect 123 members on the new single tier council. MK opposed the undemocratic imposition of the unitary council on Cornwall, but it will soon be a reality.

“We need it to be a success for the sake of the ordinary people of Cornwall. And that means electing councillors who really do have Cornwall’s best interests at heart.

“On this St Piran’s Day, I appeal to one and all to look afresh at the politics of 21st century Cornwall and support candidates from Mebyon Kernow – the Party for Cornwall.”

Sunday, 22 February 2009

How not to run a democracy!

It has been a busy week for news on the unitary council. The council tax increase for 2009-2010 will average 2.6% across Cornwall – the maximum possible due to the decision to equalise payments across the six districts – with the Penwith area about to experience a 4.9% increase. So much for the alleged savings.

A total of 400 job losses have also been announced and the date of the election has been set for 4th June.

Many people thought that it was likely that elections would be delayed until October but the minister has chosen to hold elections earlier on the draft proposals for council divisions – not final ones agreed after consultation.

For me, it is testing time. As an employee of the County Council, do I give up my job to stand for the Council or not? At the moment, it is impossible to take a decision as no work has been done on what allowances would be paid to councillors – making it very difficult for working people to make decisions on their future.

The whole thing is a bit of a shambles and does Cornwall and its democracy no favours.

The Liberal Democrat MPs claim that the calling of the election is a victory of democracy over delay. They need to remember that it is the Liberal Democrats with the assistance of the Labour Government that has got us in this mess.

Here are few more things that they should remember.


· MK opposed the proposal for a single unitary council for Cornwall, which was also opposed by the vast majority of local people.

· When the decision was taken, MK backed calls for an early election to give democratic legitimacy to those people setting up the new Council. This was opposed by Liberal Democrat county councillors who argued it was important to properly sort out the new ward boundaries for the Council ahead of elections. Central government decided to set up an appointed Lib Dem dominated Implementation Executive to oversee the transition period.

· The subsequent boundary review fell into disarray when a minority of local councillors led by Lib Dem leader David Whalley argued that there should only be ninety councillors instead of the 100-164 suggested in the bid that they themselves had submitted to government.

· Draft proposals were finally launched by the Boundary Committee in December, though these contained many errors and problematic suggestions which did not respect local community boundaries.

· By this time, it was clear that the actions of the local Lib Dems and the inefficiency of the Boundary Committee meant that it was unlikely that the new boundaries would in place for an election in the first half of 2009.

· Central government also decided to move all local elections due on May 2009 to June to clash with the European Parliamentary elections, showing their contempt for the importance of local elections which MK argued should be fought on local issues.

· In the consultation on the date for the first elections to the unitary authority, most principal councils in Cornwall reluctantly took the view that the elections should be delayed to October in order for the new council divisions to be in place. This was latterly opposed by the Lib Dem MPs.

· When it was thought likely that there would be a six months delay between the abolition of the existing councils on 31st March and the election in late October, it was announced that the county councillors along with the district councillors on the Implementation Executive would continue, as well as a number of district councillors who would be co-opted to simply exercise planning and licensing functions.

· Due to the need for the planning representatives to reflect the political make-up of the County Council, this meant that the majority of councillors to survive for this period – now only two months - would be Lib Dems.

· MK research shows that of the 113 Liberal Democrat councillors on one or more principal authorities 71 would continue in some form and 37% would cease to be councillors. By contrast, 74% of Conservative councillors would be abolished and 61% of Independent councillors would cease to be councillors. Eight of the nine MK councillors (89%) would also cease to be councillors. Is this democracy?

· The announcement on the 19th February stated that the election will take place on 4th June on the draft boundaries which have been out to consultation until very recently and therefore the view of local people will not be taken into account on the make-up of the divisions.