Sunday, 28 February 2010

Printed in Cornwall?

Mebyon Kernow has challenged all political parties standing in Cornwall at the coming General Election to make sure that their election leaflets are printed in Cornwall.

We have also criticised the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives for failing to support local businesses by having campaign literature printed ‘up-country.’ Both parties have spent a small fortune on leaflets and election literature in recent months, but sadly have often used printing firms based outside of Cornwall.

Taking the new St Austell and Newquay constituency, where I am standing, as an example, the Royal Mail has already delivered numerous Lib Dem and Tory leaflets to local residents during the last 12 months or so. This literature contains the normal soundbites about fighting for local people and campaigning for Cornwall - but they seem to have a problem with using local businesses.

Some of the material from the Conservative candidate was produced in Surrey, but not one of the ten Liberal Democrat leaflets (which we have copies of) were printed in Cornwall. Three were printed in Devon, three in Dorset, two in London and two in Peterborough.

It is my view that all politicians who want to represent Cornwall in parliament should be helping to sustain local businesses in our villages and towns.

Our pledge is a simple one. Every leaflet, booklet and every single piece of literature produced by Mebyon Kernow for the General Election will be printed here in Cornwall. I hope that the other parties will follow our example.

Monday, 22 February 2010

Plaid Cymru Conference

I have just got back from Plaid Cymru’s pre-election conference in Cardiff. I was a guest of their Councillors Association and addressed a meeting on “The Future of Local Government.”

In my presentation, I argued that local government was an important part of the democratic system, which should be valued and funded fairly, adding that improvements could be made but any top-down reorganisation (such as that forced on Cornwall by the Liberal Democrats and Labour) should not be entertained.

It was certainly a bouyant event, with Plaid confident of making significant gains at the General Election. The Party presently has three MPs and hopes to also win further constituencies such as Aberconwy, Ceredigion, Llanelli and Ynys Môn.

There were also a few references to the comments of a newspaper columnist (Simon Carr in the Independent) who recently referred to the three MPs as “Plaid Cymru’s fearsome threesome” and added they “have probably had more effect on Parliament than the entire Liberal Democrats.”

I am pictured above with Ieuan Wyn Jones, the Leader of Plaid Cymru and the Deputy First Minister of the Welsh Assembly.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Proof of evidence

Tuesday also saw the completion of a 33,000 word (87 page) “proof of evidence” by opponents of the proposal for an incinerator at St Dennis.

Produced on behalf of objectors from the St Dennis, Treviscoe and surrounding areas, including St Dennis Parish Council and STIG (St Dennis Against Incineration), the document will be presented to the Public Inquiry due to start on 16 March.

I was very pleased to have co-ordinated the production of this proof and hope that it ensure that the concerns of local people are heard loud and clear.

Pictured above are Trevor Rabey, me, Ginny Edwards, Brian Arthur, Pat Blanchard and Fred Greenslade with the copies of the proof of evidence and numerous appendices about to be sent out.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

The budget

The MK group on Cornwall Council opposed the budget that was agreed by the Conservative/Independent administration on Tuesday.

As one of the four group leaders, I was given an early opportunity to speak and took the opportunity to address problems with the budget setting process and how we definitely need more information in future years.

I also questioned the extent of reductions in expenditure planned in different areas over the next three years and the limited information about where the axe was likely to fall. I also addressed the £7 million set-aside for redundancies and had a gripe about how the severance packages had been changed since the well-paid officers, who pushed the unitary process through, had left. They didn’t listen before, but I had my say anyway.

There was a clear ‘commissioning’ or ‘out-sourcing’ feel to future plans which I criticized, saying that we also work for local residents and communities – not customers!

And from a personal perspective, I also told one and all that I could not support a budget that identified several millions for the cnstruction of infrastructure to the incinerator plant planned for St Dennis that I would be opposing at a Public Inquiry in only a matter of weeks.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Cabinet fails to vote down Contract

Cornwall Council’s Cabinet today met to discuss whether it should terminate its Waste Contract with SITA. This follows the acknowledgement that SITA could not meet deadlines within the Contract and the Council therefore had the option to terminate or to ask SITA to bring forward a Revised Project Plan.

The Cabinet, with one abstention, voted to seek a Revised Project Plan from SITA.

I was the first of five councillors who spoke against the proposal and called on the Cabinet to properly explore the option of termination. Other speakers from the China Clay Area included Fred Greenslade from St Dennis and John Wood from Roche, as well as Roy Taylor from St Blaise.

I was extremely critical of the officer report which was presented to the meeting and stated that it would be too expensive to terminate the Contract. I described the report as “one-sided” and dismissed the claim that no alternative waste management facilities could be brought on stream until 2023 as incorrect.

I also hit out at claims about the costs of termination. Because in 2000, councillors were told that a single incinerator would cost £40 million. When the Contract was signed in 2006, this had risen to £96 million with a price guarantee. With inflation, this increases to £113-117 million but, now that the price guarantee is no longer in place, costs have been estimated to be over £150 million.

And yet, we have the same officer team is telling us that the termination of the Contract would cost £200 million. I simply could not accept these figures.

I took the opportunity to remind the Cabinet that, due to the Contract and associated procurement rules, the Revised Project Plan would still be based around a large incinerator in the China Clay Area. I said that I personally did not consider a revised plan for an incinerator in Mid Cornwall to be acceptable and asked the Cabinet whether they thought an incinerator plant, such as that proposed for St Dennis, would be acceptable outside the village of Mullion or Feock or at Fowey, or somewhere on the Roseland.

John, Fred, Roy and I appealed to the Cabinet to not uncritically accept this report, but to look seriously at the option to terminate the Contract and develop a more decentralised and more sustainable solution for Cornwall. Sadly, this fell on deaf ears at this juncture, though the Council retains the right to terminate for the time being.

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Buffy Sainte-Marie

Last weekend, I travelled to Wolverhampton to attend a concert by Buffy St Marie, following which the local paper described her as an “irresistible force of nature and a star from head to toe.

A Cree Indian, Buffy came to prominence in the 1960s folk movement and has never been afraid to put political messages at the heart of her song-writing. Many songs focussed on rights for Native Americans including ‘Soldier Blue,’ 'My Country 'Tis of Thy People You're Dying' and ‘Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee.” She also wrote the anti-war anthem ‘Universal Soldier.’

She has run a Foundation for Native American Education for many years and the Cradleboard Teaching Project, which uses multimedia skills to create accurate curriculum studies from a Native American cultural perspective.

At the Wolverhampton concert, the commitment of Buffy and her Band to their culture was ever-present and inspiring. Many of her comments at the concert were also political and she freely expressed her views on certain political leaders and systems, past and present.

To be honest, I bought my first Buffy album ‘Coincidence and Likely Stories’ in the early 1990s because of her cultural background and life story before I heard any of her songs.

I am sure it will surprise no-one that a Cornish nationalist is interested in Native American identity and politics – but with me it goes back a long way.

I was given my first book on the American West on my seventh birthday. And when I was nine, I had the privilege to be taught by Molly Merkett who, each year, got her pupils at Indian Queens School to do a project on a specific country.

It was 1976 and, because the US bicentennial was taking place, she chose the United States of America. I was in my element and spent most of the year studying ‘Indians.”

It was also 100 years since the Battle of the Little Big Horn (Custer’s Last Stand) and this became one of my priorities. In June of that year, I was even allowed to make a presentation to School Assembly to mark the anniversary. One recollection of my presentation is that I discussed the divergent views on casualties from the battle. My perspective was that you couldn’t believe the ‘white man’ but the Indians were probably more likely to be telling the truth!