Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Support from Tim Jones

I am absolutely delighted that Tim Jones, the former Liberal Democrat leader of Restormel Borough Council, is backing my parliamentary campaign in the St Austell and Newquay Constituency. He has kindly written to the local press with the below letter and I am most grateful for his kind words and support.

“Both the Liberal Democrat and Conservative candidates have spent a huge amount of time and money over the past two years building campaigns to get themselves elected as the first MP for St Austell and Newquay. In the next few weeks potential voters in this new constituency will be constantly bombarded with leaflets and letters from them and their party leaders urging us to vote for them. Both are keen to impress, saying that if elected, they will serve the people of mid-Cornwall and do their best to represent us. But in this climate of distrust in the Westminster system, with expenses scandals and the rest, who do you believe, and is worth voting at all if nothing much is going to change?

“As someone who has both been a student of politics and involved in the local political scene, I would say that casting a vote is immensely important, but if like me, you have grown tired of the claims and counter-claims of the main parties, there is one test that may help you to decide who to support. All the candidates will stress how they are committed to the area and how strong their roots are here; but what will happen if they don’t get elected? This is what I call the Failure Test: having invested all this time and effort, what are their plans if they come second? Will they stay and keep up the campaigning, or move on to find a more winnable seat elsewhere? How committed to Newquay, St Austell and the Clay Country is each candidate in reality – are they just going for the prize of becoming MP or are they here for the long-term?

“My own conclusion is that there is one candidate who, regardless of the outcome and the size of his vote, will continue serving this area and Cornwall as he has already done for many years; my vote is going to Dick Cole, because, he is the one candidate I think will continue to fight for Cornwall and put its people first. I had the privilege of working with Dick when we were both councillors on Restormel and he proved to me that despite the general cynicism about politicians, there are still a few people in the system that are guided by principle and dedication, and who will genuinely care about our community.

“When I was out campaigning to get myself elected, I met lots of people who said ‘What’s the point in voting? Nothing will change.’ The 2010 election is an opportunity to see real change; too many people will chose not to vote at all, so this means that nothing is predictable and so-called ‘minor party’ candidates have the chance of causing real upsets. Whoever you have voted for before, why not help make a real change this time and vote for Dick Cole?”

Public Inquiry - Day 10

The final witness for Cornwall Council appeared on Tuesday and today was the first day at which the Rule 6 Parties gave evidence.

I was first up to give evidence on behalf of the local area (including St Dennis Against Incineration and St Dennis Parish Council). The evidence I presented was quite varied. I argued that the Waste Local Plan should be accorded limited weight as it had been superseded by a range of key documents, namely Planning Policy Statement 10 and the National Waste Strategy; that the failed Waste Development Framework be accorded no weight at all, and that the proposal did not adequately adhere to the Waste Hierarchy.

I also made much of the fact that it had clearly been pre-determined to locate the facility in or around the China Clay Area, with only sites in the clay parishes of Roche, St Dennis, St Enoder, St Stephen and Treverbyn having been considered.

I even quoted one consultant who had worked with Cornwall Council on its Waste Local Plan process and more latterly the PFI process. This person had written an article about incinerators which stated:

“One of the biggest influences on whether a facility is built may be the vocal indignation of affluent middle class residents keen for their waste to be whisked invisibly away, and who organise themselves into articulate, effective protest groups. Proposals for plants in more deprived areas do not have such a politically influential group of residents to sway the argument.”

Other topics covered included Cornwall County Council’s eight reasons for refusal and the poor level of consultation with the local community by the applicant, both during the pre-application stage and the period of the planning application.

After half-an-hour, I was cross-examined by the Appellant’s legal team who attempted to undermine my position by claiming that, as I was representing the local area, I should take no part in deliberations on waste matters on Cornwall Council. I took exception to this approach and, from what people said afterwards, I think I gave as good as I got in these exchanges.

With the support of our barrister John Lloyd, I was also able to widen out the discussion on a number of points in terms of more sustainable waste alternatives and what was going on at County Hall.

Evidence was also given today by three other local representatives today – Fred Greenslade (impact of the incinerator), Jackie Salmon (footpaths) and Ginny Edwards (nature conservation aspects).

I sincerely hope that we did the local area proud.

Cornish Observer blog

There is a new blog - - on the Cornish political scene and I would like to thank the author of a recent blog entry which was positive towards my campaign in the St Austell and Newquy Constituency. It is reprinted below:

"Like many I am still undecided about where my little cross will go on the ballot paper come May 6 (or whenever the general election might be) but one thing that is sure to turn me off a candidate is anything which suggests a candidate might be completely arrogant. This election it would appear that certain candidates are actually proud of what I would consider to be a hindrance.

"I have mentioned here before that I am fed up of the blustering statements which have been spouted by candidates. But looking at those leaflets which have piled through my door from the Conservatives and the Lib Dems there is one thing in common - they both seem to think that this is a two horse race and they are the only runners.

"Now, let's consider this for a moment, living in the St Austell & Newquay constituency, I'm fairly sure that if I suggested to Stephen "call me Steve" Gilbert that the race for No 10 was a two horse race between Cameron and Brown he would presumably protest that his leader Nick Clegg is also in the running.

"Would seem that it is one rule nationally and another locally with his literature proudly claiming that this is a straight battle between himself and his Tory rival Caroline Righton (and she does the same vise versa). Apparently the others, Mebyon Kernow, Labour, UKIP and Green included, are out of the running.

"Now, from my amateur perspective I consider that the St Austell & Newquay seat will be a close run thing, however I see it as a three-way battle. Yes there are a lot of loyal Lib Dem supporters who will be voting for Steve and yes there are a lot of Conservative voters out there keen to see Caroline elected. But I can also see that there are a lot of people who know Dick Cole very well, have seen how he has worked well as a councillor both at Restormel and County Hall and will be giving their vote to MK. Then there are those who are unsure where to go - with the MPs expenses scandal still fresh in the mind it is unlikely that they are going to choose one of the big three. So why not MK? They're local, they have a respected candidate and they have not go their snouts in the trough. I think that is probably the more viable option than going for the one issue party that is UKIP. Or for that matter the Green Party or (shudder) the BNP.

"I would suggest that the Lib Dems and Tories write MK (and others) off at their peril. I am still as yet undecided - but there is nothing like a Lib Dem or a Tory leaflet to push me in one direction ..."

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Public Inquiry - Day 6

I attended part of the fifth day at the Public Inquiry on Tuesday, which dealt with ecological issues. Other priorities on that day included a meeting with Council officers to work on the draft of the consultation Development Plan Document on affordable housing.

Day 6 was frustrating. Debate focussed on the impact on landscape. Put simply, the Council’s witness argued that the negative impact of the incinerator was unacceptable and outweighed any perceived benefit from the proposal.

In his cross-examination, the Appellant’s barrister managed to upset many of the local people who were present. He argued that the China Clay had a ‘low sensitivity’ to change, because of the china clay extraction that had been carried out in the area.

In other words, in his view, it is acceptable for an incinerator to be built at poor old despoiled St Dennis but not, God forbid, in Feock or Mullion or on the Roseland or near other ‘pretty’ places elsewhere in Cornwall.

While we are focussing our efforts on the strategic arguments about the incinerator, I find it amazing how it is the little things that become the most irritating. I talk, of course, of the inability of many of the participants at the Inquiry to pronounce local place-names. Rostowrack, Wheal Remfry, Gaverigan, Nanpean and even Treviscoe have been mangled beyond recognition.

Friday, 19 March 2010

Cornish Zetetics blog

I fully recommend the Cornish Zetetics blog on It is a great site that delves into many of the political issues facing Cornwall, so often ignored by the main parties.

And this statement has nothing to do with the fact that the site recently noted “that the assiduous and hard-working Dick Cole is head and shoulders above his rivals” in the St Austell and Newquay constituency.

Public Inquiry - Days 2, 3 and 4

Stalwart opponents of the incinerator plan are continuing to attend the Public Inquiry at Fraddon. I managed the second and fourth days (Wednesday and Friday). On Thursday, I was at County Hall experiencing the joy that is the Discretionary Grants Working Group and the Member Development Panel, though I did also do a one hour long interview on Radio St Austell Bay.

At the Public Inquiry, three of Cornwall Council’s witnesses have completed their evidence on the topics of (i) waste policies (ii) noise and the (iii) negative impact on the regeneration potential of the China Clay Area. The fourth witness, covering the impact on the local environment, has just started his evidence and will continue on Tuesday.

One week down – at least seven weeks to go. The Schedule is already slipping.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Public Inquiry - Day 1

Today was the first day of the Public Inquiry into the proposal to build an incinerator at St Dennis. The eight-week Inquiry is kindly being held at Fraddon’s Kingsley Village, which means I can walk to and from the venue!

The morning session was taken up with the presentation of opening statements from Cornwall Council (whose predecessor authority refused the application) and SITA, as well as four Rule 6 Parties who are opposing the application.

I was there on behalf of objectors from the St Dennis, Treviscoe and surrounding areas, including St Dennis Anti-Incinerator Group (STIG) and St Dennis Parish Council.

I assisted our barrister, John Lloyd from Rougemont Chambers, Exeter, who delivered the opening statement that I had helped to co-write. This set out our approach to the Inquiry in the coming weeks, which included how we intend to demonstrate that the proposal is not in line with a wide range of planning policies, how we will support Cornwall Council’s eight reasons for refusal and show the unacceptable impact on the local community, the locality and its landscape. It was also noted how we would explore local concerns about health as well as the failute of the applicant to properly consult and engage with the local community.

The amount of evidence that will be presented by the different parties is truly daunting, but I will do my best to report back when I can.

Monday, 15 March 2010

South East Cornwall candidate

I am pleased to announce that Mebyon Kernow – the Party for Cornwall has selected Cllr Roger Holmes to contest the South East Cornwall seat at the General Election.

Roger has served Liskeard as an elected member for over forty years. He joined Mebyon Kernow in 1967 and was elected to Liskeard Borough Council the following year at the tender age of only 23. He also served on Caradon District Council from 1973 to 1983.

Roger continues to sit on Liskeard Town Council and has twice served his home town as Mayor – most recently during Millennium year.
A passionate supporter of town and parish councils, he has represented his community on the Cornwall Association of Local Councils for many years.

He was recently elected a director of Neighbourhoods for Change, a registered charity which helps to make life easier for the disadvantaged.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Celebrating St Piran's Day

It was good to take a break from Council work and the 'Campaign' and join the march across the dunes near Perranporth. Indeed, it was great to see so many friends, both old and new, and to celebrate our wonderful heritage.

The picture above shows a clip of the play with Colin Retallick as St Piran.

Leaflets not printed in Cornwall

The Cornish Guardian (March 3) featured MK’s challenge to all political parties standing in Cornwall at the coming General Election to guarantee that their election leaflets are printed in Cornwall. There was a focus on the St Austell and Newquay constituency, where the Conservatives have distributed leaflets printed in Surrey and the Liberal Democrats have distributed leaflets printed in Devon, Dorset, London and Peterborough. A selection is featured above.

The Cornish Guardian feature included responses from both the Lib Dems and Tories. Hamish McCallum on behalf of the Liberal Democrats claimed that they used, presumably cheaper, non-Cornish firms because they didn’t “have the same resources that the Conservatives do.” With respect to the Lib Dems, they are spending an absolute fortune on campaign and election literature and it is inexcusable for the leaflets not to be produced locally in Cornwall.

Caroline Righton, Tory PPC, meanwhile claimed that “everything I have generated myself specifically about the constituency has been printed locally, apart from newsprint, which as local papers will know, cannot be printed in Cornwall.”

Sadly this statement is not accurate. I have received Conservative leaflets on glossy paper and direct mailings, printed in Surrey, that could have been and should have been printed in Cornwall.

As I have stated before, every single piece of MK literature for the General Election will be printed here in Cornwall. It is sad that the other parties have not and will not be doing the same.

Thanks to Radio Cornwall

Over the last week, Radio Cornwall ran a number of features focusing on local government in Cornwall. It started with a short ‘debate’ between the group leaders (see blog entry for 1 March). This was followed by a series of interviews with cabinet members to discuss issues such as transport and waste collection. It finished with an ‘Any Questions’ debate between the four group leaders on the Council that was recorded on Thursday night and broadcast on Friday lunchtime.

As well as me, Alec Robertson was there for the Tories with Neil Burden for the Independents, while Robin Teverson represented the Liberal Democrats.

From a personal perspective, I think it went well and I was glad to see the issue of the proposed incinerator raise its chimney frequently during the debate. The line of the Conservative leader was that terminating the contract would be “catastrophic” while Robin Teverson challenged the administration to re-negotiate the contract with SITA using its ‘commercial leaverage.’ It was obvious that Robin did not grasp the full consequences of the Contract, signed by the previous Lib Dem administration, and associated procurement rules. I invited him to attend meetings of the Waste Panel to find out more. He declined but under pressure from Laurence Reed suggested a “tutorial – one to one – with Dick.”

I also repeated MK’s call for a Commission to investigate the extent of the underfunding that Cornwall and its communities suffer. In one exchange (that was edited out of the broadcast programme) my Conservative opponent in St Austell and Newquay, who was in the audience, stated she could guarantee fair funding from a Conservative Government. I asked when I would be getting a letter to that effect from David Cameron. No date was given but it was suggested that Dave would like to meet me!

Other topics covered included the extent of wages paid to the Chief Executive and the Corporate Directors – in this discussion I focussed on the scandal of low wages in Cornwall; and the possible out-sourcing of public services – I made it clear that I supported quality public services provided through the public sector and not pared-down services provided through the private sector.

I hope I did MK justice. I would also like to thank BBC Radio Cornwall for hosting this debate and fostering greater debate about local government in Cornwall.

Monday, 1 March 2010

A Commission for Cornwall

This morning, as one of the four group leaders on Cornwall Council, I took part in a Radio Cornwall debate which focussed on the implications of expected cuts in central government funding to local councils. Such cuts could obviously lead to job losses and reductions in services.

I used the opportunity of the debate to remind everyone that Cornwall has been under-funded for many years and we receive less money for our schools, hospitals and public services than elsewhere in the UK.

I called for a Commission to investigate the full extent of this Government under-funding of Cornwall, just as the recent Holtham Commission (organised by the Welsh Assembly) found that Wales is under-funded by £300 million a year.

Now must be the time to demand that Cornwall receives its fair share of expenditure, which will help us cope with the difficult economic times that lie ahead.

I would hope that all political parties would support this call for a Commission into the under-funding of Cornwall. It is also my hope that the main London parties would agree to abide by the findings of such a review and guarantee Cornish communities their fair share of future spending.