Friday, 23 December 2011

Best wishes for Christmas and the New Year

I would like to wish all readers of this blog a Happy Christmas and a prosperous New Year. I hope you all enjoy the festive break.

Nadelik lowen ha blydhen nowydh da.

Blogging will recommence early in January.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Economic output in Cornwall falls

The Office of National Statistics has just released the 2009 figures for GVA (Gross Value Added). It shows that GVA stood at £7 billion for Cornwall, down 2.6% from the 2008 figure of £7.2 billion.

Cornwall’s per capita GVA equalled £13,129 in 2009, down 2.9% from the 2008 figure. This is equal to 65.6% of the UK average (£20,000). We still lie 36th out of 37 Nuts 2 regions, above West Wales and the Valleys. Cornwall has fared worse than the UK average where total GVA fell by 1.6% and per capita by 2.2%.

Obviously, these figures do not reflect the present situation, and the full impact of the economic downturn and central government cuts which have happened since.

Information from Economic Intelligence, Environment, Planning and Economy, Cornwall Council.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Two MPs respond to Devonwall challenge

As reported previously on this blog, Mebyon Kernow Deputy Leader Cllr Andrew Long has written to Cornwall’s MPs and challenged them to pledge to use their vote against any proposals for a Devonwall parliamentary constituency.

MPs will have a vote in 2013 as to whether proposed changes are accepted.

He has received two responses so far. South East Cornwall MP Sheryll Murray (Conservative) wrote:

“Thank you very much for your letter. I tabled an amendment to the Bill which sadly was not selected.

“I also voted to change the threshold which could resulted in a different constituency picture.

“I supported the majority of the Bill and am sure you appreciate that in this time of austerity also to ensure fairness, it is only right that we reduce the number of seats in Westminster and equalise the number of electors per Constituency, thus making essential saving to Government expenditure ensuring fairness throughout.”

Truro and Falmouth MP Sarah Newton (Conservative) meanwhile wrote:

“Thank you for your recent letter which I have read with interest. I have noted your comments regarding the possible creation of a Devonwall constituency and I understand the strength of your concern.

“I can assure you that I remain frustrated by the proposal of a cross-border seat and I certainly appreciate the historical and cultural sensitivities involved with the decision.

“As you may know, this matter has already been debated in the House of Commons and I am sorry that I, together with my fellow Cornish MPs, were not successful in blocking proposals for a cross-border Parliamentary constituency.

“It is very disappointing that not all those people living in Cornwall who are eligible to register to vote did not do so. If they had, it is my understanding that we would have had enough registered electors to keep Cornwall whole. Let’s hope we can persuade enough residents to register in future and the boundaries can be revised. The boundaries will be reconsidered for each General Election.”

Sarah Newton’s comments in her last paragraph are incorrect and it is very disappointing that neither MP is willing to oppose the creation of a Devonwall seat.

Further update on Early Day Motion

Three more MPs have signed the Plaid Cymru EDM marking the 10th anniversary of 50,000 declarations demanding a Cornish Assembly.

They are Lib Dems Stephen Gilbert (St Austell and Newquay) and Mike Hancock (Portsmouth South) as well as Labour member Paul Flynn (Newport West).

Cornish MPs George Eustice, Sheryll Murray and Sarah Newton have yet to sign the EDM.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

It is time to stop the “irresponsible lending” of “legal loan sharks”

In my column for this week's Cornish Guardian, I have condemned the impact of short-term and "payday" loans on the less-well-off. The article was as follows:

I would like to start my column by wishing all readers of the Cornish Guardian a very Happy Christmas, as well as a healthy and prosperous New Year.

I would also like to thank everyone who has taken the time to read my column over the last twelve months, especially those who have contacted me to discuss issues and/or encouraged me with positive comments.

The Christmas and New Year period is a truly wonderful time that brings friends, families and communities together. Many will also celebrate their faith, while others will simply take a break and recharge their batteries for the coming year.

Whatever you have planned, I sincerely hope that you have a great time and enjoy the festivities.

But Christmas can also be a costly and difficult time for individuals and families on low incomes.

This is particularly the case this year. The ongoing economic problems mean that the cost of living continues to rise, while incomes remain static or decline in real terms.

Many families are already struggling to make ends meet, some are seeking help from food banks, whilst facing the additional pressures of the Christmas period such as buying presents for children and grandchildren.

It is little wonder that so many people are predicted to fall into debt or descend into even more debt.

I am disgusted that there is an ever-growing group of companies preying on people with offers of short-term small loans, but at extortionate levels of interest.

These include so-called “payday loans” (to cover bills in advance of the next pay cheque) with interest rates as high as 4,000 per cent.

I consider it a scandal that such loans, targeting low earners and the vulnerable, are continuously being advertised on television.

It is also the case that, if the “payday loans” are not paid back in full very quickly, the debt escalates rapidly. Thousands are already termed “zombie debtors,” struggling to pay back the interest while never reducing the capital element of the debt.

The situation is so dire that research has suggested that 3.5 million adults are considering taking out such a payday loan over the next six months.

Surely now is the time for central government to take action to protect the best interests of the less-well-off, to increase regulation of the financial sector, and tackle the exploitation of what one MP has described as “legal loan sharks” with their “irresponsible lending.”

Friday, 16 December 2011

Update on Early Day Motion

As of this morning, a total of seven MPs had signed the EDM marking the 10th anniversary of 50,000 declarations demanding a Cornish Assembly.

As well as the three Plaid Cymru MPs who were the original signatories, it has now been supported by Cornish Lib Dem MPs Andrew George and Dan Rogerson, and Labour MPs Jeremy Corbyn (Islington North) and John McDonnell (Hayes and Harlington).

Other Cornish MPs George Eustice, Steve Gilbert, Sheryl Murray and Sarah Newton have yet to sign the EDM.

The issue was also covered in today’s Morning Star newspaper. Apparently, “three Welsh MPs joined forces with prominent Cornish campaigner Andrew George, Lib Dem MP for St Ives, in tabling a Commons motion in favour of a Cornish Assembly.”

For information, Cllr Loveday Jenkin and I were interviewed by a reporter from The Guardian newspaper yesterday concerning issues of Cornish identity, the campaign for a Cornish Assembly, the 50,000, and a wide range of other issues. Hopefully, there will be a feature sometime before or over the Christmas period.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Good news in St Enoder Parish

Earlier today, I had the pleasure to help show Julian German (Cornwall Council’s Cabinet Member for the Environment) around Indian Queens Victory Hall to mark the completion of the replacement of the original 1920s roof with a new insulated modern roof.

It was about twelve months ago that the Hall entered into the “U Choose 2 Retrofit” competition within the China Clay Area, when a public vote selected the hall as one of three community spaces to receive a package of carbon reduction measures.

The cost was over £100,000 and came from Cornwall Council. The monies were provided by the Eco-Communities Programme of Development funding awarded to the authority by the Department of Communities and Local Government.

During the works, it also became clear that the original roof structure has come under extreme pressure over the years and this had actually led to some of the roof trusses needing repair and strengthening.

The project has been a once-in-a-generation opportunity for Indian Queens Victory Hall to make really important and much needed improvements. I feel privileged to have been involved with the project and the Hall Committee are to be congratulated in driving the project forward.

Elsewhere in the Parish, three community halls have benefited from free photo-voltaic panels from Kronos Solar, the firm which recently installed a solar farm at Trefullock near Summercourt.

Arrays have been installed at Summercourt School, the New Memorial Hall at Summercourt and Fraddon Village Hall. The School and the halls will benefit from both the generation of electricity and an income through the feed-in tafiffs. It was also good that the arrays were up and running before the feed-in tariffs were changed on 12th December.

Kronos Solar has further panels which are likely to be made available for three further community buildings in the New Year. Watch this space for an update.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Another day at Cornwall Council

Today, I attended the latest meeting of Cornwall Council’s ruling Cabinet. I made a contribution in two debates.

In the first of these, the Cabinet voted to agree a development brief for land to the west of Truro. Without getting too technical, I expressed considerable concern at the proposal, raised a number of what I considered to be important issues with regard to planning policy and was not happy when these concerns were not even considered by the Panel.

In the second debate, the Cabinet declined to develop an alternative to their stalled incinerator proposal. A number of us made impassioned pleas for consideration to be given to a Plan B, but it was all to no avail.

In the end they agreed to “consider what further mitigation may be required to offset the impact of the further delay in delivering the Cornwall Energy Recovery Centre in order to continue to deal with Cornwall’s residual domestic waste.”

To be frank, I am not even sure what they have agreed …

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Plaid Cymru table Early Day Motion calling for a Cornish Assembly

I am pleased to report that yesterday in the House of Commons, our good friends in Plaid Cymru tabled an Early Day Motion (no. 2532) marking the tenth anniversary of the 50,000 declarations, further calling for a Cornish Assembly.

It was presented by Jonathan Edwards (above) who recently spoke at MK's Conference in November. The EDM was also sponsored by Elfyn Llwyd and Hywel Williams.

The EDM was as follows:

That this House notes that 10 years have passed since the presentation of a petition with 50,000 signatures in favour of a Cornish Assembly to 10 Downing Street on 12 December 2001 which equated to 10 per cent. of the adult population of Cornwall; recalls that this declaration of support for a Cornish Assembly was launched by Mebyon Kernow and received support from those of all parties and none; expresses disappointment that the then Government did not act upon the subject of the petition; believes that the failure to establish a Cornish Assembly has created a democratic deficit; further notes Government proposals for the devolution of power in the UK; and calls for the formation of a democratically elected Cornish Assembly to take decisions for the benefit of the people of Cornwall.

Further information

Early Day Motions (EDMs) are tabled by MPs to publicise a particular event or cause, and to gather support among MPs for that event or cause. MPs demonstrate their support for an EDM by signing the motion. Each EDM is given a unique number, starting at 1 at the beginning of each parliamentary session.

Monday, 12 December 2011

Today is the 10th anniversary of the 50,000 Declarations at Downing Street

Today marks the tenth anniversary of the presentation of 50,000 Declarations for a Cornish Assembly to 10 Downing Street.

Getting over 50,000 people to show their support for a Cornish Assembly in less than twenty months was a truly amazing achievement, and the Declarations continue to represent a great statement of intent from the ordinary people of Cornwall.

At this point, it is right that we look at what has happened since 2001 and how the aspirations of the 50,000 signatories have been devalued by the actions of the London-centred parties and their leaders.

It remains a disgrace that Tony Blair’s Labour Government (which supported devolution to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) dismissed the declarations and refused to consider demands for greater powers for Cornwall.

The Liberal Democrats walked away from the campaign for an Assembly and, with the backing of the Labour Government, they pushed through the creation of a single unitary authority in the face of massive opposition. They even had the brass neck to attempt to promote this centralisation of local government by using the language of devolution.

And now, we even have the Conservative-led Coalition Government further undermining democracy and the territoriality of Cornwall by pushing through plans for a cross-Tamar parliamentary constituency.

The previous Labour Government spoke a lot about devolution, local control and democratic change. The present Coalition Government also speaks a lot about devolution, as well as localism.

But these were, and are, “hollow words” as far as Cornwall is concerned. Blair and Brown ignored calls for a Cornish Assembly, a situation that is being replicated by the present Coalition Government.

The reality is that, because of the failings and neglect of the London-centred political parties, the fight has got harder – and the responsibility that Mebyon Kernow members have is even greater.

The quest to win an Assembly for Cornwall remains our big battle and we will never retreat from it! As the leader of MK, I pledge our continued commitment to greater self-government for Cornwall and we will never shirk from this fight.

Ten years on from taking the Declarations to Downing Street, I have also written to David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband. I have challenged them to respect the views of the 50,000 and to work with local communities to deliver devolution to the historic Celtic nation of Cornwall.

I will report back on the replies when I receive them.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

50,000 for a Cornish Assembly - ten years on!

Ten years ago this coming Monday (12th December 2001), I was part of a delegation to 10 Downing Street.

We presented a CD to the Government which contained the names and addresses of 50,000 individuals who had signed Declarations demanding a Cornish Assembly.

The Declaration had been launched by Mebyon Kernow on St Piran’s Day in the previous year. It set out a strong message:

“Cornwall is a nation with its own identity, culture, traditions and history – it also suffers severe and unique economic problems.

“Important decisions about our future are increasingly taken outside of Cornwall and such decisions are often inappropriate or even contrary to the needs of our local communities.

“Scotland now has its own Parliament and Wales its own Assembly – but Cornwall has been ignored. We have had the artificial ‘south west’ region foisted upon us.

“Cornwall has had to accept second best for too long.

“We, the People of Cornwall, must have a greater say in how we are governed. We need a Cornish Assembly that can set the right democratic priorities for Cornwall and provide a stronger voice for our communities in Britain, in Europe and throughout the wider World.

“I support the campaign for a Cornish Assembly.”

In a period of less than twenty months during 2000 and 2001, teams of volunteers under the inspirational leadership of Paddy McDonough visited town after town, setting up street stalls and getting the individual declarations signed.

The Cornish Constitutional Convention was also founded in 2000 to campaign for more powers for Cornwall. This helped to build cross-party support for the Declaration and it was subsequently backed by leading figures from all political parties including district and county councillors, and 80% of Cornish MPs.

It was a truly amazing achievement for 50,000 people (over 10% of the adult population of Cornwall) to sign the Declaration in such a short period.

Sadly, since 2001 the aspirations of these 50,000 signatories have been undermined and persistently devalued by the actions of the London-centred political parties and their leaders.

I have written to David Cameron and Nick Clegg, as well as the leader of the Labour Party Ed Miliband, demanding greater self-government for Cornwall. I will blog about the 50,000 in more detail on Monday.

Monday, 5 December 2011

MK challenges Cornish MPs on Devonwall seat

Mebyon Kernow Deputy Leader Cllr Andrew Long has challenged Cornwall’s MPs to take a lead and pledge to vote against any proposals for a Devonwall parliamentary constituency.

Cllr Long makes clear our view that the recommendation of a Devonwall seat has only happened because of the refusal of Conservative and Liberal Democrat MPs / Lords to protect the territorial integrity of Cornwall when the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill was debated.

In his letter, he addresses the fact that MPs will have a vote in 2013 as to whether proposed changes are accepted.

“It has been well reported that there is a growing anxiety amongst MPs about the final outcome of the boundary review. It has also been suggested that many, who face losing their seats and livelihoods, might oppose the legislation. Tory Minister Ian Duncan Smith has even appealed to the Prime Minister to ditch the change.

“There is still hope that we can prevent a Devonwall seat becoming a reality. Will you take a lead in publicly opposing the boundary changes and pledge now that you will use your vote in the House of Commons to oppose any recommendation for a Devonwall seat?”

We will let one and all know the responses when we receive them.

Findings of High Pay Commission are "obscene"

My column in last week's Cornish Guardian addressed the finding of a report from the the High Pay Commission. It was as follows:

At this time of cuts, tax increases, wage restraint, and with the living standards of people under threat, a report from the High Pay Commission makes truly shocking reading.

The Commission undertook a year-long inquiry into the pay of top executives. It found that, over the last thirty years, the disparity between what top executives and average workers earn has been growing and growing.

It records that, in this period, the income of top earners had risen by more than 4,000%

Examples within the report included that of John Varley, the former Chief Executive of Barclays Bank.

It notes that in 1980, the top wage earner at Barclays received £87,323 – 13 times the UK average wage. But last year, Mr Varley pocketed a total of £4,365,636 in salary, benefits and bonuses – 169 times the wage of the average worker in Britain.

The report also records that the salary for the Chief Executive at Lloyds Bank has increased to more than £2.5m.

Launching the report, Chairperson of the High Pay Commission Deborah Hargreaves described the excessive salaries of executives as "corrosive" and damaging to the economy.

She rightly added: “The British people believe in fairness and, at a time of unparalleled austerity, one tiny section of society - the top 0.1% - continues to enjoy huge annual increases in pay awards.”

Another report has just recorded that pay for the directors of the UK's top businesses rose by a massive 50% over the past year.

I agree with those commentators who have branded the increases in executive pay as "obscene" and have condemned the City and big business, who appear to have learnt nothing following the financial troubles of the last four years.

They are still putting the best interests of the wealthy few ahead of the majority, and the increases are a disgrace and cannot be justified.

Millions of public sector workers recently went on strike, because of proposed changes to their pension schemes and working conditions.

Is it any wonder that these workers, as well as those in the private sector, are so angry when they are see such inequality growing across British Society, with many people on low incomes knowing they will have to live off a paltry pension in their retirement.

In my view, it is time that Cameron put fairness at the heart of his programme of government, took on the vested interests of ultra-wealthy and stood up for ordinary men and women in these difficult times.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

And then there were five

Plenty of people were talking about the "Fantastic Five" on Tuesday as Loveday Jenkin joined fellow MK Councillors Stuart Cullimore, Andrew Long, Neil Plummer and yours truly, for her first Full Council meeting.

For the record, the MK councillors voted against the proposed 2012-2013 budget which was pushed through by the Conservative-led administration, even though it did not need to be agreed until February. We considered the budget premature and were critical of the lack of scrutiny of its content, the limited information in certain areas and the uncertainty surrounding the funding of various services.

The MK Group also backed the motion to support a public holiday for St Piran.s Day and it was in this debate that Loveday made a very assured debut as Cornwall Councillor for Wendron Division.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Loveday Jenkin wins Wendron for Mebyon Kernow

Great news! Loveday Jenkin has been elected as the new Cornwall Councillor for Wendron Division. It was also a resounding win, and was as follows:

Loveday Jenkin (MK) – 427 (36.4% - up 16.5%)
John Martin (Lib Dem) – 262 (22.3% - up 12.3%)
Linda Taylor (Con) – 227 (19.4% - up 3.9%)
Phil Martin (Ind) – 177 (15.1% - down 16.6%)
Robert Webber (Lab) – 80 (6.8% - up 3.8%)

For information, in the previous election in 2009, there was a second Independent who polled 6.9% and a UKIP candidate who polled 13.0%.

Well done to everyone who supported and played their part in the campaign. A massive well done to Loveday. More comment and party to follow!

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Public funding for political parties - MK not included

The Committee for Standards in Public Life has today published a report titled “Ending the big donor culture.” Recommendations include an annual cap of £10,000 on individual donations from 2015 and increased state funding for political parties.

MK is not in favour of state funding, but I find it unacceptable that Sir Christopher Kelly’s proposal only applies to political parties with at least two MPs or two representatives at the Scottish Parliament, the Welsh Assembly or Northern Ireland Assembly.

The state funding would be based on the number of votes from the previous General Election as well as elections to the devolved assemblies.

The BBC has estimated that if the proposals were implemented, based on the 2010 General Election, the Conservatives would benefit to the tune of £32.2 million, Labour would get £25.8 million and the Lib Dems £20.5 million.

By contrast, Mebyon Kernow and other political parties such as UKIP would not get a single penny.

The main London parties are speaking out against the proposals, having spent the last few months jockeying for position in order to protect their own self-interests in the discussions.

I just find the whole thing a sham!

Monday, 21 November 2011

MK Conference - caption competition

My good friend Chris Bowden took a number of photographs at Saturday's Mebyon Kernow Conference. Not sure about the one shown below!

So it's caption competition time.

Jonathan Edward's speech

Jonathan Edwards has posted his speech from Saturday’s MK Conference on his website. It was a truly fantastic speech. You can enjoy it at:

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Thanks to everyone who supported the MK Conference

Thank you to everyone who attended MK’s Annual Conference at Bodmin this weekend and made it such a success.

I would particularly like to thank Jonathan Edwards, Plaid Cymru MP for Carmarthen East and Dinefwr, and Kenneth Gibson, the Scottish National Party MSP for Cunninghame North, for travelling to Cornwall, delivering truly inspirational speeches. and giving us their support.

I would also like to give special thanks to Cllr Stephen Richardson for all his hard work in co-ordinating the organisation of the event.

The picture above shows some of the speakers at the event (left to right): Jonathan Edwards MP, Cllr Andrew Long, Cllr Loveday Jenkin, your truly and Kenneth Gibson MSP.

Can do Cornwall ????????

Speaking at this weekend’s MK Annual Conference, I drew everyone’s attention to the “Can do Cornwall” document that has just been published by Cornwall Council.

It is a bid to central government for Cornwall to become a pilot to pool public sector budgets across Cornwall.

And do not get me wrong, there may be some merit exploring greater co-operation between all parts of the public sector, but this document includes proposals that have not even been discussed by Cornwall Council, never mind agreed by the authority.

As the MK group leader, I was asked add my support to it, once it had been finished. I declined the opportunity.

It starts by asking: “What is special about Cornwall?” It provides the answer – “We have solid partnerships and political cohesion.”

It is jam-packed with hyperbole, including “Our natural environment is flowing with potential to underpin sustainable growth.”

It talks of “innovative governance arrangements” for the project, but in reality it is the same old suspects in the form of a Leader’s Forum and will include some “senior councillors.”

I have yet to receive a definition of senior councillor, although someone has suggested this is someone who doesn’t disagree with the Chief Executive.

You may remember that a few weeks ago, the administration decided to set a target of 48,000 new properties for Cornwall over the next 20 years.

And yet in this document, they have told central government that Cornwall will build 30,000 new properties in the next ten years.

I pointed out that the 30,000 figure was not Council policy before it was published, but they declined to correct it. (I may write further on this in the near future.)

Monday, 14 November 2011

Mebyon Kernow Conference 2011

Mebyon Kernow’s 2011 Conference takes place on the 19th and 20th November at the Shire House Suite in Bodmin. It will mark MK’s sixtieth anniversary as an organisation.

On Saturday 19th November, the Conference will feature leading members of Mebyon Kernow and showcase a range of guest speakers. These speakers will include Kenneth Gibson MSP from the Scottish National Party and Jonathan Edwards MP from Plaid Cymru.

The event is open to non-members and I would like to extend an invitation to one and all to come along and meet MK members and find out more about our Party and what it stands for.

The doors open at 10.00 on Saturday, with presentations and speeches commencing at 10.30. In the evening, there will be a buffet, bar and entertainment. The cost of tickets for the evening will be £10 per person and can be purchased on the door from 6.00 onwards.

Mebyon Kernow’s formal AGM will take place on the Sunday, when there will also be sessions on campaign strategy and plans for the 2013 elections to Cornwall Council.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Cut Trident - not public services

This week, my column in the Cornish Guardian focuses on Trident. It is as below:

I have been a member of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) for over twenty years. To me it is a matter of principle. I strongly believe that we should be working to rid the globe of all nuclear weapons, so that we can make the World a safer and more secure place.

I find it indefensible that while central government is forcing through devastating cuts to vital public services, it is continuing to spend billions of pounds on nuclear weapons.

How can a government justify spending £3.1 billion of taxpayers’ money on the Trident nuclear missile system each year?

Just think how much good £3,100,000,000 would do if it was instead spent on social housing, job creation, education, health, policing, community groups, etc?

The Government has also authorised the expenditure of billions of pounds on its scheme to replace the Trident nuclear submarines / weapons system, even though the decision on whether to press ahead with the replacement will not even be taken until 2016.

The original estimate for the new submarines was a massive £11-14 billion, but recently the government published a progress report which shows that the actual costs are likely to be in the region of £25-26 billion. It has also been acknowledged that the total cost of the whole programme, including lifetime costs, will probably exceed £100 billion.

Kate Hudson, the General Secretary of CND has rightly described the weapons as a “ruinously expensive white elephant.”

I agree with her, and her view that it is a disgrace “the government seems willing to pay whatever it takes for these weapons, with the estimated bill almost doubling since they were first proposed.”

It is also the case that, in recent years, runaway increases in costs have blighted almost every major defence project. And yet the Government is still unwilling to rethink its position on nuclear weapons and even consider whether the United Kingdom should develop a non-nuclear defence policy

It is my view that expenditure on Trident equals an appalling waste of tax payers' money and it is little wonder that polls show a majority of the British population agree and are now opposed to Trident.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Another waste update

Yesterday, members of Cornwall Council’s Cabinet appointed Cory Environmental Municipal Services Limited to deliver waste and recycling collections and beach and street cleaning services throughout Cornwall. The contract will last for eight years from April 2012.

Options to increase recycling by collecting mixed plastic, tetra packs and food waste were also costed, but the Cabinet has yet to debate whether to take these forward as well.

At today’s Waste Panel, a number of members, myself included, argued strongly for the Council to do all it could to maximise recycling and composting. This is especially important given the uncertainty around the incinerator proposal and how Cornwall will deal with its residual waste into the future.

Members also backed a proposal from me calling on the Cabinet to allow the Council to undertake works to produce a Plan B (alternative to a single 240,000 tonne incinerator). I think I am correct in saying that the vote was seven-to-five.

Monday, 31 October 2011

Keep Cornwall Whole launch petition

The Keep Cornwall Whole campaign group has today launched a petition against the proposal to create a cross-Tamar Devonwall constituency.

The petition calls on MPs to (i) seek changes to the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act to ensure that parliamentary constituencies respect Cornwall’s historic border and (ii) oppose all proposals for a Devonwall seat.

The campaign fully understands that the Boundary Commission cannot recommend seats with a variance of greater than 5% from the average constituency size. But has been widely reported that there is a growing anxiety amongst MPs about the final outcome of the boundary review and it has been suggested that many, who face losing their seats and livelihoods, might oppose the legislation.

Now is the time for us to put pressure on the Coalition and their MPs to oppose the changes which will need to be agreed by Parliament. Now is the time to fight back and to do all in our power to undermine the legislation.

Copies of the petition will soon be able to be downloaded from the website

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Cllr Derek Collins joins Mebyon Kernow

I am very pleased to be able to announce that Derek Collins, who serves on St Austell Town Council, has resigned from the Liberal Democrats and joined MK.

Derek says that he can no longer remain a member of a political party that he believes has lost its way. His statement issued today stated:

“I can no longer, in all conscience, remain a member of the Liberal Democrats.

“I campaigned long and hard to help elect a Lib Dem MP in St Austell and Newquay, telling voters that the only way to stop the Conservatives was to support Stephen Gilbert.

“The decision taken by MPs to back a Conservative Government and implement Tory policies was a bitter pill which I could not swallow. I, like many people, felt very let down. I did not campaign for a Tory Government and I am angry to see the Lib Dem MPs go back on their election pledges on everything from public spending to policing, the NHS, tuition fees and so much more.

“I have made numerous representations to the MP and senior Lib Dems in the local area. Promises were repeatedly made about fighting for the policies that were actually presented at the General Election – but nothing has changed.

“I have therefore tendered my resignation from the Lib Dems and I have joined Mebyon Kernow, which I believe is standing up for Cornwall and rightly opposing the excesses of the Coalition Government.”

I am delighted to be able to welcome Derek into MK. I have known him for a number of years and he is a passionate advocate of winning a better deal for Cornwall and his local area. I am absolutely delighted that he is now part of the MK team and I look forward to working closely with Derek for many years to come.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Loveday Jenkin is standing in the Wendron by-election

Loveday Jenkin is MK's candidate in the by-election to fill the vacancy on Cornwall Council (Wendron Division) caused by the sad death of hard-working Independent councillor Mike Clayton.

Loveday is an experienced councillor. She served on Kerrier District Council from 1995 until 2009, when it was abolished. She has also served on Crowan Parish Council for over 16 years.

I believe that Loveday has the experience to be a strong Cornwall Councillor for her local area, which includes Crowan, Praze-an-Beeble, Sithney and Wendron parishes, and I hope that we can all get behind her campaign and get her elected to County Hall.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Public toilets ... what now?

In my column in this week's Cornish Guardian, I look at Cornwall Council and its approach to providing public toilets and the outcome of a recent Scrutiny meeting at County Hall. It is as below:

In February 2010, the Conservative-led administration of Cornwall Council agreed its Medium Term Financial Strategy (MTFS), which set out its overall budgets until 2013-2014. In December 2010, the Council set its detailed budget for 2011-2012.

On both occasions, I found the whole process extremely frustrating and was angered at how much information was not made available to councillors.

Taking the environment part of the budget as an example, I repeatedly sought more detailed financial breakdowns but was told these were not yet available.

Indeed, backbench councillors were told that Full Council should set the strategic direction of the authority and the headline budget figures, but leave the ruling Cabinet and senior officers to worry about the details and to “achieve the savings and decide upon the operational changes required to deliver them.”Many of those councillors who voted to agree the budget without understanding its likely implications now find themselves having to implement cuts that they do not support.

Last week at a Scrutiny Committee, councillors were in the invidious position of having to consider how they were going to deal with a massive reduction in funding for public toilets. Apparently, the MTFS reduces funding for the loos from £2.85 million in 2010-2011 to £1.49 million in 2012-2013 – something that all the councillors I spoke to had no recollection of ever voting for.

Cornwall Council is presently responsible for a total of 247 public conveniences, but a working group of the Committee had to come up with a recommendation to cease funding for 114 toilets in order to meet the reduced budget provision. The Council hopes local Parish Councils will be willing to take on these toilets and keep them open at a reduced cost. It will certainly be interesting to see what their responses are!

Personally, I think Cornwall Council have got it wrong. I believe it needs to revisit how it agreed the savings expected from the budget for public conveniences, as well as a range of other areas, which are simply unachievable without significant impacts on local communities.

One officer at the recent meeting even admitted that they did not fully understand the costs of operating toilets until after the budget envelope for the service had been set! How’s that for planning ahead!

Councillors at the meeting did however support my call for the Medium Term Financial Strategy to be reviewed in terms of the monies available for public toilets. Watch this space to see if it actually happens.

Monday, 17 October 2011

The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF)

Today, I responded to the consultation on the Government’s draft National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). To give a flavour of the representation, I have listed a few extracts below:

The “presumption in favour of development”

The document contains a “presumption in favour of development.” It also states that “decision-takers at every level should assume that the default answer to development proposals is yes” and that councils should grant consent where local planning documents are “silent, indeterminate or dated.”

We share the concerns of the National Trust who believe that the new planning rules could mean “unchecked and damaging development … on a scale not seen since the 1930s” and the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England who believe the reforms “will place the countryside under increasing threat and leave local communities and planning authorities largely powerless in the face of developer pressure.”

We oppose the “presumption in favour of development” and would welcome a more balanced approach to the assessment of planning applications, that appropriately weighs up both the merits and disadvantages of individual schemes.

A plan-led system?

Mebyon Kernow – the Party for Cornwall is a strong supporter of a plan-led system in planning. But here in Cornwall, the undemocratic imposition of a single unitary authority (in place of seven former councils) has meant that the development of a Local Development Framework for Cornwall has suffered considerable delay.

If the “default answer to development proposals is yes … where local planning documents are silent, indeterminate or dated” that therefore puts Cornwall and its communities at a great disadvantage and many more sub-standard developments may be allowed as a consequence.

Significantly increasing the supply of housing

The document seeks to “significantly increase” the present level of house building. It does not however seek to understand the different needs of the different parts of the United Kingdom in coming forward with this and its associated policies.

In Cornwall we have experienced faster population growth than almost all other parts of the United Kingdom, accompanied by uncontrolled house building. Cornwall’s population was less than 350,000 in the early 1960s before large-scale in-migration commenced. By 1991 the population had ballooned to 468,500. It is now 535,000 people.

In 1991, there were approximately 190,000 occupied dwellings in Cornwall. Over 45,000 more properties have been built in the last 20 years – the vast majority of which was unrestricted market housing – many of which became buy-to-let investment properties or second homes. Such level of development is unsustainable and cannot be continued blindly into the future.

We therefore oppose “significantly increasing the supply of housing” in a Cornish context and call on the Government to allow areas like Cornwall more freedom to slow the level of house construction to give our communities a breathing space, and to allow local councils to focus on the delivery of proper local needs housing.

Local-needs housing

At the same time, local people are finding it increasingly difficult to find housing that is affordable. This Framework appears to do nothing to address this imbalance. Indeed, we believe it is the case that the Government is doing too little to deliver affordable housing for local-need. The introduction of an “affordable rent” model (at 80% of inflated private sector rents) in place of social rent, cuts in investment, etc, is making the delivery of local-needs affordable housing ever more difficult.

Neighbourhood Plans

The document also promotes the concept of “Neighbourhood Plans” which the Government claims will give “communities direct power to plan the areas in which they live.” But the reality is that the NPPF states that these plans must be aligned with national and key principal council documents, taking away any significant local discretion on strategic issues.

Protection of the countryside

Mebyon Kernow is particularly concerned that the proposed NPPF waters down the commitment to “protect the countryside for its own sake” and its own intrinsic value. This relates to both protected landscapes and those areas which have no statutory protection as such.
Greater protection must be afforded to land which is worthy of protection. This includes agricultural land, which will form the basis of our ability to produce food in the future, when food scarcity may become an issue.

Second homes

The NPPF is silent on the issue of second homes, which is a key problem in Cornwall, and a factor that excludes local people from the housing market and leaves many coastal villages little more than havens for holiday makers. It is time that legislation was introduced that allowed Councils to stop and then reduce the spread of second homes.

A lack of clarity - a lawyers’ charter?

Throughout the NPPF there is great uncertainty. It refers to Local Plans, but the document does not define what it means by this. Does this include Local Development Frameworks, such as the one being produced in Cornwall? Or is it a Local Plan like the old detailed district plans? Must work on LDFs be ceased and work on a new document commenced? Or is the Government simply using a term that is different from the one used by the previous Government?

Similarly, what is meant by the terms such as “sustainable development,” “rural,” “need” and “demand”, for example? And how can the terms “need” and “demand”, be used so interchangedly?

It is our view that this lack of clarity which makes the NPPF more a lawyers’ charter and a basis for litigation than a document that promotes a planning system that would be truly sustainable.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Cornwall Council comments on High Court ruling are shameful

My column in next week's Cornish Guardian will, unsurprisingly, focus on the result of the High Court challenge to the incinerator planning consent. For a sneak preview, see below:

The phone call to campaigners in St Dennis came at just after midday on Thursday. It was good news for the village – the High Court had just quashed the planning consent for a massive incinerator.

Mr Justice Collins had ordered Eric Pickles to reconsider the planning decision because the Secretary of State and his planning inspector had failed to properly consider environmental issues and the impact of emissions on nearby Special Areas of Conservation.

Cornwall Council were quick to describe the ruling as “extremely disappointing.” Their press release went into overdrive claiming that this could “mean a delay of up to six months” for the project and “cost the Council at least £6 million.”

One journalist even condemned Cornwall Council for being in “full emotional manipulation mode” as it made the claim that the “delay” was the “equivalent of providing 400,000 hours of care for vulnerable people living at home.”

I feel extremely angry that the Council keeps making such ridiculous and unsubstantiated claims, which can and are being challenged.

It is time that the Council acknowledged a few home truths. It needs to recognise that the former County Council mishandled the issue of the incinerator and that Cornwall Council is continuing to make a hash of it.

In 2006 the Liberal Democrat administration on Cornwall County Council voted to sign a waste contract with SITA which specified the construction of an incinerator. The site at St Dennis was even named in the contract, but the members who voted in favour did not bother to visit the area to consider whether it would be appropriate for such a development.

In 2009 the Planning Committee (including many who voted for the contract) voted by twenty votes to one to refuse the incinerator proposal.

Soon after, the leader of the new Conservative-led unitary authority Alec Robertson (who himself opposed the incinerator) pledged that the Council would robustly defend SITA’s appeal to the Planning Inspectorate. He sanctioned the expenditure of over £1 million to do just that.

I was privileged to help present local views to that Inquiry and I know that the Council’s planning officers and the legal team defended the appeal extremely well. But they had to cope with senior officers and the leadership of the two-faced Council doing all they could to undermine them.

The extent of this interference became publicly apparent when Alec Robertson wrote to the Secretary of State asking him to rule against his own Council and to allow the incinerator to be built.

I therefore find the Council’s ongoing criticism of the good folk of St Dennis for their bravery in bringing a High Court challenge to be shameful. How dare they scaremonger about costs. And how dare they try to blame others for their failure to develop a sustainable way to manage waste?

It is also important for people to realise that the issues raised in the legal challenge brought by objectors were exactly the same as those raised by Cornwall Council itself at the earlier Planning Inquiry!

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Statement from High Court on incinerator ruling

I have just been forwarded the official press statement from UK Law News from the High Court on the incinerator ruling. It was as follows:

Objectors opposed to plans for a waste incinerator in the picturesque Cornish countryside today triumphed in their High Court challenge to the Government's grant of planning permission for the scheme.

The Cornwall Waste Forum St Dennis Branch persuaded High Court judge Mr Justice Collins to quash the Government's decision to grant planning permission for the "energy from waste plant" on land at St Dennis, which they say threatens two nearby "Special Areas of Conservation" (SACs) designated by the EU. The judge ordered the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles, to reconsider the decision.

However, this may not be the end of the battle. He did grant the Secretary of State permission to challenge his decision at the Court of Appeal.

The judge ruled that the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles, and his planning inspector had failed to meet a "legitimate expectation" on the part of the objectors that they would consider whether an "Appropriate Assessment" was necessary under the Habitats Regulations and EU Habitats Directive to consider the potential impacts of noise, dust and other emissions from the incinerator on the surrounding area.

He backed the group's claim that the inspector, whose decision was followed by the Secretary of State, was wrong to leave the question of an Appropriate Assessment to the Environment Agency, which had already announced its stance that the incinerator would have no significant environmental effects.

He found that the inspector failed to deal with the objectors' challenge to the EA's stance, which they claim is "legally flawed" and insufficient to meet the requirements of the Directive.

Quashing the planning permission in a lengthy judgment today, the judge said that the "sensible way forward" now might be for the Secretary of State to carry out an Appropriate Assessment "as speedily as possible".

He said that this might lead to him agreeing with the EA, and planning permission being properly granted. However, he said that if any significant effects on the environment are identified, that will in effect mean that the development cannot take place.

He said: "Clearly what was envisaged was that the inspector would consider and give his views on not only whether an Appropriate Assessment was needed but, if possible, what the Appropriate Assessment should decide.

"That the objectors were led to believe that the inspector would deal with the issue, there can be no doubt. That was on the basis that the Secretary of State was the Competent Authority and the appropriate authority to deal with the issue.

"The objectors were never disabused of that belief by anything said by the inspector in the course of the inquiry process.

"It seems to me that the real point is that the expectation was that the inspector would consider and reach a view on the need for an Appropriate Assessment."

He added that the inspector and the Secretary of State had made "no decision" on the challenge to the EA's conclusions put forward by the objectors.

He continued: "There was evidence put before the inspector that the EA had got it wrong. But he did not deal with or reach any decisions on the evidence which had been produced to challenge the EA's view.

"He was wrong not to have dealt with the evidence because the parties had been led to believe that he would and he had not at any stage disabused them of that expectation."

Speaking afterwards, Charmian Larke, a representative of the group, said: "We are very pleased and happy. We all feel exhausted but ready for the next phase of the battle, whatever it might be.

"Today we have made big progress towards more sustainable waste management in Cornwall."

The judge ordered the Secretary of State to pay the Forum's legal costs, to be assessed later.

HIgh Court upholds challenge on incinerator decision

Campaigners from St Dennis and the Mid Cornwall area have won their legal challenge against the construction of a massive incinerator in the China Clay Area. I do not know the details of the ruling as yet but I understand that the Secretary of State has also been granted leave to appeal.

Cornwall Council has expressed its disappointment at the news and started to wax lyrical on the financial implications.

I will post again when I know more.

Update on housing numbers

At yesterday’s meeting of Cornwall Council’s Cabinet, portfolio-holders voted to agree a housing target of 48,000 new properties for 2010-2030.

An amendment to follow the advice of the Planning Policy Panel to set a target of 40,000 was defeated by five votes to three (see previous blog posts from 5th August and 8th October).

This figure will go out to consultation in a few weeks. The 48,000 target has been divided up as follows between the 19 Network Areas and allocation for the eco-town proposal that is being pushed by “all and sundry” – both inside and outside of the Council.

The Network Area targets are as follows:

Bodmin - 1,250
Bude - 1,250
Camborne/Pool/Redruth - 7,000
Camelford - 800
Caradon - 800
China Clay Area - 800
Cornwall Gateway - 1,450
Falmouth & Penryn - 4,000
Hayle & St Ives - 2,900
Helston & Lizard Helston - 2,000
Launceston - 1,900
Liskeard & Looe - 1,950
Newquay & St Columb - 3,300
St Agnes & Perranporth - 1,100
St Austell - 1750
St Blazey, Fowey & Lostwithiel - 800
Truro & Roseland - 5,200
Wadebridge & Padstow - 1,500
West Penwith - 3,250
Eco-town developments in St Austell, St Blazey and China Clay Area - 5,000

The consultation will also ask whether the Bodmin and Saltash areas would wish to take more housing that that noted above.

The consultation will however be about more than just the housing targets and it will present a broad “policy intent” for the planning policies that the Council will adopt next year.

Cornish people plant "Other" flags to mark their national identity

As part of its “Disunited Kingdom” series of features, The Guardian yesterday posted results of an on-line survey into how people view their national identities.

Individuals were invited to "plant a flag" where they lived, with their choice of nationality being British, Scottish, English, Welsh Northern Irish, Irish or Other.

More than 16,500 people took part and overwhelmingly chose to identify themselves with their home nation, rather than their Britishness. Figures from yesterday show that 6,594 said they were British, 2,874 said they were Scottish, 2,386 chose English, 1,355 Welsh, 895 Irish, with 129 choosing Northern Irish.

The report also added: “Another 1,309 people chose other, particularly in Cornwall, where there is a home rule and Cornish language movement principally led by the pro-devolution group Mebyon Kernow, which has 22 local councillors across the county (sic). The eastern edge of the "other" dots in the south-west of England (sic) closely follows the line of the Tamar river, the historic boundary between Cornwall and the rest of England (sic).”

It is great to see Cornish people expressing their identity and the above image shows that beautifully. The blue flags represent Other – or in the majority of cases in Cornwall – Cornish!

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

How can an MP support “Cornish Heritage” but vote for Devonwall?

George Eustice, the Conservative MP for Camborne, Redruth and Hayle, has called on the Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt to set up a new "Cornish Heritage" body to take over the functions of English Heritage (EH) in Cornwall.

The Conservative MP has criticised EH for "letting Cornwall down for years" by not promoting its industrial history to boost tourism. He has also been involved in a spat with the organisation over its opposition to developments on Hayle's harbour, because of its World Heritage Status.

In a soundbite that could have been created for an MK member, he said:

"Towns like Camborne, Redruth and Hayle, which make up the heart of the Cornwall's mining heritage, are not even mentioned on the English Heritage website. Instead, all you get are pretty pictures of castles in the home counties."

I welcome Mr Eustice’s call for Cornish Heritage. But he is the same Mr George Eustice MP who voted for a Devonwall parliamentary constituency earlier this year.

Mr Eustice – you cannot have it both ways. You either support Cornwall, its heritage and its territoriality – or you don’t! Will you now pledge to oppose Government plans for a cross-Tamar constituency?

David (St Dennis) takes on Goliath (SITA / Cornwall Council) in the High Court

Campaigners from St Dennis and the wider Mid Cornwall area are in London today for the start of a two-day High Court hearing (Section 288 challenge) to overturn the Secretary of State’s decision to grant planning permission for an incinerator with an unsustainable, annual throughput of 240,000 tonnes of waste at St Dennis.

It has been branded a "David versus Goliath" struggle and local people should be commended for the determined way in which they have raised funds to make the challenge.

I think that my good friend Pat Blanchard, the chairman of the St Dennis Incinerator Group, has summed it up well. She said: "The support of the community and work by so many individuals just illustrates how strongly people feel. We are not rich, with up-country barristers or second home owners, just ordinary people trying to do what we can to prevent a travesty."

I would like to wish the campaigners all the best. Through them, there may yet be time for Cornwall Council to develop a sustainable approach to waste management.

For information, the Western Morning News today reported that the incinerator would “burn 240,000 tons of non-recyclable household waste each year.” This is so, so untrue! The vast majority of the waste that would go to the plant could be recycled or composted.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Cabinet set to over-rule Planning Policy Advisory Panel on housing numbers

Yesterday, I chaired the latest meeting of the Planning Policy Advisory Panel at County Hall which considered the content of the consultation draft on Cornwall Council’s Core Strategy.

It was a wide-ranging meeting and our comments will be reported to a meeting of the Council’s ruling Cabinet nest week, which is expected to agree the document for consultation. It is fair to say we are seeking a large number of changes.

But one area where the views of the Panel have already not been accepted by the Cabinet member is the target for housing numbers.

The report to our meeting stated the following:

“Notably, members [of the Panel] agreed by 6 : 5 vote to recommend to the Portfolio Holder a 40,000 target for dwellings over the next 20 year as a basis for consultation on the Preferred Approach. Following discussion, the Portfolio Holder has asked officers to develop an initial target of 48,000 for consultation. This reflects the medium level of growth consulted on at the options stage and that had most support at the public consultation events and is felt to be
better able to deliver strategic priorities of affordable housing and economic regeneration. On this basis the report to Cabinet will reflect this recommendation. It will, of course also refer the recommendations of PPAP for a lower figure of 40,000.”

I will nonetheless make the case for the Panel’s recommendation at next week’s meeting.

For the record, the previous public consultation on housing numbers were as follows:

Exhibition responses
Low (38,000) - 29%
Medium (48,000) - 42.5%
High (57,000) - 28.5%

Written responses
Low (38,000) - 47%
Medium (48,000) - 17%
High (57,000) - 36%

News on Cornwall Council budget for 2012-2013

The Conservative and Independent administration at Cornwall Council has just published its draft budget for 2012-2013, which will be presented to a meeting of the Cabinet on Wednesday 12th October.

Key recommendations in the provisional budget, according to a press release, include.

An additional £14.4 million for Adult Care and Support.
£700,000 to fund an Educational Maintenance Allowance scheme
for students in Cornwall to “support those most affected by the withdrawal of the Government’s national scheme earlier this year …”
Capital funding to support projects such as the detrunking of roads controlled by the Highways Agency, the dualling of the A30 at Temple and improvements to A38 accident blackspots; the development of new renewable energy facilities; the Port of Falmouth Masterplan; a new Archive and Records Office; and a housing strategy to address local housing shortages.
£365,000 to help secure the future of key voluntary sector organisations such as the Cornwall Rural Community Council and the Cornwall Centre for Volunteers.
Pooling the budgets of members of the Cornwall Safety Partnership to support a range of services including domestic violence and sexual abuse services.

At this point, I have no comment to make on the budget. I have yet to receive the paperwork and study it in depth. Like most members, my initial understanding of what is in the budget has come from a press statement and reports on local radio.

Indeed, it is indicative of the failings of the Cabinet system that the official press release contained messages of support for various budget proposals from individuals from outside the Council – such as the Principal of Cornwall College Dave Linnell, Mark Osterfield of Tate St Ives, and even Grand Bard Mick Paynter – and this was all before the majority of the councillors had even seen the budget!

Elected members will be able to scrutinise the provisional budget during two special Budget Scrutiny Days on Thursday 3th November and Friday 4th November, before it is brought before the full Council for a decision on 29th November.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Dennis Harris - thanks for 40 years as a parish councillor

The members of St Enoder Parish Council have presented a crystal decanter to Dennis Harris, who recently retired from the Council.

A wonderfully kind man, he has given more than 40 years of service to his local community as a parish councillor over two periods.

​Dennis was also a founding member of Restormel Borough Council in 1973, served on the authority for 26 years, and remembers that his proudest proudest moment was his year as the mayor of Restormel in the 1988-89 year. When the Council was abolished, he was also made an Alderman of the Borough.

He was a Cornwall County Councillor for sixteen years and has been involved with numerous local groups.

I fully agree with Parish Council Chairman Cllr Andrew Waters who presented him with the award at a recent meeting. Andrew said: "I can't speak too highly enough of him. The members all thought we should buy him a gift to say thank you for all his hard work. He has done a tremendous amount for this parish over the last four decades."

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Coalition need to rethink approach to economy

My latest article in the Cornish Guardian looks at the growing problems in the UK economy. It was as follows:

Headline after headline in recent weeks has painted a gloomy picture of the economic problems facing the United Kingdom, casting significant doubt on the wisdom of the British Government’s austerity drive.

I believe it was the economist John Maynard Keynes who said that “When the facts change, I change my mind".

Isn’t it time that David Cameron and George Osborne took his advice, admitted that circumstances are changing, looked again at the scope and depth of the cuts they are implementing, and found a new and different way forward?

The Coalition continues to make the argument that severe cuts to public spending will not damage the economy, and that job losses in the public sector will be more than compensated for by growth in the private sector.

But figures show that this assertion is false. The latest figures, for the three months leading up to June, show that 111,000 jobs were lost in the public sector during this period but that the private sector created only 41,000 new jobs across the UK.

Over a similar three-month period, unemployment figures show that 80,000 people joined the dole queue – taking the number of people out of work to above 2.5 million. This is a two-year high.

I consider that the Government’s approach is both wrong and counter-productive. It’s drastic spending cuts have reduced growth, as tax receipts from working people have fallen and welfare costs have increased. This makes no sense at all!

What is more, the International Monetary Fund has acknowledged that the UK’s economic performance is much weaker than anticipated, and has cut its growth forecasts for the UK economy.

It has advised the Coalition to consider slowing the pace of deficit reduction and, along with a number of economists, has stated that there is a strong possibility that the UK could fall back into recession – signalling the much feared double-dip recession.

As the cuts start to bite and people worry about the provision of public services in their local areas, it is not surprising that there is also increasing public dissatisfaction with the actions of the Government.

Recent polls are clearly showing that people think that the Government is cutting public expenditure unfairly, and that the cuts are both too fast and too deep.

Taking into account all the economic indicators being reported at the present, surely now is the time for the Government to think again and to reduce its programme of cuts, thereby safeguarding jobs and boosting economic activity?

I must admit the idea for using the Keynes quote came from an old Guardian article by Polly Toynbee. Thanks Polly.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

A sad loss for Cornwall Council

It is sad to hear the news that Cllr Mike Clayton died on Monday. Mike was an extremely hardworking and committed councillor, who was respected across the council chamber.

He was an Independent and served Wendron Division. As well as being Deputy Leader of the Independent group, he was Chairman of the Electoral Review Panel, though his personal focus was planning matters.

Mike was the Council’s Planning Champion and he assisted me with the work of the Planning Policy Panel, for which he was Vice-Chairman. It was a real pleasure to work with Mike on a range of issues and, in particular, he lead initiatives to provide affordable housing for local people in rural areas.

Mike was a good friend to so many of us, he had real heart, and will be greatly missed.

Monday, 26 September 2011

Anti-incinerator group says Council's alternative costs are "a fallacy"

Anti-incinerator group StackAttack has today claimed that the Council’s estimate for an alternative option to the incinerator planned for St Dennis is “wildly misleading.”

StackAttack claim that Freedom of Information requests reveal a huge discrepancy between claimed and likely costs.

Spokesperson Oliver Baines has said: “It’s hard to conceive how they have got this so wrong. The Council claimed, in public, that not going ahead with the incinerator would cost Cornwall £322m. Information provided by the Council under the Freedom of Information Act has revealed a catalogue of errors in their calculations. Our realistic assessment is that their figure should be not £322m, but £132m.

“That’s a staggering discrepancy of £190m. The difference is so huge that we wonder how the Council managed to achieve it or whether it actively sought to mislead the public, or whether Councillors themselves have been misled. It obviously had in mind the cost of building the incinerator – £165m – as a target figure to exceed, to prove that not having the incinerator is more expensive than having it. What we didn’t expect was such a wild over-estimate. I wonder what Councillors will think about having the wool pulled over their eyes.”

Diana Padwick, one of StackAttack’s founders, has added: “The information reveals that the reality is the opposite of what the Council claims and that the cost of the incinerator, at £165m, will be £33m more than the alternative.

“It is scarcely credible that Cornwall Council can claim the alternative would be so massively more expensive when in fact it will be £33m cheaper.

“The only explanation we can see for this incinerator still being pursued is that Cornwall Council, having made a decision somewhere between 6 and 12 years ago to do so, entered a contract with SITA and has failed to see that the world has changed in the meantime. If it is to keep up with rapidly changing technologies, year on year reductions in waste and dramatic increases in recycling, it needs to look again at its calculations, urgently.”

Update on waste incinerator

I have been informed that Cornwall Council will today commence works on the access road to the proposed site for the waste incinerator near St Dennis.

This follows the decision of the Council’s Cabinet in July to push ahead with works “at risk” on the incinerator project – before the necessary revised project plan (and costs) have been agreed and before the outcome of the Section 288 challenge brought by local people is known.

I remain nonplussed by this decision. How can the Council start works on a project before it has taken the decision as to whether the increased costs, that will be outlined in the revised project plan, are acceptable?

You may recall that in an entry on this blog some two months ago, I reported on a meeting of the Council’s Waste Panel, when officers refused to tell councillors what the costs of the project would be, even though a likely contract price had been agreed between SITA and their preferred provider.

We were told that we would be told the cost when it was presented to the Cabinet for agreement in the Autumn!

I have since found out that in a letter written by the Council to the High Court in order to facilitate a speedy hearing of the Section 288 challenge included certain information about aspects of the costs, options on land, etc, that was not shared with the members of the Waste Panel.

The letter was written only three days after the Waste Panel and I have complained why such information was not made available to the elected members of the Council.

To say that I am jaded by what is happening would be a massive understatement. I do not like being kept in the dark and I will continue to challenge this process at every opportunity.

Back from my holidays

There have been few blog entries in recent days, as I have been away for one week of “hard-earned” holiday in Snowdonia.

To anyone who is interested, the break was wonderful. Ann and I even stomped to the very top of Snowdon (see above). We chose what we thought would be the best day and yet we had to trek up through dense fog, arriving at the summit in torrential rain. Thank goodness, there was a café there with steaming cups of tea to enjoy.

The weather did eventually clear – it was great to be able to view North Wales for miles – and I have come to the conclusion that I am not half as fit as I used to be. Too much time spent seated in council meetings, no doubt.

Anyway, back to blogging!

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Total Politics 2011 Blog Awards – some more thanks

The latest rankings in the Blog Awards have been announced and my blog has been listed in two more categories. Thanks again to everyone who took the time to vote for this blog – much appreciated!

The blog has been listed at no 13 in ‘top 35 councillor blogs,’ alongside six other Cornish councillors.

While in ‘top blogs overall’ it have been listed twice – at no 143 as Mebyon Kernow and at no 232 as Cllr Dick Cole. Not sure what is going on there, but I understand others have pointed out inconstistencies. Some editing of the lists is clearly needed!

UPDATE: The double-entry has been sorted. The final placing for this blog in 'top blog overall' has edged into the top 100 - at no 92.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

The sale of the Restormel Offices - no answers at Cabinet!

The members of Cornwall Council’s Cabinet today voted to develop a business case for the sale of Council offices in St Austell, and to appoint Terrace Hill Properties Limited as their preferred bidder for the site.

The report presented to the Cabinet claimed that they could sell off part of the site to a supermarket and use the capital receipt to build new offices at a cost of about £12 million.

I spoke at the meeting and opposed the proposal, raising a number of issues for the Cabinet to address.

Local member consultation
Six months ago, I found out about the possible sell-off via the front pages of local newspapers. I complained that local members from the wider area (eg. the China Clay Area, St Blazey, Par, etc) had not been informed.

Councillors from these areas were promised that they would be kept informed, but this did not happen. We finally got a short briefing last week after we heard rumours from junior members of staff and took the initiative ourselves to approach the Head of Property.

It does not stack up!
I pointed out the potential receipt from the sale (which was included within confidential papers) suggested to me that the whole thing did not make financial sense.

An important centre
I also outlined my view that St Austell should be a key centre for the authority and I had little faith in promises that there would continue to be a strong Cornwall Council presence in the town.
I pointed out that numerous members of staff were being moved out of the St Austell offices. Another member added that it was obvious that the offices were deliberately being run down.

Examples I gave included the fact that legal staff are about to be moved to Camborne; Electoral Services is now based in South East and candidates for next months town council by-election in St Austell will have to travel to Liskeard to drop off their nomination papers; staff dealing with the proposed St Austell eco-town are based in Truro; and most planning staff thought they were being moved to Truro until a few days ago. I could go on!

Maintenance backlog?
Other arguments presented by the Cabinet Member and Head of Property included the assertion the building’s layout was “inefficient” and there was a significant maintenance backlog. Yet it was only 12 months ago that we were told that the Penwinnick offices were amongst the best that Cornwall Council had. What is more, there will be a growing maintenance backlog if this Council continues to neglect the St Austell offices (presumably in the expectation of a sale!)

Surplus land
For my last point, I pointed that if we as a Council did find surplus land at any time, we should not sell it to supermarkets but, where appropriate, should go into partnership with local developers to provide proper affordable housing for local people.

The Cabinet response
The leader addressed the lack of consultation and promised there would be consultation with all local members in the future (just like they did six months ago).

All the other issues that I raised were ignored, they were not discussed and no comments were forthcoming.