Friday, 20 April 2012

Article in Inside Housing magazine

The latest edition of Inside Housing magazine was published today and it featured an article about my work as an MK Councillor written by Lydia Stockdale. It was entitled: “The flag bearer for Cornwall” and is a long article, nearly 2,000 words in length.

Printed below is an extract:

The gross domestic product generated by individuals in Cornwall is two thirds of that of the average person in the UK. Workers here earn 20 per cent less than elsewhere. Meanwhile, the average cost of a house in Cornwall is £216,129, just 5 per cent less than the UK average of £228,385.

In fact, housing-related problems account for more than half of the correspondence Mr Cole has with his constituents. ‘I’ve had more people come to me as a councillor in the last two or three years on housing issues than ever before,’ he states.

‘We’re in this terrible place where ordinary working people cannot afford to buy a house or to rent in the private sector,’ he continues. ‘When I was first elected 13 years ago you could buy a new house in my village for £60,000 - if you want to buy one of those houses now, it’s £150,000.’

Many of those who contact Mr Cole ‘are in good jobs, earning a reasonable amount of money, but they get paid, pay their rent, and work themselves silly to get through to the end of the month, by which time they will have nothing, then they get paid again and go back to the start’, he says. ‘Life is just a cycle of eking out enough to exist - that’s wrong.’

Just 12 per cent of Cornwall’s housing stock is social rented - this compares with 16 per cent in the south west and 23 per cent across the whole UK. Mr Cole suspects the Homes and Communities Agency’s affordable homes programme - which sets ‘affordable’ rents at 80 per cent of market rates - will do little to improve this situation.

‘Instead of introducing a rent control act, for example, central government is actually just making the problem worse. It’s tying the affordable element to the out-of-control open market element - I think that’s absolutely barking mad.’

The Mebyon Kernow leader says this with passion, but in his case actions speak louder than words. When Cornwall Council absorbed the county’s district councils to become a unitary local authority three years ago, Mr Cole was forced to choose between continuing his work as a councillor and 14-year career as an archaeologist for the local authority - he was not allowed to do both.

The married 45-year-old, who comes from what he describes as ‘a traditional, working class, Cornish family’, opted to ditch his full-time job and the salary that came with it to focus on his life in politics, which began when he joined Mebyon Kernow the age of 20. ‘I felt I needed to argue the things I felt were important,’ he says.

The full article can be read at

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