Sunday, 30 September 2012

Mobile library and information service to visit Clay Country

The long-awaited new mobile library and information service for the China Clay Area becomes a reality this coming week.

As I have written before, the “claybus” will be visiting a range of local communities within Clay Country including Bugle, Fraddon, Foxhole, Indian Queens, Nanpean, Penwithick, Roche, St Stephen, Summercourt and others.

As well as offering advice on council services, the bus will be packed with an exciting collection of books for browsing and borrowing.  Local people will also be able to choose from even more titles via the full Cornwall library catalogue as well as to order books, DVDs and CDs.

The full timetable for the service can be found at:

The “claybus” will be in St Enoder Parish at the following times, each and every week.

Wednesday      9.30 – 11.00                Fraddon, Village Hall
Thursday          2.45 – 4.15                  Indian Queens, Victory Hall
Friday              1.30 – 2.30                  Summercourt, Memorial Hall
Friday              3.00 – 4.00                  Pedna Carne

Friday, 28 September 2012

Planning Policy Panel votes no to 49,000 houses for Cornwall

At New County Hall today, the members of the Planning Policy Advisory Panel debated the content of Cornwall’s emerging Local Plan. The main debate focused on what Cornwall’s housing target should be for the period 2010-2030.

The report proposed a figure of 49,000. However, I had prepared an alternative proposal with the help of Cllr David Biggs for 38,000. In our submission, we used the same evidence as the officers; we argued that population projections based on the 2010 ONS figures were over-egged; we argued that household size projections were also problematic; and that the Council would be better served by focusing on the production of more robust policies to deliver increased amounts of affordable housing.

The Panel voted six votes to three to recommend to Cabinet that the target should be 38,000. There was one abstention.

I will blog again in a day or two about the meeting and the arguments we presented.

Recognising Cornwall as a distinct unit

In this week’s Cornish Guardian, I wrote about the decision of central government to stop the preparation of official Government statistics on a “south west” basis. The article was as follows:

There have been numerous campaigns to win a better deal for Cornwall. It is sad that many of these campaigns have been unsuccessful, but we must always remember that extremely significant advances have also been achieved in recent years.

One of the most important of these successful campaigns culminated in 1999, when Cornwall was “disaggregated” from Devon for statistical purposes within the European Union.

This may sound very technical but, prior to the late 1990s, the artificial linking of Cornwall to Devon meant that the extent of the Duchy’s low economic performance was masked by the county to our east.

In 1993, Cornwall’s gross domestic product (GDP) was around 76% of the EU average, which could have triggered many hundreds of millions of pounds of structural funding. But because Cornwall was linked to Devon, the joint figure for GDP came out at 83%.

Cornwall therefore missed out, but the Highlands and Islands of Scotland – with a GDP of 79% of the EU average – won the higher levels of investment.

MK and a range of Cornish groups have always campaigned for Cornwall to be treated as an entity in its own right as a point of principle, while the unfairness of what happened in 1993 galvanised a wider selection of people to back the redrawing of the European regional map.

As a consequence, from 1999 onwards, Cornwall’s local communities, institutions and businesses have benefited from a range of funding programmes including Objective One and Convergence.

But Cornwall has also suffered because central government has usually prepared statistics on a “south west” basis, leaving Cornwall invisible to senior politicians and policy makers in London.

I am therefore delighted at the announcement from the Coalition Government that official Government statistics will no longer be prepared on a “regional” basis and, in future, there will be bespoke data for Cornwall on all issues of economic and social significance.

Cornish MPs are right to point out that the death of the “south west government zone” will be welcomed by most people and that, even more importantly, the move will “allow a clearer picture to be built up about Cornwall’s problems.”

Thursday, 27 September 2012

"Our Cornwall" and planning at Cornwall Council

It has been a long day at Cornwall Council and one dominated by planning matters.

Along with over twenty members of Mebyon Kernow, I was pleased to be present at the launch of the “Our Cornwall” pressure group at New County Hall.

The group is opposing the construction of 48,000 housing units over the next 20 years, which it states will lead to “massive estates on green field sites, soulless car-dependent suburbs, more traffic congestion, more pollution, declining town centres, irreversible environmental damage and significant loss of increasingly valuable agricultural land.”

A spokesman for the group delivered a letter from 43 Cornish organizations, including Mebyon Kernow, to the Chairman of Cornwall Council.

Meanwhile, in the meeting of the Strategic Planning Committee, councillors threw out plans for 300 new houses in St Austell. The development had been opposed by over 1,600 people and St Austell Town Council was represented by MK councillor Derek Collins while Cllr Neil Plummer strongly spoke out against the development.

As for myself, I have been preparing for tomorrow’s meeting of the Planning Policy Panel, which I will be chairing. We will be debating the Cornwall Council’s housing target for 2010-2030 and I will be arguing for a lower figure. The recommendation of the Panel will then go the Cabinet and then the whole of the Council.

Conservative division on "Shared Services"

Jim Currie, the Deputy Leader of Cornwall Council, has today circulated a letter to all Cornwall Councillors about the authority’s plans for “shared services.”

It is a telling condemnation of the “part-privatisation” of a host of the Council’s core activities.

Quotes from the letter include:

“The incorporation of procurement into the Joint Venture has increased its financial scope from £22m a year for Shared Services to include the huge procurement Budget recognised by the Service officially as influence over £436m annually. The latter is a step change of potentially 20 times the original scope and exceeding the projected limits. Giving £4.3 billion of spending power away to a proxy over 10 years is a dangerous business.”

“These constitutional aspects of Finance lead me to the topic of Policy which is the preserve of Full Council and for which I have some responsibility using my Democratic Services hat. The main Policy document is the Council Business Plan. The current plan first emerged in 2010 with the Budget and is still valid. However a Policy statement declared we would be “open-minded about alternative service delivery but this now translates in 2012 into “this is about extending the commissioning philosophy to the rest of the Council”. There have been a few inconsistent updates over the last 2 years including denials that Policy has changed. The 2011 Plan had 2 versions attached to the Budget paperwork for Full Council and the 2012 Plan only turned up at the last minute since it was labelled as attached but was not. The paperwork falls short of standards expected of government therefore, as admitted, the 2010 philosophy must remain. Therefore the current dash for extra scope in the JV must be slowed down and handled more carefully to demonstrate open mindedness, especially with billions of pounds worth of procurement which has only recently been identified.”

“The JV process has been described as a year and a half of smoke and mirrors (and secrecy) sorting out £22m a year contract followed by a smash and grab raid of a few weeks imposing a £436 million a year contract for procurement. I would agree with this description since I was on leave when it happened.”


By comparison, Council Leader Alec Robertson continues to reinvent democracy. In his latest message to members, he writs:

“Although 46 Members supported the motion on the day expressing a negative view in relation to the Strategic Partnership, the remaining clear majority of Members either supported the Cabinet’s position, abstained or removed themselves from the debate before voting.”

So there you have it – people who abstain, or fail to turn up, all support whatever Alec Robertson and the Cabinet is doing.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

“Use your frustration to push for positive change”

My article in last week’s Cornish Guardian was published under the above title. It was as follows:

This weekend, while “tidying” my home, I came across an article that I wrote some three-and-a-bit years ago. It was titled: “We can all make a difference.”

It started: “Why bother … what is the point … it is already a ‘done deal’ … we cannot change anything. How many times have we heard statements such as these … and to be fair, how many times have we felt downhearted at a lack of progress …”

But the article went on to extol the wonders of “people power” and how people like you and I could actually foster positive change.

It will surprise no-one that the article was written at an optimistic time for me, namely the immediate aftermath of the County Council’s decision to refuse planning permission for an incinerator at St Dennis.

I still passionately believe that everyone can make a difference. And yet, I increasingly find myself dismayed at the lack of democracy at Cornwall Council. I would like to give three very topical examples.

Take the incinerator as example one. Even though planning permission was refused, the leadership of Cornwall Council has steadfastly refused to push forward an alternative to incineration. As a result, plans for the waste plant have stormed ahead almost by default. The Leader of Cornwall Council has even lobbied central government to impose the incinerator on the China Clay Area, and the ten-strong ruling Cabinet has ignored a unanimous recommendation from its Waste Panel to explore an alternative proposal.

There is also the proposed “Strategic Partnership for Support Services,” which would allow the private sector to deliver a range of core council services. It was opposed by the majority of councillors at a recent Full Council meeting, but the ruling Cabinet has disgracefully announced that it is still going to proceed with the privatisation anyway, irrespective of the views of elected members.

And then there are the plans for a new archive centre. A working group of councillors recommended that the centre be built at St Austell, but the subsequent report to a scrutiny committee proposed a site at Redruth.

The scrutiny committee voted 11 votes to one to recommend the St Austell site. At the time of writing, the decision has yet to be debated at Cabinet, but the report for the meeting ignores the findings of the scrutiny committee and still recommends the Redruth site.

Though many of us may feel dismayed at what has been happening at County Hall, we must not let this lead us to be disengaged with local politics. We must use these frustrations to redouble our efforts to make sure that things do change.


Cornwall Council’s Cabinet voted by six votes to four not to build the archive centre in St Austell. 

Friday, 21 September 2012

MK back "no confidence" vote in leader of Cornwall Council

As people have probably already heard, 42 councillors have triggered a vote of “no confidence” in Alec Robertson, the Conservative Leader of Cornwall Council.

This follows the decision of the leadership of the authority to proceed with the privatisation of a wide range of core council services through a “joint venture” – even though the move was opposed by the wider membership of the authority in a recent vote.

The requisition for the vote was spearheaded by independent councillor Bob Egerton and I can report that all six MK councillors signed the requisition.

On behalf of the signatories, Bob has rightly stated that it would be “inappropriate for the Council to proceed with issuing the invitations to tender for the Joint Venture until the result of the motion is known” calling for “the final date for issuing the said invitations be delayed until after the date of the Extraordinary Meeting of the Council.” 

The meeting to debate the motion of no confidence will take place on the 16th October.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

A new mobile library and information service for Clay Country

With my first blog today, I am pleased to be able to report that a new mobile library and information service for the China Clay Area is to be launched on Monday 1st October.

Unlike other parts of Cornwall, the China Clay Area does not have a one stop shop and Cornwall Council has spent less money on what is terms ‘face to face’ services. As local councillors, we have campaigned long and hard to get parity with elsewhere in the Duchy and obviously it is great news that Cornwall Council has agreed to pilot this service for Clay Country.

The “claybus” will be visiting a range of local communities within Clay Country including Bugle, Fraddon, Foxhole, Indian Queens, Nanpean, Penwithick, Roche, St Stephen, Summercourt and others.

As well as offering advice on council services, the bus will be packed with an exciting collection of books for browsing and borrowing.  Local people will also be able to choose from even more titles via the full Cornwall library catalogue as well as to order books, DVDs and CDs.

The timetable for the stops is being finalised and I will publicise it as soon as it is finalised.

Monday, 17 September 2012

New "Cornish Nation"

Mebyon Kernow has just brought out its latest edition of “Cornish Nation” magazine, which is published three times a year.

If you are an MK member, your copy has already been sent out to you.

This latest edition covers a range of topics such as a better deal for Cornish sport, the defeat of the “Pasty Tax,” the likely collapse of plans for a Devonwall seat, and an in-depth report into the failed policies of the Coalition parties, as well as much, much more.

A free copy of “Cornish Nation” is available on request from If you would like a copy, please forward your contact details and specify whether you would like the magazine in either hard copy or as a pdf.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Summercourt skate ramps are complete

The new skate park at Summercourt is complete and the installation team have left the site.

It is all looking very nice.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Cllr Tamsin Williams has joined Mebyon Kernow

I am delighted to be able to announce that long-standing Cornwall Councillor Tamsin Williams has resigned from the Liberal Democrats and joined Mebyon Kernow – the Party for Cornwall.

Tamsin served on Cornwall County Council between 2001 & 2009 and has represented Penzance Central on Cornwall Council since 2009.

Tamsin is a passionate champion for Cornwall and I am absolutely delighted that she has chosen to join MK. I look forward to working with her as part of the MK team for many years to come and winning a better deal for Cornwall and its people.

This also means that the number of Mebyon Kernow councillors on the unitary authority has doubled since 2009. In the inaugural elections, I was elected along with  Stuart Cullimore (Camborne South) and Andrew Long (Callington). Neil Plummer (Stithians) joined from the Independent group in 2010, Loveday Jenkin won the Wendron by-election in 2011 and the defection of Tamsin Williams brings the number of MK councillors to six.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Skate ramps under construction in Summercourt

Construction of the skate ramps in the Thomas Playing Field is well underway and should be completed by the end of the week.

The project has been brought forward by St Enoder Parish Council, and I was pleased that I was able to secure over £30,000 for the project with grants including £15,000 from the Clay Country Local Action Group and £15,000 from the SITA Cornwall Trust. The Clay Country Local Action Group's contribution came from the Rural Development Programme for England with finance from the European Union and Defra.

The children of Summercourt School were also involved throughout and I am very much looking forward to the opening.

Petition against privatisation of council services

Councillors opposed to the privatisation of core council functions have posted an on-line petition on Cornwall Council’s website. It includes reference to the motion agreed by councillors at the last Full Council meeting of the authority, which stated:

“In view of its far reaching consequences, including its potential impact on Council governance and elected Member accountability, this Council believes that it is not in the best interests of the people of Cornwall for the Council to enter into the proposed Strategic Partnership for Support Services."

It also notes that the “Cabinet has now indicated that it will continue with the proposal” in spite of the democratic will of the wider Council and calls on people to oppose the privatisation.

I have already signed the petition. Please do the same.

I have also covered this issue in my column in the Cornish Guardian, which will be printed on Friday. It will be as follows:

There is a massive crisis in democracy at Cornwall Council.

On 30th July, the authority’s ten-strong Cabinet voted, in principle, to enter into a multi-million pound “joint venture” project with a large private company.

Grandly described as a “Strategic Partnership for Support Services,” the deal would allow the private sector to deliver a massive range of council services including benefits, council tax, payroll, IT support, libraries and one-stop-shops.

It clearly did not have the backing of the majority of councillors and a motion was tabled to Full Council stating the move was “not in the best interests of the people of Cornwall.”

The motion was tabled by Independent councillor Andrew Wallis, who rightly slammed the lack of democratic accountability in the proposed arrangement and condemned it as “full of risks.” He also urged the Cabinet to “reverse its decision.”

The motion was seconded by Mebyon Kernow councillor Andrew Long who stated that the “evidence” presented to support the “joint venture” was “pure conjecture.” He also rubbished the claims about savings and future job creation as “pie in the sky,” adding that councillors were more likely to see “bacon-clad flying mammals.”

Other councillors lined up to challenge the transfer of staff and huge budgets into a private sector company, which would inevitably result in significant job losses as well as worse terms and conditions for continuing staff.

I am proud that all MK councillors backed the motion and I was extremely heartened that the majority of councillors present at the meeting opposed the privatisation. A total of 46 councillors voted no to the “joint venture;” 29 councillors took the opposing view and there were 14 abstentions.

But I was disgusted when, within hours of the vote, the Conservative leadership of the Council confirmed that it intended to proceed with the “joint venture” proposal anyway.

This is another black day for Cornwall Council and an affront to democracy. It is unbelievable that the leadership of the unitary authority can be so dismissive of the democratic will of the wider Council.

It is important that the rank and file at Cornwall Council, the elected members, the unions, and as many people as possible, continue to oppose this privatisation of so much of the Council’s core activities. And through this newspaper column, I would like to challenge the Conservative-led authority to put its out-sourcing plans on hold.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

MK demands Public Inquiry into Duchy of Cornwall

Mebyon Kernow has re-iterated its call for a full Public Inquiry into the Duchy of Cornwall and Cornwall’s ambiguous constitutional relationship with the Crown.

This follows the announcement that the Information Commissioner has ruled that the Cabinet Office must release the guidelines on how the consent of “The Crown” and “The Duchy of Cornwall” need to be obtained before certain bills can be passed into law. 

The Information Commissioner has also ruled that the Cabinet Office must detail which criteria ministers apply before asking the royals to amend draft laws, which has been described by constitutional lawyers as “a royal nuclear deterrent.”

Cllr Loveday Jenkin has issued the following statement on behalf of MK:

“For many years, there has been a cloak of secrecy surrounding the position and role of the Duchy of Cornwall. The powers-that-be have also refused to debate the constitutional significance of the Duchy and how this relates to Cornwall’s past and future.  

“This recent ruling from the Information Commissioner may shed some much-needed light on the Duchy, but we need to go further.

“We need a full Public Inquiry into the Duchy of Cornwall and Cornwall's ambiguous constitutional relationship with the Crown, as well as the contradictions between Cornwall’s constitutional status and current administrative arrangements.”

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

MK anger at Cabinet plans to push ahead with privatisation

It has been reported that Cornwall Council’s Cabinet intends to push ahead with the privatisation of a massive range of council services including benefits, council tax, payroll, IT support, libraries and one-stop-shops.

I am appalled that the Cabinet intend to ignore the democratic will of Cornwall Councillors who, this week, voted by 46 votes to 29 votes to oppose such a move.

Where is the democracy at County Hall?

I will have plenty more to say on this topic in the near future but, for information, yesterday’s vote was as follows:

Councillors opposed to the privatisation of council services were 2 Conservatives, 16 independents, the one Labour councillor, 22 Liberal Democrats and all five Mebyon Kernow councillors.

Councillors who voted to support the privatisation of council services were 19 Conservatives, 9 independents and one Liberal Democrat.

There were 14 abstentions – 9 Conservatives, 2 Independents and 3 Liberal Democrats.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

MK opposes “part-privatisation” of council services

Mebyon Kernow today opposed Cornwall Council entering into a multi-million pound joint venture project with a large private company, which would allow the private sector to deliver a massive range of council services including benefits, council tax, payroll, IT support, libraries and one-stop-shops.

The constitution of the unitary authority states that the decision whether to proceed with the scheme lies with the ten-strong Cabinet, which voted to seek final tenders on 30th July.

But the whole of the Council today debated a motion that stated: “it is not in the best interests of the people of Cornwall for the Council to enter into the proposed Strategic Partnership for Support Services,” in order to inform Cabinet members of the views of the wider membership of the authority.

The motion was proposed by Independent Councillor Andrew Wallis and seconded by MK Councillor Andrew Long (Callington). The Council voted by 46 votes to 29 votes to support the moton. There were a total of 14 abstentions.

Speaking on behalf of Mebyon Kernow in the debate, Cllr Long told councillors much of the evidence used to support the joint venture was “pure conjecture.” He rubbished the claims about savings and the creation of jobs, describing the promises as “pie in the sky,” adding we are more likely to see “bacon-clad flying mammals.”

He also slammed the lack of democratic accountability in the proposed arrangement and condemned the proposal as “full of risks” and urged the Cabinet to “reverse its decision.”

Also speaking at the meeting, fellow MK Councillor Loveday Jenkin (Wendron) blasted the transfer of staff and huge budgets into a private sector company, which she said would “inevitably result in worse terms and conditions for local workers.” She also described the project as “not in the best interests of Cornwall.”

All five Mebyon Kernow councillors (Dick Cole, Stuart Cullimore, Andrew Long, Loveday Jenkin and Neil Plummer) backed the proposal not to enter into the proposed Strategic Partnership for Support Services.