Tuesday 29 April 2014

National minority status for the Cornish - an inclusive campaign

The below post will be appearing in tomorrow's Cornish Guardian.

It is fantastic news that the Government has confirmed that the Cornish will be recognised as a national minority through the Council of Europe’s Framework Convention for the Protection for National Minorities.

I am delighted that all the Celtic peoples of these Islands – the Cornish, Irish, Scottish and Welsh – are now afforded equal protection through the Framework Convention. It provides a significant boost for all aspects of our culture and identity, and will undoubtedly boost Cornwall’s standing across the UK.

At this time, I would like to pay a heartfelt tribute to all those people who have campaigned on this issue over a very long time.

First and foremost, I would like to put on record my gratitude to independent councillor Bert Biscoe. He has been the real driving force behind the campaign for some twenty years, bringing people together to form an inclusive cross-party and cross-sector campaign, while consistently putting gentle and persuasive pressure on a wide array of government ministers, government departments and civil servants.

Bert secured grants from the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust towards the production of detailed reports, which were presented to central government in 1999 and 2011.

The first Cornish National Minority Report was produced by Bernard Deacon, with much of the research undertaken by Julian German and a foreword provided by Mebyon Kernow councillor Colin Lawry. I was pleased to be member of a Steering Group along with Bert and John Angarrack, David Fieldsend, the late Richard Ford, Stephen Horscroft, Ann Trevenen Jenkin, Mark Kaczmarek, Prof. Philip Payton, Neil Plummer, Alastair Quinnell, Hugh Rowe and Graham Sandercock.

I also remember that a number of people provided specific help with the original report including Prof. Anthony Alcock, Amy Hale, Davyth Hicks, Phil Hosken, the late Richard Jenkin, Ronald Perry, the late Alan Prisk, Ian Williams and Peter Wills.

The second Cornish National Minority Report was produced by Ian Saltern of the Azook Community Interest Company. With the agreement of former Cornwall Council Leader, Alec Robertson, this report was partly funded by Cornwall Council.

The production of this report was again supported by a wide-ranging pool of individuals which included John Angarack, Miranda Bird, Bert Biscoe, Peter Burton, Will Coleman, Bernard Deacon, Julian German, Andrew George MP, Stephen Horscroft, Adam Killeya, Jenefer Lowe, Paul Masters, Annie Moore, Colin Murley, Mary Neale, Alastair Quinnell, Dan Rogerson MP, Claire White and me.

Full cross-party support for national minority status was shown by a strongly worded foreword that was signed by the leaders of all groups on the Council. Alongside Alec Robertson (Conservative) and myself, this included Doris Ansari (Liberal Democrat), John Wood (Independent) and Jude Robinson (Labour).

Also, throughout the 2000s, Bert Biscoe attended a range of meetings with representatives of central government, accompanied by people such as John Angarrack, Nigel Hicks and the late Jim Pengelly. John Angarrack, as director of the organisation Cornwall 2000, also took legal action to challenge the refusal of central government to recognise the Cornish.

A range of organisations have provided firm and vigorous support to the campaign, including the Celtic Congress, Celtic League, Cornish Constitutional Convention, Cornish Solidarity, the Federation of Old Cornwall Societies, Gorsedh Kernow and Mebyon Kernow – the Party for Cornwall. Many provided funding while others, such as the Celtic League through their Convenor Michael Chappell, have been active lobbyists.

More recently, following a parliamentary question by Stephen Gilbert MP and an invitation from DCLG Minister Stephen Williams, officers and councillors at Cornwall Council have been working on a third detailed representation. Much of the work has been ably carried out by David Read and Stephanie Vandike, supported by a steering group which I served on alongside Bert Biscoe, Malcolm Brown, Will Coleman, Mo Fuller, Julian German, Ed Rowe, Ian Saltern and Doug Scrafton.

It was wonderful to watch television and listen to the radio, last Thursday, to see and hear Liberal Democrat Minister Danny Alexander making the widely and warmly welcomed announcement, with the full support of local Lib Dem MPs Andrew George, Stephen Gilbert and Dan Rogerson. It was also refreshing to see cross-party unity with unequivocal support from local Conservative MP (and Government Minister) George Eustice, Labour spokesperson Hanna Toms, MK spokespersons Loveday Jenkin and Andrew Long, independent councillor Julian German and many, many more.

While it is impossible to list everyone who has played a part in the campaign, I would like to express a massive “well done” to one and all!

Sunday 27 April 2014

My latest monthly report to St Enoder Parish Council

I presented my latest monthly report to St Enoder Parish Council last week. The full report, for the time period 22nd March – 21st April 2014, was as follows:

1.         Council meetings

I have attended a range of meetings over the last month. These included: Full Council; Strategic Planning Committee; Central Planning Committee; Devolution and Localism Portfolio Advisory Committee; Environment, Heritage and Planning PAC (plus two associated pre-agenda briefings/meetings); and an informal meeting of the Homes and Communities PAC.

2.         Other meetings

I also attended meetings of (i) the Clay Area Training and Work Centre at St Dennis, (ii) the “CERC” Liaison Committee (also attended by Cllr Austin), and (iii) the St Piran Trust which is working to re-excavate St Piran’s Oratory from within the towans near Perranporth.

3.         St Enoder Youth Club building

I am delighted that the Lottery (Awards for All programme) has confirmed the grant application for £10,000, that I submitted on behalf of St Enoder Parish Council, has been successful. We can now all look forward to the Youth Club building becoming a reality within the next three to four months.

4.         £500,000 for local projects

Following my success with the above Awards for All grant, I am very pleased to be able to report that the total amount I have raised for projects within St Enoder Parish has now passed £500,000.

5.         1st St Enoder Scout Group

I have helped the 1st St Enoder Scout Group with a successful grant application for £1,000 from the China Clay Area Community Fund.

6.         Consultation into mobile library services

Cornwall’s 12-week consultation on the cessation of all mobile library and mobile one stop shop services, including the loss of the Clay Bus, is soon coming to its end (30th April). I am working with Martin Eddy, Network Manager, on a response from the China Clay Area Network which will be discussed at a meeting on Thursday (24th April).

I have also produced the following draft response to the consultation from the Parish Council, which I hope can be agreed at this week’s meeting.

St Enoder Parish Council fundamentally objects to the decision of Cornwall Council to slash its budget for mobile library / one stop shop services, and the proposals to cease all mobile one stop shop services and to cease / severely reduce mobile library services across the rural areas of Cornwall.

In particular, we object to the loss of the Clay Bus mobile one stop shop and library for the China Clay Area.

As one of the five parishes of the China Clay Area, we supported the recent letter that was sent to the Leader of Cornwall Council which set out local concerns that our area does not receive its fair share of central expenditure from the unitary authority.

Unlike the other Network Areas, the China Clay Area does not have a permanent One Stop Shop and we were delighted when the mobile Clay Bus was launched in October 2012.

The Clay Bus is well used in St Enoder Parish – particularly at Indian Queens – and it provides a valuable service for a large number of people, many of whom are elderly.

It remains our view that St Enoder Parish does not benefit from the services that many other areas across Cornwall do enjoy. Councillors also believe that the unitary authority does not adequately “rural-proof” the distribution of its own services and therefore parishes such as ours do tend to lose out.

We note that the unitary authority suggests that certain villages could run their own community libraries (as at ClayTAWC in St Dennis) but that may be difficult for communities such as ours where we do not have a significant “centre.”

We are therefore adamant that the Claybus service should be retained, though we fully accept that the service could and should be made more cost-effective and perhaps taken forward in a modified form.

Please note: The above statement was agreed as the Parish Council’s response on the consultation.

7.         Letter from China Clay Area Network Meeting

As noted in my last monthly report, I recently drafted a letter in association with the Network Manager of the China Clay Area, on behalf of the China Clay Area Network (24th February). It was sent to the Chief Executive, Corporate Directors and the members of the Cabinet. A reasonably lengthy letter, it set out local concerns that the five parishes within Clay Country do not receive their “fair share” of Cornwall Council expenditure.

A written response has been received from the Leader of Cornwall Council and will be considered at a meeting of the China Clay Area Network on Thursday (24th April). I am not pleased with the content of Mr Pollard’s letter, which did not really address the issues we had raised and was as follows:

Dear Dick

Delivery of Council Services in the China Clay Area

Thank you for your letter of 7 March concerning the delivery of local services in the China Clay community network area.

As you will be aware the future of service provision across Cornwall’s many different settlement types is something I am keen to address in the development of the Council Strategy. As you know to support this the Chief Executive and I have held nine local meetings with members throughout March to start a discussion that will lead to adoption of a new four year Council Strategy later in the year.

The first step on the journey is to identify and discuss the challenges facing Cornwall. Dispersed settlement patterns is clearly one of these challenges and we may need to identify how these challenges might be addressed by maximising the many opportunities that we currently have such as the next tranche of European funding. There is also a stronger desire now than there has ever been before by the public sector to join together to work more effectively.

I have also shared with members the Cabinets initial thoughts on identifying a set of “values” that guide our behaviours and “principles” that inform our decision-making – one of which is having “clear priorities based on understanding and evidence.” With this in mind, and with the Devolution and Localism PAC agreeing the proposed way forward for the Community Networks, I hope that members and Parish Council within the China Clay Community Network building on their existing strong base will be able to determine local priorities based on local evidence that can help inform and complement the Council Strategy.

With the 2014/15 budget agreed and being delivered, I am anxious to avoid any further “salami slicing” and we focus our efforts on taking a more holistic approach to planning for Cornwall’s future than has happened previously.

Yours sincerely

John Pollard
Leader of the Council

8.         Planning hearing into two traveller pitches at Toldish

On 1st April, I attended the planning hearing into the proposal for two traveller pitches near Toldish on the outskirts of Indian Queens. It was held in the St Austell One Stop Shop.

The original proposal was turned down by the Central Planning Committee of Cornwall Council on June 10th 2013, because: “The proposed use of land as a traveller site would harm the rural character of the area and would provide a site poorly related to local services …” The vote to refuse the application was taken by 14 votes to one.

At the hearing, I represented the views of St Enoder Parish Council and local residents. In particular, I argued that (i) the proposed traveller site would be in an area of countryside that should be protected from development, (ii) that there were no residential properties which front onto what is essentially a country lane and allowing this development would irrevocably change the character of this area, and (iii) that, since 2006, 43 of the 115 pitches that had been consented were within the five parishes of China Clay Area (Roche, St Dennis, St Enoder, St Stephen and Treverbyn) – 37% of the pitches consented for the whole of Cornwall, even though the population of the China Clay Area is less than 5% of that of Cornwall.

The Inspector’s ruling is expected in mid to late May.

9.         Repair of road bridge near Perrose and Retyn

In February, I reported that a road bridge near Perrose and Retyn had been undermined by the amount of water in the river beneath it and that it had been closed to traffic. I have been lobbying a large number of officers for the repairs to be undertaken as soon as possible, and I am pleased to be able to report that the emergency repair works commenced on Tuesday 15th April. The bridge has been seriously undermined and it is expected that the works will take about three-four weeks.

10.       Pot holes on rural roads

In recent weeks, I have visited many different parts of St Enoder Parish and I have compiled a list of rural roads where, I believe, urgent repairs are needed. I have submitted the list to Cornwall Council / CORMAC and asked them to investigate what could be done. The list includes the following lengths of road; lower stretches of Barton Lane, Fraddon, Burthy and Chytane, Narrow Lane between Penhale and St Enoder Churchtown, Resurrance and Goonabarn to the south of Summercourt, and Trevarren Village. I am also pushing for some patching on the road between Fraddon Hill and Higher Fraddon, which I had hoped would be done last year, and I will report back when I receive an update from the Highways team.

11.       Penare Farm AD plant

As I reported last month, work started on the AD plant at Penare Farm in the week commencing 10th March. Because they had started work in advance of the “pre-commencement” conditions related to the project, they temporarily ceased work until the paperwork had been finished. These conditions have since been agreed and largely reflect the information that had already been contained within the original permission.

However, I raised issues about two of the conditions (i) surface water and (ii) regular engagement with the local community. In terms of surface water, this will be dealt with by attenuation tanks on the site but some water will be allowed to flow into the nearby stream through Fraddon. This has been okayed by council officers and experts at the Environment Agency, but I have been able to extract a written assurance from the developers that they would undertake further works if they contributed to any flooding problems downstream. I have also ensured that the engagement with the local community will be done in partnership with the Parish Council.  

12.       McDonalds at Fraddon

I also met with Gregg Fox, the new franchise-holder of the McDonalds restaurant at Fraddon. He says he is keen to be involved with the local community and I have promised to keep him informed about what is happening locally.

13.       Vandalism at Indian Queens Pit

Sadly, I spent the morning of Good Friday having to repair vandalised stonework at Queens Pit, which is a Scheduled Monument and thereby protected by law. Though we are fortunate that we experience less vandalism than many other places in Cornwall, it is nonetheless disheartening when it happens.

14.       Fairview Park, St Columb Road

Members of the Parish Council will be aware that the play area included within the plans for the Fairview Park estate was never constructed. I have tried to resolve the issue in the past and have spoken to some local residents recently and I have promised to make another attempt.

15.       WW1 project

As I have reported previously, I am researching the lives of servicemen from Fraddon, Indian Queens, St Columb Road and Summercourt who were killed or died in the First World War, which I intend to publish in a book and I am considering broadening out the project.

16.       Inquiries

Throughout the last month, I have also helped numerous people with advice and guidance. Issues included housing concerns, planning matters, parking problems, the condition of local roads, etc.

A hectic few days ... thank you

It has been a hectic, but rather wonderful, few days for campaigners for greater self recognition for Cornwall, with the announcement of national minority status for the Cornish.

I have done a significant number of interviews for Mebyon Kernow, along with colleagues such as Loveday Jenkin and Andrew Long, and I would like to thank the many people who have sent through kind messages of support.

I understand from MK’s admin. team that we have attracted a number of new members in the last couple of days, as well as range of enquiries, and we are endeavouring to process them as quickly as possible.

Thanks again to one and all.

"Foodbank shame is no laughing matter" - Cornish Guardian

My column in last week’s Cornish Guardian focused on food banks. It was as follows:

It is only a month since I wrote about the dramatic rise in the use of foodbanks, but I feel obligated to revisit the topic because of the recent release of shocking new statistics.

The Trussell Trust has stated that, last year, it gave out 913,138 food parcels, massively up from the figure of 346,992 in the previous year. Shockingly, 330,205 of the beneficiaries were children.

The Trust is responsible for less than 50% of the 1,000-plus food banks across the UK, so the number of emergency handouts is much, much greater.

One of the most telling comments came from Eddie Izzard, a prominent comedian and political campaigner. He recounted how he had “seen food parcels handed out many times in work with Unicef or for Sport Relief,” saving lives in famines in developing countries, adding that he never thought he would “hear of them handed out in my own country, in the UK in 2014, in the sixth richest country in the world.”

Izzard is right when he says the information from the Trussell Trust “should shame every single member of the Government … when you add all the work being done by Fareshare, by churches, by grass-roots charities, the statistics make a national scandal.”

Forty-five Anglican bishops (out of a total of 59) and around 600 other church leaders have meanwhile signed a joint letter to the leaders of the three largest political parties in the UK. They have challenged David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband to “tackle the causes of food poverty,” and address issues such as “low wages, rising food prices and an inadequate welfare benefit safety net.”

They also pointed out how the “total number of people going hungry in our country today” almost certainly exceeds the data from the food banks and includes “those too ashamed to visit their local food bank,” while adding that many families are not in crisis but are much more worried about “keeping the cupboards full … one in four is cutting portion sizes and half are cutting their household food budgets.”

This is the second time in three months that prominent religious leaders have challenged the political classes on food poverty and the hardship faced by so many families struggling to exist on extremely low-incomes.

I personally think that the intervention of the church leaders is to be applauded and, as stated by Eddie Izzard, I agree that Coalition MPs should be ashamed that it has come to this.

Thursday 24 April 2014


Fantastic news. I am absolutely delighted that the Government will today formally recognise the Cornish people as a National Minority. It is great that all the Celtic peoples of these Islands – the Cornish, Irish, Scottish and Welsh – are now afforded equal protection under the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities.

People have been campaigning on this issue for over 15 years and I would like to pay a heartfelt tribute to everyone who played a part in the long running fight to secure National Minority status – more on that later.

I also thought people would like to see the official Government press release, which is set out below:


Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander, today announced that the proud history, unique culture, and distinctive language of Cornwall will be fully recognised under European rules for the protection of national minorities.

The decision to recognise the unique identity of the Cornish, now affords them the same status under the European Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities as the UK’s other Celtic people, the Scots, the Welsh and the Irish. For the first time the government has recognised the distinctive culture and history of the Cornish.

Speaking on a visit to Bodmin, Cornwall, Danny Alexander said:

“Cornish people have a proud history and a distinct identity. I am delighted that we have been able to officially recognise this and afford the Cornish people the same status as other minorities in the UK.”

Today’s announcement builds on the government’s continued commitment to Cornwall and the Cornish language. The Cornish language has already been recognised under European rules for minority languages. In March this year, the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg announced that the Government would be investing a further £120,000 into the Cornish Language Partnership (MAGA) to promote and develop the language.

Communities Minister Stephen Williams said:

“This is a great day for the people of Cornwall who have long campaigned for the distinctiveness and identity of the Cornish people to be recognised officially.

“The Cornish and Welsh are the oldest peoples on this island and as a proud Welshman I look forward to seeing Saint Piran's Flag flying with extra Celtic pride on March 5 next year.”

Notes to Editors

1. The UK signed the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities in 1995 and ratified it in 1998.
2. The broad aims of the Framework Convention are to ensure that the signatory states respect the rights of people belonging to national minorities, undertaking to combat discrimination, promote equality, preserve and develop the culture and identity of national minorities, guarantee certain freedoms in relation to access to the media, minority languages and education and encourage the participation of people belonging to national minorities in public life.
3. The government’s approach to the Framework Convention is to be modified to recognise the unique position of the Cornish as a Celtic people within England. It is without prejudice as to whether the Cornish meet the definition of “racial group” under the Equality Act 2010, as only the courts can rule on that.
4. The Cornish language is the only language in England recognised under the Council of Europe’s Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In March 2014, the government announced funding of £120,000 to the Cornish Language Partnership for the development and promotion of the Cornish language. Since 2010 the government has provided over £500,000 to the partnership. This payment which will sit alongside funds from Cornwall Council and other funds raised locally by the partnership. For more information on the Cornish Language Partnership please see: www.magakernow.org.uk

Sunday 20 April 2014

Annual report to St Enoder Parish Assembly

Earlier this month, I presented my annual report to the St Enoder Parish Assembly, which took place at Summercourt New Memorial Hall. The full report was as follows:

Annual report: 2013-2014

In May 2013, I was very pleased to be re-elected to serve St Enoder Division on Cornwall Council for the next four years. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all those who supported me with their votes, and I would also like to thank everyone who has assisted me with my work over the last twelve months.

Listed below are some of my activities during the last year, though the list is not exhaustive.

1.         Roles at Cornwall Council

Following the election, I was elected as the Chairman of the Environment, Heritage and Planning Portfolio Advisory Committee, and I serve on the Constitution and Governance Committee. I do also however attend a wide range of other committees as a non-voting member.

2.         Other organisations

I have served on a number of other organisations, both Cornwall-wide and locally. These include: China Clay Local Action Group (Chairman), CRIG (Cornwall and Isles of Scilly RDPE Implementation Group, Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Rural Partnership, working group for the development of CLLD (Community-led Local Development) programme for 2014-2020 (Chairman), China Clay Area Training and Work Centre at St Dennis (Chairman), Fraddon Millennium Green, Indian Queens Pit Association and the Governing Body at Summercourt School.

3.         Indian Queens Pit

The new community building at the Pit, for which I was able to secure grant funding, was officially opened on Saturday 13th April 2013 by Andrew Waters, in his position as Parish Council Chairman. A new fundraising publication, which I had produced about Indian Queens Pit and the wider parish of St Enoder, was also launched at the event.

4.         Extra land for Indian Queens School

I have been involved with the initiative to secure extra land for the use of Indian Queens School. This is linked to the plans to increase the size of the School and to enhance its associated play and green space. Cornwall Council formally agreed to swap land at a former school site in Camelford in exchange for the field on the western side of Indian Queens School on March 12th 2014.

5.         St Enoder Youth Club

Throughout the last year, I have helped to build a partnership between Cornwall Council and St Enoder Parish Council to develop a Youth Club for local teenagers. I also submitted a grant application for £10,000 to the Big Lottery Fund’s Awards for All programme to go towards the construction of a youth club building in the Indian Queens Recreation Ground; and I am delighted that we have just been informed that the application was successful.

6.         Indian Queens Victory Hall

I was also able to secure a £5,000 grant from the Clay Country Local Action Group to purchase 191 chairs and nine tables for the Hall. This was linked to the £23,000 grant that I had obtained last year, which had funded a new floor and kitchen improvements.

7.         The Kelliers

I have continued to act as the liaison between Cornwall Council and St Enoder Parish Council with regard to the finalisation of a 99 lease for the Kelliers. Delays have been caused by obligations associated with the closed landfill sites in the area. It is hoped that the lease will be sorted in the next two-three months.

8.         Highway works

I have spent a lot of time lobbying Council officers about the condition of certain roads in St Enoder Parish. Patching works on the old A30 through Fraddon and Indian Queens were completed in August 2013, while surface dressing and relining of this stretch of road is planned for May 2014. Cormac carried out some temporary patching of the worst pot-holes at Highgate/Gaverigan Roundabout in February 2014 and the resurfacing of the roundabout is also timetabled for May 2014. I am continuing to press for further repairs on a number of local roads – many of them in the more rural parts of St Enoder Parish – and for the road bridge near Perrose and Retyn (closed because it had been undermined by the amount of water in the river beneath it) to be repaired and reopened.

9.         Flooding problems

Following a number of flooding incidents in St Enoder Parish in December 2012, March 2013, December 2013 – February 2014, I produced a detailed report about what happened. It was updated on a number of occasions and I used it to lobby on behalf of local residents. As a consequence, road ditches and associated pipework near two properties at Dennis Junction on the old A30, east of Indian Queens, were upsized. Nine properties in Fraddon and Summercourt have meanwhile been assessed through the unitary authority’s new Property Level Protection (PLP) and will be fitted with flood doors, pumps, etc, to safeguard them against flooding in the future.

10.       Waste water problems at Trevarren

I have continued to make further representations on behalf of local residents, who remain concerned about the surcharge of waste from the foul water onto the highway at Trevarren. I am pleased to be able to report that I have received assurances from South West Water that they are prioritising capital works in Trevarren as they develop a programme for dealing with external flooding across Cornwall from 2015 onwards.

11.       Planning appeals

Planning matters have dominated much of civic life in St Enoder Parish over the last twelve months. A number of contentious applications were refused by Cornwall Council, but the applicants went to appeal. I was pleased to be able produce a series of detailed statements (each about 3,000 – 4,000 words long) for the planning appeals. These included proposed turbine at Beacon Road, Summercourt (PA12/02362); proposed turbine at Nancolleth (PA13/07654) in the neighbouring parish of St Newlyn East; proposed solar farm at Burthy Farm   (PA13/05983) and a proposed traveller site at Toldish, Indian Queens (PA13/02083). I represented the Parish Council at the planning hearing on the Toldish application on 1st April 2014. I have also completed a detailed response to Cornwall Council’s consultation on the draft Supplementary Planning Document on affordable housing on behalf of St Enoder Parish Council.  

12.       Neighbourhood Plan

St Enoder Parish Council has started work on the production of a Neighbourhood Plan and I was able to make a successful application to the “Supporting Communities in Neighbourhood Planning” for £7,000 towards the costs of producing the Plan.

13.       Community payment from solar farm

When the planning application for a 2.67 hectare solar farm at Glebe Farm, Summercourt (PA12/05890) was approved by Cornwall Council’s Strategic Planning Committee on 31st October 2012, it was agreed that a unilateral undertaking be signed to pay £5,500 to St Enoder Parish Council as a one-off community payment. However, the developers failed to sign the document but I put significant pressure on them until the payment was made.

14.       Formal road adoptions

Some longstanding issues have also been addressed in the last few months. This included the formal adoption, by Cornwall Council, of the roads and associated pavements in Fairview Park, St Columb Road and St James View, Fraddon.

15.       Clay Country mobile library / one-stop-shop

Cornwall Council continues to be in an extremely difficult financial position, because of massive reductions in funding from central government and rising costs. I am extremely saddened that the unitary authority has now announced, amongst other things, that – in order to keep to its reduced budget – it plans to cease all mobile library and mobile one stop shop services. The Clay Country mobile library / one-stop-shop is under threat and I am doing my utmost to oppose the removal of the service.

16.       Environmental improvements

I have been lobbying Cornwall Council on a regular basis to “tidy up” certain areas within the Parish, such as the entrance into Heather Meadow, Fraddon, and a pavement into Summercourt (soil slippage), which were cleared by CORMAC in December 2013. There has also been a significant increase in flytipping in recent weeks and I continue to bring a number of incidents to the attention of Cornwall Council’s contractor. This has included a large number of mattresses dumped on local verges.

17.       Letter from China Clay Area Network Meeting

In co-operation with the Network Manager of the China Clay Area, I recently drafted a letter which addressed local concerns about the inequitable provision of council services across Cornwall. At the meeting of the China Clay Area Network on 24th February 2014, the letter was endorsed by all Cornwall Councillors and parish councillors present, and sent to the Chief Executive, Corporate Directors and the members of the Cabinet. This followed other representations on matters such as the lack of parking enforcement in the China Clay Area.

18.       Civic functions

As the local Cornwall Councillor, in October 2013 I was very pleased to be able to officially open the 85th Indian Queens Music Festival in October, and the Ocean Housing affordable housing scheme at Mowhay Meadows and Martha’s Meadow in Fraddon. At the new housing scheme, as well as performing the ribbon cutting duties, I also judged a well-contested pumpkin carving competition.  

19.       Research into World War 1

I was privileged to lay a wreath at St Enoder Churchtown to mark Remembrance Sunday last November and I have started work on a book about our area and the First World War. In particular, I am researching the lives of servicemen from Fraddon, Indian Queens, St Columb Road and Summercourt who were killed or died in the First World War, and whose names are remembered on local war memorials. I am also researching the narrative of how thirteen men, who worked at the Trewheela China Clay Works near Fraddon, collectively joined the Territorial Force of the Royal Engineers in August 1914.

20.       My Community Fund

I have awarded the £3,000 in my personal Community Fund for 2013-2014 (allocated to all Cornwall Councillors) as follows:

Fraddon Village Hall – £400 towards redecoration of the Hall.
Indian Queens Band – £450 towards new instruments.
Indian Queens Pantomine Society – £400 towards a projector.
St Enoder Parish Council – £1,000 towards the new Youth Club for local teenagers.
1st St Enoder Scouts – £450 towards new dining tents and cooking stoves.
Summercourt Memorial Hall – £300 towards new tables.         

21.       Inquiries

I help local people with advice and assistance on a daily basis and can be contacted on 07791 876607 or dickcole@btinternet.com. 

Wednesday 16 April 2014

The "Pasty Tax" and the West Cornwall Pasty Conpany

My article in this week’s Cornish Guardian looks again at the impact of the Coalition’s “Pasty Tax.” It is as follows:

It is almost exactly two years since hundreds of people marched through the streets of Falmouth – in truly appalling weather – to protest at the Coalition’s “Pasty Tax.”

Readers of the Cornish Guardian will remember how, in his 2012 budget, the Chancellor of the Exchequer came up with a “half-baked” scheme to impose 20% VAT on hot food such as sausage rolls or pasties.

You may also recall that the Chancellor was ridiculed for telling “hard-pressed Brits” to “avoid his VAT hike on hot food by buying cold pasties.”

Opposition was widespread and it was pointed out, time and time again, that it would have a damaging impact on businesses and jobs – especially in Cornwall.  

Central government did partially back down and in the process redefined what it considered to be a “hot” pasty. It announced that pasties sold on shelves, while cooling down to an “ambient temperature,” would not be liable for VAT. But VAT would be charged on pasties kept hot in special heated cabinets.

Local MPs and activists from the Coalition parties were clearly relieved with the limited climbdown and merrily trotted out the line that we were lucky to have a Government which “listens to what people have to say” and doesn’t always “plough on regardless.”

At the time, Stephen Gilbert MP claimed there would be “dancing in streets from Land’s End to the Tamar” while Sheryll Murray said she was pleased that there was not going to be an “army of thermometer-wielding tax inspectors poking our pasties” worrying about the “vagaries of ambient temperature.”

But, in spite of the limited u-turn, the impact of the “Pasty Tax” is doing great harm.

Last week, the West Cornwall Pasty Company collapsed into administration. Much of the company – 34 of the existing 65 outlets – was bought out by a private equity fund, but 92 jobs have already been lost.

The previous owners blamed the introduction of the “Pasty Tax” for their financial problems, which they had to pay because they deliberately keep the food hot.

Although based in Buckinghamshire, the West Cornwall Pasty Company was set up by a Cornish family and, because of the protected status of the dish, all the firm’s pasties are made in Cornwall at Penryn.

It is unacceptable that Cornish jobs continue to be under threat because of the “Pasty Tax,” and Coalition MPs should be doing more to get it fully abolished.  

Government bungled Royal Mail sell-off

I have just realised that I had neglected to post my article in last week’s Cornish Guardian. It was as follows:

A few months ago, I was among a large number of people who condemned the privatisation of the Royal Mail by the Conservative and Liberal Democrat Coalition.

I did not support the sell-off in principle, but I was particularly angry that the shares were under-valued and that two-thirds of them were sold to “institutional investors,” including “sovereign wealth funds” in foreign countries, investment banks and hedge funds.

An investigation has now been carried out by the National Audit Office (NAO) and I am pleased that their report has rightly condemned the Government’s chaotic handling of the sell-off.

The NAO has confirmed that the shares were under-priced and, as a consequence, £1.4 billion was lost to the Treasury.

Six months before the sale, some “experts” had suggested a sale price of 867p while others, just days before the privatisation, had valued the shares at 510p.

The shares were actually sold at 330p each, and within eight weeks, the shares had increased in sale price to 600p.

One journalist put it very succinctly: how would you feel “if you sold your home for £330,000 on the advice of an estate agent, then found the buyer offloading it just weeks later for £600,000 … you'd feel pretty sore.”

As a British taxpayer, I do “feel pretty sore” and I am sure many of you share my dismay.

It seems that the Government was advised by “financial advisory and asset management firm” Lazard and Co., which pocketed fees of £1.5 million, while a syndicate of investment banks was also involved and received a further £11.2 million.

The NAO report has also revealed that peference was given to sixteen, as yet unnamed, “priority” investors, which the Government insisted would keep the stock for the long-term. But these “investors” were allowed shares originally valued at £728 million, but they had sold off nearly half of these shares within a matter of weeks for an obscene profit at the expense of the general public.

Many newspapers reports have concluded that the Government “could have achieved better value for the public” – how politely put – while leading members of the Coalition, such as the Prime Minister and the Business Secretary Vince Cable have attempted to downplay the controversy.

Mr Cable even claimed that “achieving the highest price … was never the aim of the sale” – but the reality is that his Government bungled a sale which they should never have sanctioned in the first place.