Sunday 30 July 2017

My latest monthly report

At last week’s Parish Council meeting, I presented my most recent monthly report. It covered the time period of 26th June to 23rd July, and was as follows:

1. Council meetings

Over the last few weeks, I have attended a range of formal meetings. These have included: Economic Growth and Development Overview and Scrutiny Committee; Constitution and Governance Committee; Electoral Review Panel (2) and a number of additional informal meetings through my position of vice-chairman of the Panel; a briefing on the Council’s approach to the development of a new waste collection strategy; a Network meeting for the China Clay Area; a Group Leaders’ meeting; and a briefing in advance of this coming week’s Full Council meeting.

In the same period, I have also been at two meetings of St Enoder Parish Council.

2. Other meetings / events

In addition, I have attended meetings of ClayTAWC (2) of which I am Chairman, Indian Queens Pit (trustee), a sub-group of the St Austell Bay Economic Forum (SABEF), and the Annual General Meeting of the St Piran Trust.

Last Sunday (23rd July) I was very pleased to be invited to open the second day of the Rescorla Festival at the old chapel in the village, which has been converted into a cultural centre. It partly clashed with a concert by Indian Queens Band in the Pit, but I was able to get to both.

Because of the work that I have done across the China Clay Area, I also received an invitation to attend Carclaze Primary School for a presentation from the children about the china clay industry through words and dance. It was really great to see.

3. Economic Growth and Development Overview and Scrutiny Committee

At the second meeting of the above committee, councillors discussed the work programme for the coming months. A “task and finish” group has been set up to review the Council’s arrangement for parking, which will include enforcement matters. Much of the discussion from the officers and other councillors focused on the towns and I had to speak up for rural areas such as ours. As a consequence of this, I have become a member of the “task and finish” group.

4. Briefing on waste

At the briefing into the Council’s approach to the development of a new waste collection strategy, I raised queries about the low number of public waste bins in areas such as ours. I received an assurance these concerns will be addressed in the review.

5. Electoral Review Panel

As I wrote in my last monthly report, I have been elected as the vice-chairman of this Panel and I am heavily involved in its ongoing work producing a response to the consultation from the Local Government Boundary Commission for England that states Cornwall Council should only have 87 members from 2021 onwards.

Given that the initial view of the unitary authority (105-115 councillors) was deemed unacceptable by the LGBCE, the Panel has reaffirmed its view that there should be 99 councillors on Cornwall Council. This is in spite of the fact that many Cornwall Councillors, myself included, would prefer the number of elected members not to be reduced. This recommendation will be presented to Full Council this week.

6. Regeneration study for St Austell and the China Clay Area

On 18th July I attended a workshop on behalf of St Enoder Parish about the regeneration of our area. I am also involved with this through SABEF, but I am worried that there is an inadequate focus on the actual China Clay Area. I am making representations about this and will report more in my next monthly report.

7. Update on works at biogas plant at Higher Fraddon

Further to last month’s report, I can add that Greener for Life is about to start emptying the secondary digester of material so that they can lower the height of its dome. Cornwall Council has agreed extra vehicle movements for this work in line with a submitted Construction Management Plan and a Construction Environment Management Plan. However, the Council has insisted on two banksmen (at the top and bottom of the lane) to ensure that HGVs do not meet in the lane.

I also hosted a meeting between residents and three officers from Cornwall Council to discuss progress with the discharge of the conditions for the planning permission. Some of these updates have been featured in recent monthly updates and the minutes for this meeting are available on request.

8. Planning matters

Members will recall that, about nine months ago, the unauthorised caravan site on the Kelliers failed to secure planning permission through an appeal to the Planning Inspectorate. The owners were also told that they had to remove the caravans by 18th July 2017, but they have failed to do this. Cornwall Council is looking to ratchet up enforcement actions.

I am continuing to liase with officers on a range of planning applications and I will update more fully in my next monthly report.

9. Bus shelters

The issue of the maintenance of Cornwall Council-owned bus shelters was a key topic at the recent meeting of the Network Panel for the China Clay Area. I have also made further representations and some of the bus shelters were recently cleaned. I made further representations that not all were done and I have asked for the job to be completed.

10. School visit

On 14th July, 35 children from Indian Queens School visited New County Hall. I was pleased to be able to assist with the event and I was one of three councillors who answered some very searching questions.

11. World War 1 project

I can confirm that the application for funding towards a Parish Council project to remember the local war dead of the Great War has been submitted. I am now waiting on the response.

12. Inquiries

During the last month, I have also helped numerous people with advice and guidance on a range of problems.

The BBC and wage inequality

In last week’s Cornish Guardian, my article focused on the “fall-out” from the BBC’s announcement about the salaries of its top celebrities. It was as follows:

The formal publication of the salary levels for the highest paid employees in the BBC was one of last week’s big news stories.

There has been considerable anger that certain presenters have been paid hundreds of thousands of pounds from the UK’s public broadcaster, while there was also a significant focus on the “gender gap” between male and female high-fliers. One newspaper has even renamed the Corporation as the “Bloated Blokes Club.”

And is it any wonder, when the tabloids print stories about how certain BBC celebrities have spent more on a single wristwatch than many Cornish residents – myself included – earn in a year?

For me, this all focuses attention on the inequality that pervades the United Kingdom – with some people earning so much, millions earning less in real terms than previous years, and many earning so little that they are struggling to make ends meet.

This is a massive issue in Cornwall, where low pay is an entrenched problem with average wages long having been more than 20% below the UK average.

Looking back, I remember that a couple of years ago I wrote about the Resolution Foundation report titled “Low Pay Britain” which set out concerns about the well-being of the five million British workers in extremely low-paid work.

Report after report shows that the situation has not improved for so many individuals and families. For example, a recent study from the Institute for Fiscal Studies about male employment shows that “twenty years ago, only one in 20 men aged 25 to 55 worked part-time with low hourly wages. Today one in five of this group works part-time.”

Public sector workers have also lost out because of the continuation of austerity measures and I am pleased to have been able to back the GMB’s campaign against the ongoing pay freeze. The union rightly makes the case that “the financial crash wasn’t caused by teaching assistants, council officers or hospital porters. And it’s outrageous that they are still expected to pay the price for the banking crisis over a decade later.”

It also points out how, since 2010, the wages of public sector workers' “have been frozen, or have increased below inflation, which means their cost of living is rising faster than their pay, leaving them out of pocket.”

The GMB estimates that the average worker delivering vital public services has lost £9,000 over the last seven years and face losing another £4,000 in the next three years.

Surely, this all demonstrates that building a more equal society must be a key priority for all political parties going forward.

EU funding stats and Cornwall

Somewhat belatedly, I am posting my article which was published in the 19th July edition of the Cornish Guardian. It was as follows:

Since 2000 Cornwall has received the highest level of structural funding from the European Union (EU), because its gross domestic product (GDP) was below 75% of the EU average.

A couple of weeks ago, it was reported that Eurostat (the statistics office of the EU) had changed the way in which GDP figures are calculated and produced retrospective data going back to 2000.

This led to reports from the BBC that “Cornwall may not have been poor enough to justify receiving £1 billion of EU funding,” was “officially not that poor” and that the statistics were wrong.

This was, of course, nonsense but it was all replicated in a host of other media outlets. I have seen a Cornwall Council briefing which even described it as a “somewhat counterfactual situation.”

Eurostat has indeed adopted a new accounting system, but the revised figures for past years are based on the present-day 28-state EU.

In the late 1990s when Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly qualified for Objective One funding, there were only 15 states in the European Union. That was before the accession of a number of poorer countries, which significantly lowered the “per capita” economic performance across the whole of the EU. Likewise in 2006, when we qualified for Convergence funding, there were 25 states in the Union.

But moving away from the misleading headlines, Cornwall is still one of the poorest parts of the United Kingdom, and it is extremely worrying that it’s GDP for 2015 (the last year for which figures are available) is still only 76% of the EU average.

Of the 40 (NUTS 2) regions in the United Kingdom, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly is ranked 37th, ahead of only South Yorkshire (75%), Tees Valley & Durham (74%) and West Wales & the Valleys (68%).

Compared to the other nations of the United Kingdom, Cornwall is also at the bottom of the pecking order where it is tied with Wales (76%) and below Northern Ireland (78%). Scotland is much more prosperous and the figures for England are well over 100% of the average.

But the tone of this debate does worry me greatly. I fear the impact it could have on future considerations about regional funding post-Brexit and limit the amount of investment that can be secured for Cornwall, its local communities and its local businesses.

We hear much from local MPs about the UK Government’s proposed “Shared Prosperity Fund” and how it will “recycle some EU money back into the economy,” along with their assurance that Cornwall will get a share.

That is not good enough, as we have no idea what this “share” would equate to. The evidence and the statistics demonstrate that Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly should be a priority for investment, and we need cast-iron guarantees from central government that this will happen.

Sunday 16 July 2017

What is it to be a Cornish nationalist?

Cornwall Live has just published an article about Cornish nationalism by Graeme Wilkinson on its website. It would be fair to say that this follows the widespread and irresponsible reporting of the "fake news" of alleged terrorist activities in Cornwall.

One of the initial questions in the interview focused on what it means to be a Cornish nationalist and I have decided to also share my response on this blog.

People often ask me what it is to be a Cornish nationalist. The answer is quite simple. Cornwall is a historic entity with its own distinct identity, language and heritage – it is a nation.

Every person who seeks the greater recognition of the nation of Cornwall or campaigns for self-government for Cornwall or positively promotes Cornish identity, is therefore, by extension, a Cornish nationalist. 

What is important is that the nationalism of Mebyon Kernow is inclusive and outward-looking. I am particularly proud that we campaign for a better deal for all the people of Cornwall and are never afraid to make a stand on global issues with significance far beyond our borders.

I believe that being a member of MK is a positive statement of commitment to Cornwall and about making a real difference to our local communities.

The news article can be viewed at:
Cornwall Live article

Thursday 6 July 2017


The next meeting for MK members and supporters in the St Austell & Newquay Constituency Party will be taking place on Friday 7th July. The venue will, as usual, be ClayTAWC in St Dennis and the meeting will start at 7.30.

All are welcome at the meeting. Call me on 07791 876607 for more details, if you would like to attend..

MK anger at Conservative / DUP deal

My article in this week’s Cornish Guardian looks at the deal between Theresa May’s Tories and the DUP. It is as follows:

The deal between the Conservative Party and Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party has been done.

The cost to deliver a working majority for the Tories has been confirmed as one billion pounds, which will be paid to the Northern Ireland Executive for infrastructure improvements, funding for the NHS and schools, better broadband and to tackle social deprivation in the province.

This equates to £100,000,000 for each DUP MP, who has promised to support the Conservative Party on key votes.

There has rightly been a massive backlash against the deal, variously described as “grubby” or “shoddy,” and much of the criticism has, not surprisingly, been sarcastic.

In the recent General Election, the Conservatives argued, time and again, that their opponents had unrealistic policies and were dependent on a fictitious “magic money tree.”

It is therefore quite predictable how many people have blasted the Conservatives by pointing out how a “magic money tree” has been secretly cultivated in the back garden of 10 Downing Street in order to deliver a billion pounds to keep the Prime Minister and her colleagues in their jobs.

And it is quite right for columnists and voters to remind May, Johnson, Gove and the others, that during the election campaign they told voters, for example, that there was no “magic” money for 10,000 new police officers (£0.3 billion) or to nationalise Royal Mail (£0.8 billion). And it was the Prime Minister herself who told a nurse in the audience of Question Time that “there isn’t a magic money tree you can shake” to provide pay increases.

Let us be clear. The payment to Northern Irish politicians – using taxpayers’ money – is a calculated and deeply political move, which is grounded in the self-interest of the Conservative Party.

But unbelievably, many Government ministers and spokespeople have had the nerve to claim that the additional investment into Northern Ireland is not because of political expediency, but due to the “distinct needs” and “unique circumstances/problems” of the area.

This is, of course, all shameful nonsense.

There is a desperate need to rebalance the UK economy and to ensure that government investment is better shared across the whole of the UK. But this cynical move has nothing to do with a fairer regional policy, and it does not represent a shift from the Government’s principal and unbalanced focus on London and the wider South East of England.

It is unjust to increase funding in Northern Ireland, while denying a similar increase in investment for Cornwall – which also has “distinct needs” and its own “unique circumstances/problems.” This, of course, includes having an even lower economic performance and a local health service under great pressure.

Just take the Cornish NHS. The present STP reforms would leave it massively under-funded – and yet here we have a Conservative Government giving over £250 million towards healthcare in Northern Ireland.