Monday 23 August 2021


My article in this week's Cornish Guardian addresses concerns that Cornwall will not get it fair share of future regional investment. It is as follows:

The headline in a recent edition of the Independent newspaper was pretty stark. It stated that the “poor parts of the UK” are about to suffer a “£1 billion Brexit black hole.”

The article focussed on the future distribution of “regional development cash” in place of the structural funding that came via the European Union. It also suggested that Cornwall would be amongst the “biggest likely losers,” not least because it is not listed among the Government’s new “priority areas.”

At the same time, the Institute for Government (IfG) think-tank has produced a report that claims the relationship between central government and the devolved administrations will be damaged by a Whitehall “power-grab.”

Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales have previously received larger sums than England, via the structural funds, with the report stating that “from the European Regional Development Fund and European Social Fund combined in the 2014–20 cycle, England was allocated €7.1bn, or €130 per person; Scotland €940 million, or €180 per person; Northern Ireland €510m, or €280 per person; and Wales €2.4bn, or €780 per person. Compared with England, allocations of EU structural funds per person were therefore a little over a third higher in Scotland, more than twice as high in Northern Ireland, and six times as high in Wales.”

The document acknowledges that the governments in Belfast, Edinburgh, and Cardiff took the lead in “disbursing those funds,” while the “promised replacement” known as the shared prosperity fund will be “controlled by the government in London.” It also addresses how the devolved nations are putting pressure on the Conservative Government to live up to the pledge in their 2019 general election manifesto that promised they “would at a minimum match the level of EU spending in each of the four nations of the UK.”

Obviously, the Prime Minister has made similar statements with regard to the hidden nation of Cornwall – even though we did not merit reference in the manifesto. We are also still waiting to see how, or even whether, Cornish businesses and communities will benefit from this promised investment.

The IfG document does reference that “in 2014–20, Cornwall was allocated €1,011 per person” but is otherwise silent on our “hidden nation.”

The overall conclusion from the think-tank is that the provision of regional funding “should be done in a way that respects the devolution settlements” and ensures a significant role for the administrations in Belfast, Edinburgh and Cardiff.

It seems to me that Cornwall needs the promised funding and also merits devolution, just like the other Celtic parts of the UK, in order to control how such investment is allocated and spent.

Friday 20 August 2021


The following press release was sent out earlier today.

MK’s leadership team has challenged the UK Government to bring forward a range of “fundamental and far-reaching” interventions to deal with the UK’s dysfunctional housing market.

The statement from Cllrs Michael Bunney, Dick Cole, Andrew Long and Loveday Jenkin is as follows:

The housing market across the UK – but especially in Cornwall – is dysfunctional and it is not working for ordinary people. The cost of housing is going up and up, which is simply unsustainable.

So many families are struggling to access housing that properly meets their most basic needs, while it is scandalous that a lot of people have multiple properties – including “second homes” and bolt-holes – many of which stand empty for the majority of the year.

In many parts of Cornwall, the very fabric of local society is being undermined – not least because of external misconceptions of Cornwall as a holiday or leisure area.

The UK Government is failing to address the severity of the housing crisis, and it is refusing to bring forward the “fundamental and far-reaching” changes that are necessary to tackle the “out-of-control” housing market.

Mebyon Kernow is calling on the UK Government to:

Make changes to the planning system to prioritise the delivery of high-quality and genuinely affordable housing. It is wrong that the present set-up makes it easy for developers to get planning permission for expensive open-market properties and many developments provide no affordable homes at all.

Redefine the definition of affordable housing and link to local incomes. In recent years, central government has made “affordable” housing more expensive with “affordable rent” units which have a limited discount from market rents and the recent introduction of “First Homes” which could cost up to £250,000. Cornwall needs local-needs housing at a proper level of affordability.

Increase investment in the provision of proper affordable housing. It is important to ensure that a higher percentage of new dwellings are affordable homes and not open-market properties. This can be delivered through government investment.

Safeguard all existing rental properties owned by registered providers. The loss of rental properties from the public sector through “right to acquire” and other mechanisms needs to be curtailed. A number of housing associations have sold off some of their older properties rather than carry out renovations. MK maintains that all existing social rent properties should be retained in public ownership.

Make changes to the planning system to control "second homes." A longstanding policy of Mebyon Kernow is to introduce planning restrictions to stop and then reverse the spread of “second homes.” Part of this would relate to all existing dwellings being designated as principal residences.

Introduce a council tax premium on “second homes.” It is clear that “second homes” are a massive “social problem” and councils should be given the right to charge a council tax of at least 200% on such properties.

Introduce rent controls on private sector properties. The ever-increasing cost of rental properties is damaging the quality of life of thousands of households, and measures to make open-market rents less expensive are much needed.

Explore further mechanisms to better regulate the housing market. This should include the development of a “local housing market” for Cornwall with more “local occupation” criteria on properties and an expectation of all-year-round-residency, plus restrictions on marketing associated with estate agents.

At this time, we are fearful that the UK Government will not act to properly combat the housing crisis.

Mebyon Kernow is also continuing its campaign for greater self-government for Cornwall through a Cornish Assembly or Parliament, which would have control over all aspects of housing and planning and would be able to act in the best interests of the people of Cornwall.

Thursday 12 August 2021


My article in this week’s Cornish Guardian newspaper is as follows:

Throughout my adult life, I have been involved in numerous campaigns for Cornwall to be a political, economic and cultural unit in its own right. But the political establishment, big business, and even many local councillors, have been vigorously pursuing a regionalist agenda in which Cornwall is submerged within “Devonwall” or “South West” bodies.

We have often been told that Cornwall's interests are best served by merging Cornwall into larger areas and that it would boost Cornwall’s clout. In my opinion, it is the reverse that has actually happened.

I remember how business and some media interests came together at a conference in Newquay in November 1987, called at the behest of the Duke of Cornwall, to allow the proponents of “Devonwall” to push a proposal for a Devon and Cornwall Development Company. It was followed, in the early 1990s, by the Westcountry Development Corporation.

Similarly, when the Conservative Government established Training and Enterprise Councils in 1990-91, the opportunity to create a much-needed Cornish-based institution was lost. Instead, a giant Devon and Cornwall TEC was formed.

The election of a Labour Government in 1997 did not change things. Calls for a Cornish Development Agency were ignored and a SW regional development agency – stretching from the Isles of Scilly to Swindon – was created. An unelected regional chamber for the “South West” followed along with a top-down spatial strategy that proposed truly unsustainable levels of house-building.

It has been little different under the Tories since 2010. For the last five years, their MPs, plus public bodies and businesses, have been pursuing the concept of a “Great South West,” which covers Cornwall and the English counties of Devon, Dorset and Somerset.

Recent newspaper reports now claim that the Government wants to merge the Great South West join together with another central government construct called the Western Gateway, which covers Bristol, Bath, Gloucester, Swansea and Cardiff.

Businessman Mark Duddridge, a prominent supporter of the Great South West which diminishes Cornwall, declared – without any sense of irony whatsoever – that it would be hard for “our Cornish voice “ to be heard “if we have something that reaches up to Gloucester and South Wales.” He has also made the fanciful claim that “we have tried to get the Great South West recognised as a region … everyone in the Great South West wants that to happen.”

I would respectfully say that that is simply not true. All this talk of a Great South West and a Western Gateway is a nonsense. It is Cornwall, as Cornwall, that needs to secure the tools to be able shape its own future.