Sunday, 12 December 2021

The 50,000 : what happened after 12th December 2001

This is my article in this coming week's Cornish Guardian.

In last week’s Cornish Guardian, I wrote about the 20th anniversary of the delivery of 50,000 declarations, calling for a Cornish Assembly, to 10 Downing St on 12th December 2001. I wish to return to this topic and to share how the Westminster establishment dealt with our demand for greater self-government for Cornwall.

It remains my view that the 50,000 declarations represented a massive statement of intent from the people of Cornwall. When the signatures were being collected, we were aware that the Labour Government had a position that, if a petition of 5% of voters was collected, it would allow a referendum on changes to local government in a particular area. Obviously, our demands were not about “local government,” but having secured the support of more than 10% of the electorate we felt we had won the “moral argument” to put pressure on the UK Government to support devolution for Cornwall.

While there was no formal response from Downing Street, there was hope that our aspirations would be reflected in the forthcoming White Paper. Titled “Your Region, Your Choice,” this was published in May 2002 and studiously ignored Cornwall. Instead, it proposed assemblies for government regions. In the preface, the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, said: “No region will be forced to have an elected assembly. But where there is public support for one, we believe that people should be given the chance to demonstrate this in a referendum.” But for Cornwall, such words were a nonsense. There was no choice. There was just one option - a 25-35 seat assembly for a “South West” which stretched as far as Bristol.

At the time Cornwall County Council, four of Cornwall’s six district councils and numerous town and parish councils backed the campaign for a Cornish Assembly and/or a referendum, while hundreds and hundreds of people from Cornwall made similar representations.

Sadly, it was to no avail and Tony Blair’s Government refused to even consider the representations for more powers for Cornwall. A subsequent FOI request from MK secured a couple of ministerial briefings from 2002. These set out the “lines to take” when responding to campaigners from Cornwall. One condescendingly stated: “Although the campaign for a Cornish Assembly grabs the headlines, there is a growing but less audible groundswell of informed opinion in favour of a unitary council for Cornwall” adding that the “supporters of a unitary Cornwall could see it nestling happily within a South West Regional Assembly.” I find it so insulting for 50,000 people to be told their opinion is not “informed.”

The campaign for meaningful devolution to Cornwall must and will continue.

Wednesday, 8 December 2021


This is my article in this week's Cornish Guardian newspaper:

This coming Sunday (12th December) will mark the 20th anniversary of the delivery of a CD-ROM to 10 Downing Street. The disc contained the names of over 50,000 people who had signed individual declarations calling for a Cornish Assembly.

I am very proud to have authored the declaration and that the campaign was initially launched by Mebyon Kernow, before it was broadened out through the cross-party Cornish Constitutional Convention to garner greater support from across the political spectrum.

It was amazing that, within a period of about 18 months, more than 10% of the Cornish electorate had backed devolution for Cornwall. And I will never forget how the campaign had such energy thanks to the leadership of Paddy McDonough who co-ordinated teams of petitioners that took to the streets, weekend after weekend, to sign up supporters.

It remains one of the greatest disappointments of my political life that the Labour Government of that time ignored the declarations. Instead of helping to build a better and stronger democracy in Cornwall, as they did in Wales and Scotland, they chose to centralise local government even though this was opposed by 80% of residents.

In recent weeks, I have had a few chats about devolution with a Labour councillor. She is rightly exasperated that elected politicians to the west of the Tamar lack the political powers to deal with important political issues. Her particular frustration was Cornwall could not control second homes, though I couldn’t help but point out that it was Tony Blair’s Government which had denied devolution to Cornwall.

One common criticism of supporters of devolution is that we should not be talking about dry topics such as constitutional change or new structures of governance, but instead should focus on the “real issues” facing people.

But if we had won devolution in the 2000s, Cornwall would have the ability to cap the number of second homes and reverse the damaging spread of such properties – just as will soon be happening in Wales. Linked to this, Cornwall would have control over all aspects of planning.

If we had won devolution, Cornwall would have had more say in how the pandemic had been dealt with, just as the First Ministers of Scotland and Wales (Nicola Sturgeon and Mark Drakeford) were able to lead in their respective countries.

And fair funding. If we had a meaningful devolution settlement, Cornwall would almost certainly be better off. The devolved administrations have just secured an extra £8.7 billion, while Cornwall’s one principal council is busy making yet more massive cuts while it is waiting to see what crumbs it will get from the local government budget.

Monday, 6 December 2021


MK press release

Mebyon Kernow strengthens devolution call on 20th anniversary of 50,000 declarations

This coming Sunday (12th December) marks the 20th anniversary of the delivery of more than 50,000 declarations in support of a Cornish Assembly to 10 Downing Street.

To mark the anniversary, Mebyon Kernow has challenged all political parties to support meaningful devolution for Cornwall.

The Party for Cornwall has also confirmed that it strengthened its own policy position on greater self-government for Cornwall at its recent online National Conference. Party members voted to seek devolution parity with Wales and Scotland, by making it clear that Cornwall needs its own Parliament / Senedh Kernow.

Commenting after the vote, MK’s leadership team of Cllrs Dick Cole, Michael Bunney, Loveday Jenkin and Andrew Long said:

“Mebyon Kernow has been at the very forefront of the campaign for devolution to Cornwall for decades and we have always linked this to what has been achieved in Wales and Scotland.

“We have campaigned for a National Assembly of Cornwall, though our policy documents have always made it clear that we want to achieve the powers equivalent to those in the Scottish Parliament.

“The National Assembly in Wales has secured additional powers over the last two decades and been renamed the Welsh Parliament / Senedd Cymru.

“In continuing to seek parity with Wales and Scotland, we are pleased that MK members have chosen to give greater clarity to our ambitions for Cornwall by specifying that our demand for greater powers should be linked to the creation of a Parliament for Cornwall.

“In discussing this shift in emphasis from ‘Assembly” to ‘Parliament,” we noted that the term ‘Assembly’ has been blurred to some degree through calls for a Citizens’ Assemblies, while other political groups continue to undermine the distinction between calls for a ‘National Assembly’ and local government.

“Our message is now unequivocal. Our fellow Celtic nations have their own parliaments, so why not Cornwall?”

Party members were asked their views on this policy clarification in a recent survey. The change was supported by 84% of those who responded, and then endorsed at the virtual National Conference on Saturday 27th November.

Mebyon Kernow – the Party for Cornwall acknowledges that other political parties are talking about “devolution,” but that it is not within the context of devolution secured in Wales and Scotland.

The statement from MK’s leadership team continues:

“It is extremely frustrating that when politicians from London-based parties speak about ‘devolution,’ their focus usually tends to be on very limited accommodations between the centre and local government. This is simply not good enough for Cornwall.

“The Conservatives have come up with the concept of ‘county deals’ and the Conservative administration on the unitary authority has confirmed that it is seeking such a deal, which would nonetheless sit within a ‘Great South West’ regional construct. The latest comment from Labour came from their mayor of Greater Manchester, who put forward a proposal for a ‘Devonwall’ metro-mayor.

“It is our view that ‘county deals’ are not devolution at all, while the idea of a cross-Tamar metro-mayor is ridiculous.

“It is time that all politicians in Cornwall showed real ambition for our nation by seeking parity with Scotland and Wales, championing real devolution through the creation of our own Parliament.

“Twenty years on from the 50,000 declarations, it is our challenge to other political parties to come forward with detailed proposals to deliver meaningful devolution to Cornwall, along with a promise of action to make it happen.”

Friday, 3 December 2021


Time period: 26th October – 21st November

1.0 Council and other meetings

In terms of physical meetings during the last four weeks, I attended the Customer & Support Services Overview & Scrutiny Committee, the Chief Officers Employment Committee, the Constitution & Governance Committee, as well as meetings of St Dennis Parish Council and St Enoder Parish Council. Other meetings via TEAMS or ZOOM video-conferencing included the Economic Growth & Development Overview & Scrutiny Committee and the South & East Cornwall Community-Led Local Development Group, plus meetings of Cornwall Councillors within the China Clay Area and the China Clay Area Community Support Group.

Some of the above meetings are referenced elsewhere in this report, and I had a number of further online meetings about a range of local issues.

2.0 Cornwall Council staffing reductions and cuts

The Conservative administration at Cornwall Council is in the process of reducing its wage bill by £18 million. They are continuing a recruitment freeze and closing vacant roles. They have invited staff to take voluntary redundancy, but have also instigated a review of employees across the authority which will lead to compulsory redundancies. It is my understanding that employees whose jobs are under threat will be informed of that position during the final week of November.

The leadership of the Council is also seeking to further reduce its “base” by another £70 million next year. This follows a decade of cuts to local government and these latest reductions are undermining the very basis of the Council to provide the public services that people depend upon.

There had been some hope that the Autumn Spending review would prioritise local government and allocate significantly more funding to reverse pressures on the sector, but this has not happened. Extra money has been promised, but even supporters of the present Government were only able to note that the funding would “help meet some – but not all - of the extra cost and demand pressures [Councils] face just to provide services at today’s levels.” There has been widespread disappointment that there was no additional money to address the pressures on adult social care services. It is clear that there is a need for all Cornwall Councillors to continue to lobby central government for fair funding.

3.0 Leisure centres

Cornwall Council has also been consulting on a proposal to stop operating leisure centres in Wadebridge, Launceston, Saltash and Falmouth, as well as the hydrotherapy pool within St Austell leisure centre. There have been a large number of representations against the move.

I am one of the members of the Customer & Support Services Overview & Scrutiny Committee, who challenged the proposal at the meeting on 26th October. Further information will be provided at the Committee’s next meeting on 7th December and will allow “back-bench” councillors to scrutinise the proposal. This will take place in advance of the meeting of the ten-strong Cabinet which will decide how to proceed.

4.0 Approach to housing emergency

I attended the most recent meeting of the Economic Growth & Development Overview & Scrutiny Committee on 16th November, which considered a draft of the plan to “respond to the Cornwall’s Housing Crisis.” At the meeting, I made a number of representations about the detail of the document, including the failure of the system tasked to allocate affordable housing to local households and the need for the unitary authority to be more ambitious in its proposals to central government to control “second homes.”

5.0 Remembrance Sunday

I was pleased to attend the annual Remembrance Sunday event at St Enoder Churchtown and to read out the names of the fallen. I was also pleased to supply information about three servicemen (Herbert John Nancarrow, Summercourt; Eric Charles Noel Kent, Indian Queens; Selwyn Garfield Cole, St Enoder/Fraddon) who were lost in the Second World War and whose lives were featured in the church service. Selwyn was my great-uncle.

The service at St Dennis was held at the same time as the St Enoder event and I was therefore unable to attend. I remain grateful to the Chairman of St Dennis Parish Council, Julia Clarke, who laid a wreath on my behalf at the St Dennis commemoration.

6.0 Community Chest

As a Cornwall Councillor, I have been allocated £3,000 which I can distribute to local community organisations. If you are interested in applying on behalf of a local group, please get in contact with me.

7.0 My next report

I don’t produce a monthly report in December, so I can confirm that my next report will be produced in advance of the meetings of St Dennis Parish Council and St Enoder Parish Council, on 1st February and 25th January 2022 respectively.


8.0 Social /affordable rent properties in St Dennis

In my last monthly report, I noted that (i) I had received a number of complaints that families and individuals (with a local connection to St Dennis Parish) have been struggling to get access to social / affordable rental properties in the village, and (ii) that I was carrying out research into these concerns. My initial findings were included in that last report and I have been continuing to seek further information about the lettings. I am afraid that I have not received all the requested additional information from Cornwall Council as yet, so I will present a further update in my next report.

I can add that I raised these concerns about the provision of affordable housing to local households at the recent Scrutiny Committee, that reviewed the Council’s approach to the present housing emergency.

9.0 Neighbourhood Plan

St Dennis Parish Council is committed to producing a Neighbourhood Plan and, given my experience with planning policy at Cornwall Council and the production of a Neighbourhood Plan for St Enoder Parish, I have offered to assist with the work. I have just submitted a grant application on behalf of the Parish Council for the initial stage of consultation work.

It is planned that a detailed questionnaire will be delivered to all households across St Dennis Parish in the early part of 2022 (along with a freepost envelope for responses), and a number of drop-in meetings will be held for people to provide feedback.

10.0 Ditch to rear of Hall Road

There has been a further meeting about the ditches on the downs above St Dennis and the ditch which runs down the eastern side of properties on Hall Road, which I understand Cornwall Council have an obligation to maintain. The meeting was attended by one of the Council’s land drainage officers and other interested parties. I am awaiting further feedback from the unitary authority about its plan for future maintenance arrangements

11.0 Local highway issues

In recent months, I have received a wide range of representations about issues with the road network in St Dennis, ranging from potholes to parking issues to requests for calming measures. Some localised issues have been dealt with, and I am continuing to liaise with the local Cormac manager about these concerns and I will be showing her around St Dennis at the end of November to discuss them further.

The three-week consultation into the proposal for double yellow lines on Carne Hill, outside the Wesley Place estate, closed on 17th November and I have been promised an update on responses in the very near-future.


12.0 Highway matters

Listed below are those highway matters where I have specific updates.

12.1 Summercourt School

The work to install the safety measures outside Summercourt School took place between 25th and 29th October. This included the extension of the 30mph limit to the east and two illuminated signs which show a “variable” 20mph speed limit during school drop-off and pick-up times. The sign on the approach towards the School is a temporary one and will soon be replaced with a dual-purpose vehicle-activated sign which, when it is not showing the variable 20mph limit, will flash at vehicles going over the 30mph limit.

During the works, the existing “School” signs were removed, but new ones will be erected soon.

12.2 New footway between the Harvenna Heights estate and Indian Queens School

The works to construct the new footway commenced on 20th October and were recently completed. The path is now open and can be used. Landscaping and reseeding works still need to be carried out on the land around the path, which will take place in 2022 when the ground has dried up. Hedging works are also planned by the gate at the Harvenna Heights end, along with additional “bow-top” fencing at the School side of the walkway.

12.3 Proposed works on A3058 through Summercourt

The 21-day consultation on the A3058 improvements (through the Safer Roads scheme) between Quintrell Downs roundabout and Summercourt crossroads, closed on 10th November. I am expecting a briefing on the feedback, very soon.

12.4 Proposed double yellow lines at Penhale

The 21-day consultation on parking restrictions in the Penhale area closed on 17th November. I have been promised a briefing on feedback to the consultation next week.

13.0 Closed cemetery in St Enoder Churchtown

I have also been helping the Clerk of St Enoder Parish Council to supervise the repairs to the wall around the closed cemetery in St Enoder Churchtown. I am extremely pleased that the works are nearing completion.


14.0 Advice

Over the last few weeks, I have also assisted numerous households and individuals with guidance and advice on a range of topics including planning matters, housing needs, educational concerns and more.