Friday 20 May 2022


In his article in this week’s Cornish Guardian, MK leader Cllr Dick Cole commented on the UK Government’s proposed legislative programme. It is as follows:

Through the spectacle of the Queen’s Speech on Tuesday 10th May, the UK Government announced its legislative programme for the next parliamentary session. It includes a total of 38 bills and the key criticism from political opponents has been that not enough is being proposed to tackle the present cost of living crisis.

While I have not studied the full detail of many of the proposed bills, there are some elements to be welcomed, ranging from legislation to better combat modern slavery and to more effectively regulate social housing. There will also be a Renters Reform Bill and it is good that this will abolish “no fault” evictions, though I am not sure I can be supportive of all aspects of that particular legislation.

The element of the Speech that has been getting the greatest degree of discussion is the wide-ranging Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill, which covers the so-called “county deals” being considered in Cornwall and elsewhere, as well as reforms to the planning system.

The “devolution” proposals are still inadequate for the needs of Cornwall, but the supporting information published with the Bill is full of hyperbole about giving “local leaders and communities the tools they need to make better places,” providing opportunities to “increase innovation and enhance local accountability” while increasing the “transparency of local leaders.” The words do not match the reality of their timid and unexciting proposals.

In terms of planning, some of the extremely unpopular measures outlined in the 2020 “Planning for the Future” White Paper, such as the zoning of land for immediate “in principle” consents, have thankfully been ditched. But once again there are claims about changes giving “local communities control over what is built” in their area, but the reality will be very, very different.

The Government has confirmed that a revised, top-down, National Planning Policy Framework will be produced and there will be a consultation about a suite of “national” development management policies, that will have primacy over policies devised in Cornwall. This disturbs me.

The Bill will also include a discretionary council tax premium on second homes of up to 100%, which is being widely welcomed. But this does not go far enough. The “premium” is less than that to be charged in Wales, there is no proposal for planning controls to stop and reverse the spread of such part-time dwellings, while the document is also silent on the adverse impact of holiday lets and airbnbs on the housing market.

This is frankly so disappointing when so many people are struggling to secure a first home for rent or purchase.

Thursday 19 May 2022


In my column in last week's Cornish Guardian, I addressed the rumoured expansion of the Right to Buy scheme, which would lead to the loss of much-needed affordable housing. It was as follows:

In 1980, Margaret Thatcher’s Government introduced Right to Buy through its first Housing Act, and the legislation allowed council tenants to purchase their homes at a significant discount from their open-market value.

As a consequence, some two million rental properties were sold. I agree with the view of Polly Neate, the Chief Executive of the homelessness charity Shelter, that this tore “a massive hole” in the stock of much-needed affordable housing.

I would add that the loss of so many social rent properties over the last forty years – which were largely not replaced – has been a significant contributory factor to the out-of-control, dysfunctional and unbalanced housing market that exists today.

I was therefore extremely alarmed to see newspaper reports that state the Prime Minister is looking into re-energising the concept of Right to Buy by extending it to tenants of Housing Associations.

I could hardly believe what I was reading. A “government source” was quoted as saying that: “The Prime Minister has got very excited about this. In many ways it is a replica of the great Maggie idea of 'buy your own council flat.' It is 'buy your own housing association flat’.”

It is a bonkers plan. There is so much that needs to be done to combat the housing crisis, but selling off social rent properties is not any part of any answer.

Again, I agree with the comments of Polly Neate. Extending Right to Buy is indeed “half-baked” and a “hare-brained idea.” It is the “opposite of what the country needs” and “there could not be a worse time to sell off what remains of our last truly affordable social homes.”

There is obviously a political dimension to what the Prime Minister is considering, as the Conservatives believe Right to Buy could be a popular policy. But a prominent thinktank has rightly pointed out the inequity at the core of the proposal, noting that it “offers huge financial benefits to those who qualify for social housing” – perhaps many tens of thousands of pounds – “while providing nothing for those … who pay much higher rents in less secure private tenancies.”

It is telling that progressive governments in the devolved administrations in Scotland and Wales abolished Right to Buy in 2017 and 2019 respectively. I understood that the Northern Ireland version of the scheme will end in August.

Right to Buy should also be ruled out in Cornwall and England. Politicians should instead be prioritising the provision of proper local-needs housing, legislating to protect those in private rented accommodation and to control rents, while rolling back the spread of second homes and airbnbs.

Monday 16 May 2022


In a recent article in the Cornish Guardian, I wrote about the UK Government’s “blindspot” when it comes to regional / minority languages and Cornish. It was as follows:

The eighth anniversary of the recognition of the Cornish through the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities has just passed. To mark the occasion, the unitary authority issued a positive press release about all the work being done to protect and promote the unique culture and distinctive language of Cornwall, reminding one and all that the UK Government had pledged the Cornish would have the “same status” as “the UK’s other Celtic people: the Scots, the Welsh and the Irish.”

But sadly, we cannot forget that the UK Government is failing to meet its obligations to the Convention in so many ways. Westminster denied the Cornish a tick-box on the 2021 census and, when it agreed the process for setting boundaries for future parliamentary seats, refused to protect the territoriality of Cornwall in law. Cornwall has not secured a meaningful devolution settlement in line with the other Celtic nations, and is not represented on the British and Irish Council.

I am in the fortunate position of being the Chairman of Cornwall Council’s working group on national minority status and, a short time ago, I hosted an engagement forum with interested members of the general public.

We were addressed by Denzil Monk, a film maker and a lecturer in film at the School of Film and Television at Falmouth University. He spoke about the campaign for public service broadcasting in and for Cornwall, which has the full support of the unitary authority. At the forum, there was a discussion about ongoing representations to the BBC about how their commitment in the 2016 BBC Charter to “regional and minority languages of the United Kingdom” ridiculously does not extend to Cornish. The document restricted its definition of such languages to “Welsh, Scottish Gaelic, Irish and Ulster Scots.”

By coincidence, the UK Government published its latest White Paper on the following day. It was titled: “Up Next: The Government’s vision for the broadcasting sector.”

Disappointingly, the document is silent on the request for public service broadcasting for Cornwall while, in the section on regional and minority languages, the Cornish language is ignored. The languages mentioned in the document are again Welsh, Scottish Gaelic, Irish and Ulster Scots.

This is so unsatisfactory, but the White Paper does present an opportunity. The Government now says that the “importance of programmes broadcast in the UK’s indigenous regional and minority languages” will be made “clear in legislation.”

Cornwall’s MPs will therefore be able to make representations to the Minister and the wider UK Government to ensure that any future provision for regional and minority languages also includes Cornish. I have already written to them and asked then to do exactly that.