Saturday, 28 February 2015

The Party Whip system is undemocratic, I support the Free Vote Voluntary Recall Alliance

I was recently sent an email from the Free Vote Voluntary Recall Alliance. They are campaigning in this general election for MPs (and PPCs) to unwed themselves from the system of voting for a party line as dictated by the whips.  Their website is here.

I think it's a great campaign and I find it depressing that such legislation is even needed. MPs are voted in by constituents to represent their views not to represent the party line. It makes a mockery of democracy when MPs views and opnions are subordinate to the party and party whips. I'm more than happy to sign the below pledge, I hope the campaign makes PPCs and MPs think that their constituents and personal principles (where applicable) should come first not party bosses.

“This is my promise to the voters of the St Ives Parliamentary constituency.
I , Rob Simmons, the Mebyon Kernow- the Party for Cornwall candidate standing for election as your Member of Parliament , do herby promise and affirm, that if I am elected to be your Member of the Westminster Parliament  in the General Election on 7th May 2015. I will adopt and act in accordance with the terms of the Free Vote Voluntary Recall Alliance Pledge as published today at www.fvvra.org  and I will maintain this, my personal pledge throughout my term as your Member of Parliament”.

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Penzance Business Improvement District goes to the vote

It's an interesting time in the town of Penzance, the Neighbourhood Plan process is being launched and has a great new website here and business in the town centre are going to vote on becoming a Business Improvement District (BID). It's easy to assume that people know what a BID is, it's been well publicised in the local press and a consultation has taken place with the businesses in the area. However there are a lot of people that are not aware this is going on and they really should, because it's an important development in the town and although I have a number of reservations about the structure and process, I think it could be a very good thing for Penzance.

As a short description a BID imposes a levy on business (2% on top of rates in our case). It then takes that money and uses it for the good of the area and specifically the businesses in it. There's a lot more information on the process in Penzance and the plans on the BID website here. There are some really interesting ideas for the town and how to improve it in the plan. The process is coming to the end and after consultation sessions, it has now come to the vote. The rules for the vote are quite simple businesses are asked whether they support a Business Improvement District yes or no. Then if there are more than 50% indicating yes and of those they represent more than 50% of the rateable value of all votes cast. Then it comes into being on the first of June.

On the one hand I think this is a very good thing, if passed the BID will run for five years and have a total budget of £800,00 for that period. That is a lot of money and it will mark one of the most major investments in the town centre for a long long time. It also represents a great opportunity for businesses to come together and work towards solutions, which should have benefits wider than the BID itself.

On the other hand the whole of the BID set up, is part of a growing and in my opinion (and that of MK) a worrying trend in public spending in recent years. The BID is a not for profit company, much like Local Enterprise Partnerships and NHS Trusts, they are not democratically elected by the people, they are not accountable to the people. I write this with some caution I know a few of the members of the BID steering group and I don't mean this as a personal reflection on them or their motives or judgement. However it is a worrying trend to removing democratically representatives from the decision making and spending process.

As with all votes, I hope there is good turn out for the BID's postal ballots. I hope that all of the businesses in the proposed area take a great deal of time to consider the merits of the BID process and the business plan that has been written. There is great potential with that amount of money but there is also a great cost, it might only be 2% of rates on top but nevertheless it is another cost. We live in interesting times!

N.B The Penzance Town Council has no part of the BID process, the BID Steering Group choose not to have a town council representative.

"dog-end voters in outlying regions" a rare insight into how politicians view places like Cornwall

Recently Mark Garnier, a Tory MP gave a speech to the Institute for Economic Affairs. He told the think tank:

"This massive argument that is going on about what is going to happen to tax rates for entrepreneurs and risk takers, who are in many cases mortgaging their houses several times over in order to create jobs and create economic activity, we need to be giving a much clearer message to them.

He continued:
"That they don't have to worry about politicians mucking around with tax rates in order to try to attract a few dog end voters in outlying regions of the country."

From BBC News



You have to wonder how pervasive this attitude is in Westminster, with our only major hospital in a terrible situation, no alternatives put forward to our vulnerable rail line at Dawlish and what should be a crisis for government -but blatantly isn't- the poor performing Cornish economy and the terrible state of wages in Cornwall.

I believe this is a very telling insight into how politicians view Cornwall and it must be said other outlying regions. There is a real risk that politicians won't be challenged on this apathy to Cornwall and the same old faces from the Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties will be re-elected in May and business will carry on as usual, with Cornwall's votes counted and attentions swiftly turned elsewhere. 

What people need to do is send a clear message to Westminster that we have had enough, this will not be done by rewarding the failures of the coalition government and re-elected coalition politicians. It will be done by voting Mebyon Kernow- the Party for Cornwall and demonstrating to the powers that be that Cornish people have had enough of being viewed as dog end voters worth less than tax stability.

You may have heard the name of Mark Garnier before, he was/is the MP that wants to destroy the historic art studios in Newlyn and build new houses to be sold off.