Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Penzance Town Council and Jubilee Pool, let's dive in when we see the detail

Sometimes at council things change and sometimes these changes are significant, other times councillors reaffirm and clarify what already takes place. Last night at the full council meeting it was more the latter, in regard of Jubilee Pool.


Back in May on the 6th there was a special town council meeting to discuss a proposal put forward by Cornwall Council for the town to support them in their Coastal Communities Fund bid. In the meantime this bid has been successful, which is great news, other than that nothing has actually happened. No funds have been spent on the pool, there are various behind closed door meetings that the Mayor and Cornwall Councillors attend on progress, as all of them are tight lipped about it, I can only surmise there has been no further progress. Yet in spite of there being nothing new we found ourselves as a council discussing the matter last night and asked to commit to taking over the pool. The justification for this was a rumour that Cornwall Council officers had heard rumours that town councillors were having second thoughts, a rumour I wasn't actually aware of.

To backtrack in May the town council unanimously agreed 1. to put funds towards the pool bid and 2. well read for yourself:
Penzance Town Council committed to working with Cornwall Council and The
Friends of Jubilee Pool to form a partnership in respect of taking an active role
in the operation and management of Jubilee Pool.
Minutes 6th May
The motion before full council last night was as follows:

That Penzance Town Council agrees to formally become the lease holder and management body for the Jubilee Pool. 
I spoke against this as did the majority of other councillors. As I was quoted in the Cornishman  I would not rent a house without reading the tenancy agreement first. This is not because I have changed my mind, I still think the pool is a great asset to the town. as I said at the meeting I think the decision of the 6th was the right decision. But as other councillors explained Jubilee Pool is a multi million pound asset and  multi million pound liability. The former ought to be obvious the latter as it could well be prone to storm damage again, it will cost to keep it running etc. The reality is that the town council has a limited budget and as much as we'd like to have ultimate control over it the risks are very severe. This is why the terms of any lease an/or operating licence need to recognise our position.

I couldn't support the motion put to the town council as it was, we need a lot of reassurances not to mention an actual lease agreement to consider. Frankly agreeing to take over a pool that currently lies derelict is unwise to say the least. I did however support the amended motion. That I scribbled down as:

That Penzance Town Council agrees in principle to formally become the lease holder and management body for the Jubilee Pool. Subject to further discussions with Cornwall Council.

This carried with 9 votes in favour, 4 against and 1 abstention. There was also a guarantee that any lease agreements would be brought to the full council meeting to be approved.

There we have it folks a vote on a lease that has not been offered for a pool that has not been fixed. If you think that's pointless think yourself lucky I haven't blogged about the other riveting developments recently. Standing orders, media policies, terms of reference, mission statements and other great things to send aid those who have trouble sleeping, I'd probably nod off writing them. I can only hope with the various meetings that are going on behind closed doors that something actually of benefit to the town is going on because I have crick in my neck from all this navel gazing.

I must say however there was an item of note to the world outside of procedural anoraks last night. Cllr Axford proposed a motion that the town council write to local GPs asking them to support local hospitals and spell out for patients that the 2 options they are supposed to ask are not simply public/ private, RCHT/ Duchy. That RCHT also covers local hospitals such as West Cornwall and St Michael's in Hayle not just Treliske. That there is a risk without people using them the justification will be there to centralise and privatise these services and close them. Thankfully this passed unanimously.

     

Thursday, 11 December 2014

My response to the BBC's party election broadcast criteria

The BBC is at the moment running a consultation on Party Election Broadcasts for the 2015 general election. They are asking people to review the criteria they use. As many of you will have seen Dick Cole has challenged this (Mebyon Kernow set to demand fair share of tv election broadcasts). He has also encouraged people to submit their own responses and put pressure on the BBC to include Mebyon Kernow.
Mebyon Kernow should be treated fairly by the BBC

I also implore people to email, the BBC website page on the consultation is here and you just need to answer 2 questions:


Do the proposed Party Election Broadcast allocation criteria seem appropriate? Please explain why.


Do you have any other comments on the proposed Party Election Broadcast allocation criteria?


Then email your responses to this email address

Here's my submission:

Dear sir/ madam,

Below are my responses to the questions on the consultation document, any questions/ queries don't hesitate to get in contact. 

Do the proposed Party Election Broadcast allocation criteria seem appropriate? Please explain why.

The UK is a parliamentary democracy not a presidential model, we vote for constituency representatives not for a president. On ballot papers across the UK people will have the option of several candidates. Perhaps half of these candidates will benefit from seeing having television exposure to gain electoral support and galvanise their faithful. In turn half the candidates will be excluded from this process and placed at an unfair disadvantage. Television is a powerful medium in politics and there is an onus upon a public service broadcaster to wield this power in the public interest and respect diversity and difference. 

The number of candidates needed to pass the threshold for a PEB is overly centralised and does not take into account regional differences. Parties like mine (Mebyon Kernow- the Party for Cornwall) are discriminated against, however accidentally, by the need to field so many candidates outside of our area. Unlike Wales and Scotland where the thresholds are much lower there is no similar dispensation for Cornwall. The UK is a huge place what matters in politics in one place may well be meaningless in another. Here in Cornwall the debate about devolution rages in the local press and online as well as debates about our poor economic output and poor transport links. These are the matters Cornish politicians will address up to (and hopefully after) the general election. By not including Mebyon Kernow in the PEBs and making no allowance for Cornish difference the BBC will be stifling debate and not serving the interests of democracy in Cornwall. 

This system of standing nearly everywhere is skewed in favour of bigger parties. Despite the fact opinion polls and party membership figures show that the numbers supporting the established parties is at an all time low. Politics has moved on from the era of bi-partisan or tri-partisan dominance. People are looking at other parties to lend their support to. The model of only allowing parties that stand near enough everywhere is one that has not moved with the times. This PEB system effectively entrenches the existing parties and stifles the room for growth for alternative political ideologies and parties. I question whether the public interest is served by effectively limiting broadcast time to the old guard parties and providing little for those looking for something different in politics. There is a risk of inadvertently increasing voter turn out, by the BBC ignoring the diversity of opinion across the UK not currently catered for by existing political parties.  


Do you have any other comments on the proposed Party Election Broadcast allocation criteria?

Cornwall ought to be treated as a special case. For two major reasons, firstly the Cornish are now recognised as a national minority. Hitherto there has been little evidence that the BBC has factored the terms of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities into their broadcasting, there is most certainly a need for allowances for Party Election Broadcasting. Article 9 of the FCNM covers the need for allowance to be made of members of national minorities and should be relevant to PEBs and a special case for Cornwall. It is incumbent upon the BBC to understand and respect the national minority status of the Cornish people. The other national minority groups such as the Scottish and the Welsh are given their own broadcasts and the national majority the English are treated similarly. Although recognition of the Cornish is a relatively new development, it is nonetheless a development, if the other national groupings of this isle are singled out for preferential treatment, it would be a disgrace that Cornwall is ignored. 


Monday, 8 December 2014

Cornwall needs politicians to care and not just in election leaflets

I'm sure I'm not the only one that has a recycling bag filled with glossy pamphlets, leaflets and sales pitches from politicians. Looking through them, you'd think Cornwall has a bright future the fundamental issues are all addressed. The low wage economy, high house prices, second homes, the saddecline of traditional industries like fishing and agriculture and the lack of support of small businesses, over-development and the list goes on. MPs and prospective MPs know what needs to change, it's not a question of misunderstanding Cornwall, but yet nothing changes?

I could have written this blog and talked about this 5 years ago or 10 years ago or at any point during my lifetime and anywhere in Cornwall. The same leaflets were sent around then, slightly different pictures granted but the same issues over and over again. Like Groundhog day without the charm and humour of Bill Murray and the slight variations of the theme are far from humour and are to the detriment of Cornwall.

I just feel a sheer sense of frustration that nothing ever happens, that change is so hard to come by. It's almost like a conspiracy of ineptitude no matter who we send to Westminster, Tory, Lib Dem or Labour. Especially now when we have 6 Cornish MPs at 'the heart of Westminster' all in the ruling coalition. What exactly is the problem? Is it just a cynical attempt to garner votes? Do they not really care about these fundamental issues?

Please readers do me a favour if the suits from the big parties call, ask them what exactly they do when they go to Westminster? are they not trying or just don't care when they've got people's votes?

Come polling day think about what you would like to change and ask yourself will the person I elect do that, or even bother?