Saturday, 24 December 2011

Nadelik Lowen to all my readers

Hope you all have a nice Xmas, if you're a regular reader or this is your first time, thanks for reading my blog, it means a lot to me that so many people do read it.

I won't be blogging for a while, I am  taking a break over the festive period. I'll be back refreshed and better than ever in the new year. Nadelik Lowen ha Blydhen Nowydh Da, Merry Xmas and a Happy New Year. Kernow Bys Vyken !


Thursday, 22 December 2011

Government inaction, flawed localism and Wave Hub

Image from www.investincornwall.co.uk

Today it was announced that the Future of Wave Hub is Secured. Which is a story about the transfer of the management of Wave Hub (http://www.wavehub.co.uk/) to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, the ex RDA project now has a new owner. To be cynical, nothing has actually changed there are still no users of this exciting and innovative contraption, over a year after it was installed. Hopefully this will change and London can sort this one out because it is such a shame for the unique device and all the 42 million (plus infrastructure) spent on it. Best of luck to them. However, it must be noted some of the side stories evident in the story of Wave Hub, reflect on the policy and governance of the coalition government. Localism has been cast aside by the centralisation of Wave Hub and the governments ability to run services due to a focus on reform and rationalisation or in layman' terms cuts.

Localism of donkey work and the centralisation of control
Although there will be an office in Hayle administering the Wave Hub project the decision making has been centralised to London. This is deeply regrettable the project could easily be both administered and managed from Hayle by or in partnership with Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly LEP. It seems obvious to me that a small but dedicated team in Cornwall could do a better job than bureaucrats in London with many different tasks and priorities to juggle.Besides which what is the point of the LEP if it does not take the lead with economic development schemes like Wave Hub? It is hard to argue how an office in Whitehall would have a greater working relationship with the LEP and Cornwall Council than a Cornish based operation. This situation is not surprising localism both from London and Truro has never been about decision making, these capitals jealously hold on to these powers but don't mind palming off the day to day running. This is bad for all of Cornwall it keeps central offices making the decisions, with the well paid workers in the capitals whilst the provinces are left with the donkey work and making the center's solutions work.

Cornwall's lost economic year
The transference of Wave Hub in January ties in with the lack of action over our LEP. Both have stood idle for a year, this government and Cornwall Council so intent on cutting the deficit and rearranging everything but is neglecting to run the day to day business of government. Our LEP has been lifeless for nearly a year and even now are only half way through a public consultation process. The same is true of the government, they ought to have been pushing the Wave Hub getting back some of that money invested, the same is true of other ex RDA schemes. 18 months of coalition government and yet Helston Business Park lies still empty. Who knows how many more projects the government has left to the side? If the government wants growth then it needs to look to work publically owned assets better. Now is the time to act for the sake of the Cornish economy, doing it dreckly is not an option.


Renewable energy and the folly of inaction
Schematic of the Wave Hub, from www.wavehub.co.uk
There is much talk about the vaunted green pennisula idea for Cornwall, that we can lead the way in renewable energy, at the forefront of development and testing of new technologies. It is of no doubt an admirable idea, we have large amounts of latent untapped energy in and around Cornwall whether it be wind, tidal, geo-thermal or solar. This could make Cornwall lots of money, my fear for the development of this idea is this inaction of Wave Hub and economic development generally is leaving us behind. There's no point aspiring to being innovative and cutting edge if we are following others. There's no point developing new technology in Cornwall if no one will want to buy it. We need to either ditch this idea of a green peninsula (a mistake in my opinion) or push ahead with it and use the investment and expertise of the LEP and Cornwall Council to make this idea a reality. There have indeed been great advances in this regard the UK's first solar farm at Wheal Jane and the work toward Geo-Thermal near Redruth and the Eden Project but more is needed. What we are facing is a situation whereby many parts of the world are focussing upon developing the renewable sector. We can not afford to fall behind, we need to get Wave Hub working, we need to see some benefit from that £42 million pound investment of taxpayer's money. Most importantly we need to prove to the world that we can pioneer such technologies and succeed, leaving Wave Hub rusting on the sea bed is damaging to hopes of a pioneering green Cornish peninsula. To be a success innovating in this sector we need to make Wave Hub succeed. We need to show the world that investing in Cornwall will be a success, that projects here are successfully completed.


Thursday, 15 December 2011

The case for a Cornish Assembly

The tenth anniversary of the Cornish Assembly petition has just passed. For a little bit of background the Labour government had announced that any area demonstrating 10% support (of the adult population) for devolution could have it. Always keen to rise to a challenge, Mebyon Kernow duly accepted, I don't imagine for a minute that Blair really thought anywhere would be able to achieve this. But members of MK did getting 50,000 signatures for the petition pictured on the right (taken from Dick Cole's blog) and they were duly delivered to 10 Downing Street on the 12th of December 2001. The government refused to entertain the idea of Cornish devolution and unfortunately the hard work of campaigners came to nothing. Marking the anniversary, three Plaid Cymru MPs, Jonathan Edwards, Elfyn Llwyd and Hywel Williams created Early Day Motion 2532, highlighting the desire for a Cornish Assembly. Any MP that agrees with the EDM can sign it, so far Andrew George, Dan Rogerson and John McDonnell .....


So I just wanted to lay out some of my ideas on why I think a Cornish Assembly would be a good idea. It must be said at the outset that devolution is an ambitious idea it would present the biggest change in Cornish politics for generations. It would be a chance to reform local government in Cornwall and right the wrongs of the centralisation of the unitary authority. It would give the people of Cornwall the chance to have a greater say in our own affairs for us to become masters of our own destiny, to decide for ourselves what changes we want to make and to tailor policy in the best interests of Cornwall rather than what Westminster and Whitehall decides. It's not an idea that suits the unambitious and it's not an idea for people who like the status quo. It does mean change and it does mean the opportunity to build a better more prosperous and self confident nation for ourselves.
Picture from the Cornish Constitutional Convention website

A Cornish Assembly would mean that legislation was written in Cornwall, that politicians elected here would decide what happens here. In terms of what would be devolved, I believe like all of Mebyon Kernow that the maximum amount of decisions should be decided here in Cornwall. That we should set our own agendas for transport, health, education, environment, policing and the economy. Say for example if we wanted to upgrade Cornish roads or Cornish trains or buses then we could decide which ones that we would spend our own road tax on. That if the people of Cornwall decide that we should build more hospitals or keep present ones open we should be able to use Cornish taxes to do this. If we decide to make prescriptions free or abolish parking charges at our hospitals we should decide. That if we believe that high tuition fees are unfair, we should decide to make them free or charge less whatever best suits Cornish students, the same goes for EMA. On the environment, if we want to invest in footpaths and woods or create more nature reserves the people accountable to the Cornish electorate should decide. On the economy, if Cornwall's assembly members want to invest our taxes in our fishing fleet or our farms or our factories, if they want to provide incentives to attract companies here, we should decide here in Cornwall. On policing if Cornwall wants to invest in policeman on the beat rather than CCTV it should be our decision, if we want a more decentralised police force to reflect our geography let us decide. At the moment we are at the whim of a government hundreds of miles away catering for a big and diverse state, not all the decisions they make are good for Cornwall. People in Cornwall know better what is good for us than a clerk in Whitehall or a government made up of MPs from the far corners of Britain and a cabinet without members anywhere near Cornwall. Devolution is about choice it's about people making the decisions here, being more accountable to the electorate and living in the community that their decisions affect.

Now all of these decision making powers would need devolution of government departments to make it work. At the moment the amount of central government offices in Cornwall is pitifully low (after decades of centralisation) and those that are remaining are too small to implement a potential Cornish Assembly's policies. This would mean that offices would have to be set up and staff to fill them. This means rather than people in Plymouth, Exeter, Bristol and London, dealing with Cornwall they would be working here. Not only would this mean that they had the interests of Cornwall in their work but also it means jobs in Cornwall. At present there are many well paid civil servants in distant places administering Cornish public services. Devolving these tasks to Cornwall would mean a massive boost for the Cornish economy. It would also mean that Cornwall's youth would not have to leave to find decent fulfilling careers. They could stay here and do the jobs that are now done in distant cities. There's no reason why Cornish taxes should be spent on offices and staff so far away when our economy needs to keep money here rather than exporting it along with our talented and ambitious workforce.

These are some of the reasons I believe that an Assembly would be a good idea for Cornwall. We need to change politics in Cornwall for the better, the status quo is getting us nowhere fast, we need to make more of our own decisions, we need better jobs here in Cornwall and I believe a Cornish Assembly has the potential to do all of these things. Any questions or comments feel free to comment below or email me robscornishblog@gmail.com

The tenth anniversary of the petition has featured heavily in the Cornish press:
from Atlantic FM What happened to Cornish devolution?
from the BBC Mebyon Kernow challenge coalition on a Cornish Assembly
from the Falmouth Packet Demands for Cornish Assembly are renewed
and the Western Morning News MK issues Assembly challenge 10 years on.
So far only two media outlets outside of Cornwall (that I have noticed) have covered the story
Politics Home Plaid Cymru show support for Cornish Assembly
and the Welsh language magazine Golwg 360 Cynulliad Cernywaidd – Plaid Cymru yn cefnogi’r galwadau

Sunday, 11 December 2011

debunking the myth of the Lib Dems commitment to fair funding for Cornwall

At the Mebyon Kernow conference, Dick Cole said in his speech

"Members of the London based political parties may time and time again stampede onto the political ground that we have served with honour, but they have so often failed to remain true to those causes they have  espoused for short term political advantage. They've so blatantly co-opted the policies of MK,they've said one thing to people in Cornwall totally different thing to people in London. they've given their support to local campaigns and then they've blatantly backtracked when told to by their Westminster masters."
See that video here on the Cornish Republican blog,

There are a great number of examples to illustrate this point, one came this week with the announcement by the Coalition government that public sector workers pay will reflect local pay levels. Yet again the Liberal Democrats co opted the MK policy of securing fair funding for Cornwall at the last election, yet are in a government that believes Cornish policeman, Cornish firefighters, Cornish nurses, Cornish teachers to name but a few should be paid less than their up-country counterparts. So because we are a low pay part of the UK our civil servants will be paid less than elsewhere. This will only further undermine the Cornish economy and will take millions of pounds of Cornish taxpayers money out of our economy. 

It also presents another problem as Stuart Roden from Unison rightly points out:

"We could see teachers, nurses and local authority workers head for the Home Counties. Cornwall in particular has for a long time seen young people leave the region for better paid jobs. We could see another exodus."

It absolutely beggars belief that the Lib Dems can stand for election promising to provide Cornwall with fair funding, or at least to fight for it, then the only thing their government does is introduces more unfair funding. To right this wrong these MPs should fight to reinstate the equal worth of Cornish workers to English, Welsh and Scottish workers. To save the one parity of funding we currently have.

For an extended litany of broken promises see the Cornish Lib Dem's Programme for Cornwall

Penzance parking....

I live very near to the middle of Penzance and parking is a great problem on my street and lot's of the residential streets nearby. Many people that shop or work in town, park in these streets rather than pay to park in Cornwall Council car parks. I don't really blame these people, parking is very expensive and as we all know there is a recession at the moment, people have less money due to stagnation of wages and rising costs or if they own a business a reduction in trades and profits. Still parking is a major issue here as I blogged a while ago about the Penzance Liberal Democrats campaign to get action for the town at Cornwall Council. See that post here.

For a number of reasons parking has been on my mind, firstly the problem seems to be getting worse and personally getting parked legally means hundreds of yards away from my house and unfortunately outside somebody else's house on another street. Secondly, the traffic wardens are doing great business in Penzance, yesterday afternoon (saturday) at about four in the afternoon the warden came around and ticketed 6 cars that I saw on this street and who knows how many more on other streets. The third thing that has made me think about it more, is the emptiness of some of the car parks in town. In the evening the two car parks at the top of Causewayhead are almost always empty, which implies that the pricing system is out of sync with demand. Also twice in the last fortnight I have been past the St Anthony long stay car park down near the Jubilee Pool. There's no doubt that this car park will be better used in the summer but this is the kind of car park that workers should be encouraged to use. Both for the benefit of Penzance's residents and for the fact that these resources need using not going to waste. Instead here's how the car park looked on the first of December just before midday:

Then the next day at about twenty past nine:
It is clear that the parking policy of Cornwall Council is failing, there are obviously not enough incentives for people to park in car parks, in other words the "carrot" is not enough. Also the "stick" as harsh as it may be (£35 for parking on a single yellow line) is not working it may be making money for the coffers in Truro but it's no good for Penzance, for residents, for businesses or indeed the image of the council. Besides which the council should look to getting people to park in car parks and raise revenue in a less shabby way.

So I got to thinking, what is being done about this? What have Penzance councillors been doing to solve this crisis in our town? How have they been keeping up their campaign that featured so heavily in local newspapers? Unfortunately for the people of Penzance, not a lot at all. Cornwall Council has a Parking Policy Advisory Panel that discusses parking policy (both enforcement and car parks) and informs the Council's cabinet on recommendations. This panel gives councillors opportunity to raise issues in their areas and influence parking policy. So this is the ideal forum for Penzance's councillors to stick up for Penzance and tell Cornwall Council what we need and want. So I was a little disappointed that checking the attendance statistics that none of Penzance's Lib Dem councillors (Mario Fonk, Ruth Lewarne and Tamsin Williams) have attended a single meeting of the panel since their public campaign see here.

Well done to them for getting leaflets printed, getting in the newspapers and highlighting the issue of Penzance's parking but any Tom, Dick or Harry could've done that, what Penzance needs from it's councillors   and what Tom, Dick and Harry can't do is go up to Truro and influence council policy and fight our corner. Honestly Penzance deserves better.

Monday, 5 December 2011

Reforming planning and how to bring power back to communities in Cornwall


I believe that Cornwall Council is not a proper body to adjudge all the planning cases around the Duchy. Below I have noted some of my criticisms of the planning process, I think some of my ideas would alleviate these concerns and have the added benefit of bringing 'localism' (aka local rule) to Cornish communities. I don't think for a moment I have all the answers so please add thoughts to the comments section with any criticisms or anything I have missed.

I believe the fundamental problem facing planning in Cornwall is the monopoly of the Unitary Authority in this process. This in a number of cases presents fundamental conflicts of interest, take for example the supermarket application in Wadebridge (Morrison's). Part of the application was buying a building owned by the authority. In Truro the Eastern District scheme counts the council as one of it's partners in the development. In Penzance the 'Option A' Route Partnership bid also had the council as a partner. So there is here a fundamental conflict of interest, whether the council's involvement influenced the committee is in every case debatable, but it remains, how can an authority be independent from bids in which they have a fundamental vested interest? One of the great losses with the 'One Cornwall' project was the loss of the six district councils and what the Americans call 'Checks and Balances', that is to say that the power of one authority is balanced out by the power of other authorities. This needs to be addressed.

The other great problem is that of the centralisation of decision making, here in Penwith we no longer have a council making decisions for this area, like everywhere in Kernow, everything is decided in Truro. The same is true of the now slimmed down strategic planning committee, made up of 21 councillors from all parties on the council, these councillors have to decide planning applications throughout Cornwall. The three sub area committees are made up of 15 councillors again cross party. Due to their number, there is a lack of geographical distribution, here in Penzance for example was have 1 councillor on both strategic planning and the west sub area. So when the harbour rigmarole went on, or the recent Sainsbury's/ heliport fiasco we had one voice. In effect people from elsewhere not answerable to the people affected made the decisions. (This is true of every area of Cornwall Penzance is just an example).

I think therefore there are two problems with Cornwall's planning system, my suggestion is that the planning committees are reformed, that the council is partly stripped of it's monopoly and local members take decisions affecting people in their towns, villages and communities. This can only come from the existing parish and town councils. I would suggest that planning should be in conjunction with local councils, I know there is at the moment consultation but there needs to be involvement at the decision making process. As a rough suggestion, half of planning committees representation should come from the town and parish councils in the area and neighbouring areas and half from the existing Cornwall councillors. It should be up to the local councils to nominate representatives from across the political parties/ independents on the respective councils. This devolution of the planning process would lead to better decision making, not only by making decisions be made by the people elected in those communities but also by opening up the planning process to other authorities. These other councils would add another dimension of thinking and would hopefully put the best interests of communities affected back to the heart of planning.

Cornwall Council claims to want devolution within Cornwall (localism), hitherto this has meant palming off services like CCTV and public toilets, but this process should not just be about administering facilities but decision making too. Town and parish councils are there to make decisions let them do this in conjunction with the council. Let's open up the decision making process, two brains are better than one, surely the same is true of councils.

On another note why not devolve parking both car parks and enforcement and the revenue it brings down to the local councils and let people elected in that area decide how to run the service and what to charge for it.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Let's kick Devonwall into touch


There has been a lot of comment and condemnation recently about the Government's boundary 'reforms'. There are far too many articles and examples to be all listed here, but it's fair to say that people from a variety of backgrounds from throughout the UK are unhappy at the proposals. The proposals stand to disregard natural and administrative boundaries and leave constituents being represented alongside people who they share very little with. My perspective is that these changes are bad for so many reasons, prime among them is the fact that our Cornish border stands to be disregarded. I noticed today on the e petition site that there is a petition titled Protecting local community ties which argues that these changes should not simply be a question of numbers but that community identity and ties should take precedence. I agree with this wholeheartedly and I have no desire for English constituencies to be butchered any more than I do Cornish constituencies, please sign and share. Hopefully we can get at least the seven thousand plus people that have joined the Stop the Cornish Border Changes alone, to sign up and more.

Sign that petition here.
While you're there you might like to sign the petition to recognise Cornish nationality here. And one concerning the establishment of a Cornish assembly here.

is Kevin Lavery in a world of his own?

You may remember I blogged about a month ago about Kevin Lavery Cornwall Council CEO and how he was hellbent on taking the job of returning officer for the up coming Devon and Cornwall Police commissioner elections. Well now it emerges that -against the wishes of a vote in full council- he did indeed take an interview for the position in London. A real snub to Cornwall Councillors, but also a snub to the hard pressed Cornish taxpayer because -despite taking the job in a supposedly personal capacity- he claimed travel expenses from the council. The West Briton gained details that he claimed the 40 mile trip to Newquay airport as expenses and also £25.50 in taxi fares. They however did not receive a reply whether he had also claimed the cost of the flight and accommodation for the trip. This is deeply disturbing in this time of austerity and deep public sector cuts, the idea that 'we are all in this together' has yet again been debunked with the rich and the powerful growing more rich and powerful at the expense of honest decent council employees and rate payers.

I still have one question was he clocked out at this time of a personal jaunt to London?
or were we paying his astronomical salary at the time?
Its still remains to be seen whether he will take this post on his own time or whether the council will be reimbursed for his wages whilst he oversees the election.

Link to the story on the This is Cornwall site.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

My experience on the Politics Show and why Stephen Gilbert needs to read government press releases.

During the last week I was interviewed by BBC Spotlight about my own experiences trying to get on the 'housing ladder'. Parts of my interview were repeated on the Politics Show South West on sunday morning. I was talking about my own sense of frustration, I am one of the many people in Cornwall who want to simply live in a decent house they can afford. For the record (and if you're my landlord reading this) I have no problem with renting in itself. We pay a fair rent for our property and we are lucky to live somewhere that we can afford to pay the rent every month. The trade off however is that we live in a house without such things as central heating, double glazing, a garden, an allocated parking space and there is a limit to what we can do with the property. So with council houses being rarer than rocking horse dung buying is our only option to finding a suitable property.

The link for the show is here the section on affordable housing is about 34 minutes in, but will only be available until this sunday, the fourth of December. The section in which I feature focuses upon the government's new plan to introduce 95% mortgages. So to help first time buyers only a 5% deposit will be needed, a great step forward can't dispute that, but it won't help ordinary Cornish families. As I said on the Politics Show of my family's situation:

"We lack the substantial money needed for a mortgage and to save for a deposit, we don't have money at the end of the month to put forward for a deposit. I don't think we'd meet any criteria for buying a house that was much over a hundred thousand pounds, which is pretty much, every house in Cornwall."  

Even if somehow we found a deposit (and were eligible for the new government scheme), generic mortgage calculators indicate that an income of thirty thousand pounds per year is required to borrow a maximum of one hundred and twenty thousand pounds. With the average wage in Cornwall being about seventeen thousand pounds per year it is easy to see where my own situation and no doubt thousands of other Cornish people's situations are being failed by this new government scheme. The presenter Martyn Oates put this dilemma to the Liberal Democrat MP Stephen Gilbert:


"we've also heard from someone in Penzance desperate to buy his own home, he says because of the high average house prices in Cornwall even with the help of a mortgage indemnity scheme he still wouldn't be able to afford a house in Cornwall."


To which Stephen Gilbert replied: "There's no doubt that for many people it's still going to be challenging." He rightly said that the indemnity scheme will help people and goes on to say that the scheme "is going to help about ninety thousand people all across the country." (presumably meaning the UK and not Kernow). Puzzling enough the government's department in charge of the scheme: the Homes and Communities Agency website states and I quote "Helping nearly 10,500 struggling first time buyers own their own home." I am puzzled about this gigantic discrepancy between the government's figures and Gilbert's proud boasts. Ten thousand throughout the UK, that won't make a dent here or anywhere else. It's also worth noting that this new 'First Buy' scheme only applies to new builds, see my earlier criticisms of other schemes based on this model.

The other part of the government's housing policy is the resurrection of Thatcher's right to buy scheme. Offering council tenants their own properties at 50% of the value. As I blogged before this makes no economic sense, sell a house for half it's worth and you have to sell at least two to replace with one. Right to buy only truly works if a massive building plan is in place to replace stock privatised to tenants. According to Gilbert this is what the government is planning:

"The governments really clear on this Martyn where there is a home sold under right to buy it will be replaced on a one for one basis.... If we are selling one council house we are replacing it with another council house."


I would dispute the fact that the government is being clear on this subject I have seen no such promises as of yet. I sincerely doubt that with this spendthrift (except Trident) government that they will be investing the millions needed to replace housing stock. I can not find any link that promises the government is even replacing sold housing stock let alone doing it like for like. Even if replacing like for like -comes from anything but Gilbert's over active imagination- it's not enough, there aren't enough council houses now, plus the population is growing the government should be building more stock not keeping current inadequate levels.


Gilbert's final boast was:

"This will be the first government in thirty three years, to leave office in four years time with more social homes than we entered office with."


Can someone please remind me to fact check this before the next general election?

Friday, 25 November 2011

LEP Cornwall needs to learn from the Black Country


I have posted a few times recently about the Cornish and Scillonian LEP and it's lack of obvious work. In the last couple of weeks they have announced public consultations (again please do go to them and have your say see here for details) and a website http://www.cornwallandislesofscillylep.com/. I did get to thinking am I being a bit unfair on the LEP perhaps? for whatever reason maybe it does take over a year to set up a website and start the public consultation process, perhaps I am being a little impatient. So whilst waiting for the good news of Mebyon Kernow's electoral success in Wendron last night, I had a look on the internet to see what other LEP's were doing. To be fair, a number have done very little and Cornwall and Scilly is certainly not alone in announcing a board without a clear idea of what they are to do. However, I did stumble across the Black Country LEP website and I was shocked to see the level of work they have done. It would take a long time to list everything they have on the site but it's bright it's colourful it is the first result on google, they have an optimistic 5 year strategy, they have contact details. There are lists of development opportunities, there are lists of current investments, there is a message from the chairman, it's a really positive message on the whole website. See for yourself here.

I don't know if looking through the website all the opportunities are to everyone's taste, big Tesco's extensions, housing estates going up everywhere, new roads being built etc. But the point remains in the year that has passed work could have been done here in Cornwall that has been done there in the Black Country. Following on from Stephen Richardson's blog about Mebyon Kernow offering positive ideas, I would like to suggest a few things. Firstly it must be said that I am still none the wiser as to what the LEP can do, what resources they have extra. So two of my ideas are really quite simple and could be relatively cheap to implement, my third idea will take more work but still worth considering.

1. Wavehub there are still no companies trialling this innovative technology, the LEP should take it upon itself to get customers. They need to publicise the facility and it's potential more and to try to make the Wavehub more attractive whether that be through tax relief or just by answering interested parties concerns. Things like attending trade shows speaking to foreign governments. Generally getting the message out there that this world class piece of equipment is there and ready to use.

2. The internet, it occurs to me that Superfast Broadband is an opportunity for Cornish companies to compete with anywhere on this globe. As Spider Eye productions in St Just proves, location is no obstacle to working internationally (Spider Eye makes the kid's program Jungle Junction for the Disney Channel and my children love it). How can the LEP attract companies too Cornwall with this promise of world class speed internet. Also how can they help existing Cornish businesses reach bigger audiences? One simple way in my opinion would be to offer free or subsidised workshops open to all businesses to teach them how to make a bigger impact online. For example things like designing websites and how to get noticed on search engines (SEO), using social media better, efficient ways of sending big files and so on.

3.This is a much bigger one, but I would like to see the LEP thinking about how Cornish goods could be sent to wider markets. How can we take advantage of our geography? we are a peninsula with a long and winding road up to England, so rather than relying on the A30, A38 and M5, can't we look to using our ports and airport to get goods direct to the continent and the wider world. Kickstarting Cornish exports overseas would be a great way to boost our economy and to work with the great exports we already have. Lets use our ports and airports to attract business here, to more efficently reach bigger markets, to better connect us with the world.

So let's learn from the Black Country LEP, lets get out there and tell the big wide world that we have an LEP that we want to do business that we want economic growth, we want a better economy and we want better wages in Cornwall. We are starting from behind, the regions of England have got a headstart on us, lets not fall behind, get the website sorted now. Get some ideas going and build on Cornwall's considerable, assets and expertise to make this thing work and get a better economy for the people of Cornwall. There's great opportunities with the LEP and I hope this is recognised and we get the LEP off the back burner and on to the boil ASAP.

A great end to November for Mebyon Kernow & Loveday Jenkin

Mebyon Kernow councillor Dr. Loveday Jenkin

Barely a month ago I wrote about the defection of Derek Collin's from the Lib Dems to MK and how this was a great end to October for Mebyon Kernow. I was optimistically writing that this should set the tone for November and I hoped we could look forward to a successful month both at the party conference and in the Wendron by election. After a lot of hard work and dedication by our growing number of party activists it was successful and I am holding firmly on to my optimistic frame of mind from now on.

Firstly congratulations to Cornwall Councillor Loveday Jenkin she fought a really hard campaign. Loveday successfully built upon her hard work and long service both on Crowan parish council and -the now lamentably defunct- Kerrier district council to win the election. The dedication shown by Loveday and the reputation she built over the years as a hard working councillor was a great part of her electoral victory. It was great to see the party really coming together to help her in her campaign and I for one enjoyed my time with others knocking doors in Praze-an-Beeble,Wendron itself, Trenear, Crowntown, Nancegollan, Porkellis, Trewannack and lots of other places. We all worked really hard and no farm lane, muddy track, or isolated home was out of bounds for the campaign team we went the extra mile and in some cases extra miles. This is the attitude of Mebyon Kernow no amount of work is too much for the people of Cornwall.

One of the great things I learnt campaigning with Loveday was that she is an extremely positive person, nowhere in her leaflets did it decry the other parties, we did not focus on dumbing down the other candidates. We certainly could have picked holes in other parties and their record in governance, we could have told everyone that Loveday was the only candidate that lived in the Wendron division. We could have printed bar graphs or pie charts showing how we were the only alternative, it's us or them etc. But we did not do these things, we are a principled party we know what we believe in, we know what we want to fight for. We don't want people to vote for us to keep another party out or because they think we're less worse than another party, we want people to vote MK because they like our policies and they like our candidates, because they want Mebyon Kernow representation. Besides which we have far too many policies of our own to waste time concentrating on the opposition.



People on the doorstep responded really well to Loveday Jenkin as a candidate and to Mebyon Kernow as a party. We offer clear policy alternatives, I think our record on local councils and on Cornwall Council itself speaks for itself and people recognise this. I am very proud to be a member of positive forward looking party, there is a great future in MK, it will take lots of hard work and dedication but it will be worth it. As councillor Dick Cole said at the party conference: "No one joins MK for an easy life...we aren't guaranteed influence, we aren't guaranteed any prestige, we join MK, people like you and I because we are passionate about Cornwall and we're passionate about doing what's right for Cornwall." (see that speech on youtube here.) So if anyone fancies the challenge of hard work and dedication, email myself robscornishblog@gmail.com and I will get you sent out an application form to join the party, or if you want more information let me know. Thanks for reading and I am off to optimistically look forward to December and the New Year...

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Cornwall and the government must do more for Scilly


I lament the fact that the ancient links between Penzance and Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly look in jeopardy. There is still little resolution and a firm plan on the sea link, I welcome the fact that people in Penwith are getting together to try to rescue the mess caused by the Conservative-Independent Cornwall Council (the Penzance Seafront Forum). The helicopter link too looks in doubt short sightedly Cornwall Council granted Sainsburys planning permission to turn the existing heliport site into yet another out of town supermarket for Penzance, despite the fact the heliport had not found a new home. Once again big business has taken precedence and blinded the council to the bigger picture. Whoever we blame for the mess we are in, the very real business, tourism and community links between Penzance and Scilly are in grave doubt, we need to take action.

The undynamic Cornwall Council does not look to be doing anything about these links, they seem more than content to attract the helicopter to boost the revenues of their loss making airport at Newquay. Whether flying twice as far and using twice as much fuel is a long term solution to the helicopter remains to be seen, I am very sceptical as many in Penzance are. Cornwall Council's shameful lack of commitment to the Isles of Scilly is more than made up for by their own council which is thinking differently about how to secure links and how to secure a better deals for the people of the islands. They have announced today that they are looking into having link re-designated as a "Public Service Obligation Route", this would mean that the government would take responsibility for the links between the Isles of Scilly and the mainland. Yesterday I blogged about how Cornwall only need look to Scotland for how devolved administration and thinking differently to the Westminster village could make politics work better for the people. Scillonians have realised this truth too, they have investigated sealinks between island communities and the mainland. To their shock and horror, the Scottish do this very well. The example they have given is the Isle of Islay, a similar distance from the mainland as Scilly but whereas the Scillonian III costs £95 return journey, they pay £12 return. They pay £70 to fly to Glasgow and back, currently it is £175 to fly to Newquay and back to St Mary's.

As I said yesterday if it is good enough for Scotland it should be good enough for Cornwall and Scilly. The government needs to step in and subsidise the essential links between Penzance and Scilly. I hope that Cornwall Council does something good for us for once and lobbies government to make this happen and I hope they are joined by our coalition MPs. The link to the Scilly Today story is here. I wish Scillonians and Islanders alike the best of luck with this, I hope for the good of my town and the islands that Westminster sees sense.

a sincere apology to my readers about my housing blog

I must apologise to you all, on monday I blogged on how the new government policy and existing governments policies for housing were failing the people of Cornwall. In it I had written in response to the BBC article titled Get Britain Building, I had wrongly assumed that this was based upon fact and research in this assumption I was wrong, it is little more than a copied and pasted government press release. At that point the actual firm details of the coalitions plans had not been released and I feel I have let myself and my readers down by taking the government and the BBC at their word. I should have waited for the actual figures to be released and analysed and criticised them properly. Research by Channel Four news -and no doubt others-0re01veals that affordable housing is actually down a staggering 97% on work done by the Labour government. Here is the Channel four article the astonishing numbers the housing strategy failed to mention the pdf file of the actual figures proposed is here from the Homes and Communities website. Unfortunately due to the centralisation/ regionalisation of administration the figure available are from the South and South West of England, I can not begin to imagine how Cornish figures could be extracted from this 'region'. It can only be concluded that the affordable housing situation is set to get even worse and with the stagnating economy, stagnating wage levels and price increases due to inflation and the weak pound this blow to affordable housing could not come at a worse time.

I do not feel I have to apologise to Mebyon Kernow, I believe my criticisms of existing government policy whether it be Labour or the Tory-Lib Dem alliance are still valid. MK's position on selling off social housing is now even more prescient, selling them off without replacing like for like will beset our children with the same problems this generation faces. A new injection of cash into building social housing will as a response to the government's short sightedness become more of a priority for MK and for me (in terms of what I write about and personally without such action my family will stay in expensive and unsuitable rental accommodation). MK's other criticism that looking to developers to solve the housing crisis is also still valid, these companies exist to make money. They are not interested in selling houses at a discounted rate if they can make more profit they will. I am at a loss to imagine how Labour's disastrous housing policies could be bested in failing the Cornish people but the coalition somehow have managed it. We need radical action on housing and Cornish solutions to our very unique problems, we owe it to the young people of Cornwall, we owe it to our economy and we owe it to the well being of Cornish society. Again I apologise if I misled my readers into thinking the government was doing something about affordable housing they are not. The cabinet of millionaires have used the rhetoric of affordable housing to mask the fact that the banks and big developers have been handed a gift with this new policy and the people have been sold short again.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

There is an alternative & Mebyon Kernow is fighting for it

Listening to the speeches of the Plaid Cymru MP Jonathan Edwards and SNP MSP Kenneth Gibson at the MK conference it was clear to me there is a better way of doing politics and only Mebyon Kernow can offer it to the people of Cornwall. Plaid and the SNP have forged a path not just of devolution but also better governance and  fairer deal for the people of Wales and Scotland this is an example that MK must follow. There are three messages I heard from the two speakers and I heard them clearly and we must fight, strive and shout to offer to Cornwall the better way of politics other Celtic nationalist parties offer. In my opinion the three messages were: 1. there is an alternative we can dare to dream, the public sector can do more to help people. 2. devolution works it provides better governance and better decisions for the people. 3. The SNP and Plaid are proud of their achievements and are proud to be members of parties fighting for a better deal for their respective nations. Here's how I think those three things apply to Cornwall and the only party to put Cornwall and Cornish interests first.



We have had decades of being bombarded with Thatchers's recycled words 'there is no alternative' from the three London-centric parties. South Crofty has to close 'there is no alternative'. We have to accept Europe's fishing quotas 'there is no alternative'. Cornwall has to be part of the South West region 'there is no alternative'. Devolution is not possible for Cornwall 'there is no alternative'. We have to accept the cuts 'there is no alternative'. We can't upgrade the A30 'there is no alternative'. We have to raise tuition fees 'there is no alternative'. We have to accept Devonwall 'there is no alternative'. It really makes me sick, these cynical, patronising and unambitious words, there is always an alternative, without alternatives we would not have democratic politics there would be no point. There is a very real alternative and we must follow the path forged by Wales and Scotland and free ourselves from the unambition and stagnation of London-centric parties and London-centric rule. Whether it's tuition fees, free prescription charges, free eye tests, building council houses, more police on the streets or free parking at NHS hospitals there is an alternative and it is achievable. We need only look to our better off compatriots in Wales and Scotland. The SNP's Kenneth Gibson remarked in his speech 'that the genie was out of the bottle' regarding the Scottish independence referendum, but for me the genie has also come out of the bottle regarding better politics. We need to show to the people of Cornwall that alternatives are only restricted by ambitions, Mebyon Kernow is an ambitious party and we need to show the people that there are very real and very credible alternatives to Westminster's parties and their tired old unambitious refrain 'there is no alternative'.



It is my committed belief that devolution would be good for Cornwall. As the decades have rolled on we have had more and more centralisation, we have been stripped of decision making to London to Bristol to Exeter and to Plymouth. With this ability to make decisions where they matter lost, jobs have gone with it. Rather than people in Cornwall deciding how many police we need and where, it is done in Exeter. Rather than people in Cornwall deciding when and where to upgrade the A30 it is done in London and my friends it is the same story for health, taxation, heritage, the environment, agriculture and fishing. Here alone there are thousands of jobs and millions of pounds lost to the Cornish economy, our taxes funding jobs elsewhere. Devolution in Wales and Scotland has brought both countries thousands of jobs just due to the devolution of administration, the impact in jobs alone devolution would bring the Cornish economy would be one of the most significant boosts in over a decade. Before we even speculate how Cornish decision making would provide better solutions to our unique problems and nurture our unique Cornish talents and expertise.

There is an argument that 'there is no alternative' Cornwall is too small for devolution, this is frankly a very poor argument, Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man have smaller populations than we do and a great amount of independence. Malta, Luxembourg, Lichtenstein are all smaller than us but yet they cope as full members of the European Union. If these small places can cope with great degrees of independence, I am sure that Cornwall could easily cope with devolution within the UK. If these places can have foreign policies, defence policies and membership of the United Nations I am sure Cornwall could run a health service, roads, policing and have a greater say in running our economy. Time and again the Cornish people have proved their intelligence, ingenuity and adaptability with feats far greater than administration and decision making. There is an argument that big is better but this runs contrary to the lessons of history, the number of states created since World War Two is phenomenal as people have realised that making decisions nearer to home is better, that controlling your own destiny is the only path to a better future. Even the states that have remained large tend to be federal where local decisions are made locally, if it's good enough for Wales and Scotland and most of the world it is good enough for us.

The other 'there is no alternative' argument is that the Cornish economy is too weak that we could not survive as a devolved authority. Frankly this is a strong argument there is sense in it, but and it's a big but having a weak economy is no reason to sit on our laurels and be content with the status quo. I contend that the weakness of the Cornish economy is an argument for devolution, it shows we need to start thinking differently we need to do things differently, London's centralised rule has led us into this mess, an abject refusal to bale out our tin mines, an abject refusal to invest in transport infrastructure, an abject refusal to gain a better deal for Cornish fishermen in Europe, an abject refusal to get a better deal for Cornish farmers in Europe and a complete insistence on centralising Cornish jobs out of Cornwall have been major factors in our now poor economy. Westminster has had it's chance with the Cornish economy and they have failed us at every hurdle, they have ignored us and it is only due to the intervention of the European Union and European money that we are not in a worse off state. Our decision making has been gradually centralised out of Cornwall and with it our ability to have a greater say in our affairs which is why we are a neglected little relatively poor corner of this isle.

The other pro status quo argument is that Cornwall Council makes a hash of running Cornwall at the moment, this is true. Because it is far too big to be a local authority and far too small to be an assembly. This is why localism, (that is the devolution of responsibility to Cornwall Council proposed by the government) will not work without a Cornish assembly. We need two tiers of government in Cornwall, we need a small authorities to run local affairs, everything being run from Truro proves the travesty that is centralisation. If something needs deciding in Penzance (or Helston or Bodmin or Callington or St Dennis or Camelford or Bude) it ought to be decided in that community by people living there not looking through bland pieces of paper deciding from afar. Cornwall Council is not fit for purpose as it is, giving it more powers will make this problem worse, it can not cope with what it has to do at the moment. Devolution to Cornwall of a proper legislative assembly upon the lines of the Scottish parliament would provide a great opportunity to right the wrongs of the Lib Dems centralising experiment known as Cornwall Council. We could redesign the council with the people of Cornwall rather than against them as before. The performance of Cornwall Council is a weak argument for the status quo, it should provide us the impetus to change to provide an alternative to provide better government and a better deal for the people of Cornwall. Cornwall deserves better than the current rule by the Conservative-Independent regime in Truro, we deserve better than this unambitious, over grown parish council.

My third point was that MK needs to be proud of what it believes in it needs to explain it's principles with pride and conviction. The party is at the moment, but we need to continue to offer hope and the promise of a better Cornwall and find new and innovative ways of getting this message across. We need to tell people that there is an alternative, that Cornwall need no longer be the poor man of Britain, we can have decent jobs we can have decent housing but in order for this to happen we need an assembly, to make these changes. We need to tell London that we have alternatives, we have dreams and aspirations, we want a better future for Cornwall and Scilly and their tired old rhetoric of 'there is no alternative' can not hold back Mebyon Kernow and we can not let it hold Cornwall back to the present status quo whereby politics does not work for the everyday man, woman and child on Cornish streets today. Change is needed in Cornwall, a better economy is needed, better housing is needed, better wages are needed, better administration is needed, Mebyon Kernow is committed to continuing to make these arguments and fighting to put Cornwall first.

p.s. If you live in the Wendron division, please vote for an alternative, vote for a better deal for Cornwall and vote for Loveday Jenkin tomorrow (24th November) and get her elected to Cornwall Council.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Government housing policy is failing the people of Cornwall

Today the Coalition government has announced it's own policies to solve the housing crisis, the BBC news site leads the story with the title Affordable Home Shortage: Government to reveal plans. First of all we must congratulate the cabinet of millionaires, for realising that housing is problem and restarting the debate over what can and ought to be done. Unfortunately the government has announced plans that offer the same old broken Thatcherite policies that have caused this generation, my generation, most of the problems. Typically for this right wing government it involves free market solutions and is more about bumping up developers profits than the genuine needs of the people and solving the housing crisis.

Yesterday at the Mebyon Kernow conference hours were spent formulating MK's policy toward housing. We recognise as a party that the people of Cornwall are being failed by housing, that the state whether it be in London or Truro are not doing enough to confront the housing crisis. We recognise as a party that decent affordable housing is something that Cornwall needs, it is our collective belief that the other political parties have failed to grasp the problems and in most cases are making the problems worse. We recognise collectively as a party that we need to lobby, work and hopefully in office, after the 2013 Cornwall Council elections, implement policy that will serve to rectify the housing problem, that will put the people of Cornwall first.

The new government scheme is titled the "Get Britain Building Fund" and will involve £400 million of taxpayers money. It must be noted that this is not a great deal of money for the whole UK, as such don't expect a great deal to be done here in Cornwall but nevertheless this is the money available. The plans are to inject this money into the construction industry to 'kickstart building', in other words to give money to private enterprise and big developers to build houses and continue existing stalled schemes. As a small sop to the actual problems and to gain favourable headlines there will be (as the BBC quotes) "a commitment to affordable homes", it goes on to state:
It is hoped that about 450,000 mainly affordable homes will be built by 2015, many of them on publicly-owned brownfield sites.
Will this be enough? no and here's why. Look around Cornwall today nearly every part of our fair land has had developer led new estates built, the number of affordable units are not nearly enough as the long Cornwall Council waiting list (17,500) shows. The number of young people and young families (and indeed not so young families like my own) that desperately want to own their own homes and are priced out of the market at the moment is staggering and goes to show that letting developers build everywhere does not solve the problem. Developers want to make profit, affordable (cheap) homes are not as profitable as 'unaffordable homes', there's no money in it for them. Thus the majority of newly built estates are 85-95% unaffordable, with the small minority of houses actually cheap enough to help with the housing problem. Time and again we see a new estate built a major impact made upon a community and it's infrastructure and dozens unsuccessfully applying for the handful of affordable homes.

A strong message from the MK conference from both leadership and the floor, was that councils here in Cornwall should be given the funding and borrowing powers to build social housing to directly address the problems here in Kernow. That this housing should be built for local people who need to be housed and at the moment are being failed by the expensive free market solution. The council would then rent out this properties and reinvest any revenue raised into creating more housing stock. That is to say that the state, the public sector, takes responsibility for housing and it is no longer in the hands and whims of developers who want only to make profits. That the poorest, the most vulnerable and the most needy are helped not for profit but because it is the right thing to be done.

Alongside the government policy of writing cheques for private developers they have resurrected the very problem that has beset this generation, the Thatcherite right to buy policy. Again people in publicly owned social housing will be offered the right to buy their home at as little as half the market value. We are told this money will be reinvested in more social housing as usual the governments mathematics here is off and I might suggest to them that policy formulation should leave out the Thatcherism rhetoric and instead include a calculator. For even if we leave aside the rising cost of building, selling one home at half the market value will result in the money to build half a home, halving the housing stock and leaving a poisoned legacy for the next generation. The government fails to grasp such basic things in it's quest to sell things off and absolve itself of any responsibility for the common good. This policy in the eighties has already resulted in the social housing stock in Britain shrinking, it was the start of the unaffordable housing crisis in the first place!

I am sure after long debating about housing yesterday I can sum up the mood of Mebyon Kernow members and what our advice to the government is. This government needs to abandon the old privatisation policies of the past, selling off publicly owned housing is a short sighted solution, developers can not be relied upon to build houses for the common good. The only way to build houses to deal with the problems of affordability is be building them and renting them out on a not for profit basis. Existing housing stock needs to be added too not sold off. This money available should be given to local authorities (in the vein of localism) to build social housing designed specifically to deal with problems in local areas. It ought to be used to build decent housing to provide people with well insulated, green homes, it ought to offer them solar panels and other measures to help with fuel poverty. Cornwall needs a proper solution to the housing crisis, the people need better homes, Mebyon Kernow is fighting for this.

Friday, 18 November 2011

Cornwall and Scilly LEP gets a website

It is my great pleasure to announce that our LEP finally has a website, well done. It's simple, only one page but it's a website and designed by a Cornish company too. Hopefully it will soon have more information and we can all get to grasps with this mysterious organisation and what it is going to do. Here's the website they've yet to work on their search engine presence as a quick Google search reveals. But I am not complaining too much about that as my blog and others (Alex Folkes & Cornish Zetetics) feature on google and let's face it between us we've done more thinking and writing about the LEP than the organisation has done, at least as far as is obvious to ordinary people.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Cornwall LEP announces public consultations (at last)


So here we are 12 months and 17 days since the LEP bid was announced as successful by the coalition government and the LEP has announced public consultations. Only a day after I blogged criticising the LEP for a lack of discernible action such as consultations. So I was pleased to read of the roadshows being announced on the Business Cornwall newsite, as much as I have criticisms of the LEP particularly their lack of action, I do believe people should turn up listen to what they have to say and give feedback, criticisms and forward their own ideas (list of venues copied below). As much as the MK member in me wants to make party political points about the coalition and their poor economic record in Cornwall, we need the LEP to work for the sake of the Cornish economy and it is imperative upon both the businesses of Cornwall and the public to engage with the LEP and influence it. In particular here the public, despite being funded by taxpayers we have had no say in who should be on the board, I would have liked to see the elected officials come from political parties and Independents from across the spectrum not merely 2 Conservatives councillors (Alec Robertson, Chris Ridgers) and a Liberal Democrat councillor (Lord Teverson). Also it would have been nice for the "private sector" members to include at least one person from a trade union to speak for the working class of Cornwall especially seeing as political parties of the left, Mebyon Kernow among them, have been excluded from the board.

It is regrettable that the LEP roadshow will only come to Penzance once and that it is held on a tuesday afternoon, I am not sure of the logic to hold such events during office hours. Other than that, the only time the LEP roadshow will grace Penwith with it's presence is St Ives (on the same day at 9:30am). I hope people from the west will be able to make these dates and put forward strongly the case that West Cornwall is in desperate need of investment and solutions to resuscitate our flagging economy. Especially at a time when Cornwall Council is looking to attract our heliport to Newquay airport and in the aftermath of the council making a complete fudge out of Penzance harbour resulting in funding being withdrawn. I think the powers that be in Truro owe us one, or quite a few actually.


November 25
  • 2.30pm: The Eden Project
December 6
  • 9.30am: Town Hall, Truro
  • 2.30pm: Pool Innovation Centre
 December 8
  • 10am: Guildhall, Saltash
  • 2.30pm: Town Hall, Launceston
  • 6pm: Public Hall, Liskeard
 December 13
  • 9.30am: Tate, St Ives
  • 2.30pm: Astro Centre, Penzance
  • 6pm: Wesley Hall, Helston
December 16
  • 9.30am: Shire House Suite, Bodmin
  • 2.30pm: Bay Hotel, Newquay
 January 6
  • 2.30pm: St Austell Brewery, St Austell
 January 11
  • 10.30am: Town Hall, Isles of Scilly
 January 13
  • 9.30am: Parkhouse Centre, Bude

A breath of fresh air at Penzance Town Council

The election has certainly rung a great many changes at Penzance Town Council. There are now 12 brand new councillors (although Simon Reed...