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.

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...