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At least fifty things in local govt Pickles is clueless about

Yesterday as a precursor to yet more cuts being made to local government funding, Eric Pickle's released his  "50 ways to save: Examples of sensible savings in local government" and its not too bad there are some good suggestions. A lot of it is straight from the para-Tory Taxpayer's Alliance, I'm not saying its all wrong. Things like cutting the top earners in local government, employing less consultants, great ideas and none of them are all together bad. But what is really striking is that of 50 suggestions nearly all of them are predominantly administrative 'sharing back off office functions', 'hot desking', 'less management training'. Which is all well and good but offers no advice on essential frontline services. Why the government who is after all in charge, has taken over 2 years to merely suggest these things is beyond me? I hate to tell Pickles etc their jobs, but there's a thing called parliament, if you introduce a bill, it…

Cornish national identity statistics in the 2011 census

Just had a quick look at the newly released census statistics from last year, as many people know Cornish as a national identity was an option although a write in one rather than a tick box.

Headline figures for Cornwall and those identifying as Cornish are:
52,793 people identified as Cornish only.
5,185 Cornish and British.
15,242 Cornish and another identity e.g. English, Welsh, Scottish, Northern Irish (with or without British).
(total 73,220)
459,053 No Cornish identity.

The total for England, Wales and Cornwall was:
59,456 Cornish only.
6,261 Cornish and British.
17,782 Cornish and another identity.
(total 83,499)

It's hard to know what to make of these statistics, Cornish identity still lacks a tickbox and studies and research show that without a tickbox and having to write in (if respondents are aware they can). Results are always lower. Take Wales and the Welsh for example and the huge leap from the numbers identifying as Welsh in the 2001 census and the numbers now. 14% …

Needs of the people should be at the forefront of politics

I was struck reading Dick Cole's latest piece (link here) how refreshing it was to see putting the needs of people first, and it depressed me to how political discourse in the UK seldom seems to broach the subject of need or morality. From the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats and even from the Labour leadership we hear time and again about 'balancing the books', 'reducing the deficit', 'streamlining' and the like. It is rare to hear politicians talking of need, what people need, what we can do to make people's lives better how we can make a better society for the people. It's lamentable that Westminster seems to be filled with accountants constantly arguing over numbers, balances, debts, deficit. Morality seems a far removed concept from the idealism and energy that built institutions like the NHS. It inspires me to be a member of a party like Mebyon Kernow whose leader draws inspiration not just from the Cornish radical tradition including p…

On the campaign trail with John Gillingham

On thursday, the voters of the Gwinear- Gwithian and St Erth division will go the polls for this last Cornwall Council by election before the elections next year. It will no doubt be an interesting contest with a grand total of 7 hopefuls on the ballot paper (Mebyon Kernow, Conservative, Liberal Democrat, Labour and 3 Independents). This will be the 6th by election since the last elections in 2009.

It's an interesting contest for Mebyon Kernow, we did not stand in the division in the last elections and we have obviously have a lot of work to do to explain to voters who we are and what we stand for. To be brutally honest with this in mind and the fact that this is John's first time running in an election I really wasn't that hopeful that we would do that well. However after canvassing with John on the doorstep in places like Gwithian, Upton Towans, Carnhell Green, Connor Downs and Reawla I have been struck at how well we are regarded. Perhaps I have listened to our critics…

Cornwall Council privatisation plan just won't die

The widely discredited unpopular Joint Venture for Shared Services between British Telecom and Cornwall Council refuses to go away. Despite the wishes of Councillors, the thousands who signed the petition  and the fact the old council leader losing his job over supporting the scheme it is still being promoted by the authority.

Today the Cornwall Business Partnership wrote to the council publicly backing the BT scheme on This is Cornwall. This should of course come of no great surprise BT is one of the partners of the Cornwall Business Partnership and surprise surprise so is Serco in the guise of Peninsula Enterprise.
The question is yet again asked, will the views of the public and elected Councillors come first or will big business and those seeking lucrative outsourcing contracts and public money have the final say? If the Conservatives really want this scheme, they should stand on that platform next May in the election, thus canvassing the support of the Cornish taxpayer rather tha…

Some reflections on the Mebyon Kernow conference and the future

First and foremost I really enjoyed the day and I think it was a great event. This is only my third party conference and I definitely think it was the best yet. I much preferred the venue and the main chamber of Lys Kernow it obviously has a lot more significance especially looking forward to next years Cornwall Council (and town and parish council) elections. This is an exciting time for the party, feelings are running high and there is a real sense of positivism for a number of good reasons. But there are also a number of great challenges and a lot of hard work facing the party, in next years Cornwall Council and town and parish elections, the European elections the year after and the general election the year after that.

There is lots of coverage by party members of the conference speeches etc rather than post loads of links it's probably easier to have a browse on the Mebyon Kernow facebook page. I did suffice to say enjoy all of the speeches and it is easy to see why all of …

St Ives Conservatives unwilling to defend their own administrations record.

A Conservative leaflet in West Cornwall reveals how the Tories do not want people to view them on their own Council's record. Normally political leaflets highlight the work of the party, how they have made an area better and ultimately why they should be voted back again. Unable to find justifications for the Tory led administration on Cornwall Council the St Ives Conservatives have instead disowned their own parties policies and neglected to mention failures. Now we are supposed to believe that they are for lower parking charges, that they want housing developments only where necessary, that infrastructure spending in West Cornwall has a proud record and that they are the champions of small business. 
In a leaflet for the Police Commissioner elections, the local branch of the Conservatives have used some of the back to highlight some of their Councillors, no doubt in an attempt to raise their profiles. On the one hand they are for low parking and development, in sharp contradict…

Cornwall Council, trim the top earners and pay a Living Wage

This week is Living Wage week, a campaign I have always admired. The long and short of it is that the Minimum Wage is not enough to live on and the Living Wage campaign instead champions employers to pay an amount that can ensure a decent standard of living, more on that here on the campaign website. It is a well known fact that the top earners at Lys Kernow earn a great deal of money yet at the other end of the scale many do not earn a living wage, this is not fair nor justified. 


It's a deplorable state of affairs that well over fifteen hundred staff employed by Cornwall Council earn wages well short of the level needed for a basic standard of living. I also find it deplorable that at the other end of the scale the bosses and executives earn huge salaries some in excess of £200,000 year. There is a way to right these two wrongs, by reviewing pay to council staff and redistributing money downward to the lowest paid. Putting fairness and common sense at the forefront of pay on Corn…

No to nuclear weapons in Cornwall!

With the prospect of Scotland leaving the United Kingdom a very real possibility, the government are fretting about where to put the nuclear weapons based in Coulport Scotland. Their eyes have moved to the area around Falmouth, raising the daunting prospect of weapons of mass destruction being stored in extremely close proximity to some of Cornwall's major settlements. Even more troubling that the villages of Mylor and Flushing would no longer be villages inhabited by people, but cleared for the storage of nuclear warheads. Leaving formerly peaceful villages and riverbanks a veritable fortress of barbed wire and security guards. Placing restrictions on locals, tourists, pleasure craft and fishing boats and undermining the economy. Trident here would greatly increasing the risk of terrorist attack in Cornwall and of course attack by a more conventional enemy in a war.

As Dick Cole blogged, echoing the CND campaign to cut Trident:

"It is well-known that I am also opposed to the …

Hardly a surprise I know but George Eustice doesn't get it

Today the MP for Camborne, Redruth and Hayle George Eustice has a piece in the Packet, calling for reform of Cornwall Council. Despite the fact the ex-leader Conservative Alec Robertson lost a vote of no confidence for acting in a unilateral way withholding all decision making to the 10 strong cabinet. George Eustice thinks that the decision making at Cornwall Council should be made by even less people. Calling for a mayor to replace the current cabinet system, leaving the 'day to day' running to the council. So despite the Leader and cabinet acting all by themselves with the Joint Venture, against the wishes of the full chamber and the public doesn't seem to get why this was bad for democracy! Suggesting that the cabinet system and leader system should be replaced with one person a mayor for Cornwall to make all of the decisions to hell with what everyone else thinks.


The real lesson for the Joint Venture for Shared Services was that a minority can not make all the decisi…

Second home voters time for action, what about the 22,000

Further than my last post about the astronomical number of second home owners in Cornwall Second homes time for action, it occurs to me that not only are there 23,000 people taking up Cornish homes for the odd weekend and summer holidays but all of these people are entitled to vote and they might well do so. Safe to say any of them that read my last post won't be voting Mebyon Kernow!

After a sustained campaign by members of MK, Lib Dems and Independents notably Angus Lamond, for democracy to be restored and the principle of one person one vote to apply in Cornwall, the council did act. Early last year they struck off 947 second home owners from the electoral register who hitherto had the option to vote where they lived and in Cornwall. But the question now arises after the release of the official figures from the 2011 census when will the other 22,000 people be struck off? The possible impact of this many votes is huge, in all levels of election in Cornwall. It is obvious that MP…

Second homes time for action!

Today the ONS released details from last years census of the number of people who own a second home in Cornwall but reside elsewhere. I was truly astonished at the scale of non residential holiday homes here in Kernow, nearly 23,000 people have one here, more than any local authority in England and Wales.  As a comparison that's more people than live in Bodmin (14,700), Hayle (9,500), Helston (11,500), Newquay (20,600), Penzance, (including Heamoor, Newlyn, Gulval, Long Rock and Ludgvan)  (21,500) and slightly less than the combined population  of Truro and Threemilestone (23,600) source. So the entire population of Penzance -and the surrounding area- could leave their houses and find new accommodation and the majority of those second home owners wouldn't be any the wiser until next summer.

This is staggering and at a time when nearly 20,000 people are on Cornwall Council's waiting list (plus more not on the list). Cornwall Council keeps insisting to fill these demands to …

Cornwall Council: The old privatisation King is Dead Long Live the new privatisation King

Yesterday saw a turbulent meeting at Cornwall Council, which saw an increasingly hot tempered debate and ultimately the sacking of Alec Robertson as Council leader (63 votes to 49) and the widespread proclamation that the Joint Venture for Shared Services was dead in the water. And that the election of the Conservative Jim Currie spelt the end for this privatisation scheme. But is it the end of it?

The left was triumphant yesterday after the dethronement of Alec, people including myself hailed the end of this great gamble. Encouraged by Jim Curries words in his bid for the leadership, seeing off the contender Neil Burden with a speech decrying the privatisation scheme, whereas Burden now the deputy leader spoke for a slimmed down version of the scheme. The morning after the night before I have some doubts about the level of victory, no doubt the Guardian article by Patrick Butler had it right (if details a bit sketchy, Cornwall County Council apparently and no mention of the NHS and h…

Some thoughts on the Society Cornwall survey...

Tomorrow the 16th of October the leader of Cornwall Council faces his vote of no confidence. Brought about from his unwavering support for a Joint Venture on Shared Services (see my thoughts on that here and here) despite the vote of councillors against the scheme and the hugely popular petition against the scheme. Before tomorrows protest on the issue outside Lys Kernow starting at 9:30 and this fateful day the leadership can take little comfort in a survey conducted by Society Cornwall on attitudes toward local government in Cornwall. Here's a picture of their results:

Now there are caveats to the survey, it was only a sample of 129 Cornish residents over 5 days. But despite the small number of respondents there are clear conclusions. The cabinet system is widely condemned 47%  against it as the best form of governance with only 10% agreeing  and thus 43% presumably I don't know. Or in other words 61 don't like the present cabinet system, 13 do like it and 55 I don't…

Cornwall Council's possible u turn on Shared Services, don't be fooled.

Today it has been announced that Alec Robertson has signalled a possible u turn on Shared Services. Possible because Alec has changed his posture from one of, my mind won't be changed to it might be changed, now placing it in the hands of councillors to decide. Which appears to suggest that the motion to kick out the Joint Venture on Shared Services will be ignored and the issue will yet again be debated in full council. A clear indication that the embattled regime are still seeking to push ahead with the scheme and are willing to ignore the clear vote of councillors. Great work by everyone who signed the petition and got us to this stage but the fight must go on.
Last friday there was a meeting of the Conservative group on Cornwall Council and no doubt this was high on the agenda, especially considering the threat it poses to the beleaguered leader's position in the upcoming no confidence vote. I would imagine that the crux of that meeting was to ensure that Tory councillors …

Bona Vacantia, the Duchy of Cornwall, the case of the missing money

The Telegraph ran with a story about the income of the Duke of Cornwall from bona vacantia yesterday. This is when people die in Cornwall without a will or a next of kin then their possessions are deemed to be ownerless goods (the meaning of bona vacantia in Latin) and are appropriated by the Duchy of Cornwall. In England these 'goods' land, property, belongings, money and so on are appropriated by the Crown and passed over to the Treasury (i.e. the government) but in Cornwall now and since 1337 these unclaimed possessions pass to the Duchy. For centuries these assets merely became part of the heir to the English thrones fortune, but since the 1970s they have been passed to the Duchy of Cornwall's Benevolent Fund or at least that's the story. So upon reading the story I thought I'd have a quick look on the internet and see where this money went and the story of the money is very curious...

Firstly the Telegraph reports that the income to the Duchy from Cornwall'…

Split in the Liberal Democrats over Shared Services privatisation

There seems to be a split in the Liberal Democrat party over the Strategic Partnership for Shared Services proposed by the Conservative- Independent administration on Cornwall Council. Despite statements by Liberal Democrat councillors, the party is really split. Whether this is a result of being in favour of privatisation or whether they do not want to upset Nick Clegg and David Cameron is unclear, or so disillusioned they no longer turn up and vote. Considering this is the party that in Westminster is parcelling up the National Health Service to the higher bidder, they should come clean with the Cornish electorate...

Lib Dem deputy leader on Cornwall Council Alex Folkes explained to the Packet that he signed the no confidence motion to oust Alec Robertson as leader:

“In particular, the decision by the Cabinet to press ahead with their privatisation scheme despite a vote by a majority of councillors against it. If the leader and cabinet system is to work then those in charge have to l…

Clegg's using pensions for property scheme, don't hold your breath

The Liberal Democrat leader boasted at the party's annual conference that, his government are announcing a plan to help first time buyers get on the housing ladder. Attracting great headlines and no doubt steadying the queasy Lib Dem membership, this plan sounds great and going by the old maxim if it sounds to be good to be true it probably is. Basically the plan is for first time buyers to use their parents pensions to afford a deposit and voilĂ  break the high house prices versus low wages deadlock, win win, well at least superficially.

My initial scepticism of the plan was whether it would just be meant for richer families. I asked on twitter if the plans would include state pensions and the replies were none, not a single one. A little odd I thought, so I checked it out and indeed it does not include state pensions, only private pensions. Perhaps the millionaire Clegg in his lovely home in a fashionable neighbourhood of London is unaware, but here among us common folk, private …

Vote of no confidence is perfect opportunity for Independents to leave the sinking ship

Alec Robertson the leader of Cornwall Council is facing a vote of no confidence on the 16th of October, after 41 councillors have signed a motion to oust him as leader. This provides the perfect opportunity for the Independent group to walk away from their coalition with the Conservatives. The political make up of the council is such that the Tories cling to power with the connivance of Independent councillors. Pulling the rug from underneath them is not only possible but the sensible thing to do, the ruling group is at the moment ignoring the votes of the majority of councillors and the thousands of members of the public who signed the petition to oppose the Shared Services partnership. The council can hardly be described as popular suffering from too many bad news stories to link them all, it is in the interests of the people of Cornwall and indeed the people that voted for Independent councillors that they once again act, think and vote like independents rather than propping up the…

Council Tax devolved and how localism is more expensive to the Cornish taxpayer than an assembly

A while back I wrote about the Tory criticisms of a Cornish Assembly. I pointed out that devolution to a Cornish assembly may well be expensive to public funds but what of localism where does the money come from? My real fear is that powers will be devolved to Cornwall but the taxes that paid for them will remain in London. At the time it was hard to confirm this fear, there is no real plans that cover what localism will mean in Cornwall, what the details and pros and cons will be. In fact I am coming to the conclusion  that localism is an ad hoc arrangement, whereby politicians and bureaucrats decide amongst themselves what Westminster no longer wants responsibility for and they just 'wing it' and fudge something together. However some details have come to light and it seems my fears are being realised. This means for the Cornish taxpayer that we will still pay the same amount of tax (income tax, national insurance, vat, fuel duty, road tax, corporation tax, capital gains etc…

BT and CSC NHS IT fiasco proves they are not suitable partners for Cornwall Council and the Cornish NHS

Ignoring the will of councillors and their voting down proposals, Cornwall Council's cabinet are still intent on pressing ahead with a Strategic Partnership of Shared Services with either British Telecom (BT) or Computer Sciences Corp. Embarrassingly for the administration, not only lost a vote about the proposals but also a petition subsequently launched by Independent Councillor Andrew Wallis has attracted 1796 signatures in less than a week (link here) and there is no indication that anybody (outside of the ruling clique and BT and CSCs' boardrooms) want these changes.

I thought I would have a look around the internet and see if there was any credibility in the proposed benefits of setting up a joint venture, the claims are that jobs will be created, savings made and services improved whilst profits are somehow squeezed out of the current budget. I always had doubts that all of these things were simultaneously possible and from a quick search of the internet neither BT or C…

petition against Cornwall Councils privatisation shared services scheme

Sign the petition against Cornwall Council's Strategic Partnership for Shared Services privitisation plans.
link to the epetition here
Four reasons to sign:

1. The people have not been asked. We the people of Cornwall that will pay for this scheme have not been asked. The Conservative party and Independent group did not stand on this privatisation scheme in an election. Despite the multi million pound nature of the contract the administration has unilaterally decided without a public referundum to take this action.

2. The workers that will have their employment transfered no doubt with worse terms and conditions have not been properly consulted. Every indication is that employees -who ought to know best about public services- do not want this part privatisation.

3. Despite the grandiose promises of the scheme providing savings, creating jobs and profits for the partner corporations, examples of this actually happening are hard to find. Authorities elsewhere have already ditched sim…