Thursday, 20 December 2012

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 passes it then becomes law and then with these laws you can enact change (just a thought Eric).

As much as I jest, there is a definite theme here the government has little real idea of the function of local government and what it takes to run it, which is why they have not passed legislation or come up with suggestions any sooner. Even Pickle's Fifty Shades of Matthew Sinclair suggests little thought has really gone in to the suggestions, millions slashed from budgets again and the help is 15 pages, 5188 words and although there may be fifty suggestions they are all hopelessly vague and not applicable to all authorities. Most notable in the piece is what is not said, nowhere does the document add up how much savings could be made by the proposals, not averaged or estimated, nothing, just vague rhetoric. The truth is all of these proposals would not save enough to ensure front line services in the face of drastic cuts to local government budgets.

There are many things not even mentioned in the document the key features and services of local government on the ground the ones that will be hit most (again) by Pickle's. For example how with falling budgets, rising costs and a rising population can authorities such as Cornwall Council:

Run a modern and efficient Fire and Rescue service increasing becoming specialised in dealing with road traffic accidents, boat and ship fires and dealing with flooding as well as the traditional fire fighting and fire prevention?

How can a modern school system be maintained, how can administrative costs make up for paying teachers, buying resources, building schools and maintaining them?

With more cars on the road year on year how can Cornwall Council's highways department maintain a safe and efficient road network for Cornwall without badly kept roads and more potholes everywhere?

How can we have decent Social Services providing care to the most vulnerable in society if the money to fund them is increasingly withheld by central government? How do we deal with an ageing population without the money to care for them?

How can Cornwall Council pay it's share of the police service funding?

These are merely five things, I have no doubt there is more than fifty not mentioned by Pickle's in his pseudo- advice for local government. I find this government overwhelming disappointing as time goes on, the mantra of cuts, and the myth they can be found through wastage and overspending alone, is a reality everyone but those in the corridors of power is waking up to. It is deplorable that the majority of work by Pickle's department is cuts, slashing budgets left, right and center and the only advice for dealing with them is under 6 thousand words. A document that does in no way identify clearly how these savings should be made, what stands to be lost and gained in terms of service and how much could be saved if they were all implemented. Frankly pathetic.

If you're interested the document is here 50 ways to save


















Tuesday, 11 December 2012

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% in 2001, around two thirds in total gave Welsh or Welsh and another option last year. Time for the tickbox next time for the Cornish people, so we can actually have accurate figures to look over.

That aside its interesting to note that the total Cornish identity respondents in 2001 was 37,500 there are now 83,499 people responding as having Cornish identity. Both conducted of course without a tickbox option. Is that a change in attitudes? Has the trend in increasing statistical visibility of the Cornish e.g. PLASC translated in the census? or has the Cornish population more than doubled in the last ten years, lots of things to puzzle over...

Link National identity local authorities


Monday, 10 December 2012

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 people like Emily Hobhouse and William Lovett but also the wider tradition like the Beveridge Report.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

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 too much, with the accusations that we lack widespread support. Because actually on the doorstep talking to voters, the opposite was true people were aware of who we are and the work of our councilors and they were very keen to learn more about our policies. A lot of people are looking for a fresh alternative in politics to put their patch and Cornwall itself first. Not everyone by a long chalk, but certainly a very encouraging reaction as was the number of people who said they would vote MK. I think this is a lot to do with the raised profile of the party and the increasing voice we have in large part to due to our 6 Cornwall Councillors. Loveday Jenkin's emphatic electoral victory in the adjacent division of Wendron last year chief among them.

Obviously there are 2 constituent parts to any election, the banner they stand under and the individual themselves. John Gillingham is a strong candidate, if he works half as hard and talks to half the people of the area as he has in this election campaign, he would be an exceptional councilor. Unlike many of the candidates in this and other elections, John is very young in comparison. People seem to warm to this fact, the days when being a councilor was a part time hobby or for retired people to pass the time are long past. As Loveday Jenkin told the MK Conference the party and Cornwall Council needs young dedicated, energetic full time councilors. People like John who are willing to work full time, to champion their area and vote in the big debates. He understands the needs of people, finding a decent job and affordable accommodation is not a sad tale John has heard of, but sadly like many people of his generation that's his life.

I wish John Gillingham the best of luck at the polls on thursday, I think he has every chance of winning and he should be proud of the campaign he has run. If you live in the are and you're interested in voting for John - please do :) - or want to learn more about what he stands for and how he stack up against the other candidates in the by election. There's a transcript of the election debate between all the candidates held last thursday in Gwinear here.

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 than relying on the counsel of Kevin Lavery and his former employers BT and Serco.

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...