Monday, 26 May 2014

Some optimistic thoughts on the Euro election

The Euro polls have been and gone. What have they taught us about politics? and why do I think things are looking up for Mebyon Kernow? I've given it some thought, read a bit online and spoke to some party members. Here are just a few thoughts to mull over, firstly UK wide, then South West and lastly and most importantly Cornwall.

In general terms, I think UKIP can be happy they did great across the UK and even managed to do well in areas they haven't traditionally done so, Wales and Scotland are the obvious examples but in England they had a great day. The Greens must be ecstatic they knew they had a good chance to make their mark and they did so. The SNP also should be delighted topping the poll in Scotland, an amazing result for a governing party fighting an independence campaign. Plaid Cymru should be happy they didn't get squeezed out by a resurgent Labour and UKIP.

Moving on from the delighted to the unsure. The Conservatives had a good night they thought that they'd do badly and lose votes to UKIP, this no doubt happened, but to be a hairs breadth away from beating Labour over all, was a real shock for everyone. Labour had a mixed night they no doubt bounced back from the low point of 2009 and did make some real gains but still it's easy to see why the results have received a luke warm welcome from the Labour faithful. This is a historic low for a opposition party in a mid term election. With less than a year to the general election, they'd have been happier trouncing UKIP and the Tories, at the expense of votes taken from the Lib Dems.

The worst night was for the BNP losing their MEPs, nothing left to say but well done Britain! The Lib Dem vote collapsed, languishing with only 1 MEP, less than the Greens and the SNP and equal with Plaid Cymru. Ever since the coalition with the Tories and helping get their manifesto passed, the yellows have been like a ship without a rudder. Directionless and of no use to anyone, like a rudderless vessel it will occasionally get swamped by a wave and the storm has yet reached it's full fury....

In terms of the south west, I had a couple of thoughts before the polls. I thought UKIP might grow and gain one more MEP and be on three, but surprisingly they stood still on two. I thought the Tories would lose one or possibly two MEPs but only lost one. I thought Labour would probably gain 2 MEPs and the polls suggested they would, but they only gained 1. I was fairly confident the Greens would gain an MEP but I thought perhaps a third UKIP MEP or a second Labour might squeeze them out. I thought the Lib Dems would lose their MEP but was unsure because there was a slim chance they'd beat the Greens and hold on.

Thankfully we do have a full breakdown of the votes in Cornwall, which is very useful and gives my cause for optimism for Mebyon Kernow next year. UKIP came top with a stonking 36.7%, Conservatives second with 25.6%, Lib Dems third on 12.1%, Greens fourth with 11.1% and Labour fifth on 10.9%. Now for right wingers this is excellent news with well over 50% of the vote the center and left parties did astonishingly badly in comparison with barely a third of the votes.

So as a left winger why should I be optimistic? The answer really is simple the Liberal Democats are sinking to new depths and tens of thousands of their former voters are up for grabs. These voters did not switch in large numbers to either Labour or the Greens, both saw modest gains but nowhere near the numbers needed to challenge for an MP next year and neither (to my suprise) got more votes than the Lib Dems. The UKIP vote at first seems daunting but lots of people vote for them because they feel disenfranchised from the establishment parties. Not because they feel "uneasy" about foreigners or the EU. They want something new in politics, a fresh approach perhaps this could be the Party for Cornwall?

I don't think we're any closer to knowing the result of next years general election. Labour are losing ground to the Tories in the polls, somehow they are making Cameron et al look dynamic with their lackluster and tired approach to opposition. This has partly been reflected in the election results, yes Labour has done well but they haven't taken many votes from either the Tories nor the Lib Dems. In Cornwall the game is on, there is a massive vacuum left by the Liberal Democrats for a left wing radical party that offers something different. If Mebyon Kernow had contested this election perhaps we would have done very well indeed. I'm confident we could easily have done much much better than the 7% in 2009. Like all sensible people I despair at the rise of UKIP in Cornwall but that doesn't mean we need to look to the future with dread far from it, politics has never looked so open and willing to change.

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

My final post on the European elections 2014, some thoughts on the answers

In the last of my European Election 2014 series, I want to summarise some of the questions and answers I receieved from the prospective MEPs. For those of you that read the intro blog and the posts about the Green party, UKIP, Tory, Lib Dem and Labour will know they drag on a bit, so I think here I want to pick up on some of the responses answers that caught my eye for being good or bad. Obviously I'm not including the Lib Dems as they didn't reply to my email unlike all of the other parties contacted and by most commentators have little to no chance in this neck of the woods and would be lucky to retain a single MEP across the UK on thursday. In case you haven't already read the reasons my party Mebyon Kernow- The Party for Cornwall is not standing are threefold. One Cornwall doesn't have it's own constituency, we have been slowly merged and centralised with the wider south west. Two this means Cornwall is about 10% of this 'region', despite a great result in Cornwall in 2009 for Mebyon Kernow, the rest of the constituency wasn't so good and ended up with about 1% of the vote over all. You can't simply campaign in Cornwall and expect to make headway in this large region. Thirdly unlike Plaid Cymru in Wales and the SNP in Scotland we wouldn't qualify for television broadcasts and fair treatment by the BBC, unless of course we stood across England. It's a shame to sit this one out but the futility is obvious to us.

 In my opinion my first and second questions were the most important. (What do you want to achieve as an MEP? and as a party?). It's all well and good going into politics with lofty ideals and leaflets full of rhetoric but that helps little when elected. Sure these things can guide you but without a clear plan and knowing the restrictions of your office it is pointless. Many politicians enter office with clear ideas of what they want to do at election time and end up floundering as they did not consider how they could be implemented. The answers to these questions were pretty standard and I think most lacked substance and a plan. UKIP predictably went with leave the EU, something which they've yet to with their MEPs, Labour with jobs and growth, Conservatives with advance and protect interests of the UK. Which is all pretty bland but I suppose to be expected. I'd imagine if any of them do get elected they'll probably try and do those things.

I was most impressed with the Molly Scott Cato's (Green Party) answer: "1. If elected as an MEP what would you most like to achieve in the next parliament? I am an economist and expert on finance so my main focus would be getting a grip on the banks where the green group have already made considerable progress example introducing a Bankers Bonuses. I would also seek to create jobs in the South West through more local food and energy production.

 2. What is your party's goal in this term of the parliament? So many goals as you will see on the website and in the manifesto if you catch that on the website once it's there. The priority is probably the Green New Deal to make the transition to more sustainable economy with many more jobs, that's stopping the TTIP secret trade deal and getting a global agreement on climate change in Paris next year. You also have various aims to do with making Europe more efficient and accountable and stopping corporate lobbying."

It was the longest answer and went some way to explaining something specific that could be changed. The third and fourth questions also can be grouped together certainly the candidates didn't seem to differentiate a great deal between them. They were roughly: Is the EU a force for good for Cornwall? Could the EU be doing more for Cornwall?. All of the answers concentrated on structural funding (i.e. Convergence) unsurprisingly. No real mention of how being part of the world's biggest free market helps Cornish exports and imports how lack of import and export taxes drives growth. Except for UKIP, Convergence is seen as a good thing by the respondents.

Tony McIntyre's (UKIP) answers again: 3. Is the European Union a force for good in Cornwall at the moment? Why or why not? When you have a club that charges you a large sum of money to be a member and then allows you to have some of it back to spend on projects that it dictates to you, as long as you match fund the projects, as has happened with a number of projects in Cornwall, how can that be the best use of your resources?

 4. Could the EU be doing more for Cornwall? Our own government should be doing more for Cornwall, rather than encouraging more developers to build more wind turbines with hefty subsidies.

What is good apparently nothing. Pros and cons of the EU aside this is a wildly jaundiced view. I think the answer to the second question is actually no, don't expect UKIP to be lobbying for Cornwall at the European parliament any time soon.

 Question 5: "If there is a referendum on the UK's place in the EU, would you campaign for or against UK membership?" I thought this would be an interesting one to throw into the mix. UKIP against membership, Labour for, the Conservative answer is a bit muddled and talks of a referendum and a new mandate but doesn't answer the question, Greens for but want a referendum to let the people decide. Question 6 is about Cornwall having a greater say in the EU, this is one of those 'open goal' type questions no one will respond with no you stupid pasty munchers (not out loud anyway).

Nevertheless the Tory Julie Girling avoids the question but does talk of Convergence being continued to be administered by the LEP, if that counts? UKIP answer with the UK has no say therefore Cornwall doesn't. I have two favourite answers here, Jude Robinson's first, pretty much because she obviously got carried away and wrote Vote Labour at the end, in my mind she probably punched the air at the same time, anyway made me chuckle. Also she has a great point about representatives not turning up: 6. Should Cornwall have a greater say in the EU, how might this be achieved?

 We elect MEPs, I think people forget that. Perhaps it is because some of our current MEPs do not work hard enough to be accountable, to build links with Cornwall and to feed back? A Labour MEP, if elected, would be active here and be clearly accountable. It is such a waste of time electing Ukip MEPs, who don't want to work in Europe for us and have poor attendance records. Vote Labour.

 The answer of Molly from the Greens, which for obvious reasons the devolution/ subsidiarity principle I adore, not to mention the Cornish Assembly: We believe that society should be taken seriously so that power is exercised at the lowest appropriate level. In the case of Cornwall this means an assembly and powers should be devolved from the EU not just the Westminster but to the regions as well.

Question 7 is a subject close to my heart it concerns the Common Fisheries Policy. As a child I remember the Canadian and Cornish fishermen pulling together in opposition to the Spanish fleet and the government looking on bemused. The Cornish vessel Newlyn being seized by the Spanish. Of course those car stickers that were everywhere with the Cornish and Canadian flags side by side, what was the slogan Cornish and Canadian fishermen standing together? sadly don't see them any more.... Nostalgia aside the issue of the CFP, quotas, undersized catches and discards is a huge one. It always has irked me that fisheries ministers travel to the EU arrange quotas then come down to Newlyn afterwards when they should come before. Not to mention Nigel Farage who is on the Fisheries Committee but rarely turns up. I think as an MEP an issue to really get hold of.

 The question was: 7. Do you think Cornish fishermen get a good deal from the Common Fisheries Policy? What aspects of the CFP would you defend and which would you change? Conservative MEP Julie Girling's answer was this:

  Regarding agriculture and fishing, these are two portfolios I have worked on in detail over the last five years and I have worked hard to ensure all areas of the South West benefit from the reformed Agricultural and Fisheries Policies. 

Molly Scott Cato answered: I met the Cornish Fisherman in Newlyn year ago and they were not particularly negative about the new CFP. If the fish disappear then the fishermen also disappear so conservation is in everybody's interest. Greens have long argued that local fisheries should be governed by the people who fish them and live nearby. The discard ban is a good thing that we need to learn to eat more variety of fish. 

Tony McIntyre: The Cornish fishermen get a lousy deal from the the CFP. The CFP is specifically set up to benefit the larger fishing fleets of other European countries. 

I think there's perhaps some truth in all of these answers. For me the right answer is that the Cornish fishing industry needs to be better listened to. These people live and breath the ocean they know more of the industry than any of us. So I was heartened to see Molly had spoken to people in the industry and I sincerely hope this wasn't one of those usual politicians tricks of turning up getting some photos taken and never bothering again. I appreciate the UKIP answer and it does have some resonance but I think the nature of the Cornish fleet is in parts large. There are indeed still inshore fishing boats, catching small amounts on short trips. But there are also offshore fishing boats from ports especially Newlyn. I think twenty, thirty years ago when large Spanish (and indeed Russian) factory ships were harvesting large catches in Cornish waters, that argument had more resonance. We have to bear in mind that Newlyn is the third grossing port in the UK and is far from a cottage industry. I think the real issues are things like discards, catch limits and quotas and the often disconnect between how the fishermen view stocks and how the scientists do, and who is listened to in the corridors of power.


 The Common Agricultural Policy was the 8th question, this was a big one for me. 40% of the European Union budget in 2013 went on the CAP. If a prospective MEP has a poor grasp on this then it really doesn't bode well for their understanding of economics of the EU and the farming sector. The CAP is controversial in itself, there are various subsidies for various things and although the over all principle of subsidising food production is a good one and supporting that vital industry. There are tales of landowners with vast estates, that don't even really produce food, flitting between one subsidy and another and claiming hundreds of thousands of Euros. There are other debates about whether upland grazing subsidies are very beneficial to wildlife and the effect of losing wild moorland causes flooding problems down stream. So it's a huge budget, there are controversies and a good knowledge is essential. I was therefore a bit dissappointed that there was a lot of talking around my question: 8. Do you think Cornish farmers get a good deal from the Common Agricultural Policy? What aspects of the CAP would you defend and which would you change? The Tory answer is already quoted above, there are reforms, presumably reform is inherently good as why is not explained. UKIP offer that:

  Cornish farmers do not get a good deal from the CAP. UKIP has stated that it would retain the subsidies that farmers receive if we were to leave the EU, it business terminology, it makes sense to cut out the middle man (Brussels). 

There are three fundamental problems with this answer, the election (despite the Lib Dem v UKIP toing and froing) is not a referendum on EU membership it is about representation in the European Parliament. 2 what aspects would you defend or change? completely ignored. 3 To a bit harsh UKIP will never be in a position to decide what would happen if the UK left the EU as they'll never form a government in Westminster. The Green answer I admire focuses on how the CAP needs to benefit smaller farmers not huge landowners. Labour's Jude Robinson probably presents the best knowledge of the CAP and has a detailed answer which touches on some of the issues of efficiency and transparency in spending (see my earlier post).

 Question 9 (nearly at the end dear readers), has EU money Convergence, Objective 1 been a success how should funding change. Sorry I'm dragging on a bit here but in short my view: big projects Eden Project, Heartlands look great are great have they helped? should EU money have subsided govt spending A30, university, should they have just done this anyway freeing up EU money for other things? Cornwall is least economically productive part of UK despite that funding, surely a sign things need to change? The quicker answer to talk about is the Tory one "positive impact on local communities".

UKIP offer this: "If Cornwall county council had the funds to develop Cornwall, it would be better than officials in Brussels making the decisions for them. Local people know what is best for them and they also have a better idea of what will work."

I don't know even where to start with that, perhaps Tony has never heard of the RDA or the Cornwall Development Company, thinks there based in Brussels or didn't understand the question. Labour's Jude offers effects yet to be felt fully, university is good so are innovation centers. Green offers better local needs more recently environmental stuff better. I'm not entirely convinced by any of the answers but I'm from a different political party than all of them so maybe I never will.

 Last but very much not least question 10: The Cornish have recently been recognised as a national minority. Is this a good thing? How does this apply to an MEP? Both Tory and UKIP have similar answers didn't see how it effected the role of an MEP.
Molly gave a really good answer:

Again I think we should move towards an EU where regions within nation-states are better represented. It is cheap for politicians to recognise ethnic identities but as Greens we would give real power to the people who live in Cornwall regardless of their ethnic origin.

 But far and above in my opinion was Jude Robinson's answer, I was going to give my view the topic as I've done with others but as a short and accurate description, I don't have any disagreement with this 10/10:

Yes, it's a good thing and I signed up to the minority report. It is a European status and any MEP in the South West must have regard to it and to proper consultation and acknowledgement of the status when discussing and deciding on policies that affect Cornwall. 

I don't know if these questions above should influence how you vote. I know voting comes down to a number of factors for a lot of people, which party they are loyal to, which party they'd never vote for. Also the huge factor of whether they like or indeed dislike the candidate. I saw research earlier that said only 11% of people could name one of their MEPs, certainly other than Jude Robinson I wouldn't recognise any of the above or other Euro candidates in the street. Presumably people don;t vote on an MEPs personality? A fundamental problem with the European parliament and democracy is that, people don't know who their MEPs are. People also don't know what the EP does and doesn't do. I lot of the issues I talk about above are barely mentioned by the media, political parties or political commentators. The disconnect with the EU is not hard to fathom, there never has been a connection to become uncoupled, this has created a vacuum that has allowed the far right to do well in Euro elections. It's important that people vote on thursday, it's always important to vote, there is a tendency to generally abstain from voting but especially with the European election. I hope people read my 10 questions and their various answers and even if they would have posed different questions, come to realise that these issues are important. That some of the respondents have a very poor knowledge of key areas of the EU. I hope people have a better knowledge of who they might vote for or who by the end of this week could be their MEP. Vote wisely on thursday.

Monday, 19 May 2014

Answers from Labour about the European elections



In the last of my European election series of blogs, the turn comes of Labour. Not the best to last nor the worst just simply one of the first to initially respond and last to clarify party policy. It certainly is an interesting election for the Labour party, in some senses they are on the up and bouncing back from the very low ebb of 2009 and indeed 2010. In the last European elections they polled 15.7% and came in third across the UK behind the Conservatives and UKip. In the South West (and Cornwall and Gibraltar) they got 7.7% of the vote over all (but only 5% in Cornwall) failing to gain an MEP.

In the recent South West opinion poll in the Western Morning News Labour received 25% polling below UKip on 44% but above the Conservatives on 14% and the Green Party on 10% and the Lib Dems on 6%. But polls should always be taken with some caution this is the only South West opinion poll and it was published on the 1st of May from field work a month ago now. Things may well have changed since then and there is no other polls to compare it's accuracy. For those that enjoy electoral geekry there's a great poll of polls for the 2009 Euro election on wikipedia, it interestingly shows Labour gained less votes than any opinion poll had indicated. So after talking around the subject what are Labour's chances? well they aren't strong in the South West, they have strongholds in cities like Exeter and Plymouth but struggle in the less urban areas. They could well gain an MEP at this election and profit from the plummeting of the Liberal Democrats, but perhaps the Greens could challenge them or the right wing duo of Conservatives and UKIP gain enough votes to squeeze them out. Could they win? yes, will they win? don't know.

So anyway to the subject of the blog finally, the answers come from Jude Robinson one of the 2 prospective MEPs that actually live in Cornwall. But unfortunately for Jude she's quite far down the party list in fifth position, so if Labour get 5 MEPs the ex Cornwall Councillor will be one of them. Despite this I am impressed my answers found the way to someone who knows something of Cornish issues and on the other hand a bit disappointed to not have the thoughts of their lead candidate Clare Moody. Credit to Jude Robinson she was the only respondent to include the party manifesto in the email and the Pan European PES manifesto too. As with the others the answers are here unedited, comments on all of the emails to come in a later post. I've bumped the question on the Common Agricultural Policy to the end as it's long and involved:

1. If elected as an MEP what would you most like to achieve in the next parliament?

Jobs and growth across Europe, linked to higher standards of living for people - as opposed to higher bonuses for those ' at the top'. 

2. What is your party's goal in this term of the parliament?

Manifestos attached. 

3. Is the European Union a force for good  in Cornwall at the moment? Why or why not?

Yes. The third round of convergence will be coming on stream soon, bringing a total of around £1 billion in funding. Most people I speak to want decent homes, jobs and a better standard of living. Without a stronger economy we will never achieve those for people here. 

4. Could the EU be doing more for Cornwall?

I don't really understand this one. Should Cornwall do more for the EU? The funding is rarely acknowledged and we have Ukip MEPs who want to take us out of the EU and hardly bother to turn up at the parliament. That is madness. The EU has a democratic structure and if Cornwall wants more, we need to elect MEPs who will work for us not squander public money on websites fighting their own silly battles against Europe. 

5. If there is a referendum on the UK's place in the EU, would you campaign for or against UK membership?

Unequivocally for. 
6. Should Cornwall have a greater say in the EU, how might this be achieved?

We elect MEPs, I think people forget that. Perhaps it is because some of our current MEPs do not work hard enough to be accountable, to build links with Cornwall and to feed back?  A Labour MEP, if elected, would be active here and be clearly accountable.  It is such a waste of time electing Ukip MEPs, who don't want to work in Europe for us and have poor attendance records. Vote Labour. 

7. Do you think Cornish fishermen get a good deal from the Common Fisheries Policy? What aspects of the CFP would you defend and which would you change?

I need to look into this.

8. Do you think Cornish farmers get a good deal from the Common Agricultural Policy? What aspects of the CAP would you defend and which would you change?

As above. 

9. Have European Structural Funds (Objective 1, Convergence) been a success in Cornwall? how should future funding be allocated?

Big question. Yes, on the whole I think successful - especially the university/innovation centres and growth of knowledge economy. I think it will be a while before the benefits are obvious, at the moment they are there and growing but not well known. I hope you have visited at least one of the Innovation Centres. 

10. The Cornish have recently been recognised as a national minority. Is this a good thing? How does this apply to an MEP?

Yes, it's a good thing and I signed up to the minority report. It is a European status and any MEP in the South West must have regard to it and to proper consultation and acknowledgement of the status when discussing and deciding on policies that affect Cornwall/ 


The agreement on the future of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is a "serious missed opportunity".
The European Parliament's Agriculture Committee has decided on a range of funding measures for the next seven years and whilst Labour welcomes some moves towards reform, the majority of the proposals were weak and unambitious.
The scope of the agreement was decided by the European Parliament's CAP negotiating team and it will face a final vote by all MEPs in the autumn, once the wider EU budget has been finalised.
Labour has always maintained that we need to bring an end to inefficient farming and promote sustainable, competitive models that benefit rural communities as well as the wider public
It is good that the new agreement has prioritised the need for greater transparency when it comes to spending on agriculture. This is taxpayers money and they have the right to know how it is spent, so members of the public will be able to find out how much beneficiaries of CAP receive and what they are using the funds for.
But in addition to greater transparency, Labour also proposed a series of radical reforms to ensure that farming in the UK and EU as a whole is modern, green and fit for the future. Unfortunately, we've seen most of these proposals rejected in favour of the status quo.
Labour believes that the funding allocations proposed in the agreement will undo much of the limited agricultural progress already achieved, and has criticised the UK government for not pushing for more reform when the CAP was discussed in the European Council.
We’ve ended up with an agreement between the European Parliament and national governments that is a real step backwards. Its supporter say there will be more money for environmental measures, but in reality there seem to be few tangible environmental benefits..
On top of the limited environmental gains, it is a real shame that there will be even more money spent on production subsidies, or to put it another way - more money wasted on inefficient farming. These are funds that could be much better spent on rural development programmes, to stimulate competitiveness and enhance biodiversity."
Labour supported CAP reforms that would have promoted financial efficiency, environmental protection and investment in our prized rural communities, whilst at the same time rewarding good farming practices. Despite a real opportunity for radical change, we've been left with an unambitious agreement that fails to fully reform the CAP.



Penzance needs you, next monday dressed as a Pirate and other bank holiday entertainment

The time is nearly upon us, we will be retaking the world record for the most pirates in one place next monday the 26th May as part of the Penzance 400 celebrations.

Pic from https://twitter.com/PiratesonProm

Please come if you can make it there's loads of entertainment and promises to be a great day, there is also entertainment over the weekend, music and theater see here for details


Of course the day before the record attempt, there is the annual charity rugby match between Penzance fire station and Penlee lifeboat. Which was a cracking match last year with 13 tries and the RNLI taking the honours 40-35, so a great deal to play for this year.

Pic from https://www.facebook.com/penlee.lifeboat

For all the info you could need on this weekends events http://www.piratesontheprom.co.uk/

Friday, 16 May 2014

Questions but no answers from Liberal Democrats, their rather bad prospects in the Euros

Today I want to talk about the Liberal Democrats and their chances in the European elections as I have done with the other parties that are standing. I did email questions to the Liberal Democrats on sunday the 27th April and now it's the 16th May, as I've not received anything from them, I don't think I will so I'll just talk about their prospects. For those of you that regularly read my blog, I have written a series of posts in response to questions I emailed to South West European election candidates. The original blog here outlining the questions, responses from Molly Scott Cato from the Green Party. Answers from Tony McIntyre from UKIP and lastly Julie Girling MEP from the Conservatives. I've yet to blog on Labour's response, there's a few points they want to clarify. Maybe it's unfair and I should give the Lib Dems more time, if they do finally contact me perhaps I will, but it's less than a week and the excitement as building as close to fever pitch as it ever will.

Not many placards round for the LDs this time, this might prove more popular 


The Lib Dems did quite well in 2009, both in Cornwall and across the 'South West' they managed to out poll Labour and the Greens and came in third overall with a vote share of 17.2% and kept their sitting MEP Graham Watson in power. They did slightly better here than they did across the UK in 2009 where they came in fourth with 13.8% and lost 1 MEP. The world of politics has definitely changed for the Lib Dems since then. After a reasonable election in 2010 and losing 5 MPs from 62 in 2005 to 57 in 2010. Things aren't looking up in the coalition era if the opinion polls and indeed elections since are anything to go by Nick Clegg's party is in for a hard time next thursday. Even the president of the Lib Dems Tim Farron has admitted that the party faces a wipe out in this election. His intention in saying this I think was to warn the party and kick some life into it. The reality is morale in the party is at an all time low, they struggle to find candidates and volunteers to canvass and door knock. Which is why every party has sent out more leaflets this time then them. The once mighty Lib Dems were virtually wiped out in West Cornwall last year with only 2 Cornwall Councillors in the St Ives constituency and 1 Cornwall Councillor in the Camborne, Redruth and Hayle constituency. In this climate Tim Farron's words rather than galvanising the yellow troops reminded them of their near certain fate and increased the feeling of futility.

Do the Lib Dems have a chance of keeping a MEP in the South West? perhaps. I really wouldn't put any money on it though. Various opinion polls put them behind UKIP, the Tories, Labour and the Green Party. This one reported in the Western Morning News for the south west puts them on 6%. There's a table of all the European voting intention polls (for all the parties) on UK Polling Report, which are UK wide. The results for 2014 for the Lib Dems doesn't look too good for them reaching a high of 11% back in March and a low of 6% in April, more recently a lot of 7s 8s and 9s. I don't hold too much faith in opinion polls they are good indicators but there's always a margin of error. But in this case the margin of error between their best UK wide polling 11% (ignoring South West polling of 6%) is a long way from the 17.2% they received in 2009. With the rise of the Green Party looking to take some of their votes and the Labour rebuilding from the low ebb of 2009 and also taking their votes, the Lib Dems are being squeezed from a number of directions, which is why it is a shame Mebyon Kernow are not standing as we'd be adding to this. But in truth the real downfall of the Liberal Democrats is not the other parties but one of their own making, decades of "it's us or the Tories" now means nothing....

Sunday, 11 May 2014

A dedication to the mayor of Penzance Phil Rendle

Well unless you're reading this today or tomorrow, it will be the former town mayor, as tomorrow monday the 12th of May is when the chains will be passed on in the mayor choosing ceremony. Phil has been fortunate to have served 2 years as the mayor, as the election at the tail end of his first year could have meant he was not re-elected or the composition of the council vastly changed and a new mayor been sought. It was perhaps the way in which Phil took to his first year and conducted himself that he was not only re-elected onto the council last year but stood unopposed as mayor.

It was fitting that the front page of the Cornishman carried Phil's picture in a story about the Penzance 400 celebrations, pictured right with the town banner. It is indeed a great honour to be the chair of any town or parish council. It carries with it many of the typical roles and responsibilities of leadership, being a spokesperson and the public face and indeed spokesperson of the body. But it does not imply leadership, the mayor must be respected and listened to by councillors, but the role is not to lead but to chair. To remain above everything, guide debate, offer advice, the mayor is not the boss. The power of a council is in the members, the body corporate, the decisions should come from them and the authority of the officers and mayor should reflect this. Needless to say being mayor is a balancing act, Remaining neutral and impartial and trying to oversee 20 councillors, who all individually have their own ideas about the world and more within their various political parties and factions. The various pushes and pulls from members of the public and civic bodies to do this or that not to mention the desires and whims of Cornwall Council to push the town one way or another. Combined with all of the civic functions in the local area and further afield (Trevithick day and Flora Day to name 2) and meetings of various bodies as well as attending all the town council meetings and committees it is a huge task. I would argue that to be done effectively it is very nearly a full time job.

There have been many challenges in this last civic year. Last years election saw 8 new members elected to the town council. All with no experience in local government in Cornwall and a lot to learn about how business is done and indeed a lot of ideas and enthusiasm to bring to the council. The nature of the town council has changed significantly with the redevelopment of St John's Hall and the loss of the Guild Hall for meetings. At a special meeting called (when I was away), it was decided that the town council would not accept the offer of moving premises and renting in St John's Hall. In the last year the town council has become a Living Wage Employer. We decided as a council to create (with the community) a neighbourhood plan to guide development and investment in the town. As mayor Phil travelled to London with senior members of Cornwall Council to talk to the minister about the planned harbour works. After of course the town council had input in the scheme proposed. Finally and after arguments and heartbreak we might finally see some works on the harbour and the Scilly link! This is a quick snapshot and I've left out all the planning for the Christmas Lights Festival (and the new lights themselves), Penzance 400 celebrations, Golowan, the rocky road of taking over cctv from Cornwall Council, the annual budget and many many other things. Needless to say many of these events are huge for the town and will shape both the town and the council well into the future and things will never be the same again as a result of many of them. Interesting times to be town mayor.

Despite all this turmoil and change and the challenges it brings to the town council. Phil Rendle has risen to these challenges admirably with the erstwhile support of the town council staff. He has somehow managed to keep a smile on his face, but I dare say his jokes haven't got much better! But he now will have more time to work on his repertoire. Phil is also well respected in the council and around the town. It is a huge task being town mayor, with a huge set of responsibilities to not end the 2 years as a laughing stock or with many enemies is an honour in itself. Phil can be proud that he hands over the town council in a good place, with a better relationship (I hope) with the people of the town, Cornwall Councillors and Cornwall Council itself than it has done in the past. I wish the next mayor well, it's vital and a challenging role with many various demands to balance, often little thanks when things go well and a lot of criticism when things go badly all to be done with a dignified smile on the face.



Friday, 9 May 2014

My email to European election candidates the Conservative party

I finally received an answer to my email from Tory Julie Girling MEP, so the first response from an MEP perhaps forgives the lateness in replying. So below are the answers on Conservative policy. First lets have a look at where the Conservatives stand. In 2009 they had a very good election, the Euros in the UK if anything are more seen as a classic mid term election than of any real importance (if you disagree name me the 6 Euro MEPs...) as such the Tories did well last time topping the poll in a brutal indictment of Gordron Brown's government and the Labour plummeted. So the pendulum swings and the Tories are now facing a brutal indictment of David Cameron's coalition government although it doesn't seem like their destined for the free fall that Labour suffered in '09. For a start the chances of them failing to get an MEP elected is slim, they currently have 3, but recent polling puts them behind UKIP, Labour and a hares breath away from the Green Party. They are right to be nervous and you can see why today's Western Morning News carries a story where they accuse UKIP of being a 'one man band' with 'no credible policies'. If a clairvoyant told you the Tories might keep 3 you couldn't argue with them they may well be right, you also couldn't argue if they said the Tories would lose 1,2 or even all 3. Squeaky bum time at Tory HQ.

Anyway my amateurish electoral opinions aside. Here is Julie Girling's answers. I haven't given comment on the other respondents but it must be said, the MEPs answers are the first to shun my questions as a template. I don't think there are satisfactory answers to many of the questions although the subjects are talked around. As I wrote before I will do a round robbing comment blog later. See for yourself how you think they've been answered, they were: 

"1. If elected as an MEP what would you most like to achieve in the next parliament? 
2. What is your party's goal in this term of the parliament? 
3. Is the European Union a force for good in Cornwall at the moment? Why or why not? 
4. Could the EU be doing more for Cornwall? 
5. If there is a referendum on the UK's place in the EU, would you campaign for or against UK membership? 
6. Should Cornwall have a greater say in the EU, how might this be
achieved? 
7. Do you think Cornish fishermen get a good deal from the Common Fisheries Policy? What aspects of the CFP would you defend and which would you change? 
8. Do you think Cornish farmers get a good deal from the Common Agricultural Policy? What aspects of the CAP would you defend and which
would you change? 
9. Have European Structural Funds (Objective 1, Convergence) been a success in Cornwall? how should future funding be allocated? 
10. The Cornish have recently been recognised as a national minority.  Is this a good thing? How does this apply to an MEP?"

Dear Mr Simmons 

 Thank you for your email. In answer to your questions I respond as follows: 

 Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly benefit from EU funding more than any other county in South West England and will receive more than £500 million of European funding over the next seven years. The European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the European Social Fund (ESF) ensures funding for €592.9 million (£512.85m) will be made available for the period 2014 to 2020. 

 Our overriding responsibility is to protect and advance the interests of the United Kingdom. I am fully behind David Cameron's pledge to hold a referendum on our part in the EU; the British people must be given their say on our membership. The scope of the European Union's power has grown considerably since the last referendum in 1975 and it is clear we need a renewed mandate from the electorate.  

 In Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, I believe European funding is having a positive impact on local communities. The EU is a key financial contributor to the Cornish economy, future funding should be administered as it is now – by the Local Enterprise Partnership. 

 The EU must be reformed if we are to continue our involvement within it. I fully support the plan to negotiate a new relationship with the EU and then allow the British people to have their say within the first two years of the next Parliament.  

 Regarding agriculture and fishing, these are two portfolios I have worked on in detail over the last five years and I have worked hard to ensure all areas of the South West benefit from the reformed Agricultural and Fisheries Policies. 

 The minority status of Cornish people does not apply to me as your MEP.

Be assured, I am committed to ensuring Cornwall and the whole of the South West gets a good deal out of Europe. 

 Thank you for taking the time to contact me.  

Yours sincerely

Julie Girling
Conservative MEP for the South West & Gibraltar

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

My email to European election candidates, UKIP....

Following on from yesterday's post on the answers of Molly Scott Cato from the Green Party to my emails, today is the turn of UKIP. I'm hoping to do Labour's answers tomorrow but I'm waiting for a few details to be sent on. Yesterday I did finally receive answers from the Tories but yet to hear back from the Liberal Democrats.

Why UKIP? you might ask. Certainly it's not a party I'd consider voting for. I don't agree with the way they approach immigration, in fact I can't think of a policy of theirs I agree with. I'm not a right winger that kind of tradition and conservatism is the opposite of what I believe. Perhaps if Nigel Farage hadn't disowned the entirety of their 2010 manifesto I could have had sympathy with the policy of painting trains in traditional colours, it's the kind of trivial and quirky policy that actually has an element of character to it. Probably one of the few that doesn't revolved around demonising foreigners as well.

I was surprised when I did the I Side With test that UKIP were not at the bottom, they were second from last. Somehow I agree more with the BNP!!!! (see note at the bottom) (27%) than UKIP (24%). But the test thankfully explains where you agree with a party. Apparently I agree with UKIP that tuition fees should be abolished, HS2 should be stopped. Very very bizarrely I answered that possession of drugs by non violent criminals shouldn't automatically lead to a prison sentence, somehow UKIP were more radical than me believing "we should decriminalize most drugs". 

UKIP to their credit were the second party to get back to me. In terms of chances they have a huge one in this election. I think it's extremely unlikely that they will not come away with an MEP and will probably equal the 2 they returned in 2009. As I explained before the point of this exercise was to not only inform people of the parties policies but also to understand what our perhaps future MEPs though on issues and to hold them to account on them. This was the reason I included UKIP because they have a strong chance, it was also the reason I disincluded the BNP because they look destined to the dustbin of history (thankfully).

I also did not contact the new party who have splintered from UKIP An Independence from Europe, who already have MEPs (ex UKIP and a Dutch MEP) they seem less fervently right wing although their policy page is a little concise, so hard to get a good idea. They will be first on the ballot paper so might benefit from that, they also might also attract those against the EU that don't agree with Nigel Farage's anti immigration rhetoric. Perhaps I'll be proved wrong in writing them off, we shall see...

Below is the UKIP candiate Tony McIntyre's answers to my questions, they are without comment from myself, but I will blog at a later date with my thoughts on the candidates responses:

1. If elected as an MEP what would you most like to achieve in the next parliament?

See the UK leave the Union. It is my belief that this country would boom if we had control of our own destiny.

2. What is your party's goal in this term of the parliament?

See above. However the most important thing is that we should leave will our integrity intact. 

3. Is the European Union a force for good in Cornwall at the moment? Why or why not?

When you have a club that charges you a large sum of money to be a member and then allows you to have some of it back to spend on projects that it dictates to you, as long as you match fund the projects, as has happened with a number of projects in Cornwall, how can that be the best use of your resources?

4. Could the EU be doing more for Cornwall?

Our own government should be doing more for Cornwall, rather than encouraging more developers to build more wind turbines with hefty subsidies.

5. If there is a referendum on the UK's place in the EU, would you campaign for or against UK membership?

Against UK membership. 

6. Should Cornwall have a greater say in the EU, how might this be achieved?

When you realise that the total UK representation in the European Parliament will only be 8% of the number of MEP's elected, you begin to realise that the UK has very little representation. With that in mind I cannot see how Cornwall will ever have a 'greater say'.

7. Do you think Cornish fishermen get a good deal from the Common Fisheries Policy? What aspects of the CFP would you defend and which would you change?

The Cornish fishermen get a lousy deal from the the CFP. The CFP is specifically set up to benefit the larger fishing fleets of other European countries

8. Do you think Cornish farmers get a good deal from the Common Agricultural Policy? What aspects of the CAP would you defend and which would you change?

Cornish farmers do not get a good deal from the CAP. UKIP has stated that it would retain the subsidies that farmers receive if we were to leave the EU, it business terminology, it makes sense to cut out the middle man (Brussels). 

9. Have European Structural Funds (Objective 1, Convergence) been a success in Cornwall? how should future funding be allocated?

If Cornwall county council had the funds to develop Cornwall, it would be better than officials in Brussels making the decisions for them. Local people know what is best for them and they also have a better idea of what will work.

10. The Cornish have recently been recognised as a national minority. Is this a good thing? How does this apply to an MEP?

As far as I can see, minority status means that the Cornish flag and the Cornish language are recognised. I can't see how this comes into the European argument. Please correct me if I am wrong

Footnote:

Before you all castigate me for agreeing 27% with the BNP, I know I may now be over 30 and succumbed to the saying of radicalism fading with age (from various sources):

“If a man is not a Socialist at 20 be has no heart, but if he remains one at 30 he has no head.”

But indeed where I agree with the far right wingers is actually pretty left wing radical stuff and certainly to the left of the Labour party. Increase corporation tax for large companies, decrease for smaller ones. No to austerity. No to banning strikes on the London underground. Ban zero hours contracts. Abolish university tuition fees. Finally no to privatisation of the NHS. Not that that party have campaigned on these issues or done anything about them with the positions of power they have held...

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Great news for Jubilee Pool

Tonight Penzance Town Council voted unanimously to put money into the grant bid to central government for our lido. As a part we undertake to enter negotiations with Cornwall Council and in partnership with the Friends of Jubilee Pool to have it devolved to the town. 
Those of you that read my earlier blog will know I had serious problems with the way this was went about by Cornwall Council. In summary we were informed last thursday there would be a meeting tonight and it was make or break for the grant application due in this friday the 9th of May (then in hands of govt to decide). Not enough time to fully consider the merits of the proposal.
Nevertheless I spoke and my main thrust was that yes was the only answer. The thought of losing this as an asset was unbearable.  Further the idea of having a derelict pool in such a prominent position was an unbearable one.
I did however criticise Cornwall Council for not coming to Penzance Town Council (and indeed the Friends of Jubilee Pool) sooner. This is after all the third application and we played no part in the first two bids. We should have been given ample time but weren't. I also criticised the fact that this could easily have been funded from Cornwall Council's capital budget rather than the devolution pot. I explained that this budget was £675 million for the years 2013 to 2017.
Both Cornwall Councillors present (Cornelius Olivier and Jim McKenna) criticised me for this, defended Cornwall Council spending and explained I was categorically wrong. I explained to both that I would show them the link and I have emailed them both. 

I take it from this that our Cornwall Councillors haven't lobbied for capital funding to be used for the pool and have little knowledge of the budget itself. Which is a real shame. My pride aside and disappointment that I have a better grasp of funding available to capital projects than our Cornwall Councillors. It was a very good meeting.
Now indeed the future of the Jubilee Pool is finally looking up, notwithstanding the whims of Whitehall and Eric Pickles who will decide the grants fate. We could be looking at an investment of nearly £3 million in the pool. Which will not only repair the storm damage but repair and refurbish those parts that haven't been good for a while. Hopefully we can go from a tired and dated structure in a prominent position to one we can all be proud of. This is not only thanks to Cornwall Councillors, town councillors but also to the indefatigable Friends of Jubilee Pool and the 4000 who signed the petition calling on Cornwall Council to match fund the bid.

*****UPDATE*****
Jim McKenna replied this morning and explained he thought I was talking about this years revenue budget not the four yearly capital budget. I can only think that as he was sitting behind me he didn't hear me clearly and perhaps I was not speaking loudly enough....
******************
Further update

Councillor Olivier (also Labour's general candidate for the St Ives constituency) emailed he disagreed with my points in a rather rude fashion accusing me of being parochial and ill informed. Cornelius ignored the fact I was right about the capital budget and what he said in the meeting was wrong. Amazing how a year changes things last year he along with Tim Dwelly wrote to the Cornishman including the sentence: "Our aim is to get a fair share of Cornwall Council investment ." But now the story is there's no money and we should bow and grovel for a few crumbs from the table...

Who to vote for part two, The Green Party

In yesterday's blog I explained, my dilemna of who to vote for. So I thought I would write about the process I went through emailing candidates. As I explained yesterday my party Mebyon Kernow is not contesting these European elections and has decided upon a policy of not endorsing another party. This is something I want to try to do here.But below are the questions I think are fundamental to Cornwall in the EU, not only providing some idea of where candidates stand, but something to hold them to account to if elected. The answers from the Green candidate Molly Scott Cato are at the bottom, provide your own comments and analysis if you want.

But first a quick word about the Green Party and their prospects, they currently don't have any MEPs in the South West but had a good election last time in 2009 finishing fourth behind the Conservatives in first, UKIP in second and the Lib Dems in third. So they beat Labour last time and the BNP, (as did Mebyon Kernow in Cornwall). According to recent opinion polls the Greens are doing very well and stand a very good chance of gaining one of the 5 seats. They are on 10% on voting intentions, 4 percentage points behind the Conservatives and 4 points above the once mighty Liberal Democrats. They don't need a great deal more votes to get in this time, which is why they are running one of the strongest campaigns in this election.

Interestingly I did the internet quiz I side with which matches your views over a series of questions with political parties and ended up most agreeing with the Green Party, why not try it for yourself? http://uk.isidewith.com/political-quiz Here's my results:



Without further ado, here are Molly's answers:

1. If elected as an MEP what would you most like to achieve in the next parliament?

I am an economist and expert on finance so my main focus would be getting a grip on the banks where the green group have already made considerable progress example introducing a Bankers Bonuses. I would also seek to create jobs in the South West through more local food and energy production. 

2. What is your party's goal in this term of the parliament?

So many goals as you will see on the website and in the manifesto if you catch that on the website once it's there. The priority is probably the Green New Deal to make the transition to more sustainable economy with many more jobs, that's stopping the TTIP secret trade deal and getting a global agreement on climate change in Paris next year. You also have various aims to do with making Europe more efficient and accountable and stopping corporate lobbying.

3. Is the European Union a force for good in Cornwall at the moment? Why or why not?

Cornwall is one of the areas that is obviously benefited most in the UK because it is eligible for convergence funding but I think the way the European Union works in the interests of corporations rather than small businesses has been damaging for the economy of Cornwall.

4. Could the EU be doing more for Cornwall?

Same answer really: we need more support for small businesses and resilient local economies and less emphasis on corporate globalisation.

5. If there is a referendum on the UK's place in the EU, would you campaign for or against UK membership?

We are strongly in favour of staying in the EU although we believe it needs significant reform but we think you should commit to something and reforming from within. Incidentally we support the call for a referendum now since so many people have not had a chance to vote on whether we should stay in.

6. Should Cornwall have a greater say in the EU, how might this be achieved?

We believe that society should be taken seriously so that power is exercised at the lowest appropriate level. In the case of Cornwall this means an assembly and powers should be devolved from the EU not just the Westminster but to the regions as well.

7. Do you think Cornish fishermen get a good deal from the Common Fisheries Policy? What aspects of the CFP would you defend and which would you change?

I met the Cornish Fisherman in Newlyn year ago and they were not particularly negative about the new CFP. If the fish disappear then the fishermen also disappear so conservation is in everybody's interest. Greens have long argued that local fisheries should be governed by the people who fish them and live nearby. The discard ban is a good thing that we need to learn to eat more variety of fish.
8. Do you think Cornish farmers get a good deal from the Common Agricultural Policy? What aspects of the CAP would you defend and which would you change?

At the moment too much money goes to large farmers because it is related to landholdings. You can find our report on here: http://southwest.greenparty.org.uk/policy/farming-policy.html

9. Have European Structural Funds (Objective 1, Convergence) been a success in Cornwall? how should future funding be allocated?

I have visited some really excellent projects and schemes paid for through EU money but generally I think the criteria should be changed so that they are more relevant to what local people want and protect environmental and social standards better.

10. The Cornish have recently been recognised as a national minority. Is this a good thing? How does this apply to an MEP?

Again I think we should move towards an EU where regions within nation-states are better represented. It is cheap for politicians to recognise ethnic identities but as Greens we would give real power to the people who live in Cornwall regardless of their ethnic origin.

Monday, 5 May 2014

Who to vote for in the European elections? my emails to candidates... (part 1 intro)

It truly is odd being an active member of a political party and being unsure of who to vote for in an election. But this is the situation I find myself in at the moment. Mebyon Kernow took the decision at Conference not to contest the polls. I think this was a real shame, but the system is massively against us. Cornwall has over the years been subsumed in a bigger and bigger South West region, Cornwall is a tiny part of this area.


This would mean we would have to do spectacularly well as Dick Cole wrote:

"To get an MEP elected in such a ‘South West’ seat, the MK candidates would – based on past results – need to poll over 90% of the vote in Cornwall. But if that wasn’t bad enough, other aspects of the electoral process are unfairly rigged against Mebyon Kernow. To be allowed a party election broadcast, for example, MK would have to stand in all (nine) euro-constituencies in England – an absolute nonsense – whereas “regional” parties standing in the (single) Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland seats will be allowed their own broadcasts."
On his blog here.

So I got to thinking what kind of issues I would stand for if I was a candidate in a Euro poll. The kind of things that I think are important. This is not an exhaustive list, bearing in mind this is the European Parliament and they have a limited amount of influence on UK politics. Whatever UKIP might tell you, things like austerity, your local toilets closing, your local school being in dire need of repair, potholes being repaired or not, thousands being made redundant, cuts to frontline policing, the bedroom tax, the carve up and selling off of the NHS, ATOS, the welfare state being stripped, fuel duty, business rates, VAT. And much much more besides, you know the real debates in politics? all decided not by MEPs but by Westminster, nothing to do with the EU.

So I drew up my list with the things not decide by Westminster taken out and trimmed it down and got to 10 questions. I thought I'd email the prospective MEPs from parties standing here. To help my decide who to vote for, to get an idea of where the stood on the issues that mattered to me and ultimately I guess to hold them to account if elected as MEPs. An easy task surely in the days of the internet and widely accessible information at the touch of the google search button, how very wrong I was! I decided to email the Conservatives, Greens, Labour, Liberal Democrat and UKIP. I will later in other posts explain more and publish answers I received.

Congratulations to the Green Party's Molly Scott Cato the only prospective MEP I could find an email address for and the first one to respond to my email. UKIP were next had to email a generic "communications" email but they took a couple of days to get back. Had to also email a generic Labour South West account but they got back to me, although explained the answer would come shortly (due to family illness more on the Labour post). And that's it, the Lib Dems were the most frustrating, no contact details for Euro candidates and after finding emails published on the Devon and Cornwall Lib Dem website, I sent the questions one by one to their chairman, treasurer, secretary and campaigns manager. Every single email one by one was pinged back by my email provider as they presumably no longer exist. So I went on the main LD site, filled in the contact form (no emails available on there) and that was it, sweet fa since. Similarly no response from the Conservative party, but considering their "2014 manifesto" page is "coming soon" the page "Who are Team 2014" is "under construction". I was perhaps expecting too much from the Conservative's web abilities....

The email sent:

Dear candidate,

I'm pondering who to vote for in the European elections and was wondering if you could some questions about yourself and your party that might help me decide.

1. If elected as an MEP what would you most like to achieve in the next parliament?

2. What is your party's goal in this term of the parliament?

3. Is the European Union a force for good  in Cornwall at the moment? Why or why not?

4. Could the EU be doing more for Cornwall?

5. If there is a referendum on the UK's place in the EU, would you campaign for or against UK membership?

6. Should Cornwall have a greater say in the EU, how might this be achieved?

7. Do you think Cornish fishermen get a good deal from the Common Fisheries Policy? What aspects of the CFP would you defend and which would you change?

8. Do you think Cornish farmers get a good deal from the Common Agricultural Policy? What aspects of the CAP would you defend and which would you change?

9. Have European Structural Funds (Objective 1, Convergence) been a success in Cornwall? how should future funding be allocated?

10. The Cornish have recently been recognised as a national minority. Is this a good thing? How does this apply to an MEP?




What do you think of my questions? what would you ask?




Friday, 2 May 2014

Should Penzance Town Council not fund the Jubilee Pool?



Another blog and I'm afraid another can of worms and like all cans of worms who knows what the repercussions could be. Apologies for the provocative title but lets face it many don't care about local issues. I stand ready to see all those who comment and bitch at me without reading this blog fully and understanding it, so please if you can spare a few minutes. Things get built and things get pulled down, public services get closed down and long after the consultation process and campaigners have accepted their cause is lost, the things happens people start to get angry, that something happened in this or that way. I'm hoping this is a slightly different issue, without any risk of exaggeration the Friends of Jubilee Pool are ecstatically gushing about the 3742 people that signed the petition titled Save the Jubilee Pool in Penzance and provide match funding for the application to the Coastal Communities Fund and particularly the comments made on the petition site and I can't say I blame them.

The Jubilee Pool is an icon of Penzance, it's prominence and reputation means having it derelict for perhaps months years or forever is a terrifying thought. I'm not going to wax lyrical about it's importance as a leisure facility, why we need to protect public services or any of the such. To me it speaks for itself, so lets get on to the nuts and bolts.

There was a confusing story about the future of the pool, first Cornwall Council sent out press releases proclaiming their sadness that a grant application to the Coastal Communities Fund was rejected. Then after a number of individuals brought the truth to light, another press release which added the words because we did not match fun the bid (thus dooming it to failure). Thanks to pressure from the Friends of Jubilee Pool, the powers that be have had a rethink. They are now ready to resubmit a bid but it needs to be done by the ninth of May (7 days from now). Which is all relatively simple.

Where it gets complicated is the Town Council's involvement, though my letterbox yesterday was papers declaring a Special Meeting of the Town Council on next tuesday the 6th of May. With a briefing this morning with senior officers and cabinet members in Penzance (a sure sign of their commitment). Still less than a week to consider what was being proposed and come to a decision. Bearing in mind this is the first official papers, discussion or anything to come before town councillors. Now, in broad brushstrokes the answer is so simple, yes the town council should support the pool, but broad brushstrokes it ain't.

There are two recommendations to the council to deliberate upon, but in fact they are not really two they are completely intertwined. Basically it is an offer from Cornwall Council, that basically amounts to an ultimatum. Made more acute by the surprise of the suggestion, the fact it has not been trailed and it needs to be decided now or never. Although Cornwall Council have done a u turn on putting money into the grant bid, it's not that simple. They want firstly for the town council to contribute £40,000 from the Devolution Budget to the bid, which adds more money and demonstrates a local partnership to Eric Pickles along with the petition signatures and the Friend's of Jubilee Pool. (The Friend's are fundraising for this at the moment see their website to contact them.)

The opportunity or catch depending on your view is that Cornwall Council's (very generous) contribution to the bid is also from their devolution pot. So this is not money for putting in bids, capital expenditure or any such thing. So the second part of the recommendation to the town council is that we commit to working together to take over the pool ourselves (or perhaps in partnership with the Friends). Sweetening the deal is the offer of perhaps taking over the car park across the road (St Anthony's) to offset some of the cost of running the pool. Also funding for the transition period of a takeover.

This puts me in a quandary frankly, by the principles my answer is overwhelming yes. Should the town council take on more services, should things be devolved? the answer is yes. Should the pool remain open? is it worth public money to keep it running? yes. But as I wrote above it's not just broad brushstrokes, it would be foolish to take on services without considering the financial implications. Which brings me to the nub of the bid, attached to the agenda for tuesday's meeting is an engineers/ consultants report detailing what works need to be done, to repair the storm damage and work that has been long overdue. The headline cost is estimated at over £2 million. A facility that apparently is uninsurable from storm damage.

So what do you think people? In case it's not clear above, this is a zero sum game, Penzance Town Council says no and the broader community support is not demonstrated in the bid and a lot more importantly Cornwall Council's devolution money goes somewhere else. In other words, unless someone wins the lottery any time soon the pool has no future, without a yes on tuesday.

Now until tuesday is precious little time to consider the ramifications of the decision we will make then, so help me out...

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...