Wednesday, 27 February 2013

The coalition comes to Cornwall Council

Well there's stranger things that have happened certainly, but bucking the trend of putting clear water between Westminster's bosom buddies has so far been the norm for the Cornish branch of the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives. Today however they spoke as one voice, kneeling at the altar of austerity and leaving Cornwall to pray for the future of our public services, they agreed a set of job cuts and a tax freeze. The bottom line of this is that Cornwall Council will not raise the amount of council tax it demands from the people, although parish and town precepts may rise and Devon and Cornwall Police want more money so council tax will go up. As I blogged before rebel factions of the Tories and the Lib Dems took on the mantle of finding alternative budgets and I predicted the consultant and temp budget would be targeted. What I wrote less than two weeks ago:
Which brings me to consultants and temps no one really knows what they do outside of the council. A prime target no doubt, but politically hard for any of our intrepid trio. The Tories have spent a fortune on them but so did the last County Council run by the Liberal Democrats. Its a long held tradition between the two parties  They might gamble on revealing this but its gone on so long I really doubt the consultants can all be fired and whatever it is they do reallocated in time for the budget deadline in less than two weeks, without adversely effecting services. Don't get me wrong its an ongoing scandal but fixing something this endemic will take time.
 It turns out I wasn't completely right, as it turns our no one outside the council or councilors knows what these people do. After the Lib Dem budget was voted through this morning the council took a long recess, where it, well as the BBC journalist so eloquently put it on twitter:

Because nobody really knew what they had voted for, attracted more by the electoral leaflet friendly headline of no council tax rise than the effect on services. After the break the new interim CEO Paul Masters said that the 'indicative figures' were that 135 jobs will go, how many posts will end up going is unclear and even what effect they'll have on services. All we really have (ironic in this headline hunting policy) is headline figures, here on Cornwall Community News The Big Freeze is On, look at them yourselves, I don't know what cutting £855,000 from the staffing budget of Adult Care and Support will mean, nor what £723,00 on Children, Schools and Family, nor any of the rest of the £3.6 million, definite repercussions are difficult to find even when those that proposed this motion are asked. But they are very keen to note that frontline services won't be effected, quite how is frankly puzzling. The phrase omnishambles springs to mind.

My real disappointment was not only the rush to cuts jobs, but the lack of compassion in this budget and just how readily Cornwall's Conservatives and Liberal Democrats mimicked their bosses in London. Jobs cut with no real regard over how this would effect public services, let alone the lives of the people soon to be out of work. Again we see the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats together in unison shrinking the state for the sake of lower taxes. With no regard for how these policies will effect people, the economy and public services. The Lib Dems proposed a budget and got it passed with Tory support and the recent scandal of making those on council tax benefit pay more, was completely ignored.  Far from the minds of the coalition duo was the idea that these out of work, disabled and low paid workers could be saved from paying council tax in any alternative budget. The meeting later descended into a further farce when it was revealed the Lib Dems (Ann Kerridge) were not only proposing a motion to halt the council tax rise (which would have cost people in a band D property 42p per week) but also one to increase rent in social housing by the much more considerable rise of £2.32 a week. So for those of us outside of social housing 42p a week is not a price worth paying yet £2.32 if you're among the poorest in society is more than acceptable.


  1. My name is Kevin Bennetts, I dont do anonymous but that is the easiest way to post here. I am approaching pensionable age, a businessman in control of a family business I established in 1986 having previously been a fisherman. I am a Cornish Nationalist with a hopefully pragmatic outlook untainted by hatred or bitterness. My passion for nationalism has risen from neutral to very serious as political life in the UK has deteriorated until at present it has become a festering sewer of sleaze and corruption made even worse by the sheer incompetence of the majority of so called politicians at all levels who are failing to produce results. In this sense MK raises issues that need airing, a self styled Party for Cornwalll populated by seemingly decent people with Cornwalls best interests at heart is in principle the answer, however from my perspective MK is the invisible party with a few half decent councillors but little else to show for its long existence. Where are the policies that offer solutions, the vision and the passion for change that might just get a couple of MP's elected to Westminster in 2015? Being decent is not enough to accomplish this Herculean feat we need competent convincing leadership, fresh ideas and the burning hunger to succeed which simply is not there even when all the other parties are in total disarray and a window of opportunity is currently wide open. Where are the policies for affordable housing that is actually affordable, farming, fishing, mining, tourism, social services, transport etc??? Where is the passion, the desire to say things that need to be said even if they are unpalatable??? I want to believe in MK as currently I am like many others disenfranchised and disillusioned but unless things change rapidly MK is going to fail all Cornish people in a tragic unforgivable manner.

    1. Hi Kevin apologies for not getting back sooner. I appreciate the comment and I'm always eager to have feedback and frankly yours is the best kind brutal and honest. I have no illusions that the challenges we face as a party are severe and we need to be asking ourselves the kinds of questions you raise.

      I fully understand your points about MK needing to offer policies that encompass all of Cornish life. As the son of a fishermen myself I know what it means for people to be toiling away with next to no help from the authorities and more hinderance than anything else. For me the lessons of political parties in the UK is that single issue parties are bound to fail, the Greens Ukip etc all don't command any real say about how things are run. In contrast the SNP who have some of the qualities you point out, leadership and vision and clear economic policies have frankly triumphed. This shows us it is possible to make a big break through and challenge the establishment parties.

      My defence of MK is this, we are a David fighting many Goliaths we are half a dozen decent honest Cornwall Councilors trying to make a difference. We are backed up by hundreds of supporters not to mention dozens of town and parish councilors. But with this we are dwarfed by our opposition. Any one of the big three has more money, activists and elected representatives by miles and miles. They present to the people policies that are forumlated by teams of specialised academics. They draw upon millions and millions of pounds worth of funding from across the UK and of course the tax havens overseas. Not to mention the news coverage we could only dream of.

      This is the challenge we face and for us to come this far and survive in my opinion is a testament to the hard work and dedication of the party and its members. We shouldn't rest on our laurels we need to build from 6 councilors to more and more. I'm not disagreeing with your points because I wholeheartedly agree with you. But see it from my perspective we have people who work really hard for the party, when they're not working or with their families. How can we a small party in relative terms compete with Westminster's leviathans? I don't want MK fail I've spent too much time on it to see that wasted, I want us to do better I want us to get MPs elected. Bit the question is how do we do this? Please any ideas you have share them.

  2. Rob, do you have any more details on the vote to increase council house rents? Was it passed? And by how many?

  3. Hi Zetetist, I asked for a recorded vote on this but did not receive enough support for it to happen. Myself, Steve Eva and just a handful of other voted against the increase. Mike Eathorne-Gibbons and Anne Kerridge - another unholy alliance - proposed the increase. The motion was passed by simple majority and there will be no record of who voted how.
    Regards, Julian German