Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Good bye to the Sea King and commonsense (or is 2 helos in Cornwall enough?)

Yesterday it was announced that Bristow has won the contract to provide search and rescue helicopter cover around the UK. In Cornwall this means we will no longer see the ubiquitous red and grey Royal Navy Sea Kings in the west and in the north no more yellow RAF Sea Kings. The RNAS Culdrose and RMB Chivenor bases will no longer host the service and it is being split between St Athan in South Wales and Newquay airport. The fact is the older model Sea Kings have seen a great deal of service in their lifetimes and saved many lives both at sea and on land.

The new provider Bristow is investing in 20 new helicopters, they are faster than the old air frames, can fly greater distances and carry big loads. But they are very thin on the ground. The actual present number is hard to pin down wikipedia has it that 771 Sq have 9 helos at Culdrose and 22 Sq have at least 2 at Chivenor, a trustworthy source is hard to find granted. But it is very alarming that they will be replaced by 2 aircraft at Newquay. I can think of many incidents in my lifetime when more than 2 SAR helicopters have been in the air in Cornwall alone, Boscastle floods being the prime example when 5 helos were on scene. 2 seems by far not enough, much like the government's closing of Coastguard stations it seems a lot to do with saving money at the cost of operational capability and at the risk that all assets need to be continuously operational for the system to work.

As readers of my blog are probably more than well aware, I am no fan of privatisation, I believe it has dubious benefits. There are examples time and again of instances were the bold claims that profits can be made at the same time as providing the same service. Despite the fact the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives criticised Labour's decision back in 2006 to privatise the service they have carried on and I would suggest gambled with the lives of people that rely upon this services (I hope I am wrong). Quite why Labour did not invest in new aircraft is beyond me, I'm sure we all remember they had a great adversity for investing in military helicopters, despite strong calls for them in Afghanistan at the time. I really am at a loss as to why Labour, Liberal Democrats and Conservatives all think privatisation is such a good thing. I really wonder what pressure Cornish MPs were putting on the government over the search and rescue contract. This time 2 years ago (tomorrow) I was blogging about the loss of the Coastguard tug Anglian Princess and expressing frustration that the government had failed to do a risk assessment over the effects of it's loss again I despair what knowledge and concern this government has for maritime and inland rescue.

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Penzance parking, Cornwall Council needs to use more carrot and less stick

If there's one thing that Cornwall Council does or doesn't do that annoys me more than anything on a day to day basis, and the most complaints I've heard from people about the council in my neighbourhood it's on street parking. The policy seems to be entirely dictated by employing more and more traffic wardens (civil enforcement officers in newspeak) and issuing more and more fines. A story researched by the Cornishman just over 12 months ago revealed a huge rise in the revenue raised by parking fines after the number of tickets issued rose nearly tenfold from the year before. As a response to massive cuts to Cornwall Council's funding it is obvious that the Tory led administration has targeted parking as a means of raising revenue. The same hypocritical Tories tell us that raising council tax by a small fraction is too much for people to pay, yet £35 a pop fines doesn't seem to be governed by the same logic.

It's an awful habit of governments and councils of all colours across the UK to issue fines as a means of controlling behaviour. Pay your tax late fine, park your car in your own street fine, drive a car fuel duty, smoke or drink pay duty. It's not just Cornwall Council to blame it's embedded in the very fabric of administration. Punishment in the form of cash penalties trumps positive incentives every time. The default policy is stick first carrot second. I don't think this is either fair or productive.

If you have a problem you need to look at it from both sides. In the example of parking Cornwall Council has decided streets like mine (St James street) and many others in Penzance and no doubt across Cornwall, shouldn't have parking both sides. Thus one side has a yellow line and parking restrictions, eagerly enforced by the regular traffic warden patrols. The rate at which people are getting fined indicates that the policy is not working (unless profiting is the aim). So what are the other solutions? The obvious one is getting people to park elsewhere, its easy to point to the underused car parks in towns St Erbyn's and St Anthony's being prime examples and the Harbour car park less so but still consistently with spare spaces. My colleague in Mebyon Kernow Cornwall Councillor Tamsin Williams has consistently argued and lobbied for car parks and their revenues to be granted to Penzance town council. Which is a great idea the policy emanating from Truro doesn't best suit Penzance it should be up to us here to decide what is best for the town, shoppers and residents. So using the available resources better is one way, encourage parking in car parks (a novel idea!).

The justification for having single yellow lines on Penzance's streets is to allow larger vehicles to access the roads, prime examples are ambulances and fire engines but thankfully aren't that common. I wonder if this really is the concern and whether they're really thought it through. After all the restrictions are uniformly in place 8am until 5pm monday to saturday, so these emergency vehicles can get access during office hours only and not sundays!?! Lorries is of course the primary reason In the six years I have lived on this street, I have seen two or three occasions when there has been a problem. Even with cars parked either side the majority of the time lorries can find their way through, the problem only arises when people park on the narrowest parts of the street or when cars are parked more than a foot away from the kerb. Which is a problem of that there's no doubt. Its doesn't in my opinion warrant restrictions on everyone though. Not only more carrot but also more common sense is needed.

If the people of Penzance East lay their faith in me and choose me to represent them on Cornwall Council and on Penzance town council I want to address the problem of parking in Penzance. I won't promise the earth in this regard, I'd love to tell people that I will reduce parking fees by x amount and sack traffic wardens and such things outside the power of a Cornwall councilor. But I don't want to just deliver leaflets with wild promises I want to deliver promises I can actually do. I would if elected work to get more sensible parking policies in Penzance. Parking ticket prices are too high in Penzance, that's why the car parks are vastly under used. The policy of issuing fines for very small transgressions unfairly punishes residents. People should have the right to park near their own houses. These are some of the things I would want to address on Cornwall Council. I'm not the kind of bloke that wants to merely bitch and moan at policies and make the same pledges time and again, I'm the kind of bloke that wants change, I'm not standing for election to take pops at the administration, I see things in Penzance East I'd like to change, to my mind that's what Cornwall Councillors ought to be doing.

Monday, 18 March 2013

The Council must do more to promote buildings in Cornwall to be energy self sufficent

There's lots of things I'd like to see Cornwall Council doing. My blog on St Piran's day covered some of the areas in which I think the council needs to do more, remind yourself here if you so wish. The general thrust was that the council needs to look beyond itself and to helping Cornwall as a whole. Quite a while ago now, I blogged on the Inspirational Wadebridge Renewable Energy Network which is a great scheme for a community to come together and build renewables on their own terms, where they want them and for their own benefit. I am big fan of renewable energy, I think in Cornwall we need to look to the future and become less reliant on elsewhere for our power. Which also has the great benefit of bringing money into the Cornish economy. I think in the field of renewable energy the council must do more and look to ways in which existing and new businesses can be more energy self sufficient on a smaller scale than large wind farms and solar farms.

Many thanks to Craig Weatherhill for posting this photo to the Mebyon Kernow facebook page, which illustrates a great example of reneweables fitting into existing blots on the landscape if you will.

When I was on holiday back along, I saw a smaller scale scheme, like this picture again in Italy, again at a motorway services.  In the high heat of a gorgeous Italian summer is struck me how great it is to harness all that energy from the sun and how nice it would be to get back to your car considerably cooler from being in the shade. I guess at other times out of the rain too, although on that dry and dusty day the idea of it ever raining was a very distant possibility.

I must say credit to Cornwall Council, a few years back before austerity and job cuts were the only headlines coming from Lys Kernow. They did fit solar panels to the roof of the building and it's a great scheme. There's a roof there doing nothing, the solar panels are in no ones way, obscuring no ones view. We need to identify more potential like this, on council buildings, on supermarkets and industrial units.

These are the kind of simple innovative ideas that we must be looking to, another one of my pet rants that my friends and family are probably sick of hearing is water usage. I don't think I've blogged about this before apologies if I'm covering old ground. In Aberystwyth they have a relatively new Welsh Assembly Government building and they've made a great job of it with the water supply. The rain water that is collected on the roof is recovered and used in the building, a simple thing but it reduces the energy needed to treat water and get it to the building and it's just plain common sense. It never ceases to amaze and infuriate me that we live in a world where the water supply has been collected in lakes, reservoirs and rivers. Piped to centers to be filtered and treated with chemicals so it's safe to drink. All at a massive cost and then how much of it gets actually consumed by humans, how much of that treated drinking water is used to water gardens, clean cars, wash hands, bathed in and worst of all flushed down the toilet. We spend an absolute fortune on the treatment of water to make it safe to drink, in a land like Cornwall where rain is abundant we need to think differently.

If I have a vision for the future its one where we capture the solar and wave power, utilise the rainwater that's all around us. But not on a huge scale over a greenfields but on a small scale. Personally I'd love, to live somewhere with my own solar panels and rainwater collection. Nothing would give me greater pleasure than to be free of the likes of EDF, South West Water and the like. In terms of policy, we in Cornwall or should I say the council needs to find ways to encourage businesses and organisations including itself to find ways to become more self sufficient and when they start saving money pass on these savings to the people of Cornwall.

A response to Labour accusations that I am a liar

I have many faults as an individual, as a husband, a father, a son, a brother a team and a friend, but I work on it, I'm not perfect but I try. Although I have faults I pride myself on my honesty and I pride myself on my writing particularly on this blog. I sometimes review posts I have written and cringe at the spelling and grammar but I have always been happy that my posts have presented factual information. Any accusations that I have lied on my blog I take very seriously. So when Labour's sole Cornwall Councilor accused me of lying on my blog, I really took it to heart and I was unable to sleep for a long time last night pondering her accusations. I've had very rigorous debates with Jude and the few other people in the Cornish branch of the Labour party, but I've never resorted to personal insult or sleights. I've always believed that we should treat others in the way we which to be treated, I write this blog and some disagree with what I write, that's fair enough. I disagree often with other politicians, I have criticised them on their policies, their priorities and their points of view. I'm more than happy for people to do that with my blog or the views and policies of Mebyon Kernow, we live in a democracy it ought to not only be welcomed but people's duty to question other people's political ideas. Politics is about ideas even with my staunchest ideological enemies I have refrained from attacks on their characters, I believe we must treat each other with respect.

(On a separate note the Labour candidate for Penzance East Tim Dwelly, knocked my door yesterday and spoke to my wife and gave Labour's usual don't vote for Mebyon Kernow spiel. I'm informed other MK voters had the same treatment. My wife explained that I was her husband and the candidate for MK, so I went to the door and spoke to Tim, he was with my good friend Chris Drew who I always have a lot of time for. We chatted amicably and at the end of the conversation, I wished Tim good luck in his campaign, he didn't reciprocate and was quite taken aback by this. Which makes me wonder maybe I'm too nice too civil for politics, I'm not sure maybe my sense of fair play and manners will hinder me in the future, tell me what you think at the bottom.)

Last week I wrote a blog titled 'Labour decrying investment in Penzance, no surprise there then'. Focusing on both Labour's record of centralising jobs from the town and the comments of Councilor Robinson about the investment in St John's Hall in Penzance. Jude quite vigorously took exception to this, sending this tweet to the Mebyon Kernow twitter account. (Apologies for the screenshots but Jude amended her blog I wrote in response to and I don't want to be accused of more lies if she chooses to delete these tweets.)

I replied on twitter to a comment made on my blog.

Jude also edited her blog and added:
Update: And just in case there are any other political party candidates in Penzance who want (like Mebyon Kernow) to play silly games and claim the above blog ‘decries’ investment in St John’s Hall, let me make this even clearer. As it says in the first line ‘I believe in Council investment’.
I also believe in real political debate not twisting other people’s words, telling lies about opponents and all the petty stuff we see every day at County Hall. Labour will fight this campaign on the issues.

I take exception to this nowhere is there a rebuttal of the issues involved, nowhere is there a defence of Labour's record of centralising jobs and services out of Penzance. Instead I am accused of playing silly games, telling lies and being a dissapointment, if that's campaigning on issues I hate to see what a character assassination from Labour would be. I particularly take exception to people accusing Mebyon Kernow of telling lies without any justification, not everyone agrees with us, but no one can seriously question the parties honesty or accuse us of playing silly games. Besides which MK has nothing to fear from Labour we've outpolled them before in the last Cornwall Council elections and in the European Elections on the same day, if anything they should fear us. If their approach on the doorstep of actively campaigning against Mebyon Kernow is anything to go by, they know they should be worried.

Anyway back to the issue Jude also wrote a comment on my blog.

This is a lie from start to finish. I have never 'decried' investment in St John's Hall, Penzance or anywhere else. I actually say in the blog that 'Investment is good'.

What I said was that the project at Carn Brea should be treated in the same way - as investment.

Please apologise and delete this blog. If you repeat this on a leaflet, it will be an offence under the Representation of the People Act and I will make a formal complaint.

Again I take exception to being told my blog post is a complete fabrication, so I'd like to clarify. I accused Labour of decrying the decision to invest in Penzance, I accused Jude of lambasting the decision. Which are both fancy ways of saying that Labour criticised the decision, which they did. The title of Jude's blog was More council investment NOT in Carn Brea which questioned why the council was investing in Penzance and not in the Carn Brea leisure center. (On a side note Labour activists have accused me and MK of not supporting Carn Brea see Stephen Richardson's blog here for why that's far from true and note the picture of MK councilors front and center at the protest.)

Cllr Robinson points to the fact that she wrote 'I believe in council investment.' Which is a lot more convincing when taken in isolation (even after she'd edited her original blog):
Don’t get me wrong, I believe in Council investment. But why is is okay for the Council to dip its hand into its pocket to refurbish St John’s Hall in Penzance.
My understanding of the English language is such that if you make a statement in one sentence and start the next sentence with the word but, it undermines the statement made previously. If I wrote for example that 'Don't get me wrong Labour are a progressive party. But why did the gap between rich and poor widen when they were in government?' Or 'Labour are being progressive arguing against the 50p (high earners tax rate). But why did it take over a decade of being in government to introduce it?' 'Labour are being progressive to oppose the bedroom tax. But why did they enforce under occupancy rules and less money for private tenants on housing benefits when in office?' You would be right in saying that I am lambasting and decrying the failure of Labour to be progressive when in office. Even though the first statement before the but appears otherwise. Further Labour's comment about the investment in St John's Hall is coming from the sale of the St Clare site and savings from moving the library and other public services there and is in no way linked to the awful Carn Brea sell off. This does not equate to the council dipping it's hand in it's pocket despite Jude's claims.

Bear in mind at this point all I wrote was 'Labour decrying investment in Penzance.' and Jude 'lambasted the decision'. I said they were critical, this is true, despite the smear attempt of Labour to accuse myself and Mebyon Kernow of lying and silly games that is a fact, they did criticise the decision. They can choose to backpedal and amend blogs all they like but they did decry the decision to invest in Penzance. I'm not the only person to have taken Jude's blog this way. I apologise to the Cornish branch of the Labour party, but be wary many people like me in Penzance remember all too well, the lack of investment in the town and the stripping of jobs and services the last time Labour were in government. And I make no apologies for questioning people from other parties, their principles, beliefs and policies.

Friday, 15 March 2013

Conservatives rush through privatisation at the last minute

With weeks until the elections, where with any luck the Tories will be dethroned, they are rushing through the slimmed down privatisation. Despite the thousands who signed petitions against the scheme and the vote of the full chamber against the Joint Venture for Shared Services aka outsourcing staff and services, the Conservative- Independent administration still press ahead. With a vote at the cabinet with the notable exception of the Independent Bert Biscoe voting against the scheme. If this situation isn't farcical enough only BT are going to bid to take over employment of council staff and deliver services. I don't see the benefits or privatisation, despite the claims nowhere do private sector outfits deliver the same service and make a profit. Consider for a moment the great work done by the Doctor's cooperative Kernow Doc which since being taken over by Serco has been slammed by all and sundry and patients have been left with an inadequate out of hours GP service. (Like PFI and other expensive public- private partnerships a New Labour legacy). Even if I put my skepticism aside for a moment, how can a competitive tendering process be undertaken with one partner? BT is now at liberty to offer whatever price and terms it likes with no competitor to push the price down and level of service up. I firmly believe we would get ripped off in this deal but under these terms the scope for this happening is greatly increased.

I had an email from a campaigner from Somerset by the name of David Orr. Who sent me his observations of Somerset County Council's failing joint venture with IBM. He suggests the only way BT can square the circle of running a service for less, yet create jobs and make profit will require an healthy does of pixie dust. His comments below:

IBM made exactly the same improbable claims prior to signing Somerset up for Southwest One. 
years later in 2013: 
- Fewer local Council jobs
- No new private jobs
- No promised iconic building for a SW1 HQ (an empty demolition “bomb” site in the town centre where it was meant to be built)
- No new business or revenue
- Procurement contracts now out of County & SW Region
- Business apparently unprofitable – SW1 has made losses in every year of trading, requiring parent company guarantees and for Councils to indemnify the Councillors who are Directors on the SW1 Board
- No true net savings made for Councils (in fact higher net/true costs)
- All new or changed IT requirements to support change are an add-on cost said to be “holding Somerset Council back through inflexibility”
- No IT replacement costed into the contract, so now a 6+ year old ageing & risky IT infrastructure (see risk log extract from this week below)
- Local Council IT skills degraded and key SAP skills offshored to India degrading Councils’ contract exit ability
- High Court contract dispute to be heard in November - broken relationships, no mutual trust or respect
- Many service (KPI- measured) levels lower (see internal audit extract from this week below) as an inadequately resourced & skilled contract management client in Councils cannot verify the service levels measured & reported by SW1 (on themselves).

Labour decrying investment in Penzance, no surprise there then

Labour's sole Cornwall councilor Jude Robinson has lambasted the decision to invest in St John's Hall in Penzance. It comes really as no surprise, we remember not long ago, Labour suggested to Cornwall's Lib Dems to centralise all of local government in Truro, enthusiastically supported by the Cornish branch of the Labour party. Which resulted in hundreds of jobs leaving Penzance and our decision making abilities in Penwith District Council being stripped from us. As a result there are not enough council staff left in town to warrant both the St Clare site and St John's Hall, so the former is being sold to pay for investment in the latter.

During the last Labour government the Inland Revenue office was centralised from Penzance added to the local courts leaving and even our job center being downgraded. Not to mention the stripping of West Cornwall hospital's accident and emergency department and other services at the hospital being centralised out of town. We saw here in Penzance time and again European funding Objective One and Convergence being spent elsewhere. The amount actually successfully invested in Penzance during Labour's time in power was pitiful compared to Cornwall's other major towns. Quite why Labour has such disdain for investment and jobs in Penzance is unclear, why we are less worthy than other areas is beyond me and defies the fact that we are just as in need of investment as elsewhere. The net result of the Labour years of centralisation was and is hundreds of jobs, hundreds of workers spending money in the town center gone. Is it really any wonder that our town has one of the emptiest town centers in Cornwall?

Looking through the archives this is what Labour had to say before the 2009 election:
 "The Labour government was right to make the unitary option available."
They went on to say:
 "But it can only be made effective by a different kind of local politics: one which – still within essential regional and national frameworks – can think and act consistently for Cornwall as a whole, not in a merely sectional or opportunist way. Labour alone among the parties seems capable of doing so."
'Sectional and opportunist', they certainly know what the people want to hear, but why is a Camborne councillor lobbying against funding in Penzance, if Labour is a party that wants to think and act for the whole of Cornwall. I don't blame Jude being the only Labour councillor on the council she simply has to stand up for her area and I share her concerns about the awful sale of facilities at Carn Brea leisure center, really glad to see Mebyon Kernow councilors at the protest against the decision by the council. As Jude well knows the sale of St Clare will pay for the St John's Hall improvements and is nothing at all to do with Carn Brea leisure center. But from my perspective why is it always Penzance Labour choose to take jobs from and divert investment from? With policies like this it's little wonder that Labour couldn't find anyone west of London to contest the St Ives constituency seat at the last general election.

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

A vision for Cornwall Council on St Piran's day

Dydh da, Gool Sen Pyran Lowen, Happy St Piran's day. Hope you're all having a good one and celebrating Cornwall in some way on this special day.
Pinched from
Today is a day to think back to the Cornwall of the past, to celebrate what our rich heritage and history is given us, whether it be the black and white flag of St Piran, the pasty or our language, or any of the many things that typifies Kernow. It's also a time to look forward to reflect on the future as well as the past. I thought now would be a good time to blog on Cornish politics and specifically local government. I wish here to outline what I see as some of the shortcomings of this the first Cornwall Council and what I think can be done to rectify some of these shortcomings and make Cornwall a better governed place.

There were always going to be great challenges for the first Cornwall Council, it was a massive experiment to take 6 district councils and 1 county council and transform that into one mega authority. As Mebyon Kernow among others warned at the time, the savings the Liberal Democrats and Labour claimed were overly optimistic and the benefits dubious. (It cost an estimated £20 million to create unitary and abolish the districts). We have ended up with a centralised local government and here in Penzance -as elsewhere on the periphery- it very much feels like our voice isn't heard and that we have lost the power and influence (not to mention jobs) we used to enjoy under the districts. That said it could have been worse, thankfully the new symbol proposed by the Lib Dems was thrown back into the garbage were it belonged. Unfortunately the £500,000 it cost to design couldn't be discarded.

The great challenge for the next council is how to rectify this immense problem. How to get, what should be and in some senses is, a large and influential body to represent Cornwall better and not just the middle bit. I've said for a long time that one simple and easy way to do this would be to ensure a better geographical spread in the cabinet. Despite the constant chopping and changing Penzance like many Cornish towns has never had a cabinet member, to be fair I don't think any of our present Councillors have had the attendance record and commitment for various reasons to accept such a big responsibility. However the point remains, the cabinet is a simple way to ensure that all parts of Cornwall have fair or at least fairer representation by having cabinet members from all over our land.

But the problem is not just of representation. For whatever reason the last Council leader (Alec Robertson) choose to do away with regular 'State of Cornwall' debates by full council, that were planned. This would have provided a great opportunity for Councillors of all parties and from all corners of Cornwall to have their say and speak up for concerns in their areas.I think this demonstrates one of the ways in which the council is inward looking rather than outward looking. Part of the reason for this is that Cornwall Council has a lot of work to do, if we remember before unitary 7 authorities did what Lys Kernow does now, 123 councilors now do what 331 councilors did before 2009. Add on to this the almighty challenge of brutal cuts coming from central government and the challenges this poses. I don't think for a moment that Cornwall Council looking past its own grounds and considering the whole of Cornwall is an easy task but it is a duty it must embrace.

People look to Cornwall Council for leadership, businesses and industry look to it for support. I have long held the view that the council needs to do more to support industry here, I find it disappointing that tourism gets support, an important part of our economy but it's only a part. All of our other industries don't get barely any support. We've seen great economic hardship since the last election, we've seen shops close, businesses fold and unemployment become more and more common. It ought to be the job of Cornwall Council to help, lets be clear there is only so much it can do, but this is no reason for it to do nothing. Whenever anything closes and people are laid off we must always consider that helping, intervening to stop this has a great cost but there is a much greater cost when people lose their jobs, their wages, their spending power and ultimately their ability to pay tax. Many in Penzance have great fears of the loss of the heliport for example, time will tell but the loss in tourism for the town and Scillonians perhaps no longer visiting will have an economic effect. This is but one example there are countless others across the Duchy. Cornwall Council needs to take a bigger economic role and do more to care for the business and industry that keeps Cornish people in work. Use it's connections, lobbying power and expertise to try to find solutions to some of the problems we face.

The council also needs to do more to lobby for Cornwall to central government. I always had great admiration for the council's attempts to get our trunk roads devolved (assuming our road tax had been diverted as well). Instead the government may or indeed may not upgrade the A30 at Temple. I think it's a shame our roads won't be devolved . Although I admire the council for trying, although I wish that they had been more ambitious. Getting more control and funding for roads is one thing, but its one part of a big picture. Cornwall Council should be lobbying for Cornwall's railways to be upgraded at long last. Look to not only improve our links with England but also our transport links within Cornwall. The council has the power and influence to get our farmers and fisherman's voices heard at central government and in the European Union.

I know many of the things I have written that I want the council to do, are what a Cornish Assembly could do much better. But it is well within the power of Cornwall Council to have more vision and to be more ambitious, to mature as an authority and to speak for Cornwall. To hold our economy as a duty. We face uncertain economic times, the future looks like a nightmare cocktail of austerity and heaven forbid a triple dip recession. The people of Cornwall face huge challenges in the coming years, the price of everything is rising yet wages are stagnating. If I have one vision of where Cornwall Council can go in the next term it is one that spearheads the fight for the Cornish economy. That rises to the challenges before it and tries its best to secure Cornish jobs not simply focusing on how to lay people off.

Saturday, 2 March 2013

Ruth Lewarne believes both in tax rises for toilets and cuts for the most vulnerable

I am utterly perplexed at the actions of the self proclaimed 'left leaning' Liberal Democrat Ruth Lewarne. At Penzance town council she voted with the rest of the town council for the precept to go up. A completely justifiable view a 5% rise to pay for all of the extra things the council now does, she cites public toilets as an example. If you want to raise more tax to pay for more services fine. It's a view I happen to believe in within moderation  I thought as -Mebyon Kernow councillors did- that a 1.97% rise in council tax for Cornwall Council was an acceptable evil to protect frontline service. However Ruth didn't take this view and voted loyally with the rest of Clegg's Cornish compatriots to freeze council tax. As I've written elsewhere on this blog the Lib Dems choose to target Childrens, Schools and Families and Adult Care and Support. I feel ashamed that my part of Penzance is represented by someone that would rather raise taxes in Penzance to pay for public toilets and would go to Cornwall Council to slash jobs of those that provide care for the most vulnerable in society in order to freeze taxes. What would you rather taxes were raised for toilets or jobs for those working for the needy?

Words versus actions, disabled people and Cornwall Council

Recently at Lys Kernow we have seen two councilors ousted as saying indefensible things about disabled people. Collin Brewer was hounded out of office for remarking that "disabled children cpost the council too much money and should be out down"I think it was undoubtedly right that he resigned and feels regret and remorse for this course of action. As soon as the storm of protest on his ill advised remarks died down Councilor Neil Burden was in the press (again both stories run first by This is Cornwall) quoted as saying "the problem is there are too many disabled children". At first glance this is much more serious, Cllr Burden is a cabinet member for Children's Services and Deputy Leader of the Council, whereas Cllr Brewer is a backbencher. Again it looked as though the Independent group had little understanding of disabled people and treated them with contempt. But only that's not the case, many people have contacted me and expressed support for Neil and his work with helping disabled people on the council. They found it strange that Councilor Burden would hold such a view. Cornwall Council was quick to release a statement from Cllr Burden:

The comments I made to Sandra concerned medical errors that are sometimes the cause of disability in children. There was no malice in the comments but they were clumsy and didn’t make the point I intended. I wrote to her immediately after the incident to apologise unreservedly for my inappropriate words and I am very grateful that she recently acknowledged the work and support I have put in on behalf of disabled children in the last three years. I recognise that I expressed the point I was trying to make very badly and caused offence. I learnt an important lesson on that day and hope that my record of support for services to children with disabilities has shown that.

I sincerely apologise for the comments I made online and on twitter about Neil Burden. I in all good faith read this article which simply quoted Neil as saying there are too many disabled children without a context.

As they say actions speak louder than words. I find it odd that comments from councilors Collin's from 2011 and Neil's from 2010 have come up at this juncture. They have dominated the news coverage in Cornwall over the last few days. Whilst people like myself and many others have been expressing concern and wondering what the Lib Dem council tax freeze and the arbitary cuts it imposes (supported by the right wing of Cornwall Council's Tories) actually means for services. This has been drowned out by ill judged comments from two Independent councilors. Let's remind ourselves for a minute, the Liberal Democrat motion seeks to cut the consultant and agency worker budget at the council, the top 5 deepest cuts by department are as follows:

Children, Schools and Families         £923,000

Adult, Care and Support                  £855,000

Information Services                         £366,000

Shared Services                               £365,000
(libraries, one stop shops,
contact, revenue and benefits)

Strategy, Localism                            £297,000
and Communications

Heading the list paying the highest price in staffing for the council tax freeze is Childrens, Schools and Families, included in it's remit is safeguarding children, children's social care, residential care, services for children with disabilities (other duties here) Looking to Adult Care and Support, a shorter list of responsibilities: older people, adults with mental health problems, adults with learning disabilities, adults with physical disabilities, people with hearing or sight loss, HIV/ Aids drug and alcohol problems. These two departments where the axe will fall hardest, provide care to the most vulnerable people in Cornwall. Yes what Collin said was wrong, yes what Neil said (when taken out of context) was wrong. Not sure of the Cllr Brewer but when this half baked budgetary idea was forwarded by the Liberal Democrats Neil Burden voted against it because he wanted to save services because he wanted to help disabled people. Unlike the Conservatives (some of them) and Liberal Democrats (all of them) who may have not said anything against the disabled but have condemned them with their short sighted imposition of yet more cuts to Cornwall's front line services.

As I write this a Conservative has said that this freeze will "make social care impossible", not any old Tory but the cabinet member in charge of Adult Care and Support the very department that was chosen by the Lib Dems to be 2nd place in taking yet more cuts. Alex Folkes has written on his blog that people like me are scaremongering and that somehow frontline services will be protected and cut simultaneously. I asked him on twitter this

Do you know what his reply to that was his justification? No seriously, I'm asking do you know? because I don't, he never replied, absolute silence. If you want to read the rest of the officers remarks of the Lib Dem plan and their implications see here at the bottom.

Lets be angry that disabled people are poorly represented at Cornwall Council, but lets direct this at those that have voted for funding to help the most vulnerable in society be slashed. For the people that most need our help to be at the forefront of cuts.