Monday, 29 April 2013

A summary/ explanation of the Mebyon Kernow manifesto for the Cornwall Council elections

This was something I put together to illustrate Mebyon Kernow policies before the Penzance Chamber of Commerce election hustings. I thought I'd share it here, it was originally going to go on the PZ Chamber website but I don't think any other parties put forward material, too busy slagging each other off and shamelessly claiming credit for anything good that has ever happened in Penzance, (if you've read their leaflets you'll know what I mean), leaving them no time to talk about actual policies. Me I'm a bit old fashioned I think politics is about policy and manifestos should mean a great deal more than they currently do. That we can talk about attracting investment, providing leadership and protecting the vulnerable until the cows come home but without a plan not much will change. All of the below is relevant to all of Cornwall, for those considering voting Mebyon Kernow in the Cornwall Council elections please read on.

A brief summary of the Mebyon Kernow manifesto
and an explanation of our principles

The Mebyon Kernow manifesto is online on our website
there you can read the summary and download the pdf versions of it.
Here is a short summary of the manifesto’s 10 points. As you’re probably
aware Cllr Phil Rendle is standing in the Central division and Rob Simmons in the East division, both are standing for Penzance Town Council and Cornwall Council.

  1.       Working to restore faith in local government
MK has committed itself to strong candidates in this election who will work hard to champion their communities and promote and protect good quality public services in their areas. They will work with Penzance Town Council and represent the views and interests of that body at Cornwall Council. MK wants devolution to Cornwall and within Cornwall, for town and parish councils to take a bigger role. So more decisions are made where they matter most, by people that will listen to the electorate in those areas.

   2.       Protecting public services
MK will continue to oppose the austerity measures imposed by central government that are wreaking havoc on both the Cornish economy and our public services. In Penzance we have seen, hundreds of jobs lost to centralisation by successive government and councils, the tax office, the courts, Penwith district council, the downgrading of West Cornwall hospital and Poltair’s recent temporary closure. Penzance’s economy does not benefit from these job cutting measures and asset stripping measures and MK will continue to fight against them.

   3.       Winning fair funding for Cornwall
MK has long championed the right of Cornwall to enjoy the same infrastructure and service spending as other parts of the UK. The continued underfunding of our public services denys us millions of pounds every year to our economy. The city of Sheffield has about the same population as Cornwall yet has 3 major hospitals, not only does this situation effect care but it also means less jobs here and people paying more to get to hospital. Transport spending in Cornwall too is woeful, give or take tinkering with roundabouts hardly any of our road tax is being spent here. Our train services continue to get worse with time as elsewhere Labour built HS1 and the present government plans HS2.

   4.       Protecting the less well off and vulnerable
At the moment the people most in need of help are the ones feeling the pinch most. Benefits are being cut, bedroom tax and council tax benefit cuts. People in these situations need help and support this is what MK councillors will work hard to do, we need to make people’s lives better because it’s the right thing to do and putting people into poverty helps no one. We think that voluntary and community groups need more help and support for the excellent work they already do. MK believes that pay at Cornwall Council is wrong, many council workers exist below the living wage yet at the top wages have grown to eye popping figures, this needs to be better balanced, MK will push to review pay at Cornwall Council.

   5.       Safeguarding the Cornish economy
Cornwall’s GDP in 2009 was 72% of the EU average, worse than Slovakia and Slovenia. This is before the full force of austerity was felt. We believe Cornwall Council should take the lead on developing a strategy, to seek investment, to use natural resources better and get investment in high technology industries such as the renewables sector. We believe that the LEP should be made accountable and controlled by elected politicians. That the body should be doing more to aid small and medium businesses already in Cornwall as well as seeking others to set up shop here.

   6.       Developing Pro Cornwall planning policies
We do not believe in the logic of housing led growth and have argued that the Core Strategy figures for the number of houses over the next 20 years is too high. That the focus at the moment is too heavily weighted in favour of profits at the expense of the needs of Cornwall’s communities for proper local needs affordable housing. We do not want to see a Cornwall where the interests of residents, communities and our countryside are sidelined in favour of big business. Whether this be housing estates or the worrying trend of out of town supermarkets and shopping centres.

   7.       Delivering proper local needs housing
Local families should have a right to housing this is something we believe firmly in. The problem that needs to be addressed is the fact wages have not kept pace with house prices. We believe that smaller scale developments across Cornwall is a better way of providing housing. That the council itself and housing associations and trusts based here in Cornwall, employing Cornish workers is the way to deliver it.

   8.       Protecting the Cornish environment
The threat of climate change must be addressed here in Cornwall. Cornwall Council must develop an Environmental Action Plan, to reduce emissions and find ways we can save energy. We must also look to ensure energy security in Cornwall by investment in renewables such as wind turbines, solar panels on buildings, tidal energy and wave hub. MK will work to make Cornwall self-sustainable in terms of food production, reducing food miles and supporting Cornish food production.

   9.       Making Cornwall Council democratic
Decision making at Cornwall Council has been centralised to Cornwall and to a select few in the cabinet. This has resulted in informal meetings where the majority of decisions are made behind closed doors, with a handful of councillors and senior officers holding sway. This does not serve democracy, accountability or openness. MK will work to make Cornwall Council democratic and listen to people better. We believe that the council should be ruled by committees so councillors from opposition parties and from across Cornwall can take a part in the decision making process and question and hold to account the leadership and the officers. People are not listened to by the council, MK wants more participation with voters in the policy development process, so people have a say in the decisions that affect them.

   10.   Winning greater recognition for Cornwall
One of the core aims of Mebyon Kernow is to promote Cornwall’s unique identity, history, culture and language. To promote pride in our historic nation and win recognition for our identity by the powers that be. We will continue to oppose policies that impinge on this, whether they be south west regionalisation, Devonwall or the dreaded pasty tax.  We want Cornwall to have a greater say in how we are governed and we are the only party committed to creating a legislative Cornish assembly. So decisions can be made in Cornwall and we can make specific Cornish policies to help our economy grow and for it to be something one and all can once again take pride in.

Any questions or comments, requests for posters, or to join, go to or find MK on facebook and twitter or on  google +

As always thanks for reading, I'm really humbled by the thousands of visitors I've had over the election period to this blog and I hope people have come to realise despite what others might say MK and myself are serious contenders in this election. 

Quick update on the play equipment at Alexandra play park Penzance

Just to say that I finally got through to the lovely people at the petitions office. They informed me that it's policy that no epetitions are started in the election period, so after thursday's election it will go live here Whatever happens on the second, whether the people of Penzance East place their trust in me and I am elected as a Cornwall Councilor and a Penzance Town councilor or neither I will still be pushing this and with the help of people in Penzance hopefully we can save the Alexandra play park's trawler from meaningless destruction.

I have started a facebook group here

Stay tuned

Friday, 26 April 2013

My very late and very disappointing reply from the government about Wave Hub

After I had given up all hope that I would receive a reply from those that I emailed about Wave Hub, finally today I received one. It was prefaced with an apology over the length taken to reply. I sent the email on the 17th of February (and re sent it after they told BBC Spotlight they had not received any email) so over two months so I think I could be forgive for expecting some kind of detailed reply, alas no. Save for the first paragraph the word Wave Hub is mentioned once more and Cornwall gets a solitary mention. My concerns raised in my email over the management of the project not addressed at all, instead a lengthy spiel about the government's support for off shore renewables and their strategy. Very depressing therefore that Cornwall and Wave Hub is mentioned but once.

Here's a sample:

The flitting between fonts and text size was in the original, copied and pasted? 
Where these questions in my original email too much to be answered?

So I ask of you, can you provide me (and the people of Cornwall) an update on progress with this project?
Can you provide justification that having the management of Wave Hub centralised in London, is to the benefit of the project and the taxpayer?
Whether the department has considered grants or funding to assist other users getting hooked up to Wavehub?

Is there any justification for the centralisation of the project and it's questionable success? Why won't the government defend their record and answer questions....

In danger of repeating myself for regular readers of my blog, see here for other posts on the subject. But I will say this again attempting to be at the cutting edge of technology requires constant progress not inaction. The reply to my email is very indicative of the lackadaisical approach to Wave Hub and how the government seems unwilling to take the project seriously. The Liberal Democrats and Conservatives claim Cornwall is at the heart of government, by that they presumably they mean doing it dreckly and little else. (with apologies to Hedluv and Passman.)

Thursday, 18 April 2013

stop Cornwall Council taking play equipment from parks in Penzance

In today's Cornishman on page 7 they have an exclusive story that the council is planning on taking away the trawler in the play park on the prom known widely as the Pirate park (Alexandra grounds). When my eldest was younger that play park had lots of facilities that have been stripped over the years. A little red boat by the entrance and 2 little wooden land rovers with slides on them. Steadily over the last few years they fell into disrepair and were taken away. The wooden trawler that is the center piece of the play equipment obviously hasn't been repaired in that time and is now showing the signs. Citing the fact it's 'too popular' the council now wants to take it away. Enough is enough the council needs to think twice and invest in these community facilities that are popular year round. I know lots of people that come from across West Cornwall to go there. It's one of the few things thst keeps kids happy and doesn't cost to go there. I'm sure tourists use it too, so far from saving money this will put people off coming to town. It beggars belief that the council is planning such moves when councilors are distracted with elections and calls into question the bypassing of the democratic process.

I have started a group on facebook group called Save the Trawler at the Pirate park in Penzance please join. I am standing for election but vote for me or not, agree with or me not please join the fight against this stupidity

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

My thoughts to the Penzance Chamber of Commerce

Last night the Penzance Chamber of Commerce invited candidates from across the spectrum to speak to them. Credit to them it's good to see a lot of interest in this election I learnt a great deal about business in the town and the thoughts and concerns of businesses. All of the political parties and 2 independents were invited to give their thoughts on policies and priorities if elected. Phil Rendle was busy on town council business so I represented Mebyon Kernow and spoke on my thoughts and what the parties manifesto offers business and trade in Penzance. The question put to candidates was this:

“What will you/your party do to help the economy of Penzance and what will your priorities be.”

I didn't actually write anything to read out, I've not spoken much in public before, but I have learnt after speaking to a politics conference in Redruth that reading things from bits of paper is not the best approach. Also I was a bit concerned that if I wrote something, I'd simply be repeating what others had already said. There was a lot of agreement among the speakers about the need to protect jobs in the town, see our fair share of investment, to work together as politicians and as representatives of Penzance Town Council and/ or Cornwall Council. I decided to not make empty hollow promises about attracting investment, providing jobs. I want to be elected on May the second and I want to be reelected in four years time, empty promises won't help me at this stage.

So I spoke about devolution and picked some points from Mebyon Kernow's manifesto and how they applied to Penzance. Here's the gist of what I said with some of the points expanded upon.. The party believes in devolution to Cornwall and within Cornwall. We lost a lot of jobs and influence with the unitary process. We now have a council up in Truro that holds sway, decisions there are made by a handful of people and officers. We've seen with 'localism' toilets and cctv passed down to the town with a reduced budget. We need to turn this on it's head, we should be approaching Cornwall Council and asking for things, preempting this process. Take for example car parks, currently run from Truro and badly so. Some do really well and others are empty most of the time. We need to be deciding here in Penzance the pricing plans to fill all of the car parks, to decide fares that will bring people to the town. It's just one example, there are others parks etc, decisions that need to be decided here by people elected, accountable and crucially listening to the people of Penzance.

I was a bit disappointed that at of all the people that spoke last night, I was the only one to mention the LEP (Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership). I think there's a lot of people that don't understand what the LEP is and lots that don't actually knows what it does. It should be a key part of policy it ought to be driving the economy of Cornwall and I think in this it is failing. It ought to be an election issue in my opinion, I struggle to understand why it's not. Anyway I spoke about Mebyon Kernow's manifesto idea to make the body accountable to the people of Cornwall by changing the leadership to democratically elected politicians. I said that someone needed to grab the LEP by the scruff of the neck and make it realise that the economy of Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly doesn't begin and end at Newquay airport. They should be looking to stimulate all of the Cornish economy, especially here in the west.

The LEP and Cornwall Council should be looking to not only bring in new business but also to champion what we do have. Penzance ought to be the shopping hub of Penwith, we need to stop people going to Truro and elsewhere to shop and encourage them back here. Despite claims we are a retail graveyard we have great assets in Penzance and a great town center. There are great places to eat and drink in the town you can buy fresh veg, fruit, fish and meat, the finest produce. We need to champion these things, we need to be positive about the town and encourage a positive image of it. I didn't say but I ought to have said last night. That it's all well and good talking about bringing jobs and investment to Penzance and making promises without plans to set these things in motion. One of the reasons Penzance town center is fading and we struggle to fill shops is because people don't shop here anymore, yes high business rates and rents play their part. But it's not just about costs it's about a lack of shoppers and money to bring shops to the town. We need to turn things around, what we need people to read in papers is that Penzance is a great place to shop loads of great independent shops, not that it's a retail graveyard or that it's on the tipping point. (I was happy when some of the shopkeepers spoke to me afterwards and expressed the same opinions and despair at the effect on their livelihoods of negative attitudes.)

I also spoke very briefly about tendering. At the moment Penzance skate park is being rebuilt which is great. But the company who is doing the work -much like the ones demolishing the heliport ;(- have come down from up country to do the work. We are literally exporting jobs, all of the parties have spoken this election about protecting Cornish jobs, sourcing more locally from council funds, but how? is my question. We live in a world dictated by public tenders whereby the lowest/ highest bidder usually wins My solution is that we need to be educating Cornish firms about the tendering process, pointing out how to win tenders. It won't be easy to change the system but if we really want to protect Cornish jobs and support Cornish tradesman we need to give them a helping hand to win tenders.

That was the gist of it, people clapped and other candidates looked a bit surprised that I had spoken so strongly and so honestly. Some of the other parties have written me off as a non-contender, I continue to prove them wrong and I do believe I offer something different to the people of Penzance East. I won't sell false promises but I and Mebyon Kernow offer clear ideas to how we can make fundamental changes in local government and make Cornwall Council and the LEP work harder for the Cornish economy.

Penzance East bedroom tax, council house rent hikes council tax benefits cuts and a radio interview

My interview on Radio Cornwall about benefit 'reform' (cuts in the real world). Before the election hustings event hosted by the Penzance chamber of commerce. I gave an interview for the BBC with Tamsin Melville (a woman that smiles more than I do, which is impressive, why they don't get her on tv more is beyond me.) Anyway I digress here's what I said:
"I've spoken to a lot of people on the doorstep, in Treneere particularly, about benefit cuts. I've been on the dole before and I've struggled but what they're going through now is disgusting. We should be focussing on how to create jobs, all the government is focusing upon is taking money off the poorest people in soceity."
I then went on a bit which got cut from the interview. From memory I said that: Here we are in one of the richest countries in the world and we are treating people shabbily and this wasn't the kind of society I want my children growing up in. That's the truth that's how I feel about it and if elected as a councilor this is the thinking these are my principles that will guide me.

Monday, 15 April 2013

Thoughts from the Penzance doorstep roads and transport

Previously I have written about some of the concerns people have had when I have spoken to them on the doorstep. I wrote about the need for two way communication between the elected and the public here about rubbish on the streets and bin collections and parking on residential streets. Today I'm writing about roads, about making traffic flow better and the need for a coherent transport strategy. I have lots of other things to write about and lots of things I've heard in Penzance East, on the doorstep, by talking to my neighbours and on the school run over the last few years. If I find time I will write about them all.

A major issue facing Penzance in the future is the Sainsbury's supermarket coming to town. For clarity I think we should be supporting and focusing on the town centre and we do not need yet another supermarket. Unfortunately this decision has been made, this week the old heliport building will be demolished and soon enough more shoppers will be tempted out of town. With the supermarket, we will have a new roundabout on the A30, other candidates in Penzance East are promising to stop this and they are right to do so. If elected I certainly will try my hardest but I make no promises, the changes that come with another supermarket are a freight train that is already travelling at some speed. Decisions and agreements have been made between Sainsbury's and Cornwall Council. A sad fact that concerns of residents and town councilors here were not listened to by Cornwall Council, again we need harder working councilors that will investigate and question what is going on in Truro.

Outside of the detrimental effect on the town and our shops, the new road changes will make getting to Penzance and leaving much harder. The logic of putting another roundabout on a trunk road is beyond me. Jelbert Way was the obvious choice using the existing roundabouts. People are concerned about this. I had a long conversation with a man on Lower Peverell road about roads in and around Penzance. He told me that as a lorry driver for many years, it was a cause of great frustration that getting around has become slower and slower as time goes on. He had a great suggestion, that when Wharfside shopping centre was built why was there a traffic light crossing installed and not a tunnel or a bridge to let traffic flow better and increase passenger safety. For me this goes to show the benefit of listening to people and having proper consultations, councilors and officials don't have all the answers, I'm not saying for a minute that I do either. His concern and and he definitely has a point was that traffic is getting worse around Penzance and there seems to be little done about it. Not only does this annoy residents, businesses and drivers it also puts off tourists. Why spend ages in traffic jams and queues in Penzance and not bypass us entirely and continue on to Land's End?

The cause of congestion in Cornwall is the volume of traffic plain and simple. Despite successive Westminster governments placing the emphasis on painting new lines and widening exits on roundabouts as a remedy, it's not working (not popular with the people I have spoken too on the doorstep). Congestion is due to a number of factors including poor public transport and a population that is growing much faster than infrastructure improvements. We still largely drive on roads that
were built and designed a long time before I was born, they probably worked really well then to be fair. But in the 30 odd years since, traffic has increased. Then there's the trainlines they too haven't seen much in the way of improvements in my lifetime. By the state of some of the rolling stock itself that too is probably older than me. There needs to be a joined up approach to transport and the problem of congestion, we need to see improvements in public transport and in our roads. We now live in the 21st century but yet we have the infrastructure that struggled in the last century.

Cornwall Council and bodies like the LEP need to act like a strategic body. This government in London and the ones before it seem to care little about transport in Cornwall. We need a council that not just looks to the long term in terms of housing numbers but also has the wisdom and foresight to consider how the present population travels around and how this effects plans for a rapid increase in house building. There needs to be a focus on how we can get investment into our roads and into our trains and buses as well.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Lib Dems on Cornwall council are lurching to the right, Mebyon Kernow must become the ones offering big ideas and change

Nick Clegg last week launched the Liberal Democrat election campaign in Cornwall. Gone was the radicalism that once defined the party, gone were the big ideas, the visions and the desire to change, replaced with the worthy but uninspiring attacks on money wasted. One of Clegg's leads was this trivial attack on his coalition partners:

Here in Cornwall we’ve even seen the Conservative’s waste money hiring taxis to ferry teas and coffees between council buildings link

Don't get me wrong waste in all facets of the civil services is troubling and needs addressing, where there are examples of money going on non-essential things this should stop. That said I'm not a subscriber to the Tax Payer's Alliance/ Eric Pickles school of thought that tightening up on waste, can somehow counter all of the austerity cuts from central government. That the odd hundreds or even thousand of pounds spent lavishly, can make up for hundreds of millions of pounds in cuts to Cornwall Council's funding. Or in other words a taxi fare, will not ensure there is money to keep public toilets open, or keep a care worker in a job.

This posturing to the right is partly a realisation that being on the left is hard for the Lib Dems to credibly do. Bedroom tax, council tax benefit support cuts, privatisation and of course voting loyally with the Conservatives in Westminster on every policy, makes it impossible to sell this to the electorate. Of course the recent Lib Dem and Tory supported Cornwall Council budget that put jobs cuts in Adult Care and Support and Children, Schools and Families at the forefront too. In the past the Lib Dems have sold themselves as pro Cornish devolution, they even tried selling the centralisation of unitary as such, which it has not been. They've previously tried to be Pro Cornwall, again trying to drown out Mebyon Kernow, but Devonwall, pasty tax, regional pay plans and the continuing underfunding of Cornwall's public services again makes this an argument hard to make in face of the facts. The only way they have left to go is right, they know the Tories are suffering both on Cornwall Council and up in Westminster, so they are trying to steal their votes. You can see on Alex Folkes' blog the attempts to appeal to Tory voters, why Tory ministers ought to agree with Cornwall Council Lib Dems rather than the Tories here: Shapp's agrees more with the Lib Dems than Tories here: Tories look to Lib Dems for leadership and various other posts illustrating that Tory ministers see eye to eye not with the Tory led council but with the Liberal Democrats. It's a shrewd approach by Alex too many in the Lib Dems are trying to continue to paint themselves as a party they clearly are not, credit to him they do need to reposition to the right in their rhetoric to match the new reality. If Eric Pickles has a second home in Cornwall perhaps he might find himself voting Lib Dem on May 2nd...

With the Liberal Democrats vacating the pro Cornwall stance and the left entirely, Mebyon Kernow must rush to fill this gap, we must also show ourselves to be the descendants of the radicalism that the old Liberals once were. With One Nation Labour (under the God of neo-liberalism) tied to the tired old ideas of privatisation, deindustrialization and centralisation. Mebyon Kernow needs to be the party, that is radical that is pushing for change. Whilst the others argue over the fine details of the differences between themselves and drone about who is doing what too fast too slow or too shallow.

Our manifesto I believe does this and can be built upon to show how we are the descendants of Cornwall's radical tradition. For me as much as being pro Cornwall is about devolution and us getting a fair share, it's also about policies that are pro Cornish workers, families and businesses. About real change change that works for people in Kernow.

The ten points of the Putting Cornwall First manifesto.

1. Working to restore faith in local government
2. Protecting public services
3. Winning fair funding for Cornwall
4. Protecting the less well off and vulnerable
5. Safeguarding the Cornish economy
6. Developing pro-Cornwall planning policies
7. Delivering proper local needs housing
8. Protecting the Cornish environment
9. Making Cornwall Council democratic
10. Winning greater recognition for Cornwall

Please take time to read the summaries and the full pdfs and see how we are the party offering big ideas, ambitious change and a better Cornwall. Think differently on May the second, do you want change? do you want ambitious councilors? or do you want more of the same...

Friday, 12 April 2013

Why on earth am I standing for the council? and other questions that keep me awake at night.

I find myself in a bit of a quandary sometimes with all this election stuff. One of the most incisive questions you can be asked on the doorstep is: "why do you want to be a councilor?" (if your stuck for questions when politicians come a knocking ask them that one). Although I've heard it precious few times on the doorsteps of Penzance East. It's one I have been asked and my answer was because I want to serve the people of this town, I want change at Cornwall Council. That is true I really do, but it is one of those 'stock' answers politicians say. It sounds frankly like one of those unconvincing soundbites well polished politicians give.

I'm not one of those well polished politicians, that rabbits out soundbites. Probably my worst answer to a question on the doorstep was the other day, a lady asked if I could get council tax reduced and I said that "I'm no miracle worker." Probably the right answer for a politician in that situation is to offer voters what they want I should have said: "I'll make that my priority in office." But I didn't, I don't think council tax can be reduced any further, any more cuts in council funding are bound to result in yet more job cuts and yet more front line services axed. I'm no good in the game of spin and PR, I'm by no means a salesman, perhaps to my detriment in this campaign when I'm asked an honest question I tend to give an honest answer. I've had this approach throughout my life and I know it's got me in trouble before.

In fact, I question entirely what exactly I'm doing. Who do I think I am, wanting to be a councilor? the son of a fisherman from a humble housing estate, playing in this game called politics. No one in my family has ever been a politician, no one in my family has ever been in charge of much at all, except the odd small business. I didn't really even have a very political childhood, moral lessons came thick and fast at chapel and sunday school. But politics save for my Mothers taste in music Tracy Chapman and the Stranglers, I didn't really have a great deal of it. In fact it's from music that comes one of my favourite political quotes: "Most of my heroes don't appear on no stamps." I'm by no means your ideal candidate for election.

I remember years ago wanting to go to university and my father saying to me, that it was a waste of time. My parents hadn't gone to uni and neither had their parents. I still don't know to this day whether Dad thought I was too stupid or if I should just work instead or if it just wasn't the kind of thing people like us did. I had my doubts, I thought you had to be really intelligent to go to uni and doubted it was for me. Whichever it was or wasn't he didn't convince me, I cast my own doubts aside, I'm stubborn as a mule if I get an idea in my head. I wasn't as smart as my friends at uni, most of them had really good A levels, I didn't even do A levels, my best results to that date were five GCSEs at C grade and an NVQ in IT, despite that I did my degree. Unlike many of my friends I didn't do any resits of exams or repeat years or fail modules, I just did it in the three years. By the way, if you're thinking of going to uni and had worries like me, you don't have to be really intelligent to go to uni, like everything in life turn up, question everything you read and question everything you think and write, pay attention, work hard and you will succeed.

That's my approach to this election, I'm not the ideal candidate, I am too young. I don't have string of success in business and management to recommend me. I don't have the backing of a huge party and the nice shiny colour leaflets that go with it. I don't have the huge team of willing volunteers working for me like the others. I don't have big wigs coming down from Westminster to shake my hand and get my face and party in the paper. I don't have the connections in local organisations, clubs and societies.

So why am I standing? Well I live here in the division for a start. There's things I don't like about Cornwall Council and Penzance Town Council, there's things I don't like about politics, there are things I want to change. I don't think people like me and my family are well represented in politics at the moment. I learnt a long while ago, that the phrase "someone ought to do something about that" should always be countered with the words you are someone. That's why I am standing. I have my faults, but I don't know when to give up, I don't think anything is impossible if you put your mind to it and I question everything I am told. I'm not your typical politician but I think I have something different to offer the people of Penzance East.

Please vote for me :)

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Rubbish on the streets! and why we need our own waste center and why refuse collectors need to pick up rubbish

So my first blog on what people are telling me on the Penzance East doorstep is that people are concerned about rubbish and litter. A number have commented that the streets only seem to be cleaned when the tourist season is on it's way. They question why the powers that be only take pride in our town for some of the year. The problem is threefold, general litter being dropped by passers by, rubbish collections resulting in rubbish left on the street and fly tipping of waste. My solution to this is threefold.

Firstly we need refuse collectors to be better at cleaning up after themselves. Since the contract was taken over by Cory, there seems to be more rubbish left on the streets after they've been. Quite why, I don't know, they use the same kind of lorries and we all have the same wheelie bins we've had for years, yet this didn't happen under the old contractors. We need to find out why and councilors need to hold Cory to account on this, something I would do if elected. Although I think we do need the street cleaning teams to come here more often, I think it would be much more efficient if the weekly bin collection left our streets with less rubbish then when they came.  I would also question why Cory employees are being pushed harder and harder by their employers, why Cornwall Council wants to contract companies using such practices.

Secondly we need to have more bins, they're seems to be an abundance of them in the town and on the housing estates (something I would seek to protect), but on the old streets of the town none. On my street people often put rubbish in the wheelie bins, I don't mind this and personally I'd rather people cleaned up after their dogs but the waft when you open it on a hot day, not so keen on tbh. Something that the town center needs and all of the streets need is on street recycling. The amount of cans, paper, card and plastic sent to landfill this way is woeful. Recycling saves the planet a worthy enough cause but it also raises money by reselling those materials and lessens landfill taxes. Common sense is needed.

Thirdly Penzance is a fairly big town for Cornwall, add in West Penwith and there's a lot of people that have a lot of rubbish and recycling. At the moment things that can't be put in household waste and recycling (or should that be things that shouldn't be) need to be taken to St Erth to be disposed of. As someone who recently got rid of a lot of old and knackered furniture, I know it's not far but 6 odd miles 3 times there and back costs money I frankly don't have on fuel. I've never fly tipped in my life, but I can see why people do. I can see why people chop up Christmas trees and stuff them in with their rubbish or chuck old tvs and microwaves over hedges. Let's not forget not everyone drives in Penzance and I can't imagine many people take their recycling on the train to St Erth to be disposed of properly. What we need in Penzance is a waste and recycling center, so people don't have to drive up to St Erth. At the moment the old Penwith offices at St Clare are being sold off to property developers. We could easily make it a stipulation of that sale that a recycling and waste center be set up on the site and paid for by the developers. So people in Penzance can be encouraged to not fly tip nor put recyclable and hazardous materials in with their household rubbish. Hopefully we can save people like me in the division some fuel when we want to recycle and properly dispose of our waste.

Thoughts from the Penzance doorstep, what people want to see changed

After spending the last couple of weeks speaking to people on the doorstep, I though I'd highlight what people are talking about and what they think Cornwall Council and Penzance Town Council can do to make things better for the people like them. I live in the division and I spend a lot of time in it, my kids go school here, I have friends here, even my dentist is within 2 minutes walk from my house. Anyone that knows me, will know I'm a friendly guy and I like nothing more than a good chat and I have time to talk to anyone. I had this notion that I really understood the people of Penzance East, that I know people here and have a good grasp of what politics ought to be offering people. I was pleasantly surprised that I don't have all the answers, my leaflet does not cover all the issues people care about. Something I've learnt over and over again in life is that you learn more when you listen then when you talk.

One of the things I have always thought about politics is that, politicians are out of touch. As the Mebyon Kernow manifesto seeks to address there is a lack of faith by people in politics and indeed in politicians. As
Cliched Cornish electoral hopeful eating a pasty pic
my late Grandmother used to say 'They don't know and they won't be told'. Politics is all about messages these days, politicians are obsessed with it, how many times have you heard cliched phrases like "the message we're sending to the electorate...", "the government is sending a clear message...". I'm not saying I'm not guilty of this, I could preface this blog with the words: "the message I'm sending to the people of Penzance East is that Rob Simmons is listening to your concerns." (Now isn't that a cliched leaflet-worthy phrase!) Anyway irony aside, my point is that politics at the moment is about messages, it's about explaining to the electorate why your ideas are better than your rivals. But this isn't the way it should be, politicians are and ought to be servants of the people, paid by them and working for them. If I hire, say a plumber to do work in my house, I'd expect them to listen to me, if they didn't I'd probably find another one. This is what politicians forget. I will continue to listen to people on the doorstep in this election campaign and the problems they face and I'll write about them in a series of blog posts.

However, there are a number of concerns I couldn't address if elected as a councilor, some because they have already happened and others are well outside the power and influence of the position. Here's some of the highlights, ones I most agree with, as I remember them not direct quotes:

"That Duke of Cornwall makes a fortune from us, he ought be paying to subsidise the Isles of Scilly link."

"They never should have filled in the harbour and made a car park."

"What on earth does Penzance want with another out of town supermarket." (Sainsburys)

"What do these people know about roads? Why do they think we need more roundabouts on the A30." (again Sainsburys, not found 1 person that wants it yet)

"Penzance never should have turned away the university."

"Why am I being penalised by bedroom tax, when there's no smaller properties to move into."

"Penzance doesn't need Cameron to come here and tell us what to do to help the economy, he's making enough of a mess up the line."

"If you're a Tory, I don't want to know. Or if you're a Lib Dem."

"Are you really the candidate? but you're so young." (still smile about that one, I'm 32! yay)

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Labour's dodgy maths and bar charts and who can win in Penzance East

Got passed a Tim Dwelly leaflet from a Mebyon Kernow member in Treneere, much like the other Westminster parties they are focussing on scaremongering and dodgy bar charts to get votes. The same old us or them there's no alternative, if you don't vote for us someone worse will get in. Here's the bar chart taken from their facebook page. 

What the 5 people that like the photo probably don't know, is the maths is dodgy. I'm not surprised this comes from the party that thinks Cornwall Council can afford to massively increase the CEO's salary cap by an eye watering £95,000!

Here's what the actual bar chart would look like, based on the same results, source here, with the others all lumped together as Labour claimed to have done.

The full bar chart with everyone's vote in 2009 looks like this. 

From left to right Lib Dem Ruth Lewarne (357 votes), Labour John Payne (332), UKIP Ricky Barnes (199), Conservative Margaret Powell (159), Independent Mike Waters (128) and the huge column on the right that's people that didn't vote in Penzance East in 2009 2241 of them.

In the present Cornwall Council election, the candidates are Lib Dem Ruth Lewarne, Labour Tim Dwelly, UKIP Mick Faulkner, Conservative Angela Elliott, Green Michelle Paine and myself Rob Simmons for Mebyon Kernow. So the line up is vastly different, nearly all the candidates are different. Local politics is about personalities, who will the voters like the most? Where will the independent vote go to for example? Will the same people that voted for John Payne vote for Tim Dwelly? (Ex councilor John left Labour after 43 years, citing the parties shift to the 'neo right'.) Will UKIP surge in 2013? How will Greens and MK do in their first outings in the division? How did Mebyon Kernow supporters vote in 2009? or Green supporters? Will the vast majority go to the polls this time and who will they vote for? Will some of them be offered the choice they weren't in 2009? 

Adding to this uncertainty is the fact that the boundaries of the ward have changed. Significant parts of Penzance Central have now joined Penzance East. In the 2009 poll Labour came fourth behind the Lib Dems, Tories and UKIP there and MK did not stand. Which doesn't indicate that change favours Labour's chances.

I'm not saying that any of the parties can't win in Penzance East, I'm not saying it's a straight fight between anyone, because the fact is it isn't. The truth is anyone could win this division, the only consistent variable between this election and the last is Ruth Lewarne and that was won on different boundaries. I have more confidence I can win after speaking to voters than I did before I started, I've listened to people and a lot want change and are tired of the same old politics. I've spoke to a lot of people that like me and want to vote for me as an individual. 

Don't let Labour and the Liberal Democrats convince you with dodgy bar charts and selective evidence, that you have no choice in Penzance East in this election, that you have to vote for them. Whoever you vote for, support someone you'd like to represent you on Cornwall Council and from a party you can trust. And please get out and vote on May the second.

Monday, 8 April 2013

The latest figures show yet more unemployment in Cornwall

Today in amongst the world going crazy debating the finer issues of the Mebyon Kernow manifesto (not really, Thatcher once again drowned out the left, she died as she lived). There was stark news about Cornwall's employment figures (story here) despite bold claims by the Conservative and Liberal Democrat government that there would be a rise in private sector jobs, this has not happened in Cornwall. Since the coalition took power Cornwall has lost 9,000 jobs. To quote from This is Cornwall:

Some 176,000 people said they were employed by business, rather than the state, across the county by September last year, down from 184,000 in the summer of 2010.

To put that into context that's pretty much every person of working age in Penzance losing their jobs. Many many more than the closures of Geevor and Wheal Jane during Margaret Thatcher's reign, or Compair Holman's and South Crofty under Tony Blair, less symbolic admittedly.

Still this is greatly troubling, differential factors like the rise in VAT to 20%, the addition of to pasties, the continuing rise in petrol prices and the increasing cost of living have all no doubt taken their toll.  The austerity agenda too has played it's part, since 2010 hundreds of millions of pounds have been taken out of the Cornish economy. Thousands of jobs have been lost in the public sector alone and many of the remaining workers have seen their wages frozen and in some case re banded downwards i.e. pay cuts. This is all money taken out of Cornwall out of Cornish workers pockets and so people are spending less.  But these factors are the same ones that have faced Devonshire over the border, yet their employment numbers are looking decidedly more healthy, 37,000 extra people work in the private sector in the same period. So why Cornwall is bucking UK trends and losing thousands of jobs whilst Devon is gaining tens of thousands proves the point that we are different, if nothing else.

One of my bugbears with the nature of centralisation is that it was always Devon centric. Cornwall had the ignominious honour of being the only part of the European Union to have Objective One administered externally (from RDA offices in Bristol, Exeter and Plymouth). Devon and Cornwall police is headquartered in Exeter, offices, executives and managers are employed there not here. There is a multiplicity of examples, when services between Cornwall and Devon (or Devon and Cornwall if you look from London) became amalgamated and offices and workers were moved out of Cornwall. This happened for decades under both Tory and Labour administrations and we still feel the effect of it. It needs to change I've written before that these things should be devolved back to Cornwall and the jobs that go with them should come to.

Of course this is only part of the solution, we need to radically rethink how the Cornish economy is directed. There seems a dominant thought that house building will somehow lead Cornwall to a brighter future, that houses means jobs. We only have to look to Ireland and Spain to see how this doesn't really work and that if house building outstrips jobs, soon enough we will have housing estates without owners and tenants. Especially in a borrowing climate where the banks are no longer willing to lend anyone a mortgage. Since Thatcherism we have had a focus away from industry and towards the service economy, which sure enough creates wealth and some decent jobs, it does not provide a great quantity of jobs.

What we need is a focus on jobs and employment led growth, I think Mebyon Kernow's plan to devolved administration to Cornwall and decision making can fulfill this. We need these jobs back in Cornwall, I know not in a month of sundays is this government going to give us proper devolution, but we should be rinsing 'localism' for all it's worth. Demanding the return of previously centralised departments, getting those jobs back. With the control this would give us, make decisions here in Cornwall for the benefit of us and our economy. The job numbers show yet again that Devonwall in all it's guises doesn't suit either side of the Tamar we are different places we need different things. We need new solutions.

Friday, 5 April 2013

Devolution, Labour, Mebyon Kernow and prescription charges

The nature of public funding and the fairness of it, is the subject of one of Mudhook's latest blogs. He/she is a Labour blogger (see footnote). They question the fairness of the Barnett formula and in particular why people in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales don't pay for them, yet in England and here in Cornwall people do have to pay for them. Laying the blame at the system of 'unfair' funding across the UK. They lay open this challenge:

Will Cornish nationalism, fretting about 1337 and all that, question this uneven imposition on sick people in Cornwall? Prescription charges are the real world …

I don't really know whether Mudhook thinks paying for prescriptions is or isn't fair, it's not a 100% clear. Who exactly is fretting about 1337 is also unclear (1337 is the date of the creation of the Duchy of Cornwall). It does however seem implied that prescription charges are somehow linked to the devolved administrations, as if having devolution and the funding that provides is linked to free prescriptions. Who knows today, had Cornwall been given an assembly by Labour, would we now pay for prescriptions?

I don't think really prescription charges has anything to do with the nature of public funding in the UK. Labour could have certainly afforded to pay for them to be free, billions were spent on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and big building schemes like the Millennium Dome and executive pay in the public sector rise and rise. I don't think the reason to abolish prescription fees is about money. The devolved administrations choose to find money from their budgets to abolish them. Even with the spending cuts they continue to do so. The real question is why didn't Labour choose to abolish prescription fees? The same can be said of tuition fees, Westminster controls what money everyone gets, they could easily have chosen for more money to be invested in university education rather than introducing tuition fees but they didn't, they could have abolished prescription fees but they choose not to.

My argument is that devolution, not only provides a better chance of more public funding. But it also provides more common sense policies. That despite the variances in political parties across the devolved administrations they have all chosen to enact legislation that helps peoples day to day lives, like free prescriptions. Policies like this and free parking at hospitals, they come nearer to that original ideal of the NHS, of a free health service for all. I don't think people should pay prescription fees, I really wonder for the legacy of Bevan in the Labour party when they didn't abolish the fees nor reduce the rises of the Thatcher and Major years. I believe that if Cornwall got devolution we'd have the some of these same common sense policies that the devolved Celtic Nations enjoy. Westminster is out of touch whether it be Labour or Tory/ Lib Dem, they all prove distant and uncaring. The problem is not funding it's political attitudes of the political class in London.

Out of interest Bevan resigned as a Labour minister in disgust at the first introduction of prescription fees in 1951, a great man of principle.

I wrote Mudhook is a Labour blogger but actually this is unclear and although they have supported Labour in the past they now concede on the post elections and voting in Cornwall that 'Labour, not a popular contender party in Cornwall.' Which is either an admittance that they're not popular or that Mudhook is now disillusioned with them....

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

A personal recommendation of my election campaign from Susan Penhaligon

Susan Penhaligon takes a keen interest in the politics of Cornwall despite her acting career taking her up country to live. Anyway she expressed an interest in my election campaign and said she'd door knock with me if she wasn't so far away. So I asked if she minded writing me a recommendation, here it is.

I spent my formative years in Cornwall and I come from a 
Cornish family I've traced back to the 17th century, my 2nd cousin was the Liberal MP David Penhaligon. I was brought up for a while by my granny in Falmouth. She  was a passionate Cornish woman and she taught me that Cornwall was different and Celtic and special.

I believe that Rob Simmons is passionate about local issues and Cornwall too. You need his voice, his ideas and energy on Cornwall Council and Penzance Town Council.  

In my heart, I cannot understand how a central government in London can understand Cornish issues and what is best for Cornish communities. 

Take one issue alone, I don't believe central government understands how empty, second homes can devastate a community and take housing away from locals who want to stay and work in Cornwall. 
This is a particular Cornish problem because Cornwall is a place of rare beauty and people want to own holiday property.

I believe Rob's voice on the council would be fair to everyone, to those trying to make a living by renting property and those locals who need a home but can't afford to buy one.

You need a Cornish voice to understand the local issues and Rob Simmons is that voice.


ps I'm cancelling my subscription to the Lib Dems today It's not the old Liberal Party that my 2nd cousin David Penhaligon nearly led!


A stadium for Cornwall and how Cornish rugby should take a step forward

On thursday the 4th of April, Cornwall Council's strategic planning committee, will discuss and rule upon the stadium. Watch the webcast here, this will be a turning point whatever happens...

I wrote before that we should grab this opportunity on the eve of that fateful day when the Mebyon Kernow motion at full council to investigate funding was so cruelly lost. A majority of councilors didn't even dare investigate further and voted down MK's motion (who voted which way here on the Stadium campaign website.) The saddest thing about the whole affair is that, despite the scaremongering the money wouldn't have come from front line services but from the capital budget, this money went unspent.

Many people that know me, will know I am fully in support of a stadium, I think Cornwall needs top tier sport. Our sports clubs want it, the fans want it and our sporting youngsters need it. In the past few weeks Cornish Pirates stalwart prop Paul Andrew has signed a deal with Worcester Warriors, joining other Cornish players like Sam Betty and Josh Matavesi at the club. This trio are certainly not the only  rugby players to move away there just a few on a very long list that starts with legends of the game like Brian 'Stack' Stevens, Phil Vickery, Hugh Vyvyan and the current generation like Matt Jess, Tom Voyce and Jack Nowell.  Like many youngsters from Cornwall, who are ambitious they have moved away to places that offer opportunities Cornwall currently doesn't. The stadium would provide the opportunity to play against the best in the game here in Cornwall. Others have made great arguments about how it would improve the economy of Cornwall but for me it should be about opportunity, we should be thinking how we can create opportunities here.

For me the stadium is -or the lack of one is- only part of the feeder system we currently have. Cornish rugby players travel far and wide to play. This starts a the junior level and specifically at Truro college, all credit to them they have a fantastic set up there and coach some of the best young talent. But they are tied to the Exeter Chief's run scheme called The Advanced Apprenticeship in Sporting Excellence. Cornish players like Josh Matavesi and Luke Cowan- Dickie are cited as successes of the system and have great sporting careers ahead of them. Obviously there is a lot of work to do yet with getting planning for a stadium and building one in Cornwall. But in the future we should look to nurturing Cornish rugby talent in Cornwall, not just that sport but others too, rather than exporting it and perpetuating a system where a sporting future like so much else has to be achieved outside of Cornwall.