Wednesday, 24 September 2014

5 things that might have been different with a Cornish Assembly

What is a Cornish Assembly? How would it be different from Cornwall Council? Mebyon Kernow's argument is that we need a legislative national assembly, meaning Cornwall can make it's own laws, decide it's own priorities but remain within the UK, it means fundamental change and for some that's scary. So I thought here I would talk about MK's ideas and provide some examples of what could have been different and hopefully show making decisions in Cornwall need not be feared.

I say could because the spending priorities and legislation would be the responsibility of the assembly members elected by the people of Cornwall. The public may have elected people to do things other than the 5 ideas listed below, but here's what I think would have been vote winners:

1. Temple would have been dualled ages ago.

Dualling of Temple (and indeed Goss Moor before it) well over a decade was spent lobbying government to improve the A30 here. Despite accidents, tailbacks, costs to Cornish imports and exports and the efforts of people, organisations and politicians from Cornwall it has taken so long. (Even now it will not be a proper dual carriageway and Cornwall Council is bearing the brunt of some of the cost, but that's another matter.)

The A30 is crucial to Cornwall as is the A38 but as they are trunk roads, the decision making on them is centralised to the Highway's Agency, the Department of Transport (DofT) and the Transport Minister Conservative MP for the Derbyshire Dales: Patrick McLoughlin. Which effectively means the people that decide may never have driven these roads at all. It is my belief that if the decision making for this had been devolved to Cornwall, it would have been a higher priority. That civil servants who know these routes well would realise their importance because of it. The same for the politicians and as they would be directly answerable and accountable to the people of Cornwall they would have bowed to public pressure much sooner.

2. Wave Hub would be up and running years earlier

The pioneering Wavehub, installed in 2010 is a device for testing experimental renewables, but did not get hooked up to any test devices until June 2014.  When the coalition government came to power they transferred ownership from the RDA to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) under the supervision of Vince Cable Liberal Democrat MP for Twickenham. Power and decision making went to London, to people not directly accountable to Cornwall.

Again bureaucrats and politicians in Cornwall would be well aware that economic development is needed. That there is a veritable treasure trove of wealth to be made across Cornwall through wind and tidal energy. The proving the both the concepts of test devices and the energy of Cornwall could spark more industry and jobs in Cornwall.

3. Housing policy could be made in Cornwall

There are a number of housing issues in Cornwall, the problem is indeed complex. There is the huge questions of people not being able to afford to buy homes, second homes, empty / derelict properties and overdevelopment. The solutions to these things aren't simple make no mistake, it would be a challenge for anyone to fix these things. However it is within the power of Westminster and Whitehall (i.e the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) under Eric Pickles Tory MP for Brentwood and Ongar) to make changes but unfortunately they flit between ignoring the issues and making token gestures. I have no doubt given the tools to address these issues civil servants and politicians in a Cornish Assembly would do so, they might not fully succeed but at least they would give it a go. Perhaps they could do things unthinkable up the line, like invest in (truly) affordable housing?

4. The damage for the floods would have been fixed sooner

The damage by last winters floods did millions of damage. Thankfully Cornwall Council have started work fixing the damage, Down this way Newlyn Green looks very good and work on Penzance prom has started. Unfortunately despite the money is no object rhetoric it is my understanding Cornwall Council has not yet received any of the promised monies from government.

Responsibility for government support schemes for flood damage falls into a few government categories David Cameron MP Conservative Witney, Pickle's DCLG, DEFRA, DOfT and BIS. All centralised in London. They have responsibilities for a huge amount of things across the UK, perhaps not surprising that getting Cornwall back on it's feet after the storms and honouring the PM's hasty promises is not top of the to do list.

5 Hospital services would not be centralised to Treliske and Derriford

Even though the management of hospitals and care in Cornwall has passed through various organisational changes. The policy of closing down smaller hospitals in the furthest reaches of Cornwall has continued without pausing for breath. Unfortunately none of these organisational changes have involved making management more open and accountable to the people of Cornwall. This is indicative of the changes Mebyon Kernow would like a Cornish Assembly to bring. To make decisions like closing down Poltair and downgrading West Cornwall Hospital the responsibility of people open and accountable to the people of Cornwall and elected by them.

These are only 5 things, there are perhaps hundreds we could choose, perhaps Cornwall couldn't afford to do all of them. There would still be discussions and debates to be had, there would still be decisions I or anyone else might not like. However we could all directly influence these debates, vote for the politicians directly involved with these important issues, or vote them out as we so wish. There would still be priorities but these would be set here in Cornwall, by people living here not by people who probably couldn't find Temple, or Hayle or Newlyn on a map.

Mebyon Kernow's plans for a Cornish Assembly are ambitious we don't want merely want more powers to Cornwall Council. Many of these 5 examples could not be done by anything short of a law making assembly. MK want Cornwall to make a huge leap forward in our governance to start having a say in the big strategic decisions, to take influence from Westminster and redistribute it locally. This would mean a big step up for Cornwall, making our own decisions would mean a big step up for politicians in Cornwall and it would mean a big step up for the voters of Cornwall. I hope people can see the positives of us all taking more responsibility.

Mebyon Kernow's Towards a National Assembly of Cornwall document is available here.

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