Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Residents survey reveals Cornwall Council's poor reputation in Penwith

Cornwall Council's poor reputation in the old Penwith area is confirmed by residents survey. From the general view of the council, through to value for money, how well the council listens and even cleanliness the west has the lowest levels of satisfaction. This should be of great concern for the administration at Cornwall Council and local Cornwall Councillors and accept the widely held view that Cornwall Council doesn't work for Penwith and that we were much better off before centralisation. A situation that need resolving.

In total 60 people in West Penwith, (an area called Penzance, Marazion and St Just but here West Penwith) and 57 in Hayle and St Ives responded out of a total of 1,212 across Cornwall. Although this is only a small amount of people there are some interesting trends to note.

Unfortunately neither of the places that the information is displayed (here) and (here) give the full information and break down every answer by area. Instead both (seemingly identically) draw out some of the best and worst answers. For example the areas/ groups of people most satisfied and most dissatisfied everyone in between is left out. Many areas in the middle ground don't come up very often e.g. Helston and the Lizard is mentioned once (88% resounded positively as a place to live). 

As the map above illustrates the areas most satisfied with Cornwall Council are Launceston then Camborne then Bude. West Penwith is bottom of the list with the least satisfaction in the local authority. Which contrasts starkly with the 51% of people across Cornwall who are satisfied. This trend continues of difference with the Cornish average continues.

56% of people in Penzance, Marazion and St Just thought Cornwall Council was not value for money with 50% of Hayle and St Ives agreeing with that sentiment. Both being the worst answers throughout Cornwall, further West Penwith had only 15% of respondents agreeing that CC provided value for money. 

In answer to a question about Cornwall Council making the area cleaner 36% of people agreed in West Penwith that this was the case, compared to 47% across Cornwall. 

Across Cornwall 34% agreed the council was trustworthy with 24% disagreeing. Whereas in Hayle and St Ives 39% didn't agree that Cornwall Council was trustworthy and 37% in West Penwith taking the same view. 

Whether Cornwall Council acts on the concerns of local residents was another question, across Cornwall 26% agreed they did and (worryingly) 37% disagreed. As always the further west the worse it gets 51% in West Penwith didn't agree that residents were being listened to. 

40% of residents agree Cornwall Council treats all people fairly, 22% disagreed. West Penwith 44% disagreed that this was the case. 

50% of the population think the council is standing up for Cornwall 24% disagree. Only 38% of people agree in West Penwith think that the council is doing enough in this regard.

More generally these comments submitted as part of the survey are very at odds with current policies pursued by Cornwall Council:

There's some real food for thought here. I find myself in the majority view on a lot of these questions. There is not a positive view of Cornwall Council in the west. From talking to people I know, comments I see online, people I spoke to on the doorstep, campaigners and an interesting conversation I had with a group in Marazion last night the same messages come across. The poor perception that Cornwall Council doesn't listen, that issues like housing are decided with no meaningful public consultation, that we aren't getting a good deal from Cornwall Council. The same issues are cited: planned housing around Gulval, Heamoor, Carbis Bay, Ludgvan and St Ives, Sainsbury's, the harbour, the town center. 

The cynical part of me asks why at this juncture Cornwall Council has undertaken the first public survey, is it a coincidence that a general election is around the corner? Whether this is the case or not I hope politicians are taking note of what people are saying and actually work for change in these areas and not say what people want to hear and carry on regardless. Things need to change here.

One a sidenote I find it so frustrating that in a document that screams the west is not happy and not being listened to and understood that this issue is compounded by the fact Marazion is variously spelt Marazion, Marizion and Marzion in this document.

Monday, 13 October 2014

The bizarre logic of which political parties are allowed on tv

Today it has been announced that broadcasters have offered Nigel Farage a place in the televised
election debates for next year's general election. This will mean Labour, Conservative, Lib Dems and UKIP will form a part of the televised US presidential style leadership debates first seen in the UK in 2010. But the logic behind the thinking is bizarre to say the least, seeming to be made up more of a list of who's in favour at the time, more than a logical system of who might be next prime minister. What is needed in a genuine democracy is that the media offer the public all the options not simply their chosen few.

I know that there is a possibility Nigel Farage could be the next PM, I expect some in the media would like this to come true. But by the same logic the leader of the Green party could be next PM, granted Natalie Bennett is not an MP but neither is Farage. George Galloway could be the next PM as leader of the Respect party, unlike the other 2 he is a existing MP and has been one before. If we are going to entertain the notion that a party can go from 0 MPs in 1 general election and a majority in the next, then surely their leader being elected as an MP before hand would be a good start?

But UKIP, Greens and Respect are minnows in the grander scheme of things with one MP a piece, the big players are of course Tories with 303 MPs and Labour with 257. In the middle ground are the Lib Dems with 56 and smaller still the DUP with 8, the SNP 6, Sinn Fein 5, 3 independents, 3 Plaid Cymru, 3 SDLP and 1 Alliance. In effect Alliance, Respect, UKIP and the Greens are the joint tenth largest parties, or to put it another way the joint smallest parties in parliament. If it was right to give parties with the most seats a place in the leader's debates than surely the DUP should be the next in line after the Lib Dems?

In 2010 35% of the voting public voted for other parties, it is clear they are not everyone's choice. This is a long term pattern:
When in 2010 only 65% of the public vote and 65% (spooky I know) vote for Tory and Labour then having only them present in a debate is not a viable option. It must be welcomed that parties other than the Tories and Labour are given a place. But there is no logical reason that a few other parties in the media's favour should also be included. This is a democracy and the choice on the ballot paper next May will not be Tory, Labour, Lib Dem and UKIP. The media should reflect this, if that means 20 to 30 parties in televised debates so be it. Millions of people that do vote 35% of them don't vote for the same old faces, millions more don't vote at all, why not cater to them? give everyone something different and widen all our horizons. I know people across the UK might not want to watch the SNP or Mebyon Kernow on their tvs but many of us feel the same watching Cameron et al and have lived to tell the tale!

Just saw this as I was finishing: please sign this 38 Degrees petition: Invite all parties to join the election television debates

Friday, 10 October 2014

Eustice flashes a glimpse at the unambitious Cornish devolution fag packet

Conservative MP for Camborne, Hayle and Redruth, George Eustice has come out against a Cornish
Eustice's priority English votes for English laws

Assembly. As regular readers can tell I have some frustration that on one side of the debate Mebyon Kernow have detailed plans of what powers we would like to see devolved to Cornwall and how relationships with central government would be redrawn and on the other hand Tories and Labour making vague promises of more powers to Cornwall accompanied with various hollow soundbites. The Lib Dems typically are on the fence, at times pledging a Cornish Assembly, other times non specific powers to Cornwall and completeing all the possible options pledging more power to Cornwall Council. George Eustice has of course finally provided a glimpse of what powers he would 'consider' being devolved to Cornwall Council and the list is neither long nor ambitious.

George is quoted on the Cornishman website after waxing lyrical about English Votes for English Laws, as an afterthought he considers his constituency and Cornish votes:

"an opportunity to consider giving more powers over issues like heritage and culture to Cornwall Council which I would support." link.

Although I agree, heritage and culture should be devolved, there's no real reason these things need to be decided and administered centrally for Cornwall or anywhere. But in the case of Cornwall with recent recognition of the Cornish as a National Minority there is great utility in devolving this. So that the terms of the Framework Convention can be met and that organisations can work to specifically protect Cornish heritage, history, culture and identity in the way that is done for English heritage, history, culture and identity at the moment.

Back to devolution these are the things George would consider being devolved heritage and culture, interestingly the DEFRA parliamentary under secretary for state does not advocate devolution of nature, farming or fishing. Or indeed other vitally important things like transport, health and social care, policing, business rates or crucially spending. George is happy for Westminster to hold the purse strings and take all the important decisions that effect Cornwall. Even the city deals announced gave Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds, Liverpool, Newcastle, Nottingham, Manchester and Sheffield more powers than George Eustice wants for Cornwall. I'd love to say Cornwall was at the back of the queue for devolution but out Tories aren't even bothered to consider getting in line let alone push their way to the front.

As well as an off the cuff look at powers for Cornwall. George also said:

“However, we definitely do not need to waste money on flash new parliament buildings and yet another tier of politicians so I completely disagree with the idea of a Welsh style assembly in Cornwall.” link

It's worth considering other events along with these words. Recently George Eustice was one of the most active of the 91 rebels who fought against plans to shrink the number of members in the House of Lords and reduce costs (among other things) because "Lords reform isn't a priority for voters". Also the House of Commons is due to have a refurb that is estimated (politicians are coy on the subject) to be £3 billion, George Eustice's take on that? an ominous silence. If you want Mebyon Kernow's views on flash new buildings? this taken from our assembly document FAQs:

Q8. Would the new Assembly need a new purpose-built 

A8. Mebyon Kernow considers that the National Assembly of 
Cornwall would not need such a new building. It is the view 
of the Party for Cornwall that existing buildings already in 
the public sector, such as New County Hall, could 

accommodate the new democratic settlement for Cornwall.

It's depressing that the politicians elected to represent the people of Cornwall, can't take the issue of devolution seriously. In an ideal world George Eustice's priorities would be Camborne, Hayle and Redruth first and Westminster second but unfortunately he's more than willing to campaign for governance in Westminster on issues like English Votes for English Laws and to resist any modernisation of the House of Lords but when it comes to Cornwall's governance he can't even be bothered to consider lifting a finger. Perhaps George might find that campaigning so effectively for English votes and ignoring Cornwall completely might cost him Cornish votes at the ballot box? Vote for MK's excellent candidate next may Loveday Jenkin.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

No plan for devolution for powers and no understanding of a Cornish Assembly from political elite

I blogged a while back on the lack of plans for devolution to Cornwall Council as (flippantly) promised by the Labour and Tory parties. the title of the blog was: "When will Labour and the Tories let everyone see their back of a fag packet ideas for powers to Cornwall Council?" Which unusually for a title of one of my blogs, pretty much sums up my view on the subject, there's no clear plan. I've since realised that a lot of Cornish politicians are far from being on the same page with me about this. That nailing down what powers Cornwall should have, what laws we could write, what budgets we'd have to spend and what relationships it should have with Westminster, the EU, Wales, Scotland and the South West of England is actually something far advanced of where they are in the book. It's pretty clear many of them are stuck on chapter 1; what is devolution and how do people view it.

After watching BBC Sunday Politics South West, it was clear that particularly Michael Foster and
Sheryll Murray are very passionate about the deficit. They can quote facts and figures that show both Labour and Tories are absolutely wonderful and always did the right thing by the economy (yawn). Similarly on the subject of housing, they are well informed and both raise some interesting points. However when it came to devolution that passion was gone the facts and figures were absent. We might expect a debate about should Westminster retain power over business rates or should that be devolved to a Cornish Assembly? should the power to raise rates on second homes be Cornwall's choice? Or something like what are the pros and cons of devolution to Wales and Scotland, ought we skip the various commissions and argue for more powers now rather than over time? Or even fundamentally what priorities should Cornwall expect from government be it hundreds of miles away or closer to home?

The debate is currently a lot more superficial than that. The fundamental questions that are being grappled with elsewhere are largely ignored by the Conservatives and Labour in Cornwall. The proverbial wood is not even in the corner of their eyes, wholly obscured by a single tree (incidentally the Tory party logo). I know people like me that see direct rule from London as a bad thing are always going to want our politicians to consider these things properly. But it's not just me, devolution is being discussed everywhere. In the corridors of power they are discussing things like what relations local government should have with central government, what powers should be Westminster's and which should go to the nations, regions and cities, who should control spending. At the moment this is happening without meaningful input from Cornwall's Labour and Conservative politicians into these discussions. It's time for them to step up and actually care as much about Cornwall's governance as they do about the history of housing and the deficit in the UK. Because the risk is that this government or the next will come up with their own ideas and we won't like them, either because they ignore Cornwall (again) or because they want to foster some kind of odd South West/ Devonwall devolution or pretend Cornwall is a city and give us a mayor. Devolution will be opportunity that we miss out on if Cornwall's politicians are caught napping.

If any Labour or Tory politicians want to skip ahead a few chapters on devolution might I suggest, Mebyon Kernow's Towards a National Assembly for Cornwall or the Cornish Constitutional Convention website particularly their publications page. Or even talk to their party colleagues in Wales and Scotland who have repeatedly tripped over themselves to give more powers, proper devolution, more funding and a better deal for those places.

For everyone else why not sign the Cornish Assembly petition and email your local Tory and Labour reps and tell them Cornwall wants a fair deal for once.