Friday, 21 April 2017

Why I'm standing for election, some thoughts about the Town Council and Cornwall Council

This is a blog about why I'm standing for Cornwall Council for Mebyon Kernow- The Party for Cornwall for my home area the Penzance East division. I just wanted to outline a few reasons why I think I'd be a great Cornwall Councillor and I think I could do a lot of good for this town. In this blog mostly focused on the relationship between Cornwall Council and the Town Council, check back for more posts soon. Unfortunately I haven't been able to fight this election in the way in which I'd hoped, my wife's father was very ill for the last few months and sadly passed away on Easter Sunday. My thoughts and attention have obviously been with my wife and my family at this trying time. I mention it, not because I want some form of sympathy, I just wanted to be clear that I've not been as active as I'd like to have been and planned to have been this year.

Firstly, I had anticipated fighting 2 simultaneous elections on May the Fourth both to Cornwall Council and for re-election to Penzance Town Council. Luckily for me, there will be no vote in Penzance East for the Town Council so I'm de facto re-elected, which I'm obviously delighted with. However I think it's a great shame that there wasn't more interest in the election for the Town Council, there needs to be elections in every ward. I think it's rather telling that there are 6 candidates for Cornwall Council for Penzance East from all of the parties (Joseph Bennie Conservative, Jonathan How Green, Tim Dwelly Labour, Richard Goedegebuur Liberal Democrat, Mebyon Kernow and Paul Nicholson UKIP) but there were only 4 standing for the town (Future for Penzance, Green, Labour and MK). This is partly due to the fact that only the Green candidate and myself are standing for both and we are the only 2 Cornwall Council candidates that actually live in Penzance East. Interestingly last time there was a Green candidate (elected) 2 Lib Dems (1 elected 1 not), a Labour candidate (elected) a Tory (not elected) and a Future for Penzance candidate (not elected). Both Tories and Lib Dems don't have a candidate for the town council for Penzance East this time. 

Penzance Town Council is growing in importance, the budget increases year on year the amount of services we provide is massively increasing (weed spraying, CCTV, public toilets etc). As austerity continues and as Cornwall Council's main approach to this is devolution, it is up to the town council to either stand by and watch CC drop these services or catch them. Inevitably the importance of Cornwall Council to Penzance will diminish and it's easy to see that the town council will scoop up most of what Penwith District Council used to do. This is to be welcomed, even if it means slowly un-ravelling the great centralising mistake of unitary in 2009 by the Lib Dems. Devolving services to the lowest possible level is the best approach in my opinion but the town needs more people engaged in the town council and although a lot of great work has been done in the last 4 years PZTC needs to continue to improve. We need to be at a a stage where the town council is just as important as Cornwall Council come election times and to the political parties. 

It's my belief that Penzance East needs a Cornwall Councillor that is also a town councillor to provide more local input and to work better together for the good of this town. On a practical level, it would really encouraging to see the next Cornwall Councillor (and this goes for all of Penzance) engaged in the devolution process between the 2 authorities rather than standing idly by. The failed devolution bid for the Jubilee Pool is a prime example of this and how much work needs to be done to get the 2 councils around the same table on equal terms. This is just one example the story of devolution for this town again and again, PZTC has been eager to take over facilities that are in good order and with some form of funding to cushion the blow to Penzance ratepayers but this seldom happens. 

Cornwall Council's parking plan for the town is another great example. Penzance is a town centre that needs cheaper parking and there are problems (caused in some way by expensive parking in CC car parks) with residents parking. Anyone that lives in this town will tell you that these are the 2 problems and they need fixing. CC plans didn't go anywhere, as nobody was really happy with them, nobody felt they addressed the issues and they were widely seen by people as an attempt for Cornwall Council to make yet more money from people parking in Penzance. Unsurprisingly PZTC voted to oppose these plans. Now we're back to square one and still problems with residents parking. It is clear that local input was wholly lacking throughout this whole process. What we need is to send someone up to Truro that will fight our corner and explain to the great and good at CC what this town wants and convince them that talking to the town council and working with us, will produce better results and actually fix problems. 

In the next 4 years the devolution agenda will continue and we need a strong voice for Penzance at Cornwall Council to get this town a good deal. The 2 councils need to work together better on devolution of services and for decision making in this town. If elected as Cornwall Councillor for this area I would work hard to build bridges between the 2 authorities and not shy away from the difficult work that this would entail. It is for the benefit of Penzance that our voice is heard at Cornwall Council through press releases and public statements but also and importantly in meeting rooms, negotiations and the business of administering and managing the public services of this town.  

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