Friday, 30 December 2011
Before the Christmas break Illogan Parish Council set its budget and precept for 2012.
This was only achieved after a long and sometimes hotly contested debate. The underlying budget was basically flat compared with the previous year, which meant a saving in real terms. However, the final budget was increased considerably over previous years (+28.9%) because the Council decided to make allowance for the cost of the Illogan Hub project, should it go ahead.
The main thrust of the arguments (for and against the Hub project and therefore the 28.9% increase) were as follows:
a) The Hub project will deliver a much improved Village Hall faclity which will benefit the community as a whole and reflects the thrust of the research undertaken when the Parish Plan was created.
b) The project will provide new office facilities for the Illogan Parish Council (the first time the council has ever had its own premises). This will result in long term savings for the people of Illogan as there will be no need to rent office space.
c) The project, as a whole, will hopefully attract funding, thereby reducing the final cost.
a) In the current economic climate any increase in the precept is a lot to expect people to pay.
b) If we were to continue to rent an office then there would be no increase in the precept.
In the end a recorded vote was requested. I voted in favour of allowing for the project to continue and the overall result was 5 - 4 in favour.
The reason that I voted for the project and, therefore, increase in precept was that I believe that the project will be a big boost for the community when it is completed and will also deliver long term savings to the expenses sheet.
One of the things that we considered was postponing budgeting for the project until we were absolutely convinced that the technical and legal problems that face the project had been surmounted. We might also have made a smaller allowance now and looked to increase further in subsequent years.
For me these last two alternatives would have been preferable. What made me decide against was basically Tory ideology.
The problem that all Local Councils face is that in the future they may well face a cap on their expenditure by a Tory led coalition which believes that cutting all public expenditure is the only way to organise public finance. If we had decided to wait until better economic times or gone with a staggered increase then we may have found that we were unable to proceed with the project at all as we would have been prevented from doing this because of capping.
I believe that there is far too much 'short-termism' going on at the moment. If we want a society that looks after itself then we need to invest real capital expenditure in it. PFIs and all the other ways of keeping expenditure away from the balance sheet simply end up in a long term deficit in the profit and loss account. In other words a short term saving now results in a long term loss to our children.
I believe that we should try to do what we can now in order to help our children and grand-children - rather than saddle them with our debts.
Thursday, 15 December 2011
He discusses a research document "Town Hall Transparency" .
In general, both the original document and Cllr Wallis's comments are informative, balanced and well presented.
The report concludes:
" .... the survey showed that FOI was viewed as overwhelmingly positive not only in terms of impact on the public but also on the organisation in terms of improving record keeping and the provision of a framework for access decisions with some limited evidence of improvements in decision-making. "
So it seems that FOI has been a good thing.
However at what cost? This is where my views begin to diverge from the accepted wisdom and that presented by Cllr Wallis.
Although I may be wrong (and I would welcome clarification of this if I am) it looks like the cost of answering FOI requests is calculated in a very simplistic way.
The calculation looks at how many FOI requests are made and how many officers hours are spent in dealing with those requests. From this a mathematical calculation gives you the average cost of FOI requests. Cornwall Council calculate this at £150 and, using Cllr Wallis's figures this would mean that there has been an annual average cost to the Cost Cornish tax payers £180,000 over the last two financial years (with requests and therefore costs rising all the time.)
Now I said that this is a very simplistic way of measuring the cost. The problem with this calculatuion is that it doesn't take into account the fact that, surely, the council should have already been dealing with requests for information anyway. Cllr Wallis was kind enough to explain that if you sell a portion of chips the cost of that sale includes all of the food, wrapping, labour etc. That is certainly true, but the cost doesn't vary if I call my bag of chips a 'bag of chips' or 'a portion of chips'. Whatever I call the product it costs exactly the same to produce.
If I ask the council for information, but don't ask for it as a FOI request, does that mean it doesn't cost anything? Surely the true 'cost' of FOI requests should take into account why answering a FOI request would cost more than answering any other request for information. If there are legitimate reasons why a FOI requests costs more to answer then it would be good to know them.
Of course you could apply the normal standard of Lys Kernow spin and argue that actually FOI reduces the cost of supplying information to the public.
This is because there is a dedicated team that acts efficiently and productively in turning around requests from the public and so there are associated savings related to gains in efficiency.
Although, given the horrendous mess that the Council often makes in answering requests accurately, I think that savings gained through effiicency might be hard to argue - even by Messrs Robertson and Lavery.
I believe that this official extrapoltion of 'cost' of openess and transparency is an economically spurious way of discouraging FOI requests.
I recently made two FOI requests. The Council claims that all FOI requests should be answered within 20 days - neither of mine were.
Thursday, 1 December 2011
Nothing provides a better example of this than the ConDem approach to 'Localism', 'Affordable Housing' and development in general.
I have decided to see if there are any like-minded people in and around Illogan who feel the same way.
Westminster pretty much has things sewn up - but perhaps, with support, we could fight back a little.
here is the text of a letter that I have sent to Illogan residents.
Westminster politicians¸ of all hues, are guilty of cynically misleading us!
They use terms such as ‘Localism’ and ‘Affordable Housing’ in order to appear as if they know and understand the problems that we face in Cornwall related to housing and development. The truth is that when you look closely at the small print and official definitions of these terms they are actually ways of encouraging development, creating profits for developers on the back of houses which local people can’t even begin to hope to afford to buy.
I would like to do something to stop this travesty. It is probably a near impossible job but somebody has to try! If you would like to support my campaign to uncover the Westminster development lies then please join me at The Meeting Room, Melting Pot Café, Krowji on Wednesday 14th December 2012 at 7:00pm.
I will be chairing a meeting to discuss the issues surrounding development and what Mebyon Kernow stands for please come along and help me to make a difference for Illogan and to put Cornwall first!Of course, if anyone from outside of Illogan wants to come along to the Melting Pot Cafe, Krowji, Redruth on Wednesday 14th December at 7:00pm, you would be very welcome.
Saturday, 26 November 2011
Loathe as I am (not!) to keep going on about Cllr Dr Loveday Jenkin's spectacular win for MK the other day, I feel I have to say that I think that some of the most telling comments are those that have not been made.
For example, when Jude Robinson won for Labour in Camborne North there were loads of news stories and even TV and radio features. This time round, however, almost nothing - even from Cornwall's own, Graham Smith (maybe he's on holiday). Perhaps it was the fact that Jude is the only and first Labour representative at Unitary level that made her election such a special occurrence that warranted the (proportionate) media hype that accompanied it?
When Loveday was elected she became the fifth MK Cornwall Councillor - five members - a bit old hat now I suppose - and not so newsworthy. I mean I'd hate to think that the BBC and establishment media could be in any way biased.
Then again, unless I have missed it, the Tories seem to have gone deathly quiet. Perhaps they are still shocked that they didn't win a seat that seemed to be there for the taking. After all they were in 3rd place back in 2009 and this time around, while there was MK and two other supposedly left of centre parties standing, there was no UKIP candidate to drag their vote down. So how come the Tories still ended up third? (... and worse still for them, I'm sure, behind the Lib Dems). I imagine that Alec Robertson and his team of bloggers and tweeters are too busy occupied worrying about what will happen if they take the government up on the offer to subsidise council tax payments to try and spin the MK triumph in Wendron as a Conservative moral victory.
It's also strange that Jude Robinson hasn't produced yet another spreadsheet that shows how Labour are making a strong comeback in Cornwall. I suspect the last few election results have rather dented her statistics - is she holed up in an office somewhere working out how to justify leaving out the last few results from her mathematical calculations?
MK isn't about to start making wild claims about taking control of the Unitary Authority in 2013. To put things in perspective Loveday was an exceptional candidate, well respected and known for her hard work in the area. If we had lost then then we would have had to re-evaluate a great many assumptions and policy foundations. As it is Loveday won and this was on the back of an excellent conference and several other encouaraging events in November discussed by Rob Simmons here. So no extravagant claims and spin from MK - just a promise of a positive outlook and hard work developing policies that will put Cornwall, and her people first, from Parish ward to Westminster constituency.
Friday, 25 November 2011
The results were:
MK 427 36.4%
LD 262 22.3%
Con 227 19.4%
Ind 177 15.1%
Lab 80 6.8%
Not just a win but a bit of a landslide really. Many congratulations Loveday well done!
A brilliant finale to an excellent month for MK. We have gained one parish, two town and now a unitary councillor - bringing MK's total of Cornwall Councillors to 5.
To echo a sentiment expressed by Cllr Jenkin just after her resounding victory, who's up next for MK? Let's get to work!
Thursday, 24 November 2011
The government has promised to subsidise council tax bills next year where the local authority freezes their take. On the face of it a good idea?
But wait. Why link the subsidy to a freeze in council tax at the current rate. Well the idea is to keep services at the same level but without an icrease in council tax due to inflation. Fair enough you might think.
Is it really that simple though? You see the problem is that the subsidy is only planned for next year so what happens after that?
If you were paying £1000 in counciul tax now then next year you would pay the same but the government would 'top it up' by £25 so that you were getting £1025 worth of services for your £1000.
In two years time though, in order to keep the same level of service you will have to pay £1050.63 (assuming the 2.5% rise that the government is working on). Now of course in pragmatic terms it is a no-brainer to accept the government subsidy because at least you get £25 back this year.
My problem is this. The government is making out that it is a caring government that wants to do what it can for families in these hard times of austerity. In actual fact it is offering an electoral bribe now, knowing that next year local authorities will be having to make further cutbacks or face sending out massively inflated council tax bills.
I have been having a blogosphere discussion with Alex Folkes the Lib Dem Cornwall Councillor for Launceston Central here about this subject.
It seems to me that the Westminster parties are simply using this idea to score party political points with each other.
Cornwall is rather an exception to the UK where there will be Unitary elections early in 2013. In many parts of the UK these local authority elections have only just been held. This means that Alec Robertson's Tories will be announcing even more cutbacks going into the election or posting out council tax demands much higher than the previous two years - electoral bribe/cutbacks silver bullet.
So we have Tories/Lib Dems in Westminster offering bribes, knowing that in most of the UK their local authorities will have had a year or two to lessen the effect of cutbacks/increased council tax. Whereas in Cornwall the 'pick and mix' Lib Dems (they seem to be able to pick and mix whichever policies they think will get them re-elected, even if it isn't the official policy of their Westminster bosses) are gleefully advocating acceptance of the subsidy, fully aware of why the Tory administration in Lys Kernow is a little more reserved in its enthusiasm for carrying out the orders in from London.
In order to keep to my Golden Rule 1 I would just say that, rather than try to bribe local electors I would use the money to do some real good and tackle child poverty issues - or maybe increase our pblicly owned housing stock. Of course these probably aren't vote grabbing ideas but they would provide more long term and sustainable benefit for the people of Cornwall. If you want to see some other great examples of MK's alternative way of looking at things see Rob Simmons excellent piece here.
Wednesday, 23 November 2011
A few days ago we had the ConDems pretending to be building 'Affordable Homes' - which of course don't exist.
Now we have Jude Robinson telling us how Labour were so brilliant at building non-existent 'Affordable Homes'.
There is no such thing as Affordable Housing in Cornwall (that ordinary people can actually afford) according to Westminster definitions. It is an indictment of the Westminster unionist parties that they have the gall and cynicism to squabble over which of them is trying to sort out the housing crisis. Give us a proper definition of Affordable - one that relates to what the word means - and then tell us what you have done to address the problem.
MK believe that the only way to sort this problem out is to abandon the Tory policies of the Tories and the Torylite policies of the Lib Dems and Labour, and build houses for public ownership or that are not dependent on developers having to make a big profit to get them built.
The house building market is not building because the market is shot. Developers can't make a profit so they don't build - market forces in action.
Westminster believes in subsidising developers profits to build homes that only MPs and people earning more than them can afford.
MK believes that Cornwall should be offering a fair price for a good quality product where it is required to meet a local need.
Tuesday, 22 November 2011
The St Piran play is one of Cornwall's most iconic St Piran's Day events. It takes place on Gear Sands close to Perranporth on the Sunday closest to St Piran's Day. The audience partake in a pilgrimmage across the dunes to various sites of special relevance to St Piran and watch the legend of St Piran unfold.
This year I volunteered to help the St Piran Trust as they took over the production of the play. I was part of the team which set up the props for the cast to use.
I have volunteered again to help with the same task next year. If anyone is interested in joining me, and gaining a fascinating insight to what goes on behind he scenes of this world famous event, then let me know. You will just need to be able to make an early start at Perranporth on Sunday 4th March 2012.
If you wanted to be even more involved and could spare a few evenings before the play (for rehearsals) you might consider becoming one of the cast - I know the St Piran Trust is planning an even bigger production than last year and are looking for people to take on a role in the play.
More information on the St Piran Trust can be found here.
Monday, 21 November 2011
At the risk of following in Gordon Brown's footsteps I would like to announce that I will be following two Golden Rules in my blogging future.
Both Golden Rules have been inspired by events and people at the MK conference!
Golden Rule 1
Positivity: inspired by Kenneth Gibson MSP.
I will only allow myself to whinge about Westminster politicians and policies if I can put forward a positive alternative.
Golden Rule 2
Relevance: inspired by Matthew Clarke's presentation.
I will only blog about events or items that are relevant to normal, everyday people.
If I have any regular followers out there in the blogosphere, please help me by leaving a comment, or 'Golden Rule Alert' if you think I have broken my Golden Rules.
Mur ras puponen :-)
Why do we want to build more homes?
It sounds like a bit of a daft question really? We need homes to solve the 'housing crisis' is the answer.
But is it?
I recently blogged about the fact that there is no such thing as an affordable house for the average person in Cornwall. So why is the government trying to 'kick-start' the house building market? What is the point in using our taxes to enable developers to build homes that only someone earning the salary of an MP can afford? Building new homes will not solve the housing crisis as long as people can't afford to live in them.
This is the problem with Tory market-driven ideology. We are told that it is important to build new houses in order to provide homes for people - in fact it is simply using our taxes to keep the developers profits going.
How many times do we hear that the free market is the only way to get sutainable growth? If this is true then why does the government want to interfere in that process and keep developers' profits going? It is because houses are to expensive that nobody is buying them - not because there are not enough available. It is the market, which successive governments have allowed and encouraged to get out of control which is the problem. It is no use simply building houses if ordinary people can't buy them - am I completely wrong?
Over the last few days, at our annual conference, MK has spent time in developing a detailed and coherent policy on housing.
We believe that Cornwall needs its own Assembly which can take a different approach. We believe that good quality housing is a fundamental human right and not a privilege for the rich. It is the duty of any responsible government to meet this basic human need - not to boost developers' profits.
What is wrong with building houses for people to live in? What is wrong with building houses that people can afford to rent and to buy if that is their aspiration?
A Cornish Assembly led by MK would not be driven by the need to make a profit or the need to satisfy it's finaciers. One third ofthe cost of a house is profit for the developer. If you eliminate that need then that is an immediate reduction in the cost of a house by 33%.
The buy to let market is functioning 'very nicely thank you' at the moment. Buy to let magnates make a profit by purchasing housing stock and then renting houses to ordinary people. The rent they receive covers the cost of the mortgage and gives the landlord a bonus profit. All the time their capital asset appreciates in value it is being paid for (and then some) by the inflated rent receipt.
If private speculators can make this work, and make large profits, then MK believes that it is possible for the people of Cornwall to build their own houses with a rent that covers the cost of loan without the need for profit. In other words, schemes like this would be self-finacing and would not cost the tax payer anything.
As I stated above, we have a whole raft of policies and proposals for dealing with the housing crisis in Cornwall. Meeting Cornish problems with Cornish solutions - putting Cornwall first.
Paul Jenkin put together a great night's entertainment with Hanterhir, Kowethas and An Dysken. Thanks Paul.
I would also like to mention Stuart and Helene Cullimore who were there with the MK stall, raising money for our election campaigns. At least the Shire House Suite was an improvement on the muddy field on a saturday morning that they are used to :-).
Finally - thank you Dick Cole. Thank you for providing inspiration and a vision of a future Cornwall that is fit for purpose for of the people of Cornwall. Thank you for all your tireless efforts throughout the year (not just at conference time) and especially for providing the opportunity for us to listen to Jonathen Edwards and Kenneth Gibson. Our grass roots activists need more of that to encourage them and to show that we are not alone but part of a wider movement that believes that people who live in a place the best people to decide how they should live in that place.
It really was a team effort - a team that I am extremely proud to be a member of.
Let's take this forward and work on the challenge of getting greter electoral representation. A good place to start is with Loveday's campaign in Wendron. Just a few days to go so get in touch with her if you can help in any way.
Sunday, 20 November 2011
MK believe that the best way to take Cornwall forward is to do it for ourselves. We know what the problems that we face and we know the way to build a better Cornwall for all of the people of Cornwall.
The conference agenda recognised the need to engage with groups accross the political and cultural spectrum. This is why we invited and listened to nine different organisations from accross Cornwall, Wales and Scotland. We know that Cornwall can have a great future and we know that the best way to achieve that is by teamwork and by providing a conduit through which organisations, that are devoted to putting Cornwall first, can channel and amplify their hard work.
The political landscape of the United Kingdom has been changing rapidly over the last few years and is accelerating all the time. With a referendum on Scottish independence now a certainty we are entering territory never witnessed before in living memory. Exciting times - and doubly exciting to be told that MK are 'ahead of the curve' by the SNP who have been responsible for much of that change.
One of the conclusions that we have reached, during an action packed two days, is that our plan will include ways to reach a public that has been turned off politics by the Unionist parties in Westminster, all of whom (without exception) either peddle Tory or 'Torylite' ideology. We will present Cornish solutions to Cornish problems and we will celebrate and communicate Cornish success stories.
Part of the flesh on the bones is the comprehensive policy document on housing and development that has been created. This is another statement of intent. Bespoke Cornish solutions to Cornish problems.
And even more flesh will be added soon. With policy reviews on a Cornish Assembly/Recognition, education, Europe and the environment already well under way (and other sbject areas in the pipeline) we will continue to add substance to the intent.
Monday, 7 November 2011
Tonight I attended a Mebyon Kernow branch meeting.
What struck me was the sheer determination of our members to put Cornwall and the people of Cornwall first.
At the beginning of every meeting (after apologies and the usual formal rigmarole) we have reports from our councillor members - a chance for councillors and other members to catch up and communicate about what is happening in their own individual localities. Over the last year this section has begun to take up a significant amount of time. Tonight we had eight councillors present, from Parish to Unitary level, talking about a wide range of issues from protecting heritage to setting budgets. It was extremely rewarding to see how Mebyon Kernow continues to be involved in local communities, to take part and to lead the way.
At the same time we discussed policy proposals for our upcoming national conference. In particular, tonight, we looked at housing and development policy. Mebyon Kernow is in the process of developing a comprehensive policy that will provide innovative Cornish solutions to Westminster imposed problems.
We are also looking forward to and actively planning for the 2013 unitary elections. We already have three fully ratified prospective candidates in our branch - Cllr Stuart Cullimore, Cllr John Rowe and myself. We also have a list of eight other potential candidates that we are fitting into the jigsaw that is our campaign plan. We are well on course to provide our branch's quota of MK's national target to field 50 candidates in the 2013 elections and with more members joining with each meeting we are looking to do even better.
There is a real 'buzz' in the branch at the moment - and I am hearing the same thing from other branches of MK across Cornwall. This is reflected in the recent flurry of members and councillors defecting from the tarnished Liberal Democrats.
We always welcome new members who want to make a difference and work for a better Cornwall. Please contact me if you think you might want to be part of something exciting and special over the next few years.
My son, Sam, has just been elected as a Student Councillor at Staffs University where he is studying Broadcast Media.
I would like to say he is following in his Dad's footsteps but I fear he is already far ahead of me!
He has set up his own political blog (Stoke Elected) and recently managed to secure an exclusive interview with the Leader of the Stoke on Trent Unitary Council. A few months ago he met David Miliband following a debate at Staffs Uni. While he maintains his blog (and keeps his academic studies at a very high grade level) he also helps to report for and present a weekly politics show on student radio.
His involvement in student life at Staffs follows his work at Camborne College where he produced his own newsletter and served on the Student Union, resulting in a Star Award in 2010.
When see reports of young people being involved in gang culture and rioting I believe that I am particularly blessed to have three extremely socially minded children, each of whom I like to think bring something good to the world.
MK Deputy Leader and Cornwall Councillor for Callington, Andrew Long, recently visited Estonia.
See here for Cornish Guardian report.
With a population of just over one million, Estonia is one of many small nations that show that being small doesn't mean you can't be viable as an economic entity.
Saturday, 5 November 2011
Over the last month or two I have tried to show that the Conservative (supported by their Lib Dem whipping boys) idea of 'Localism' is anything but - especially when it comes to development policy.
There is, sadly, another term that seems to be being scattered like confetti by Westminster politicians. A cynical attempt to fool us into believeing that they are trying to solve the housing crisis in Cornwall.
'Affordable Housing' is the mantra of the politcian that wants us to think that he or she understands the situation and wants to do something about it. If some LibLabCon person mentions Affordable Housing and the dire need for homes for local people it demonstrates their empathy for the struggle that the people of Cornwall are facing. Yeah - right!
The problem is what they mean by 'Affordable Housing' and what we would like to think they mean are very different things.
'Affordable Housing' is actually a specifically defined term to be found in the Department for Communities and Local Government's Policy Statement . There is also information on Cornwall Council's website.
There are basically two parts to Affordable Housing - the rented sector and purchase sector. As the subject of Affordable Housing usually comes up in the media in the context of people being able to buy their own home I mainly looked at what the policy means for people who want to do just that.
Basically Affordable Housing is available to Eligble Households who earn less than Stephen Gilbert MP and who have a development building Affordable Housing within 10 miles or so of where they currently live. If you want to buy your home outright then you may be able to find a house with a "20% - 50% discount" compared to market value.
Given that the average house price in Cornwall is now over £220,000 even a 50% dscount would be £110,000.
I have asked for more information from Cornwall Council as to exacly how many discounted Affordable Homes have been provided in Cornwall over the last year and what the average discount has been and I will blog again when I get this information.
However, in the meantime I will make a few assumptions.
First of all the average price includes all housing and will be distorted by higher value detached houses. I will use £185,000 as the basic market value price. This is the figure for the average semi-detached house in Cornwall.
Secondly I will assume the discount is 25%. I have seen a few schemes where a 20% discount has been offered but never any where 50% was available, so I think 25% is being generous.
This means an average Affordable Home would cost £138,750.
Given the average wage in Cornwall is now £17,000, this means that the average Affordable House is more than 8 times the average wage. Of course this means that, as everyone knows, even an Affordable House isn't affordable.
So what does all this mean?
Well it means that there is no such thing as an Affordable House for the average person in Cornwall.
It means that politicians in Westminster parties are at best being disingenuous at best when they talk about their committment to Affordable Housing because they are merely talking about a committment to something that doesn't exist.
However, there is more harm being done by the Affordable Housing red herring.
The hidden problem is that supposed Affordable Housing is being used to drive development in Cornwall using the fairy tale that housing is being provided for local need as well as developers' greed.
The media allows people who have a vested interest in seing houses built to make comments such as:
"There is a pent up demand for houses."
"There is a housing shortage so we need to build more."
What nobody is ever allowed to say is:
"Building more houses - even Affordable Housing won't allow the average person in Cornwall to buy one."
So who are all the houses for?
They must be for people who can afford them - whoever these people are they are not your average Cornish person on the streets of Camborne, St Austell, Bude or Penzance!
Friday, 4 November 2011
If the Duke of Cornwall retires to bed at midnight and is woken for breakfast at 9:00am by his staff, will he have trousered more or less than the average person in Cornwall earns in a year?
Income from the Duchy = £18m per year.
This is £2054 each and every hour of every day.
9 x £2054 = £18486.
Average Cornish annual wage = £17,000
Therefore, Charles makes approximately £1486 more by getting a good night's sleep than a hard working Cornishman earns in a year.
A while back I saw comments on Facebook which maintained that it was obscene that prima donna footballers were earning hundreds of thousands of pounds while soldiers in Afghanistan were being payed peanuts for possibly sacrificing their lives.
I totally agree with those Facebook comments. The point is though, that it is society that chooses to pay over-inflated ticket prices at football matches while it elects a government that not only fails to look after its soldiers but fails to equip them properly as well. If society really wanted to change things it could refuse to pay the ticket price and could elect a government that would look after its soldiers.
It is obscene that footballers earn so much more than people who are prepared to lay down their lives. It also obscene that Charles Windsor, through an accident of birth, should receive more money for going to bed than a normal person would earn in a year and that all this is cloaked in secrecy and never subject to any electoral review.
Thursday, 3 November 2011
The Duchy of Cornwall website informs us that the Duchy is a 'private estate'.
Earlier this week the Guardian headlined the news that the Duke of Cornwall, by rights accrued through the Duchy of Cornwall, had been consulted on parliamentary legislation and could have possibly vetoed that legislation.
Of course the question is how can a 'private individual' have constitutional rights?
None of this is news to Cornish constitutional campaigners who, for decades, have been questioning how the Duke can claim all of the benefits of a constitutional body (which is what the Duchy really is) and yet completely ignore the responsibilities that it brings.
Today the decision defining the duchy as a public body under environmental regulations was made by the First-Tier Tribunal on information rights, a court that deals with disputes relating to freedom of information.
It seems that the myth of the Duchy of Cornwall being merely a private estate is unravelling fast.
Apparently Duchy officials are: "reviewing the Tribunal's reasons for reaching its conclusion with a view to establishing whether to appeal the decision"
Not an easy decision for an organisation that has sought to peddle the private estate myth and shroud the Duchy in secrecy.
Mebyon Kernow has consistently called for a full inquiry into the true status of the Duchy of Cornwall.
Wednesday, 19 October 2011
Today Cornwall Council voted to reccommend dropping funding for 114 public toilets in order to save £1.1 million.
Before, during and after the debate, leading members of the twitterati and blogosphere had a field day - mainly opposed to the idea.
I, for one, am all for it. In fact, I don't think the proposal goes far enough.
Some claim (including me) that the Unitary Council has been a complete disaster for Cornwall. Some of its misdemeanours have ranged in cost from a few hundred pounds to possibly millions include: ordering silk ties to improve the 'corporate image', helping to fund Devon in a wasted bid to bring world cup football to Plymouth and the on-going incinerator debacle.
In the meantime Kevin Lavery's salary remains extortionate, Officers pay is out of control (while normal people face redundancy) and CC Cabinet members claim huge allowances.
I strongly believe in subsidiarity (in the true meaning of the term) rather than the ideological cost cutting that forms the basis of Tory 'localism'. This is what makes me think that Cornwall Council should stop funding all public toilets and leave it to local communities to manage.
The Unitary Authority should be there to make high level, strategic decisons that affect the way that Cornwall operates as a complete entity. It should be responsible for things like education, healthcare and the co-ordination of emergency services.
In my mind there is no justification for Cornwall Council to micro-manage thing like public toilets. I believe that there would be many benefits, both financial and organisational, if they were managed by towns and parishes.
For example the local community could decide if it wanted the toilets in the first place. They could then decide the best way to mange the service and aspects of that service such as opening hours etc. Local councils could join together to share the costs of maintenace, so as to not lose the efficiencies af scale, and yet still make the contractors far more accountable for the service that they provided. Some toilets might be 'pay as you go' (perhaps in tourist spots) while others might be 'contract' for the benefit of locals. Indeed, there could be a mixture of PAYG and contract at different times of the year - the possibilities are endless and would be down to local people to decide what would be best for them.
Now I can hear, some of you saying "This lets CC off the hook. They are just saving money by badgering local councils into taking responsibility." Well, maybe it does - but ultimately the cost of the service is paid for by through the UA portion of council tax or through the local precept. Surely it will work out better value for money if the service is managed by and made accountable to local people.
There should be more services being devolved to local councils - but we have to face up to the fact that the balance of local taxes has also to swing in favour of the local councils in order to allow this to happen.
This does not mean that I believe that Cornwall Council cabinet have brought about this debate because they believe in subsidiarity. Far from it. They have done it because they are driven by Tory cost cutting ideology, however, why not play them at their own game and rise to the challenge.
At the same time we could throw down a few challenges of our own. Why not transfer car parks to local authorities to manage for the benefit of their residents rather than to (incorrectly as it has turned out) provide funds to subsidise the aforementioned silk ties, Devon football and construction schemes lacking planning permission. Of course, as all these myriad small services that could be provided locally are transferred into local ownership there would be less justification for Kevin Lavery's salary as he would not be resposible for so many different things. There would be less need for so many officers as there would be nothing for them to do. Finally, there would be no need at all for Cabinet Support Members or indeed quite so many Cabinet Members on high 'volunteer' allowances.
Thursday, 29 September 2011
The Cornish word 'azook' is used by the pilot of a gig when he wants his crew to pull hard together.
It is something that Cornish nationalists need to learn to do.
Today I spent a glorious couple of hours in the company of Claire White of Azook CIC.
"Azook is a UK based not for profit Community Interest Company, dedicated to strengthening cultural confidence and social cohesion across communities." A major part of Azook's work is providing learning resources for schools across Cornwall.
Claire, who was previously a teacher, became frustrated with the way that educational resources seemed to take children away from their Cornish communities in order to learn. She believes that children need to learn about the world in a way that also teaches them about their roots and where they live.
Claire and Azook have developed a unique way of providing learning resources that cover the whole of the national curriculum. Azook is a shining example of traditional Cornish innovation being applied in a modern and forward looking way. Their work is steadily providing a massive online source of resources for teachers. 'A Sense of Place' is "a flagship project in Cornwall delivered by Azook CIC in partnership with Cornwall Council. It enables teachers in primary and secondary settings to deliver the curriculum with distinctiveness and diversity."
Cornwall deserves a network of well-funded, high-quality primary and secondary schools, under
local authority control that all provide a consistently high standard of education. Teachers should be allowed to teach and students to study in ways that ensure that our young people are properly equipped for their adult lives.
The marketisation and fragmentation of the education system through the creation of academies and free schools has to be stopped before it does irreparable damage.
As Public services spokesman for Mebyon Kernow I am helping to develop our policy on education and I hope to be able to follow Azook's example in creating a vision of education that has it's feet set firmly in Cornwall while giving children a chance to embrace the whole world.
Sunday, 25 September 2011
The Tory government, with its Lib Dem side-kick is intent on gathering in power to Westminster. This is all being done under a cloak of 'localism' or 'empowerment'.
For example we are continually told that the localism Bill will give power to local neighbourhoods to plan how they want their development. This is quite simply not true. Unless a local neighbouhood actually desires to concrete over every square inch of green (in which case it can demand that the local planning authority does just that), it will have no greater opportunity than to say what development goes ahead than to (maybe) determine the colour of the front doors of the houses that have already been pre-destined for its locality.
I recently wrote to Cornwall Council to ask what help the Council would have to assist neghbourhoods in producing a local plan. Part of the reply included this telling phrase:
"Furthermore, I would ensure you are clear as to what you would be
seeking to get out of the process - to ensure that a Neighbourhood Plan
is indeed the right approach to be taking. A couple of points to be
clear on is that a Neighbourhood Plan has to be in conformity with the
Cornwall Core Strategy (i.e. the neighbourhood plan has to plan for
housing/economic growth which is at least of the same scale as the Core
Strategy is targeting for Illogan, or in excess of it)."
So there you go. At least the same scale as the Core Strategy, or in excess of it. Lys Kernow is under no illusion as to what powers neighbourhoods will have - isn't it about time our 'local' Westminster politicians were just as honest with us?
Local neighourhoods will only be able to increase levels of development which are set by Cornwall Council. In turn Cornwall Council will have to base their development strategy on a policy of a 'presumption in favour of development' imposed by London.
What colour should we paint the front doors?
Tuesday, 13 September 2011
I am absolutely amazed and thrilled that anyone at all would take the time and effort to vote for this blog - but it would appear that enough of you have to make me a new entry in the Top 75 Left Wing Blogs (in at number 53). Mur ras to everyone who voted for me, I really do appreciate it.
Congratulations also to:
Cllr Dick Cole - http://mebyonkernow.blogspot.com
Cornish Zetetics - http://cornishzetetics.blogspot.comRob Simmons - http://robscornishblog.blogspot.com
Simon Reed - http://theinsaneramblingsofavillageidiot.com
All doing their best to put Cornwall on the map and all appearing in the Top 75.
I wouls also like to thank all of those people who have taken the time to Tweet, email and Facebook congratulations.
Saturday, 10 September 2011
A hat tip to @Tredhek for this. Apparently Eric Pickles, keen to override Cornwall's elected representatives when it comes to the installation of waste disposal sites, is not so keen on having similar facilities in his own back yard. Is this the definition of NIMBYism or just pure hypocrisy?
Wednesday, 7 September 2011
Perfectly demonstrating her lack of understanding of Cornish identity (and her selective amnesia on the subject) she voted with Tories at Lys Kernow in an attempt to further cement 'Devonwall Creep'
Just a year ago, Jude was extolling the value of Cornwall's proud heritage and historic national border and censuring MPs who "betray their contempt for local concerns" . Her amnesia (or is it her total lack of understanding of Cornish concerns) leads her to different conclusions this year.
The tone and content of her blog demonstrates her total contempt for any suggestion of Cornwall exerting her national identity and a lack of understanding of the evils of a creeping Devonwall. Clearly her posturing during the Keep Cornwall Whole campaign was just that. A blatant piece of party politics which she denounces so readily when it suits.
It seems, however, that Jude isn't just rude to me but also to any Cornish nationalist who might challenge her stance on Cornish issues.
For someone, who is often heard complaining about the uncouth and patronising treatment that she receives from political critics, it would seem that she is easily able to hold her own on this score.