Welcome to the blog. All the opinion on this blog is my own or as attributed. Thank you for reading - I hope you enjoy.

Sunday, 31 July 2011

Stadium for Cornwall

There seems to be much angst amongst Cornish politicos as to whether or not we should have a brand new, shiny stadium right here in little Kernow.

On the one hand we have those who are trying to build a CV or reputation on the back of a stadium. These people are quick off the mark to extoll the economic and social benefits of a stadium. They go through the usual rigmarole of wholly hypothetical projections and estimates to tell us that this many jobs will be created or that many £millions will be generated from building this complex of stadium and 'sports village'.

On the other hand we have others who complain about how much it is all going to cost and worry about just exactly who is actually going to get any benefit from the stadium. Why should we pay for something that only a few will benefit from?

Personally, I think that this project is something that could be good for Cornwall. Why shouldn't the people of Cornwall be able to enjoy big events and the opportunities that this could deliver. Why shouldn't Cornwall be able to compete on the prestigious world stage in the modern world? I also think that if there truly is a benefit to be gleaned for Cornwall then the stadium should be owned and managed by Cornwall and not sold off to others to take the profit while the people pay the bills. If the benefits are there then the investment would be worthwhile. However, raising the money to pay for it shouldn't rely on greedy developers being granted licence to run riot with unaffordable and unnecessary housing developments as the price for getting it built.

The thing is there are probably just as many people who would prefer to keep green fields and a quieter life as there are that would welcome a stadium.

So here's an idea. Why not use the much vaunted Localism agenda bought to us by the ConDem government. Surely if there was ever a case for a 'local referendum' then this is it? Not only could we have a referendum we could also vote on whether we should pay for it through voting to allow Cornwall Council to go over a government imposed cap on council tax.

Come on Cornwall Council let the people decide. Do we want a stadium and do we want to pay for it?

Did Cllr Easthorne-Gibbons Manage to Keep a Straight Face?

I wonder if Cllr Easthorne-Gibbons managed to keep a straight face (or perhaps she had her fingers crossed firmly behind her back) when she stated for the newspapers:

"I am sorry people misunderstood.

"I am sorry Mebyon Kernow were upset because I give you my word that was not my intention.

"I don't want to give offence to anybody – I wanted to keep everything above board.

"I did everything by the book."

It beggars belief that she can claim that there was no intention to deliberately mislead voters. The evidence is here for all to see in black and white, just as it was before people went to the polls on 21st July.

How could anyone reasonably be expected to work out that the the statement under Lance Dyer's name didn't actually refer to him? To any reasonable and intelligent person, the whole point of that part of the leaflet was to compare the candidates standing to be elected. How could Cllr Easthorne-Gibbins not have intended to mislead?

Of course Lance Dyer should be flattered really. He obviously had the Tories rattled in order for them to behave in such a reprobate manner.

After the general election last year there was a scandal when Labour's Phil Woolas' statements about his Lib Dem rival were ruled to be an illegal practice under the Representation of the People Act 1983.

The judges in this case said:

"The statement was false and the respondent had no reasonable ground for believing it to be true and did not believe it to be true.

"It follows in our judgment that the respondent is guilty of an illegal practice, contrary to section 136 of the Representation of the People Act 1983 with regard to those statements."

My question is what is the difference between these two cases?

Friday, 29 July 2011

Should Illogan Parish Be Happy to Follow Where Camborne , Redruth and Pool Lead?

The Localism Bill seeks to provide a platform for claiming that power over development will be given to local people. This is a sham. The only power that locals will have will be to force elected representatives to authorise development where otherwise they might not have done so.

Advocates of the Localism Bill point to the idea of residents in a neighbourhood creating their own plan. This is then supposedly used to guide development in the neighbourhood. However, there is a problem if the neighbourhood plan does not conform to the vision that we are being sold by Westminster. The vision that there should be an automatic presumption in favour of 'sustainable growth' (whatever that means) and that this is a right and proper thing for us to accept. If the neighbourhood plan calls for a policy based on a 'steady state' approach to development where housing is built strictly for local need, for industrial development to provide real employment opportunity to aid the local economy and for the environmental considerations of issues such, as 'infill', to be given a higher priority, the plan will be ignored anyway.

Nevertheless, I believe that neighbourhoods should produce plans. If enough plans are ignored in favour of lining developers' pockets then maybe it will give the lie to the whole spurious claim that Westminster wants to give real power to local communities.

With all of this in mind I approached the Chairman of Illogan Parish Council, Cllr David Ekinsmyth with a view to commencing the process of creating a local neighbourhood plan. Unfortunately for Illogan, Cllr Ekinsmyth believes that it is best to wait until the County (sic) has produced its plan for the Camborne, Pool, Illogan and Redruth area and to see if it conflicts with the small section on planning contained within Illogan's Parish Plan.

The 'County' has already expressed that planning strategies will be based on unsustainably high population growth (even at the lowest option). It is hard, therefore, to see how their plans and policies can possibly do anything but conflict with what I believe the people of Illogan and, indeed, most of Cornwall want - a breathing space in growth to rebuld communities and allow the people of Cornwall to sort out the mess that Westminster has made.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Disingenuous George

The Right Honourable George Eustice, our esteemed MP for Illogan (and elsewhere), certainly knows how to take some simple concepts and turn them on their heads!

Cornwall suffers an extremely high rate of population growth compared to parts of the UK. This growth is not down to the indigenous population increasing, but due to decades of Westminster policy which dictates that social and economic problems are best solved by growth.

It matters not that this philosophy has been a complete failure for Cornwall, each new generation of Westminster politicos tell us that growth is the way forward and this is swallowed hook, line and sinker by our Cornish councillors.

The Cornishman on the Camborne omnibus would tell you that we don't need more unaffordable housing, which is never built to meet local need, simply adding to the pressure on Cornwall's economy. Most local opinion would be against the building of houses - a plain and simple fact.

Not to be deterred by facts, Mr Eustice has cast his eye over the Localism Bill and urges us to believe that:

" In future, parish councils will be able to put forward their own plans and put them to a referendum of local residents. If supported, these parish plans will take precedence over the opinions of Cornwall Council planners."

So the person on the Camborne omnibus might look at that and think that MrEustice's friends in the ConDem government were finally trying to give some real power back to local people.

Utter rubbish unfortunately! What Mr Eustice actually means is that, where local plans include development and house building, the plan might override the local authority. In other words if Cornish councillors have managed to get past all of the hurdles such as "predeterminism", "a presumption in favour of 'sustainable' growth" and the threat of legal action if planning permission is denied, then local town and parish councils can still insist that houses get built. In other words what Mr Eustice points to as a golden opportunity for people to have a say in what their communities look like is merely another way of promoting development and the construction of houses.

If the 'local plan' states that the community does not want any development then this will be ignored and outweighed by the presumption in favour of development. In no case will a local plan, which attempts to block house building, be allowed precedence over London based developers.

For the Westminster politicians 'localism' is all about how to ensure that their ideologies are the only options for people to adopt!

Cornwall needs to adopt a 'steady state' policy towards development. We need time to rebuild our communities and to find real and lasting solutions to economic problems. The people of Cornwall are quite capable of doing this - if only we were able to be left to get on and do it.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

St Piran's Day Bank Holiday - A Question of Inspiration

Today, Cornwall Council's Corporate Resources Committee voted to put to the full council a suggestion that Cornwall reccommends to the Westminster Parliament that, we, in Cornwall, should be given the chance to celebrate St Piran's Day instead of the May Day Bank Holiday.

A fine suggestion which, if the ConDem coalition is serious about localism, it should seriously consider.

Over the last few years Cornwall has seen bigger and better St Piran Day celebrations springing up all over the country. As much as Steve Double might attempt to belittle the celebration of St Piran's Day it is fast becoming a widespread celebration of Cornwall's unique culture and difference, enjoyed by all of the people of Cornwall. As Edwina Hannaford says - it's all about us having the confidence to set our own agenda. I believe that we need political leaders who will not only set a Cornish Agenda, but also fight tooth and nail to achieve each and every item on it.

Cllr Double, quite rightly, states ... "it may score a few Brownie points, with some people, to be seen to be promoting this idea." However, Cllr Double, who says "there are few people who are more proud to be Cornish than I am" (apparently he has a tattoo to 'prove' this too) questions how it might work in practice.

In fact the Conservative and Unionist Councillor goes on to argue a case that any 'Dependency Theorist' could use in a prescribed text. His arguments centre almost wholly around how insurmountably inconvenient some administrative aspects of the suggestion would be.

He even goes on to reason that the idea would be bad for tourism (perish the thought). Cllr Double reckons that people in Plymouth would be working while we are celebrating so no-one would be available to join our celebrations and set the cash registers jingling. Maybe he doesn't realise that most people, these days, can take a holiday whenever they wish (providing they are fortunate enough to be working in the first place). There must be thousands of people who take time off work to visit Ireland and enjoy St Patrick's Day with the people of Ireland!

The truth is that, while Steve Double is right to criticise people like our ConDem MPs - who posture for the press about Cornwall's historic boundary, and then promptly vote for a Devonwall constituency - he doesn't realise that we need politicians that will always put Cornwall first. Cornwall has all the talent it needs to build a thriving economy and restore its vibrant communities - it just needs time and politicians who believe that it is possible for this to be achieved and who have the desire to get on with the job. If we had people who truly believed in Cornwall then Steve Double's admin theories would be recognised for the lame excuses that they are.

Perhaps Cllr Double believes that to argue too strongly for more Cornish autonomy and self-determination will do his political career no good - especially when his Unionist friends are currently running scared at the thought of Scottish independence?

If you would like to sign the Cornwall Council online petition to make St Piran's Day a Bank Holiday then visit: PETITION

Another Project Complete

Just over a year ago now I was out on the campaign trail and talking to people in Illogan. One issue that a resident of a small cul-de-sac, Tregullan, raised was that there wasn't actually a street sign for their road. This was causing quite a lot of confusion with parcels being delivered to the wrong place and visitors findng it hard to find the correct house.

When I became a Parish Councillor one of the first things I did was to try and get this sorted out. Between the council's clerk and myself we managed to get Cornwall Council to agree to install a sign. I am very pleased to say that this work has now been done. Just a small thing in the scale of woes facing ordinary people - but at least it's one small change for the better for the residents of this small part of Illogan.

Monday, 18 July 2011

Let's Presume in Favour of 'Sustainable' Growth

The new Localism Bill contains quite a few daft ideas! For example there is talk of a 'presumption in favour of sustainable development'.

Sounds good doen't it? But what does this mean?

Actually it's impossible to tell because, like many of this Government's hair-brained schemes, 'sustainable growth' has not been properly defined. In fact, it's not actually been defined at all.

Of course, one of the problems of a 'presumption in favour of sustainable development' (even if an acceptable definition is forthcoming) is the cost implication for local planning authorities - or the excuse that this will provide for Alex Robertson et al to insist that development go ahead.

This is because developers will simply have to say 'this is sustainable development' and then there will be a presumption in favour of their plans. The burden of proof will have switched to the planning authority to prove that it isn't 'sustainable development' with all the cost implications that this will involve.

So in the future, local planning authorities will not only be scared of opposing development, in case of an appeal and the associated costs, they won't even be able to put up a reasonable defense of the positions in their 'strategic plans' because to do so will involve all the costs of proving the correctness of their policy.

This idea is the equivalent of shifting the burden of proof in criminal law. Be prepared, it may soon be that if you are accused of crime you will have to prove your innocence rather than having the police prove your guilt.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Lost Forever

Yesterday I travelled up to Bodmin to check out the location of this year's MK conference MK60 . The Shire House Suite will be an excellent setting for the 60th anniversary conference.

My wife and I had decided to make a day out of the trip to Bodmin and on the way back we decided to go via Porthcothan. This is one of our most favourite places in Cornwall and, before we moved to Cornwall, we used to stay there in a small bungalow. There was nothing special about this bungalow except for its location. It was hidden away from the road and had stunning views out to sea and accross the countryside.

We decided to go and take a look at 'our' bungalow and remind ourselves of some of the good times that our family had had there. We pulled up at the gateway and found, not the little bungalow, but a huge, Mediterranean style 'villa'.

Now, I know there are arguments for and against 'development' and 'progress'. I know that tourism has it's plusses and minuses but seeing this characterless new building, where the small bunglaow had once stood with Cornish character shining from every part of the render, gave me a hollow feeling in my stomach.

I'm not Cornish. I have only been living here for three years, but I think I have just had the tiniest of glimpses of how it must feel for Cornish people, who have grown up in Cornwall, and come to cherish memories of the beauty of the Cornish way of life to be confronted by inexorable and relentless change. To see places where they played as children become concreted over. To see the houses where their families and friends once lived become holiday lets.

Development is not necessarily a bad thing per se. Things can can be changed and improved for everyone. The problem is the speed and scale of change. Communities are being overwhelmed and Cornish culture is not able to assimilate the changes before newer and bigger changes occur.

I feel hypocritical now - having enjoyed many memorable holidays in the little bungalow that was, for a long time, a family home - but I have come to realise that there needs to be a pause in development and change. A chance for Cornwall to reassert herself.

Monday, 11 July 2011

Jude Robinson - Queen of Empathy

It has to be acknowledged that Jude Robinson, senior Labour impresario, works damned hard. She attends masses of meetings and public gatherings, both in the course of her public duty as a councillor and in her capacity as a person who cares about people.

Now some people (who are much more cynical than I) say to me that a lot of this verve is down to the fact that Cllr Robinson wants to be the next MP for Camborne/Redruth/Hayle (or whatever constituency has been gerrymandered by the LibCons by the next election). These misanthropic n'er-do-wells point to the Labour leaflets in the recent Camborne South by-election and ask why was so much space devoted to Ms Robinson rather than the actual Labour candidate.

My reply is swift and sure "Jude is a good lady. She is very sincere and is great at listening to people"

"Yes, indeed," they reply, "she will agree and empathise with any voter who will talk to her - but she is a bit short on real substance and just a bit too long on hollow rhetoric."

Well, of course, I have always told these non-believers that they need to be more trusting - until now that is.

This afternoon Cllr Robinson and I had the following exchange on Twitter:

@JudeRobinson: "Rapid expansion of our population is a concern, especially when it causes unease, homelessness and other problems. We have to make provision to deal with those problems and cooperation is a big part of that. I don't think the figs shld be extrapolated for 90 years to stir up resentment. Smacks of 'rivers of blood' to me. PP from Cornwall have settled across the world, this has always been a trading nation and a meeting place of settlers but that does cause stresses and safeguarding this unique culture and heritage should be a bigger priority."

Hmmm, I thought, that sounds like Jude understands the situation and is conscious of a need to do something about the unsustainable growth in poulation that Cornwall is currently experiencing. Perhaps she could answer a couple of questions?

@CllrSRichardson: "Jude how much of a problem do you think in-migration is? What would you do to reduce it? Also why did previous Labour government actively plan for it rather than do anything to reduce it?"

Fair enough questions, you might think, for the top dog in Cornish Labour, given the empathetic and sympathetic statements that she had just made? Let's see what Ms Robinson intends to actually do to prevent unease, homelessness and other problems. What plans or policies do labour have to make provision to deal with the problems and to safeguard this unique culture and heritage?

@JudeRobinson: "well I wonder Stephen. Any suggestions? You're a recent incomer. How could we have put you off?"

(how rude!)

@CllrSRichardson: "Typical! You can't answer the questions so you avoid them."

@JudeRobinson: "Er, am I mistaken or are you a cllr for a political party? You don't have answers but have a go at me instead. Would you prefer chaos, lack of planning, North Cornwall all over again? Suggest a plan. Better than sniping. This why I don't want to get involved in these debates. Attack all you like but let me get on with some work."

This tirade, over several tweets, was a little tetchy I thought - considering that I had only asked her a couple of questions. Unfortunately this what you can expect from Labour in Cornwall.

Cllr Robinson is an expert at empathising with voters and demonstrating how much she cares for the people of Camborne and Cornwall, but it seems she has little to offer in the way of ideas to actually make a difference.

If she is criticised she quite often resorts to claiming that her critic is 'having a go at her' or 'sniping'. Well perhaps criticism comes with the territory of being a politician? Jude Robinson also frequently bemoans the fact that people insult her, but she often confuses criticism with insult. If it all gets too much for her then she takes a final refuge in claiming that she is tired of men patronising her just because she is a woman. Sorry Jude - if you ask me, this is all just a bit of a front to divert attention away from criticism to which you have no answer - make it look like the poor little girl, who is just trying to be nice, is being bullied by the big nasty men.

The fact is that Labour have shown themselves to be disastrous for Cornwall.

A decade ago New Labour promised any region a referendum on devolution if it could show that 10% of the population wanted it. Mebyon Kernow collected over 50,000 signatures (all verified and checked against the electoral register) on a petition which was presented to and, immediately ignored by the Labour government, thus blatantly breaking a pledge in a way that was echoed 10 years later by Nick Clegg and his promise on tuition fees.

Labour, with their big regionalisation schemes, refused to recognise Cornwall as its own region and consistently forced Cornwall to be joined with a more affluent Devon (or even a wider South West) when applying for funding from the EU. Only after much campaigning, from the likes of Mebyon Kernow, was Cornwall eventually allowed to apply for funding in its own right. Finally, Cornwall received convergence funding from Europe. Labour immediately gave this money to its quango, SWRDA and a lot of the much needed cash for Cornwall disappeared into the South West Region black hole and was never seen again.

The Second Cornish National Minority Report has just been published. Labour steadfastly refused to honour the commitment they made when the UK government signed the Framework Convention for National Minorities and yet Jude Robinson now blithely signs the call "to include the Cornish" contained in the Foreward of the new report.

Labour, just like each of the other Westminster parties, is not good for Cornwall. London is remote from us in this part of the world and doesn't understand what is needed to allow Cornwall and all the people of Cornwall to get going economically and socially. We are quite capable of managing Cornish affairs we just need to be allowed to get on with rebuilding communities and addressing socio-economic needs in a Cornish way. We need an Assembly for Cornwall and politicians who will put Cornwall first in everything they say and everything they do.

(.... and a little less empathy!)

Friday, 8 July 2011

Thank heavens Cornwall has Alex Folkes

Cllr Alex Folkes, Cornwall Council Lib Dem group Deputy Leader, has single handedly saved the day yet again!

He tells us, through his blog, that:

"I wrote that Cornwall was set to be under-represented on the the new Police Boards which will monitor the work of elected police commissioners.

In a nutshell, Cornwall was set to get just one of twelve local authority representatives with each of the Devon councils and the Council of the Isles of Scilly also getting a single rep. I brought this up with Lib Dem Local Government Minister Andrew Stunell at the LGA conference and he promised to look into it.

Good news that the Government has relented and there will now be up to 20 councillors on the new boards which will allow a more balanced representation, proportionate to population."

Well blow me down Alex - many thanks for that. I don't suppose anything would have ever been done about such a moronic and clearly unworkable proposal in the Westminster corridors of power without your input.

So let's see what the situation is now.

Oh dear, it's not actually much better really is it? For 'ballanced representation' read 'a minority interest' with not much more chance of getting anything in Cornwall's favour than before really. Cornish councillors will still be outvoted.

Perhaps what we really needed you to ask for, Alex, was an end to this one-way-ticket Devonwall set up. A set up where Cornish police are moved to Plymouth on Bank Holidays so that 'resources can be placed where they are needed'.

But then this is the Lib Dems after all. A party that has MPs at the 'heart of government'. MPs that all showboat for the press about how important Cornwall's historic border is - and then promptly vote in favour of trashing it as soon as the cameras have gone.