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

Friday, 28 September 2012

At day at Lys Kernow

Yesterday I spent the day at New County Hall.

I attended the launch of Our Cornwall's campaign against unsustainable, inappropriate hyper-development in Cornwall along with many other mebers of Mebyon Kernow. MK is the only party that has a bespoke policy on housing and planning for Cornwall and is the only party that is prepared to put Cornwall's culture, environment and future first. We are a pary of activists on the big issues that affect Cornwall and we are prepared to invest the time and effort to make a difference.

A prime example of this is today's Planning Policy Panel meeting. Dick Cole has researched and produced an alternative plan to the core strategy. This has taken hours of tireless work and is based on fact and up to date statistics as opposed to the inflated and twisted statistics used by officers to call for 49,000 houses to be built in Cornwall over the next 20 years. The Councillors on the panel have approved Dick's plan which presents a case that 38,000 houses would be an appropriate figure given extant planning permissions and using the same rules that officers say they have to apply.

Now 38,000 houses is probably still a figure that is really way too high - but the point is that it is 11,000 less than the ridiculous figures that the cabinet and planning officers want to impose. My point is that, while Westminster parties supply us with a lot of rhetoric when it comes to development on their patch, they do nothing of any consequece to stand up for Cornwall. MK through Dick Cole has given us a chance to back away from 49,000 houses.

The problem is, of course, that the cabinet is likely to pay as little attention to its councillors (delegated to advise the cabinet) as it was to listen to the democratic voice of the full council over shared services. I wouldn't be at all surprised if the cabinet don't ignore the Planning Policy Panel and plump for a round 50,000 - just to make the maths easier!

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Our Cornwall Launches Officially

Fed up with hyperdevelopment in Cornwall?

Then get involved with Our Cornwall!

Our Cornwall, led by Dr Bernard Deacon, is an umbrella group which will amplify and give effect to the voices of commuity groups accross Cornwall. The group is not just a protest against deliberate encouragement of population growth but also has positive sustainable alternatives to relentless mass housing development.

An open letter, signed by 43 Cornish organisations (with more expected to sign up in the near future) has been drafted and will be handed to Cllr Pat Harvey, Chairman of Cornwall Council, at 12:00 noon on Thursday 27th September at New County Hall.

This will be a public event and it is hoped that there will be a large audience to witness the delivery of the letter. Please come along if you possibly can and add your voice and your support.

Friday, 21 September 2012

Thoroughly Modern MK

I would like to take the opportunity to congratulate and say thank you to the MK team working on our website and social media. This year has seen a massive increase in MK's presence on the internet through our brand new web site and social media accounts. This time last year we had a web site that didn't work and very limited exposure on Facebook and Twitter. Now we have a cohesive team ready to swing into action to get MK's message and principles accross on a real time basis. MK are not just responding to the political news in Cornwall but are making it!

Since our 60th anniversary conference our brand new website has gone live with many features such as policy, people and news features. There are more pages and features on the way which will further enhance the Mebyon Kernow internet offering. Niall Curry is the MK webmaster and his, purely voluntary work, is setting a professional standard and providing MK with a technically excellent and user friendly public interface.

Rob Simmons is responsible for enthusiastic and energetic social media accounts on Facebook and Twitter. From a standing start, Rob has developed Facebook page views nubering in the thousands every week and the MK Twitter account is accesible by over 14,000 other Twitter accounts. It is Rob's open, friendly and welcoming style that has generated these impressive statistics and Rob is a tremendous ambassador for MK.

The anchorman of our IT communications team is MK Deputy Leader Peter Dudley. Pete works tirelessly behind the scenes to develop Mebyon Kernow professionalism and is responsible for dragging us, kicking and screaming, into the 21st century. Acting as the linchpin of the team, Pete is the conduit through which ideas flow from the MK leadership team and NEC out to the coal face and back again. He is the very model of patience and calm when others are getting frustrated. His excellent communication skills and the ability to give recognition for a job well done provide the oil for the party machinery.

Many thanks to the IT communications team and to all those members and supporters that are helping to spread the work that is being done online.

No Confidence

Below is the text of a letter that I sent to the West Briton yesterday before the news of a motion of no confidence in Cllr Robertson, the Leader of Cornwall Council, broke today. I have added a post script since.

It should be noted that it takes a stand alone Independent, with the support of all six MK councillors and others to act in this decisive way to try and stand up for democracy in Cornwall.

The Independent 'Group' should be ashamed that they have not acted before to put an end to this anti-democratic administration. The Lib Dems should get fully behind this motion instead of playing party political games as to whether they can get most party political advantage by watching from the sidelines and stirring the pot occassionally.

Dear Sir,

The egocentric decision of Cornwall Council’s cabinet to ignore the will of the full council and to proceed with the privatisation of public services in Cornwall has been extremely well documented over the past few weeks.

A petition has been launched with the aim of gathering 5000 signatures to force a further debate at full council level about the privatisation scheme. This petition is supported by Mebyon Kernow and, indeed, has been championed by MK councillor Andrew Long of Callington. Certainly anything that might make the cabinet stop and listen to the democratic will of the people of Cornwall is worth a try.

In my opinion the problem with this petition is that it is treating a symptom of a problem rather than the underlying cause.

The real difficulty that we have in Cornwall is that an arrogant group of 10 people are flattered by unelected council officers into making decisions that are either overtly party political or mechanisms used to build the CV of the council executive its officers. This situation has arisen because of the ‘strong leader’ mode of governance that was introduced when the Unitary Authority came into being in 2009.

Mebyon Kernow believes, and is fighting for, a more democratic system of council governance where important decisions need to be approved by a majority of all the elected councillors rather than just 6 people in a bunker on the top floor of New County Hall.

Ultimately a committee system of governance would be far more democratic and much less susceptible to undue influence from unelected officers. However, even the current method of governance would be more democratic if you had people at the top level who were prepared to listen to elected councillors and the ordinary person on the street a little more.

This brings me to the real point that I would like to make. Yes the governance system needs to be changed, but, perhaps more importantly, whoever is leading the council under whatever system has to understand that they should be listening more to the people of Cornwall and less to the unelected career officials.

Whatever system of governance is adopted will make not a jot of difference unless councillors do more to stand up for the people who elected them – politicians who are prepared to put Cornwall first.

The independent councillor Andrew Wallace has started this well publicised petition on the privatisation issue but why is he and his ‘Independent Group’ not doing more to rid us of the egotistical cabinet that he protests about?

Cornwall Council is run by a Conservative/Independent coalition. For Cllr Wallace to protest about the anti-democratic nature of the cabinet and still remain part of an Independent Group, which effectively keeps that administration in power, smacks of hypocrisy on a Liberal Democrat scale. Time after time so called independent councillors complain about decisions made in Truro while their ‘group’ (which has no electoral mandate whatsoever) keeps the cabinet in office. Perhaps it is time for independents to exert their independence and lay down a motion of no confidence in the current leader.

Then again this might mean losing the privileges that their place in the administration accrue – better then to construct petitions safe in the knowledge that their privileges are secure?

The day after I originally submitted this letter to the West Briton it was announced that there was to be a vote of no confidence in the Cllr Alec Robertson, the Leader of Cornwall Council.

As I understand it the motion has been brought forward by a ‘stand-alone’ Independent councillor (not a member of the Independent Group), Bob Egerton. Thank goodness there are still some real Independents out there! The motion is also supported by all six MK councillors.

Many members of the Westminster parties and the Independent Group now seem to be hedging their opinions. If I were at all cynical I would imagine that there will be a lot of horse trading going on over the next few weeks.

For example, there seems to be a move to tie this vote of no confidence to the privatisation of public services issue. I have heard a Lib Dem councillor say that they wanted Cllr Robertson to explain his ideas on shared services a little better.

Surely this vote is about whether it is acceptable for a council Leader, and a small bunch of carefully selected individuals, to ignore the combined will of the elected members of Cornwall Council. It should not be about gaining small concessions on any individual instance of this arrogance and it certainly should not be used as a way of gaining a party political advantage over a failing administration. Time and again the cabinet has ignored the instruction and advice of elected Members and this vote should be about saying that enough is enough and about restoring some form of democracy to local government in Cornwall.

I would like to say thank you to Cllr Egerton – he is acting to solve the root cause of many problems with Cornwall Council and not merely treating one individual symptom.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Parish hub project - put on the back burner

Last night I attended a meeting of the Illogan Parish Council.

The members received a report that the ownership of Illogan Village Hall lay with a charitable trust rather than with the council. To determine this position has taken several months, involving a long investigation of the legal title by the council's legal advisers.

This means that IPC is no longe in a position to make plans for capital investment in the village hall - any such investment is for the trust to consider. However, there was a feeling that any suggestions for the development of the village hall for the benefit of the community would be favourably received by the council.

It was decided that IPC would secure its lease of office premises on a longer term basis but continue to look for suitable premises to purchase outright.

Several agenda items provoked somewhat critical observations concerning the management of Cornwall Council.

Members of Mebyon Kernow are extremely critical of the arrogant way that Cornwall Counsil cabinet operates. MK town and parish councillors believe in  ground up democracy and will be urging the councils that they are members of to support the campaign to get Cornwall Council to think again about privatisation of public services.

I have submitted the following motion for the next meeting of IPC and I understand that Mk councillors across Cornwall will be submitting similar resolutions to their councils:

Illogan Parish Council calls on Cornwall Council to reverse its decision to proceed with the Strategic Partnership for  shared services until such time as the majority of elected members of Cornwall Council have voted to support the proposals. Also, should this motion be passed, IPC directs that the Clerk both writes to the leader of  Cornwall council expressing these views and signs the 'Strategic Partnership for Shared Services' petition (to be found at http://www.freepetition.co.uk/cornwall/SignPetition.aspx?apcode=%20P42ID119201284958 ) on behalf of Illogan Parish Council." 

Illogan Parish Council currently has three vacancies. The time limit for applications for the vacancy on the Tehidy ward has now passed but two other vacancies are still open for candidates who might wish to be co-opted to serve as a member of the council until the elections in May still have time to submit a written application. Interviews for all vacancies (always provided that no bye election is called) will be held at a meeting immediately before the next IPC meeting on October 17th 2012.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Privatisation and Profiteering

Hot on the heels of Cornwall Council's arrogant decision to ignore elected councillors and press on with the privatisation of public services, it seems that the cabinet also wants to profit from oter services that it currently provides to communities.

The cabinet has decided that it might be a good idea to charge local communities to manage any traffic issues. Charges are proposed for simple things like traffic regulation orders, assessing the group's traffic management plans and providing signange.

A small community group, wanting to organise a small fete could end up paying hundreds of pounds to the council for the privilege.

But don't worry we're all in this big society together!

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Kaczmarek Konundrums

Pirate FM today picked up the 'Our Cornwall' campaign to reduce the number of new houses that are planned for Cornwall over the next 20 years.

The report featured a statement by Dr Bernard Deacon who said:
"We live in a finite land with finite resources. We are irresponsibly building over green fields and destroying agricultural resources. We don't know what's going to happen in the next twenty years never mind the next fifty/one hundred years and yet the Council's quite happily concreting Cornwall."

In reply Cllr Kaczmarek stated:

"We're trying to keep the numbers down as low as possible while recognising that unless we do something in a positive way to generate housing, employment and supporting renewable energies, the government will say 'your figures are far too low' and they will decide for us."

Cllr K's reply poses several riddles.

1. He is insisiting on a MINIMUM of 48,000 new houses despite the fact that Cornwall Council's advisory committee, made up of democratically elected councillors, reccommended just 40,000. How is this keeping the numbers down as low as possible?

2. Is Cllr K simply picking the figure 48,000 in order to pacify Westminster or because he thinks it is the best plan? Is he trying to make us think that he is actually protecting Cornwall? Come on Cllr K you should be putting Cornwall first and resisting Westminster impositions. If you are saying that Westminster will make unreasonable demands on Cornwall then you should be fighting our corner instead of horse trading. However, if you think your plan is right then please don't use Westmimster as a scapegoat for your beliefs.

3. If Cllr K believes in supporting employment and green energy production why is he supporting the leviathan incinerator which will cost Cornwall millions? Alternative waste disposal methods could save Cornwall £12 million per year over the next 25 years yet his arrogant Independent/Conservative cabinet refuses to listen to the people of Cornwall (or its elected councillors) and prefers to press on with plans for dinosaur technology and a project that will be legally redundant by 2020.

Cllr K tells us that there are 25,000 people on Cornwall's housing register and that it is imperative to build 50,000 houses to help these people.

So we need to build 2 houses for every person. This is despite the fact that only a small percentage of the 25,000 are actually in a high (or even medium) category of need. Many simply want a slightly bigger house or would like to move areas.

At the same time we are expected to believe that building these houses is going to address the needs of the people on the register when they can't afford the houses to be built. A non-sensical solution to a serious problem which is exaggerated to provide an excuse for concreting Cornwall.

Why can't we try a different plan for once?

Today Cllr Jude Robinson has gushed blogged about the plan for Camborne, Pool, Illogan and Redruth that will provide

"... better transport, more paths and cycleways, better town centres and shops, access to the countryside, parks and coast and better housing, more people enjoying life here and more prosperity"

While Cllr Robinson admits she has no magic wand, the only things that seem to be missing from this wish list are world peace and an end to hunger.

Although I am a member of Illogan Parish Council's Planning Committee, I have not as yet seen the plan and so will reserve judgement until I have been able to look at it. My worry is that a plan, completed by Cornwall Council planners and supported by a Labour councillor who believed that building 68,000 houses in Cornwall was a good idea, is likely to disregard actual local need in favour of more CV building and allowing the vociferous supporters of mass house building to claim that 'they are getting things done'.

In Illogan we have an actual need to house around 18 people and yet the Cornwall Local Plan (Core Strategy) tells us that we will have well over 300 houses foisted upon us.

The last time I looked Illogan was still a village and yet we are included in a 'Town Plan' covering the most highly populated area of Cornwall. Just as Westminster looks to Cornwall to provide second homes and holiday lets for their hard pressed workers, it seems that our green fields are required for an expansion of the urban conurbation and further blurring of the individual communities that make up the 'CPIR' mass. What price local democracy? What price Localism?

Cllr Robinson draws on the example of 'Heartlands' as a prime example of what can be achieved and seeks to give the impression that local people are very happy, content and excited about this development (or at least the reasonable and rational ones are). I have visited Heartlands several times and I can't help thinking that £35 million is a lot to pay for a vast expanse of paving.

Much is made of the employment that Heartlands provides and lots of figures are bandied around, which seem to increase with the re-telling. Yet when I have vitied there is very limited evidence of the claims that are made. If you ask in the retail units you will find that the businesses have simply relocated - no new jobs there then.

Cllr Robinson claims that Heartlands shows off our history and culture, yet Cornish flags are not allowed as they would be a 'political symbol'. It seems to me that the culture that is being encouraged by providing an area of Cornwall, with a rich history of its own, with a solid English name like 'Heartlands' is not Cornish culture but a sanitised imposition of English culture over a fairy tale theme park.

Heartlands is a prime example of:

"the ultimate in place shaping, a new landscape containing mine relics disconnected from their past.  An urban playground for a community without roots, a tourist attraction.  Fundamentally it is designed to be the centrepiece for new housing which will surround the site.  A landscape fit for some of the new population expected and encouraged to move to Cornwall."   CoSERG

For an alternative try HERE

There are many better ways to plan for Cornwall's future than mass house building, place shaping and creating urban playgrounds. Why can't we try some of them out for change?

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Cost Culture, Arrogant Tories and Anonymous Independents

Much has been made of Cornwall Council Cabinet's arrogant and anti-democratic decision to ignore the collective will of elected members and to pursue an ideolgically driven decision to sell our public services to the highest commercial bidder.

For me, this latest debacle merely affirms society's apparent obsession with reducing cost at any cost. As Rob Simmons has pointed out this obsession seldom produces any real long term saving and usually results in a long term debt to be repaid by our children and grand children or maybe even passed on to their progeny.

We are told that providing a library service costs money and this is bad. (In fact a privatised library service will cost just as much and must cost more because not only does a service need to be provided but it must make enough money to pay share dividends and send money upcountry to the head office of the company providing the 'service'.)

But why is is it bad for a service to cost money - isn't that the whole point of a public service? Time after time Westminster ideology tells us that to procure services for the public is not the function of governement, that we can't afford it and that these things should be left to the market. In short a return to Victorian values where the well-to-do can afford to buy the things that they want and be dammned to the rest. At the same time we are persuaded that, with a little hard work, we will all be one of  the well-to-do so there is nothing to worry about.

In my view there is nothing inherently wrong with paying taxes to provide a good quality public service accessible by one and all. We need to break free from the Tory ideology that demands that things are left to a market that, far from being free, is rigged and  structured in favour of the uber wealthy.

Certainly the key is to demand the best quality public service for our taxes - but this is the real function of government - not to abdicate responsibility by selling our assets to the highest bidder (or giving them away to our business friends in pursuit of an enhanced CV or seat in the House of Lords).

And what of the anonymous and absentee Independents in Cornwall. Well let's not forget that it is hard to see how this 'group' of Cornwall Councillors has any mandate from the people of Cornwall as, presumably, being 'independent' they all believe in different things. When a person votes for an Independent they vote for the person not the group. However, it is this 'group' that has sold its real independence to the Tories in return for the odd chaimanship of a committee or a seat at the cabinet table. We should not forget that, in Cornwall, the Independents are underpinning the great Tory sell off.

Isn't it about time that the Independent Group said 'enough is enough' and put an end to this destructive adminstration?


Cllr Andrew Wallis has stated in the comments below that the Leader of Cornwall Council 'is for the term of the whole council'.

Cllr Wallis (rather patronisingly) asked if I was aware of the strong leader model.

Perhaps Cllr wallis could state if he is aware of Council Procedure Rule 3.2 which sets out the procedure for the removal of the Leader within the term of the Council?

Once again I would ask  "Isn't it about time that the Independent Group said 'enough is enough' and put an end to this destructive adminstration?"