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, 26 October 2012

Cornwall Together - Bulk Purchase Energy Group

There are just two days left if you want to be involved with Cornwall Together .

The idea is that lots of Cornish consumers of energy get together to form a consortium and purchase energy together. The fact that the consortium has a much bigger purchasing power than individual consumers underpins the claim that you could save £400 - £500 per year on your energy bill.

Similar schemes across Europe have proved successful so  let's hope it works here.

I have joined. It costs nothing and you are not committed to anything - must be worth a try?

Thursday, 18 October 2012

The end of an era

As has been widely reported, Tuesday saw the end of Alec Robertson's time as the Leader of Cornwall Council.

The vote of no confidence reflected the frustration of council members at the lack of regard that the cabinet had for their views and the arrogance with which those views were dismissed on a regular basis - from ignoring a vote of the full council to disregarding the work of advisory panels.

Of course there may have just been a little bit of political intrigue and concern from Conservative members who maybe saw Cllr Robertson's administration as an electoral liability come May (or perhaps simple internecene rivalry).

No doubt the Shared Services scheme was the catalyst and final straw and seemed to be the biggest concern in the election of a new Leader.

Jim Currie was elected as he has argued against the current proposal and vowed to stop it.

The thing is we need to ensure that privatisation of public services is not just delayed but is written out of Cornwall's political agenda for good.

It should be noted that in recent weeks MK have moved up a level of political influence.

MK now has 6 councillors on Cornwall councillors - double the original number of 2009.

A few weeks ago Dick Cole formulated a plan downgrading the Cabinet's Core Strategy to build 49,000 houses in Cornwall to 38,000. The plan was fully evidenced and persuaded a cross party group to recommend a downgrade to the proposed number of houses to be built.

Then on Tuesday MK became the power brokers. The decison between the new choice for leader was a simple one. Business as usual under Cllr Burden or an end to the shared services scheme under Cllr Currie. The vote was a close one but the MK vote made the crucial difference.

But as I said above, and as Rob Simmons has pointed out here , we need to continue the fight against Tory ideological privatisation schemes.

Last night, at a meeting of Illogan Parish Council, I proposed the motion that IPC believed that Cornwall Council should not proceed with the Shared Services provision and that the council should make this opinion known to Cornwall Council. The motion was passed with no votes against although there were a few abstentions.

MK will be continuing to lead the fight against destructive and expensive schemes based on ideology rather than any sensible policy to improve the community wellbeing. We will be putting Cornwall first.

Councillors' Allowances

With the thorny issue of Councillors' allowances coming up at next week's full council meeting there has been a very interesting Twitter debate today. There are many different views and opinions about how much councillors should be paid - if at all.

Currently councillors (who have no special responsibility alowances) get just over £12,000 per year. An independent review has looked at councillors' allowances and has recommended that this should be increased to just over £16,000.

At first this seems like a massive jump but it should be remembered that our councillors have consistently voted to freeze their allowances and their has been no increase for the life of the Unitary authority.

The issue of allowances is thorny because no-one really knows exactly what is expected of a councillor. The role is one that combines official duties and voluntary work. At the same time there are vast differences between the level of dedication that some councillors show compared to others. Some can put in 60 -70 hours per week or even more whereas others have poor attendance records at even the basic meetings.

If you distill the essence of what a councillor is there for I would say that they have been elected to look at the decisions that need to be made by the council, consider the options and vote for what their preferred option is given the objective evidence. In this way our communities are able to move forward with community decisions being taken in a democratic manner by people who have been elected to fulfill this responsibility.

At Cornwall Council level the sort of decisions that are required to be taken can often involve complex matters requiring comprehensive study of the evidence and alternatives presented. So I would imagine that the basic allowance is there to reimburse the councillor for the time it takes to consider the matters before them and then to attend meetings.

On top of this there would be certain other duties - mainly related to representing or helping individuals or organisations in their area to interact with the council and find solutions to problems.

If you look at the time and commitment that an 'average' councillor should make then £16k per year looks like a pretty reasonable sum as a remunerative allowance. The question is should we remunerate councillors or should they do it on a voluntary basis to serve the community. There is also the question of those councillors who don't come up to the average and also those who do more than expected.

My take on these questions is this.

It is important to remunerate councillors for the time that is needed to do a good job. If we don't remunerate fairly then it means that only those people who can easily afford to give their time will act as councillors and democracy will suffer as a result. We need a good cross section of councillors from all areas of society. If councillors are not paid fairly then we end up with people who (if not wealthy) are certainly well off and have lots of free time. In other words lots of older retired or financially independent people.

At the same time, those councillors who don't match up to objectively defined levels of performance should not be remunerated for work they haven't done.

In the meantime the councillors who take on lots of extra work because they work hard for their communities are not losing out. The people who do work hard will tell you that they do this because they feel that it is the right thing to do. They enjoy helping people and organisations and they do their work on a voluntary basis because it feels right. Just as people volunteer for charitable work some councillors undertake voluntary civic duties.

As people have pointed out on Twitter, it is the electors that are the final arbiters of performance and those councillors who are just along for the ride are unlikely to last past election day.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Autonomy for Cornwall

I was invited by a UK wide blog 'Modest Proposals' to write a short piece introducing the case for  Cornish autonomy. It can be found here.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

MK Coference 2012

The Mebyon Kernow conference will be held on Saturday 24th November. This year the venue will be New County Hall and we hope to have something for all of our members and for the general public as well!

The morning session will be for members only and will focus on the launch of our manifesto for the 2013 Cornwall Council elections.

In the afternoon we will be presenting exactly why Mebyon Kernow is the only political party that puts Cornwall first and how we do this on the ground.

The story we have to tell will be interesting, dynamic and full of humour - but it will make the very serious point that Cornwall deserves a better deal from Westminster and that MK has the ideas and energy to achieve this.

Although I can't reveal the full 2013 manifesto at this time, I am sure that the need to provide Cornwall with a much more democratic form of government will feature very highly. It is time that decisons about Cornwall were taken in Cornwall and by more than just 10 councillors in a bunker at New County hall or by people 300 miles away in Westminster!

If you are unhappy with the democratic deficit in Cornwall then please join us, become a candidate and help us to fight for a better Cornish future.