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

Thursday, 28 February 2013

A more constructive meeting!

While shameful Lib Dems and Tories were writing their election leaflets at the expense of jobs and services in Cornwall  I was attending my first meeting as a Trustee of the St Piran Trust.

The mood was positive, upbeat and businesslike and we covered a range of subjects from the upcoming, all new St Piran play to the planned excavation of St Piran's oratory late in the Summer.

The play will be a spectacle not to be missed. We have a new director and a new script with several additional scenes at various locations on the dunes along with children from local schools and a dance group - not to mention a surfing St Piran (if circumstances allow).

Haven have promised free car parking for everyone who wants to attend and their will be refreshments available straight afterwards. Please come along for 1:30pm and bring your flags and Cornish attire. As a special treat Skinners will be providing feee samples of their products - many thanks to them.

We are planning an excavation of the oratory - to commence late in the Summer when the water table should (theoretically at least) be at its lowest level. We have funding in place for this stage of the process which we hope will enable us to then go on and secure the oratory in a condition robust enough for the people of Cornwall, and the world, to come and appreciate what we have got. The only outstanding issue is the matter of the various permits that are required to allow the dig to go ahead and obtaining these are in hand.

Although we have the funds for an excavation we still need much more money to conserve and preserve the monument. One of our new Trustees, David Barrie, is an experienced fundraiser and has new and innovative plans to help us ensure that we reach our goals.

Please show your support for the Trust, the project St Piran and Cornwall and come along to the play on Sunday and the exhibition afterwards.

Saturday, 23 February 2013

What a difference 4 years and an election make!


Go back 4 years or so and, according to Gideon Osborne, the UK's AAA rating is a crucial measure by which any chancellor should be judged. Of course any self-respecting chancellor who presided over the UK losing that precious status symbol would quickly resign - unless he's a Tory hypocrite of course.

Meanwhile, here in Cornwall, it seems the Tory hypocrites are quick to follow their masters in Westminster.

In 2009 Chris Ridgers thought:

"The cost of insuring UK debt is rising and if the rating agencies move us below 'AAA' then the cost of Government borrowing will rise and the pound will plunge.

Nobody has a magic answer. Only the Conservatives are willing to tell the public that we are in a mess. The only way out will be painful."

In 2013 Chris Ridgers thinks:

"Three unimportant matters: who wins Eastleigh By-Election; UK losing AAA and who wins Oscars."

Of course Cllr Ridgers has something of a reputation for hypocrisy. As late as August 2013 (when he was still Cornwall Council's portfolio holder for the economy) he was saying:

"Councillors are going to have to understand that one of their objectives is an increase in population."

Whereas, now, Cllr Ridgers seems to be a bit more of a NIMBY when it comes to his own backyard. Indeed he suddenly seems concerned about population growth. When it comes to his own locality Chris is rather loathe to have the population growth that he once advocated it was a councillor's duty to encourage:

"This represents all the growth for Mabe as a parish for the next 20 years"

Let's hope that Cornish voters remember where Cllr Ridgers loyalties really lie in May.

(Updated 24/2/13)

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Communal Responsibility

Today the Cornish branch of the Westminster Liberal Democrats have published their (as Rob Simmons puts it) economic back of a fag packet proposal for a zero rise alternative budget for Cornwall Council.

The coalition partners are falling over themseles to be the party of low taxation during these 'taxing' times - fiddling while Rome burns and Westminster makes massive cuts to local council budgets. Cuts which pass the responsibility and, therefore, blame to hapless local authorities.

Cornwall Council is caught between a rock and a hard place.

On one hand it has less money year on year. This situation is partly of its own making as it has previously accepted 'Pickles' Bribes' in  the last few years in return for not increasing their tax base. The effect of which is that it becomes harder and harder to catch up to where we were before.

On the other hand it is expected to provide services, the cost of which increases year on year - due to inflation if nothing else.

Then again the Council can't just increase its tax base because Mr Pickles has already thought of this and made sure that a referendum would be required - and who in their right mind would vote to pay more money right?

So we have the London based parties all trying to square the circle and make the most noise about how each of them is going to save the most money by tinkering around the edges of public finance.

Isn't it time to look at this another way?

We need to do something or face an end to providing services for local communities and the vulnerable people in those societies.

Mebyon Kernow believes that a local income tax would be a more progressive way to finance local services. Better still this could be coupled with a property tax where the property owners aren't paying  local income tax in Cornwall. We need to come up with a new way to finance local services and to make sure that the burdens fall on the paople most able to pay.

Alternatively, if the people of Cornwall really don't want a fair and just society, then the people in charge of administering our local services should have the guts to put this to us. Instead of running scared from a local referendum, why not embrace it? Give the people a real and difficult choice. Hold a referendum where the full facts are put before us. Then we could choose if we wanted to pay more in council tax or decide where the Westminster axe should fall. Have three or four options. Do we really care about libraries - or are they simply an anachronistic expense that we could do without. Do we want our roads repaired or should we put up with a few pot holes in order to save our council tax payments.

In short, I believe that it is high time that the long term harm that current central government policies are causing was made absolutely clear instead of pretending that really it's all down to how bad our political opponents (or the poeple further down the food chain) are managing our money.

Worse still is the fact that we are all guilty of complaining about poor service and, at the same time demanding tax cuts. Though Tories would have us believe otheriwse it simply isn't possible to fund a fair and just society on a shoestring budget.

The question is - how much longer will the, seemingly successful and socially acceptable, tactic of appealing to our personal greed prevail against taking responsibility for providing for our children's future and taking care of the sick, the edlerly and those in most need.

Thursday, 14 February 2013

We need more onions on the floor!

Last week David Cameron threw his 'veto threat' weight around to force a reduction in the EU budget. Good news for us all then? We will have to pay less of our taxes to the Leviathan that is Europe.

It's certainly good news for David Cameron, it gets possible UKIP defectors of his back. This is especially true when it is coupled with the uncertainty that he has caused by the announcement that sometime in the future we might, perhaps, have an 'in/out' referendum on Europe. (However, this will only happen if hordes of UKIP deserters transfer their loyalties back to the Tories to ensure a Commons majority.)

The problem in Cornwall is that a cut to the EU budget will bring a cut to Convergence funding. Will Westminster ensure that Cornwall, which is already underfunded by the UK government, still receive the desperately needed investment in our economy?

The answer it seems is no. Plaid MP Hywel Williams, asked a similar question in Parliament on behalf of the people of Wales. Unfortunately none of our Cornish MPs (who, we should remember, are at 'the heart of the UK governement') thought to ask the same question on behalf of us here in Cornwall - though the answer would have undoubtedly been the same.

That answer is that we will be looking at less investment into Cornwall over the coming years while the benefit is felt in London and the South East.

We need to engage fully with Europe and not let the UKIP centralist and isolationist approach do even greater damage to our economy than the Tory/Lib Dem tag team seem intent on in Cornwall.

Westminster will continue to underfund Cornwall. Cornwall deserves Convergence funding. We need to fight for investment and fight to see that, what investment we do get, is used constructively to create real Cornish jobs instead of allowing it to be fenced through various Westminster organisations before being frittered away on CV building, high profile 'projects'.

When I used to be a manager of a global restaurant chain I had a visit from the top honcho in the UK. We spent days getting ready for the visit and cleaning everything up in detail. When he visited the one comment I remember was that he "would have liked to see more onions on the floor". In other words he wanted to see a developing business where real work was being done by real people.

I sometimes think that we need more onions on the floor here in Cornwall and that our political and business leaders need to take off their jackets and get stuck into the real issues instead of 'building a legacy'. Let's take what little is on offer from whatever legitimate source and use it to create real jobs.

OK some reforms are necessary, but we should remember that Europe is a massive opportunity for us here in Kernow and not the demon that UKIP and the Tories would have us believe.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Proud to be Mebyon Kernow

Yesterday was a day to be proud to be a member of Mebyon Kernow!

Although the council has opted to reccommend that we build over 42,000 houses in the next 20 years at least we 'sons of Cornwall' can hold our heads high in the knowledge that the party, led by Dick Cole, has acted professionally, consistently and with integrity. Acted in opposition to Cornish hyperdevelopment demanded by Westminster, initiated by unelected planning officers and rubber-stamped by councillors too scared of litigious scare stories to put Cornwall first.

Mebyon Kernow has acted professionally. Dick Cole, chairman of the Planning Policy Advisory Panel, has spent years gathering and assessing data, opinion and local knowledge and has demonstrated leadership by gaining cross-party consensus leading up to a reccommendation of 37,950 houses as a target for twenty years. This is leadership at its best, working to achieve broad support and to persuade rather than cajole (though, knowing Dick, there probably was a fair bit of cajoling).

We have acted consistently. Mebyon Kernow was the only political party (or 'group') that could be bothered to submit a reasoned and evidenced reposnse to the Core Strategy consultations. The figures that we submitted were broadly in line with those produced by the PPAP (very slightly lower) and we have been saying this for many years.

And, unlike the planning officers, we have acted with integrity. Over the past few years proposals (all eveidence based of course) have been made for housing figures of 68,000 -54,000 - 49,000 - 48,500 and then 45,400 have come from the planning officers. All of the proposals backed with irefutable evidence (though I can't understand how the same evidence leads to such wildly different conclusions) and all of them backed by Mark Kaczmarek, in fear of having to satnd up to our lords and masters in London. All of this time we have argured for what is best for Cornwall. For housing for local needs rather than developers' greed. And we have argued for affordable social rental homes with affordable being given its natural dictionary meaning rather than convoluted formulae provided by Wetsminster to disguise how unaffordable the rent really is.

We are the only party in Cornwall that has a bespoke planning and housing policy designed specifically to put Cornish people first.

For all of these reasons I am proud to be a member of Mebyon Kernow. I am also proud because I know that for us the fight won't end on May 2nd. For us the fight will go on through the final public consultation and then beyond. We will campaign tirelessly for homes for local need and for autonomy for Cornwall to be able to make its own decisions rather than have to submit to policies imposed on us from the Home Counties.

Friday, 8 February 2013

Cornish Company Looking to Bring Jobs to Illogan

Last Wednesday, at the Illogan Parish Council Planning Committee meeting, the Members enjoyed a pre-application presentation from LDD (Large Diameter Drilling).

From the LDD Website:

LDD is an offshore drilling and specialist marine construction contractor. Using our extensive in-field know-how, we design, engineer, build and operate world class pile-installation equipment to deliver tubular foundations of any size, in any geology, anywhere.

LDD aims:

To become the recognised world leader and first point of call for specialist marine construction services, serving the global marine and subsea construction communities.

... so no lack of ambition there then!

LDD currently has an annual turnover in excess of £12 million and employs more than 80 engineers, designers and support staff. They actively seek to employ people who live in Cornwall and they use Cornish companies wherever they can as suppliers and partners.

Their success means that they need to invest in premises that will enable them to continue their growth and they are looking to build an office that is suitable to welcome clients from around the globe and a workshop facility that will be customised to manufacture and maintain their large scale engineering projects and equipment.

Hopefully LDD's new headquarters will be built at the Tolvaddon Energy Park in Illogan Parish and provide employment for new office and support staff in Illogan.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Mock Interviews at Pool Academy

I have just finished conducting mock job application interviews in conjunction with my local secondary school, Pool Academy.

My son has attended this school since we moved to Cornwall. We chose Pool both because it was close to where we lived but also because when we visited the school we could see that there was an emerging ethos of excellence in the school despite a less than favourable reputation at the time.

Pool has been  evaluated as 'excellent' by ofsted. This is reflected by their results. In 2008, when Jack first attended the school, 34% of the pupils attained 5 A* grades including English and Maths. This has risen to 60% in 2012.

This sound academic base is augmented by strong programmes (such as the one that I helped with today) which encourage students to gain experience in 'real life' situations and to equip them with knowledge and confidence by exposing them to possibly stressful situations before they have to meet them in the job market.

The 'Pool Learning Cluster' (which consists of Pool Academy and many of the primary schools close to Pool Academy that are likely to feed pupils there) are also setting up a Business Links Directory. The idea is to forge stronger links with the local business community with the aim of discovering what local employers need from potential employees and how the Cluster can work towards meeting those needs.

For me these type of activities exemplify what our educationalists can do when they are not constrained by political interference. No doubt Tories will claim this as a victory fot the policy of Academies. Having spoken to the teachers at the sharp end I am convinced it is more a reflection of wanting to do the best possible for pupils despite constant changes and intereference.

Sunday, 3 February 2013

The St Piran Trust

It is with immense pride and humility that I am able to say that I have been appointed as a Trustee of the St Piran Trust .

I firmly believe that if you go and live somewhere new then you should do your best to contribute to the place that you call home. For me the legend of St Piran is the quintessential essence of the spirit of  the Cornish people. Ensuring that the story of St Piran continues through protection of his artefacts and improving public access to them is, I believe, an important job.

Never afraid to let his hair down at a feast day, Piran, nevertheless, led by providing an example of humility and service to his people who recognised a genuinely 'good' man and loved him for it.

You can read about St Piran, his legend and the story of his churches in an excellent book by Eileen Carter available here .

The Trust has the following objectives:

  • To uncover the Oratory of St Piran on Gear Sands, with the support and cooperation of all interested bodies.
    The Oratory of St. Piran is one of the oldest Christian edifices in the British Isles and has been consigned to the sands since 1980. 
  • To protect, preserve, maintain and administer the Oratory, the site surrounding the Oratory, and access to the site.
    The Oratory was buried to protect its fabric in the absence of public commitment to protect and make it accessible.  The Trust will ensure that once uncovered it will be protected and properly managed. 
  • To develop, protect, preserve, maintain and administer the Church of St Piran, the site surrounding the Church, and access to the site.
    The Trust, in partnership with others, has excavated the Second Church and put it into sound condition. 
  • To promote the cultural, historical and educational significance of the sites of the Oratory and the Church in an inclusive manner, relevant to all the population of Cornwall and other interested people.
    In addition to the Oratory and the Church, the Trust has taken charge of the maintenance of Perran Round, the Mediaeval Playing Place or Plen-an-gwary, one of the best preserved Playing Places in Britain, which had been neglected and covered in woodland scrub, gorse and brambles.  Our ambition is to see performances in the Round once again.  We invest in representing the three sites to all who are interested.  
  • To support schools, educational and cultural organisations so that they can promote greater awareness of Cornish and Celtic culture and history.
    The Trust will provide speakers and other resources to organisations that are involved in promoting Cornish history and culture.
I have been a volunteer with the Trust for the past three years and I have helped with the props for the St Piran Play as well as rasing money for the Trust. I look forward to being able to help with the difficult challenges facing the Trust in achieving its objectives.

Friday, 1 February 2013

Local Transport Board for Cornwall and Isles of Scilly

A new Local Transport Board for Cornwall and Isles of Scilly has been announced. The body will receive £13.3 million for roads in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. The board will be comprised of 4 Cornwall Councillors, 1 IOS Councillor, 1 from the Local Enterprise Partnership, 1 from Local Nature Partnership, 1 from the Health Board and 1 from the User Group. The board's decisions will need to be signed off by Westminster.

Co-incidentally, as a member of the Illogan Parish Council Planning Committee, I have just received a project consultation document concerning the dualling of the A30 at Temple.

My own personal view is that spending money on dualling the A30 is not as good for Cornish business as improving the road network around Cornwall would be.

Surely Cornish businesses would benefit more from being able to move goods around Cornwall more freely than reducing 'queues of up to an hour between May and October' on the A30?

I can see that dualling the A30 might save tourists half an hour or so and that it might help big corporations restock their supermarkets more efficiently but wouldn't it be better to service smaller locally owned businesses and residents in a better way?

I hope that the new board will consider how to improve the internal Cornish economy as a priority.