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

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

IPC PLanning Committee

It was the first meeting of the new IPC planning committee tonight.

The first agenda item was to elect a new chairman. A few minutes later I was taking the chair having been elected - a total surprise.

I am very proud to have the opportunity to serve the committee and so the council as a whole  in this role and would like to thank the other Members for showing faith in me to be able to do the job.

IPC planning committee also looks after the coulcil's amenities and with the stated aim of the council to meet the challenges of devolution head on and to be proactive in taking on community assets the members on this committee will be seeing a lot of work.

I also hope to be able to help with setting up the process for Illogan to create its own Neighbourhood Plan - which will clearly be in close association with the planning committee.

Monday, 27 May 2013

A great day

Cornwall 26 - 35 Lancashire

So near .....

What an amzing day.

Cornwall almost created an upset by beating Lancashire at Twickenham yesterday.

Unfortunately the Cornish team gifted Lancashire a couple of easy tries in the first half which proved too difficult a moutain to overcome depsite a passionate performance from the heart in the second period.

We almost made it - getting back to within a couple of points with a few minutes remaining - "... with one and all and hand in hand and who shall tell us nay"

The 10,000 or so Cornish supporters were right there, almost tangibly on the pitch with the team, willing Cornwall on the whole way - but it wasn't to be.

A proud day for Cornwall.

Monday, 20 May 2013

Westminster politics again!

Cllr Andrew Wallis has been passed a missive from the Tory 'high command' addressed to Tory Cornwall Councillors.

The email directive (apart from displaying appalling grammar, sometimes making it hard to understand) shows how Westminster party politics operates in Cornwall.

Rather than concentrating on what is good for Cornwall it is all about what is good for the Tory party - especially with a general election beginning to loom on the political horizon.

It also reveals the 'career' mindset of a lot of Westminster politicians. Apparently some Tories don't want to be wasting their time by doing a job of representing the people who voted for them.

Sunday, 19 May 2013

The Trelawney Army - On the March to Twickenham

Cornwall 41 - 29 Herts

The Trelawney Army are busy buying tickets, arranging travel and  booking accommodation after Cornwall beat Hertfordshire yesterday at Camborne.

In the end Cornwall were easily the better side on the day, though at half time it was looking a bit scary.

Two early, inspired second half tries, going down the slope put Cornwall back in the driving street and flashes of brilliance from the backs and dogged determination and a refusal to consider giving up the ball from the pack combined with never say die defence to ensure that, in the end, it was Kernow who celebrated.

It was an honour and privilege to watch.

Heartfelt commiserations must go to Herts and many congratulations to Camborne Rugby Club who made sure that the event was supremely well organised, with the ground looking immaculate.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

First Day of Term

This evening was the Illogan Annual Parish Meeting and the first meeting of the new Illogan Parish Council.

The Annual meeting was over in 15 minutes, unfortunately with no public participation.

The main business of the council meeting was sorting out the various committees and membership of them.

The main difference to the previous council was that we decided to create a 'Devolution Committe'. We have formed a committee which will have a specific responsibilty to deal with opportunities for devolution of assets and services from Cornwall Council.

The new council has started on a very positive note. All the councillors are serving on at least one committee and as a group we are detremined to make the best of any opportunity that presents itself to us.

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Better Together?

David Cameron has been advocating that the only certain way for Scotland to remain part of the EU after the referendum on independence is to say NO.

Yet we are told the Conservative party is the only one that will deliver an in/out refrendum to leave the EU.

Does anyone else feel that this really is party politics at its worse? Trying to scare Scottish voters on one hand and desperately attempting to survive the UKIP tsunami on the other. Where is his principle - the belief that a particular course of action is best for the people he purports to lead.

How does he square the circle?

If his party are pushed and pulled by UKIP into taking us out of the EU shouldn't he now encourage voters in Scotland to vote YES if they want to stay in Europe - the SNP are far more committed to this than any government he is likely to head up.

Strong Leadership Model = Weak Governance for Cornwall

Thursday 2nd May - election day.

14th May - we still don't have a leader never mind a cabinet?

How long does it take to sort out a 'Rainbow Coalition'?

The problem is that a rainbow coalition isn't likely to be anything of the sort.

Yet this is not necessarily the councillors' fault - it is down to the cabinet system.

Under the present system the councillors elect a leader who then appoints a cabinet. If one party had a majority it wouldn't be a problem. The majority party would select their leader as council leader and then (s)he would appoint party members as cabinet members.

However, we have no clear majority and no obvious coalition of two groups. So this means that hours of  'behind closed doors' negotiations are going on. Not only is the leader being decided beforehand but also the cabinet positions - in other words councillors are agreeing to pledge to vote for a particular leader as long as (s)he agrees to appoint a pre-determined cabinet. Trouble is that's a lot of horse trading.

It's also going to present problems in the future because whoever is appointed leader (and he Council's whole cabinet) will be on very unstable ground. If the leader upsets too many people then they are likely to face a vote of no-confidence and then this whole process is going to have to start over again.

This is the problem with the cabinet or 'strong leadership' model of governance that the previous council selected for this council. When you don't have a strong leadership you don't have an easily workable system.

Problems will arise in the coming months and years not because of 'party politics' but because of a lack of a strong leadership. Many issues that will arise will divide the opinions of councillors, whether or not it is along party lines. There will be constant disagreements because different people will believe that their solution is the best for Cornwall.

The strong leader model, without a strong leader, is going to be very weak.

Defections and Party Politics

So Cllr Eathorne-Gibbons has defected from the Tory party.

Though actually he hasn't - just in Cornwall?

On the Lawrence Reed show Cllr Eathorne-Gibbons claims to have defected from the Tories to the Independents on the ground that that was what the people that he represented wanted of him.

He said that if he had declared as an Independent rather than a Tory before the elction then people may have thought it was a 'cynical ploy' just to get re-elected.

So declaring himself  'independent'  before an election and making sure that voters knew exactly what they were electing would have been a cynical ploy whereas defecting days after he had been elected a Cornwall Councillor (and, coincidentally, also not to be elected to the Conservative leadership team) was not?

He also invoked  the old chestnut that people don't want party politics at Cornwall Council and that was what his electors were telling him.

The problem with this 'no party politics at local level' is that it is a nonsense.

Cllr Earthorne-Gibbons is still a Tory, just not on Cornwall Council. He still talks and acts like a Tory but now he is supposedly an 'Independent'.

If every councillor on Cornwall Council were an Independent then groups of people would regularly vote the same way on different issues. You would still have people pro and anti privatisation of services, for and against hyper development etc and these people would broadly align along party political lines even if they weren't officially members of a party.

There is nothing wrong with party politics in local governemnt as long as the issues are a matter of principle for the party members involved. Where the problem starts is when self-interest creeps in. When members of a party act, not in what they believe is the best interest of Cornwall, but in the best ineterest of their party and so themselves. This is what people are fed up with.

As a result of Cllr Eathorne-Gibbons defection the Lib Dems and 'Independent Group' now have an equal number of councillors. I wonder if any of Cllr Eathorne-Gibbons' voters would begin to wonder whether, if he ends up with a cabinet post as an independent, non-party politics is still open to self promotion and self-interest in the same way that political parties are accused? Don't forget that, in Cornwall, the 'Independent Group' is pretty much a paty in its own right.

If Cllr Eathorne-Gibbons really wanted to get away from party politics then maybe he should resign and stand as a 'stand alone' independent. If he really believes what he would have us believe then he would be  re-elected with an increased majority. It's not going to happen though.

Friday, 10 May 2013

Comprehensive Cornish Assembly Policy Review

After the hectic Unitary election campaign in April you might have thought that there would have been a month or two for Mebyon Kernow members to relax – no chance!

We are starting work on reviewing the party’s ‘Legislative Cornish Assembly Policy’ and we want members' input.

It is intended that the policy that emerges from the review will be the most detailed and comprehensive policy that we have ever produced on this subject and will provide a document that will allow our councillors, candidate and activists to answer the questions that are frequently asked about the feasibility of a Cornish Assembly on the doorstep and in the press room.

The first stage of the policy review, a members’ consultation, is now beginning and will last until September 30th 2013. We need to know what areas members think should be included in the policy and any ideas or suggestions that you may have. Your input will then form part of the data and research that the policy team will consider as they create a first draft of the policy. There will be a further chance for members to provide input once that draft has been completed.

If you would like to be involved in the policy making process then contact me and I will email a pdf of the consultation document to you. It is also hoped that a new members' forum at mebyonkernow.org will soon provide a useful vehicle for discussions.

What a palava!

During my elcetion campaign I knocked on over 97% of the doors in the Illogan Electoral District.

As a result of talking to so many people in Illogan I have accumulated a fairly substantial list of issues that people have asked me to look into on their behalf.

One of these issues was concerning grass cutting and the resultant cuttings that are left behind after the cut. The resident that I spoke to was happy with the fact that Cornwall Council regularly cut a grassed area of open space in the neighbourhood, but was concerned about the fact that the cuttings were never taken away. They are simply left in situ to dry up and blow away or rot where they lie.

The problem with leaving grass cuttings behind is that children use the space to play on and dog owners use the space to walk their dogs. You can probably guess what happens. Some anti-social dog owners fail to clean up after their dogs so dog mess is something of a blight to the amenity. This is made worse when the grass is cut because any dog mess that is there is not collected first by the contractors but simply mown in and left behind with the cuttings.

Kids, being kids, come out to play and love the fact that there are lots of piles of grass cuttings to play with - problem is their parents aren't so happy when they come home with grass stains and dog mess over them.

Now I'm not sure what the council's policy is on grass cuttings - is it policy to leave cuttings - and the contractors are doing exactly what they have been contracted to, or have we paid the contractors through our council tax to collect the cuttings and they are failing to deliver the service they have been paid to provide?

The council's web site doesn't provide an answer to this question. However, there is a section which provides an email address for enquiries about grass cutting.

I sent an email making a simple request to find out what the council's policy on grass cuttings is to the specific email address provided on the web site.

Within an hour or so I had an email back saying that, actually, the department whose email adress was given to deal with queries about grass cutting couldn't answer my question but that my email had been passed on to the relevant department. Ok - fair enough - a bit strange that the 'grass cutting department' can't answer questions about grass cutting but at least they've been efficient and helpful enough to pass on my query.

That was three days ago. This morning I still hadn't received a substantive reply so I again emailed the people that I sent my original email to and asked if they could provide me with contact details for the department they had forwarded my mail to. I had a very quick response once again and the nice people said that they couldn't provide me with an email contact but that they had forwarded my second mail and asked the department concerned to get in touch with me and let me know what was happening.

I have now had an email from the second department saying that they are not responsible for answering the question about grass cuttings and that my mail had been forwarded to a third department to be addressed.

What a load of nonsense!

All this bureaucracy to get an answer to what should, surely, be a fairly simple question. None of the council employees are at fault - they're all just doing their jobs - but what a mess the system is.

You can see why people get fed up with the council. Why they give up on trying to get responses to problems with the services that are being delivered.

You can also see why people use FOI requests.

All too often simple requests from ordinary people get lost in the system and if difficult questions are being asked then, no doubt, the system can also be used to delay or avoid answering difficult questions.

Lot's of people point to how expensive it is to answer FOIs yet if I had sent an email to just the basic customer services department of the council, but labelled it as a FOI they would have had to get their act together with a substantive reply in a requisite time. The process would have cost no more than me going down the route of an informal question but I would have been guaranteed an answer without continual follow up being required.

When people complain about the cost of FOIs they should consider the democratic cost of not having them.

We need a joined up council service that is able to respond to customers' questions in a timely and efficient manner. It's not a problem with the people but with the system.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Will George Eustice Back Green Energy?

The coalition's Energy Bill will soon be debated.

Tim Yeo has tabled an amendment aimed at reducing carbon produced from electricity generation.

The problem is that George Osborne is more keen on looking to increase reliance on gas for power geneartion.

Although the right wing organisations such as UKIP and many Tories will insist that green energy will increase our energy bills in the short term, it seems clear that long term stability and reduction in energy bills depends on investment in new green technology.

The pressure group 38 degrees has taken out an ad in tomorrow's West Briton calling on George Eustice to support Tim Yeo's amendment.

Will George look to secure the stability and long term reduction in our energy bills or just take the short term populist neo-liberal stance?

You can email George Eustice and let him know what you think here:



Sunday, 5 May 2013

How many?

Tyrone Homes (Labour Party) is "sick of people politicking a scaremongering about the housing figures"

He insists that building lots of new houses are absolutely necessary in order to solve the issues of affordability and availablity of housing for people in Cornwall.

He is adamant that a 'shortage' of houses is the reason that prices are so high and insists that building lots of houses is the only way to get the prices down.

This is of course a line that many of the 'concrete over Cornwall' brigade take.

Given the massive number of houses that have been built in Cornwall over the past fifty years and that we still have a worsening situation for local people, can anyone who subscribes to the 'build lots of houses to reduce the price' theory answer this simple question:

"What do you think is an affordable price for a house, how many houses do you believe that we would need to build in order to reduce the average price to this price and what evidence do you have to support that theory?"

Any answers on the back of a postcard?

Friday, 3 May 2013

Quite Interesting

When you look at how many councillors were elected in relation to the number of candidates that stood MK come out quite favourably. Much better than Labour and UKIP who will no doubt continue to get the headlines.

Cornwall Councillors elected per 100 candidates:

Ind - 41.10%
LD - 39.56
Con - 30.10
MK - 15.38
Lab - 11.76
UKIP - 7.89
Green - 4.35
Lib - 0.00

Results in Illogan

Terry Wilkins (Con) - 331
Stephen Richardson (MK) - 290
Don Armstrong (UKIP) - 259
David Ekinsmyth (LD) - 157
Linda Moore (Lab) - 113

So I came second!

Congratulations to Terry Wilkins - I will be pressing him to do good things for Illogan and Cornwall just as I am sure he would have been questioning me had I won.

The really big surprise, as elsewhere, was the UKIP vote. The UKIP candidate, as far as anyone seems to know, has never had anything to do with Illogan, did not deliver a single leaflet and did not knock a single door and yet he ended up with 23% of the vote. Fair play to UKIP they are getting votes everywhere despite having no local policies.

I just watched a television interview where the UKIP guy was asked what they stood for on local government issues. Basically he didn't have a clue. He said that UKIP councillors were going to ask what their constituents wanted and then represent that. Sounds good but the problem is that when it comes to voting for a UKIP candidate you don't know what they stand for because they don't know themselves until after they have been elected?

As for MK - we increased our representation by one councillor compared to 2009 - not a bad result given all the UKIP hype. It was also encouraging to see several MK candidates pushing up to second place and the party polling better percentages of the vote in the seats where we had candidates. We have a solid base from which to continue building. Special mention should be made of Matt Luke who has been elected for Penwithick and Boscoppa for the first time.

It also very interesting to note that Dick Cole received a massive 87% - I don't know if this is a record of some sort but it can't be far off. Andy Long and loveday Jenkin were also re-elected with very sizeable majorities. This shows that where MK people are elected they do an outstanding job for their constituents and are recognised and rewarded for this with a resounding mandate for what they are doing in their locality.