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Tuesday, 19 March 2013

The Labour manifesto - must try harder for Cornwall

Apparently, on Friday, the 'Cornwall Labour Party' (I think a case could be made for another oxymoron there) released its manifesto for May under the rather cliched title 'A Fairer Future for One and All'.

The document is full of Westminster rhetoric alongside ambiguous concepts and disingenuous, if not downright misleading, claims.

Labour purport to 'Oppose the introduction of regional pay scales in the NHS.' Fair enough you would think. Mebyon Kernow has always campaigned for a better deal for Cornish workers and the provision of fair pay for real jobs. We believe that regional pay is just another way of funding high salaries in London, and the South East, at the expense of the rest of the UK. Regional pay is another of those evil and divisive policies designed to put more money into the pockets of the wealthy at the expense of those already worse off. Perhaps Labour share our vision of equal pay for equal value work and saying no to regional pay.

Mebyon Kernow has also said that it would lead the way by working towards paying people the 'Living Wage' - starting with employees of Cornwall Council. Again Labour appear to agree. Their very first action point begins:

"Make Cornwall Council a driving force behind a decent Living Wage for All by assessing the level of a genuine living wage in Cornwall, setting a recommended minimum hourly rate ..."

Now, as far as I understand it, the Living Wage is something that is assessed and set by the Living Wage Foundation and is currently £7.45 for the UK. Yet it would appear that Labour are unable to commit to this. Instead, in Cornwall, we might actually end up with a Labour regional living wage "by assessing the level of a genuine living wage in Cornwall".

So what do Labour stand for? They oppose regional pay and yet, seemingly, support the idea for the lowest paid workers in Cornwall. Ambiguous? Misleading?

Next up we have:

"A new Joint Chief Executive for both Cornwall Council and the Isles of Scilly Council to cut costs, end costly consultancy contracts with the Chief Executive’s Department and limit the new salary to no more than 20 times that of the lowest paid council employee pro-rata."

First of all (if you overlook the fact that Labour appear to have stolen a policy from David Cameron of all people) I'm not sure that sharing a CEO with the Isles of Scilly is a good idea either for us or Scilly. A shared role would, in reality, mean increased costs for us both as the new man/woman would spend a lot of unproductive time and money travelling between two offices. Further, just as we have experienced in sharing institutions with Devon, would it not be likely that Cornwall would have a dominating voice to the detriment of the smaller Scilly Isles?

If you are going to reduce the expectation on a new CEO as far as Cornwall is concerned (which would have to happen if they were also doing a job for Scilly) why not just say so in the job description, reduce the salary on offer and eliminate the wasted travel problem?

Secondly, why go around the houses to say what they believe the salary for the new CEO should be? If they think that the salary should be no more than 20 times the lowest paid council worker and they believe in a living wage then surely the calculation is a simple one. £7.45 x 35hrs x 52weeks x 20 = £271,180. So if Labour implement the recognised living wage (rather than their own regional, Cornish version) they would pay the new CEO no more than £270k. Hmm ... Kevin Lavery was only on just over £200k so I would dearly hope that the new CEO would be offered substantially less than £270k. Perhaps they need to go around the houses because it looks a lot better on paper that way? Ambiguous? Misleading?

Let's look at some Labour  housing policy:

"Ensuring an adequate supply of housing appropriate to the needs of the local community including truly affordable housing and Council housing. While this sometimes means hard decisions must be made on where housing is built, this duty cannot simply be evaded. Cornwall Council should be actively bidding for all potential government monies for new social housing."

Independent research has demonstrated that local housing need is very different to that projected for and imposed on Cornwall by Council Officers acting under Westminster dictats. Lest we forget, the last Labour government planned to build 68,000 houses in Cornwall - a figure which even the Conservatives, with their commitment to a presumption in favour of development, called bonkers. 68,000 houses would have involved an awful lot of 'hard decisions'.

Mebyon kernow were the only political party to submit a detailed and thoroughly researched response to the consultation on the Core Strategy. Labour could not be bothered and yet now they want us to believe they will fulfil a duty which they say 'cannot simply be evaded'.

It is very clear from past experience that Labour policy on housing involves concreting over Cornwall and indulging in hyperdevelopment aimed at encouraging poulatuon growth in search of the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Not quite how their manifesto sounds. Ambiguous? Misleading?

I could go on looking at the Labour manifesto but this is already a long blog piece and I suspect that minds are beginning to wander.

In summary I would say that Mebyon Kernow believes in government by consensus. Look at the hard work that Dick Cole has put in to create a cross party consensus that the Cornwall Local Plan should set a target of 39,000 houses for Cornwall (before a few Con Dem spoilers selfishly lifted that figure to over 42,000). There are, without doubt a lot of areas of progressive policy that we would share with the Labour party.

The big difference is that our policies always put Cornwall first. The Cornwall Labour party are still the Westminster Labour party and, as such, have to answer to their Lords and masters in London.

The Labour Manifesto school report? 5 out of 10 - must try harder to put Cornwall first!


Labour party members have contacted Mebyon Kernow and asked us to explain that because they want to increase the cap on the CEO's pay it doesn't mean they want to increase the pay.

So why icrease the cap then?

It all sounds a bit like when David Cameron assured us that he had no plans to increase VAT in 2010, and look what happened then. Of course, the whole idea of a 20x cap was David Cameron's in the first place - perhaps Labour intend to use even more Tory style spin than they already do?

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