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, 18 September 2013

A Cornish Legislative Assembly - twelve months to get the message across

With just twelve months to go, the subject of Scottish independence and what this might mean for the UK is suddenly becoming very news worthy.

Even Mebyon Kernow has been allowed some air time - which makes a pleasant change to normal!

As you would expect, Mebyon Kernow already has very detailed policies on a Cornish Assembly. Unfortunately we have not always been too good at communicating those details - either to the people of Cornwall or, indeed, to our own members. The current members' consultation will confirm the policies that are in place, codify and clarify them and allow members to update them where necessary. We will then be in a much better position to take the battle to unioinists in this important period before the Scottish referendum.

The final draft of our new and codified policy, based on what the members are saying, will be put before the delegates at our conference on Saturday November 16th (put the date in your diaries). Then, with the members' final approval we can begin to take the battle to oppnents of democracy in a positive, detailed and consistent way. I say opponents of democracy - that is because the Party for Cornwall believes that the golden thread, the thread that runs through all of the arguments surrounding devoltion is democracy. The people of Cornwall, people who work here and live here, should have the right to say how decisions that affect Cornwall are taken. MK believes that those decisions should be taken by the people of Cornwall rather than an office full of suits 300 miles away in Westminster.

In the meantime I would like to think that we can start to debunk some of the myths that unionist politicians and advocates are keen to peddle when it comes to devolution for Cornwall.

For example it is important that we make it absolutely clear that a legislative Cornish Assembly would not be an expensive extension to local government but a national body capable of making strategic decisions for Cornwall. A body that can map a way forward in these difficult economic times - a map that doesn't have London at its centre.

Also, all too often opponents of devolution ask how much it will all cost. How can poor little Cornwall afford to survive by itself?

This is actually two myths rolled into one.

First, there is a big difference between devolution and independence. It is not Mebyon Kernow policy that Cornwall should be independent from the UK. It is our policy that we should have a devolved Assembly within the UK. Devolution would not mean that Cornwall would be abandoned and left out in the cold - just that there would be a greater degree of democracy in decion making.

Secondly, devolution would not cost either Cornish tax payers or any other UK tax payers anything more than it already costs to administer Cornwall. In fact it would very likely save tax payers money - or better still allow for greater investment. Westminster gathers taxes and spends them. What we are calling for is the ability to decide how to spend the money that Westminster spends for us. Mebyon Kernow has the confidence to believe in the people of Cornwall - in fact we are sure that Cornwall could do a better job than Westminster and that, therefore, an increase in Cornish GDP would raise more revenue for both Cornwall and the UK as a whole.

Cornish Nationalists have a very exciting twelve months ahead of us. We need to make the most of those months to get our message across.

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Consultation or rubber stamp for a U-turn?

Less than seven months ago - just before the elections surprisingly enough - Alex Folkes wrote on his blog:
Cornish Liberal Democrats are today announcing a budget alternative which would see council tax frozen for a third straight year. 

“Our budget alternative stands in stark contrast to the official budget proposal of the Conservative-led council,” said Cllr Jeremy Rowe, Leader of the Liberal Democrats on Cornwall Council.  

“Where they promise a council tax rise, we will freeze it. Where they propose service cuts, we have found the money to reverse many of the harshest.

“Last year, council tax was only frozen because the Liberal Democrats campaigned for it.

What a difference a few months and an election make.

For three years mebyon Kernow have been warning of the black hole at the centre of Cornwall Council's  budget but now Cllr Folkes argues that circumstances have changed and a rethink on council tax levels may now be necessary. Of course it won't be a U-turn because the council are running a series of consultations. Instead of a U-turn we will be told that the council is listening and prepared to consider any proposal.

The funny thing is though - in the middle of the consultation - when the cllr Folkes is keen to listen, he lambasts political opponents UKIP for suggesting that a referendum be held to consider a 5% rise.

The Liberal Democrats have no principles apart from seeking to be elected. The circumstances that we are faced with now were entirely foreseeable. The plan to reduce local government funding (which the Liberal Democrats in Westminster have imposed) was clear three years ago - the problem is that now Liberal Democrats at Lys Kernow are faced with its consequences.

Mebyon Kernow has consistenly argued that the Lib Dem/Conservative coalition is responsible for rapidly destroying the efficacy of local government. Under the disguise of austerity it has cut budgets far beyond those of other categories of government spending. We have argued for small increases year on year and if the local Westminster parties at New County Hall had looked at what would be best for Cornwall in the long term (instead of competing to be the party of lowest taxation) then the council's budget might have been some 8.24% higher next year than the current levels - without any need for a referendum. We would still be facing massive cuts and the loss of front line services but the end result wouldn't have been as dire as the consequences we are facing right now.

Monday, 9 September 2013


The HS2 railway project is in trouble. Costs are spiralling out of control and more and more evidence points towards there being much less economic benefit evn compared to what was originally claimed - never mind for those of us not really connected with London. Yet the coalition doggedly pursues this white elephant out of stubborn refusal to do yet another U-turn.

This project is another clear example of why Cornwall would be better off with a devolved assembly of its own.

Jonathan Edwards MP, Transport Spokesman for Plaid Cymru, is demanding a £1.9bn payment for Wales if the HS2 project goes ahead. He argues that HS2 clearly has no benefit whatsoever for Wales and that calculations using the Barnett formula (used to adjust spending allocations for devolved governments) would justify extra money for Wales as a consequence of investment in England.

Mr Edwards points out that, just like Albani and Moldova (and Cornwall), Wales doesn't even have any electrified rail lines.

How much better would we be able to organise our own transport system and make necessary investments if we had control over our own budget? Just like Wales, Cornwall will see no benefit from HS2 and yet we will be paying for investment in London's connectivity.

Some people say Cornwall can't afford autonomy. I say a lack of devolution to Cornwall is costing us much needed investment!

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Assembly Policy Update

Thank you for all the contributions with regard to our 'Legislative Cornish Assembly' policy review.

The first stage consultation ends on September 30th and work has now begun on drawing together the various strands of policy into a comprehensve draft document for a second stage consultation and debate at the conference.

There is, clearly, still time for you to contribute to the first stage or register an interest to receive the draft second stage document as soon as it is published.

Contact me at starichardson@btinternet.com if you wish to contribute.

The Cost of Localism

I have blogged many times on the sham localism espoused by the coalition government. How local people don't have any real say in how their locality is developed apart from condoning the local authority plan. A local plan through which unelected officers constantly pressurise our elected councillors to increase the number of houses to be built in order to have it approved by Westminster.

Over the last few weeks, in my role as chairman of the Illogan planning committee, it has also become clear how much the odds are stacked against local people in economic terms as well as democratic terms.

One application on the boundary of Illogan illustrates this well. The owners of the award winning holiday village of Gwel an Mor want to renegue on their committment to build more holiday let chalets. They now want them to become permanent residences. Their reason is because they aren't able to sell the chalets off plan and without selling the chalets they can't fund further development of the site. Of course the thrust of their argument concentrates on the jobs that will be provided and the additional leisure facilities that might be available to the local community if only they are allowed to build full time residences instead of holiday lets.

The planning statement that covers the application is basically pages and pages of rehashing of the NPPF with a sprinkling of the 'emerging' Cornwall Local Plan. This means it is full of jargon and rhetorical hyperbolae and almost devoid of any substance as to why the application is actually in line with any development plan. The problem is that unless you are a planning professional in some way it is very hard to see through it. It takes a determination to do background reading of hundreds of pages of, quite frankly, boring rubbish to distill what is being (not) said.

The result of this is that concerned locals don't have a chance to even begin to object in the language required to be effective. Locals who have a gut feeling about the harm and damage that will be done tend to talk about a loss of a view rather than restate policy numbers x, y and z and, of course, the loss of a view is not a 'materila planning consideration'. The point that I am trying to make is that local residents and volunteers on parish councils are not paid professionals. The planning system is rigged, it is equivalent to sending a bunch of teenage conscripts to fight an elite, and well equiped, veteran regular army regiment - as the results all too often show.

The 'Neighbourhood Development Plan' is just about the only weapon that the establishment has provided to combat institutional hyper-development. It is a very ineffective weapon - but it's all we have. The problem is that, yet again, it will cost money. For just a small parish a neighbourhood plan might cost tens of thousands of pounds - for a larger town council the cost might be £100k. Local people will have to fund, through their precepts, the only chance they have of combatting Westminster driven development.

Every way you turn, both institutionally and economically, the fight against unwanted development is stacked against you.