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Thursday, 11 December 2014

6 reasons why a 'Beefed-up' Cornwall Council can never be a National Cornish Assembly

Since the Scottish referendum on independence, devolution and constitutional change has been a ‘hot topic’. The Tory party seems to believe that devolution means passing responsibility for public spending to politically appointed quangos. Meanwhile Labour would have us subsumed within a giant ‘South West’ region. However, the real betrayal is the Lib Dems – cheering on a supersized Cornwall Council from the side-lines, they would have us believe that local government can do the job that Cornwall desperately needs a National Assembly for. Now Cornwall Council have produced ‘A Case for Cornwall’ and are floating the red herring that Cornwall Council could eventually become a Cornish National Assembly. Here are 6 reasons why a ‘beefed up’ Cornwall Council can never be a National Assembly.

1.      Local government accounts for around just 30% of total public spending in Cornwall – and with the decimation of local democracy, led by the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats this is set to fall. It would take one hell of amount of supersizing to turn Cornwall Council into a national devolved government.
2.      While all this supersizing is going on (while water is turned into wine) – what is happening to democratically accountable local government for Cornwall? We would lose real, locally driven government.
3.      Cornwall Council is a single unitary authority. Even now people complain that it is too Truro-centric. What we need is local government that is more responsive to local needs not further centralisation that increased powers will inevitably bring. Yes – local government in Cornwall needs to be supported and enhanced, but it needs to be brought closer to the people - not made more remote.
4.      Following the centralisation of local government in Cornwall to one unitary authority, Cornwall suffers from a massive democratic deficit. We have proportionally less top tier local councillors per capita than Devon, South West England, England, Wales or Scotland. This means that more and more tasks are taken by unelected council officers or politically appointed quangos. The last thing that we want is to move decision-making about such things as housing and development and health services even further away from OUR representatives and into the welcoming arms of greedy developers and corporate privatisation.
5.      The only ambitious element contained within ‘A Case for Cornwall’ is the ambition for the people who run Cornwall Council to enhance their CVs. Cornwall deserves better and can do better – we need law-making powers - and control over a vastly greater range of public spending that is currently made on our behalf by people who ‘know what is best’ for us up in London.
6.      Cornwall’s GVA is currently around 60% of the UK average. This means our economy is performing worse than some Eastern European countries. Time after time we qualify for EU funding yet we never seem to make any progress. Local government does not have the economic levers that are required to drive our economy forward and beefing up Cornwall Council will not address this need. If we are serious about improving our economy then we need to take charge, roll up our sleeves and get stuck in – not go running to Westminster every time we have an idea for permission and pocket money to give it a try.

Saturday, 8 November 2014

... best wishes from Wales

Earlier this week I travelled to Wales with my son Jack and Cllr Rod Toms.

We went to visit the Welsh Assembly or Senedd in order to see, at first hand, how a national devolved government works in practice.

It was an extremely informative and interesting trip.

We started with a tour of the Senedd building with explanations of how the Assembly functioned and what the roles of the various bodies were. The building itself was magnificently designed with a theme of openess and transparency running through it.

Following our tour we met with Plaidd Cymru AMs in the Plaid offices and had an informal lunch with Leanne Wood, the Plaid Cymru leader along with several members of Plaid's Assembly staff.

Next up was observation of a Plenary session - the Welsh government being held to account by detailed questions to its Ministers.

The next morning we observed committe work - the nitty gritty of law making and refinement. It was good to see Plaid Cymru AMs making valuable contributions to new legislation.

The difference between national government and local government was clear and obvious. Just in the few hours that we were able to observe this was very apparent.

For example, freed from the restraints on the 'English' model, Wales has achieved the fourth highest recycling rates in Europe - with national frameworks encouraging local government to look to push rates into the 60s. meanwhile in Cornwall rates are in the doldrums in the 30s.

The trip was a great success. We have made new contacts and renewed old friendships and reinforced tour understanding of the differences between local and national government.

Leanne Wood said:

“It was a pleasure to meet Stephen Richardson during his visit to the National Assembly of Wales in Cardiff.  
“There are many close links between Wales and Cornwall and between Plaid Cymru and Mebyon Kernow. Plaid Cymru offers solidarity with their campaign to gain an Assembly for Cornwall so that people there can take more control of their destiny and work to improve the lives of the people of Cornwall.
“I send Stephen and Mebyon Kernow best wishes from Wales for the forthcoming General Election campaign. Mebyon Kernow intend to present a positive case for change in stark contrast to the negativity and lack of ambition from the establishment Westminster parties.”

Monday, 29 September 2014

Sports Motion at the Mebyon Kernow Conference

Cornish Golfers Enjoy Success
Details of the Mebyon Kernow Conference are here.

The Truro and Falmouth branch of the party have submitted the motion below for debate.

Along with my fellow branch members I believe that the people of Cornwall deserve acces to sport at all levels - both to participate and to watch.

We need to find ways of building a consensus and to deliver the world class facilities that we deserve.

MK recognises that:

1.     Achievement in sport has become part of the recognised cultural inheritance of Cornwall.

2.     In order for the people of Cornwall to participate at a level that befits our National status, world class educational, training and recreational facilities need to be developed.

3.     The creation of a stadium for Cornwall is an essential part of the strategic development of sport in Cornwall.

Therfore Mebyon Kernow – the Party for Cornwall will:

1.     Take a political lead in Cornwall to demand world class development of sport in Cornwall.

2.     Set up sub-committee of the NEC in order to conduct a consultation with relevant commercial and public organisations and public interest groups with a view to developing a policy aimed at delivering national sporting success for Cornwall.

Saturday, 27 September 2014

#MKConf - 2014

This year our conference will be held at Lys Kernow on Sunday 16th November.

The morning sessions will revolve around policy debates while in the afternoon Dick Cole will give his keynote speech and there will be a chance to see what our PPCs think on various issues.

Sessions will be open to the public - but make sure that you have fully paid up membership if you would like to vote on any of the policy issues.

You can join MK here.

Friday, 26 September 2014

An Open Letter to Cllr Candy Atherton

Here is the text of an open letter that I have sent to Cllr Atherton:

Dear Cllr Atherton,
Cornish Assembly
I have read a report of your comments in a recent article in the Western Morning News and I would like to thank you for making it clear that The Labour party is opposed to a Cornish Assembly and that Labour does not believe that Cornwall is capable of running its own affairs.
Unfortunately the rest of your recent diatribe as reported in the Western Morning News is a bit harder to understand.
For example, in reference to a Cornish Assembly you talk in terms of “another layer of bureaucrats”. Of course this sort of statement is very emotive but then you Westminster types do so often like to be long on emotive language when the point you want to make is short on fact. Sadly you do seem to like making this (untrue) point over and over again and it behoves me, as a good citizen of Cornwall, to explain why your assertion is as wrong as a Labour Party candidate calling themselves a socialist.
You see – far from being an ‘extra layer’ - a Cornish Assembly would simply move the machinery of government 300 miles from an office with a W1 postcode back home to Cornwall. Devolved matters wouldn’t be decided in Westminster any longer – no extra layer - they would be decided in Cornwall instead. No extra layer at all, none, nada, zip – just extra democratic accountability of government to the people of Cornwall.
Of course, this does unfortunately raise the spectre of just exactly what all those expensive and centralised Westminster politicians would be doing upcountry - so I can see why your party might be a bit perturbed about disturbing the status quo.
Now - moving on to your vision of ‘regionalised’ governance. I have heard you wax lyrical - time after time - about working together with partners at an appropriate level. There is absolutely nothing at all wrong with working with all sorts of partners - and Mebyon Kernow would certainly advocate that Cornwall worked with all manner of partners whether within the United Kingdom, within Europe or on global basis.  Nevertheless - we wouldn’t advocate giving up our democratic voice to be subsumed within a massive South West English region.
“Plymouth!” I hear you cry – again and again, “We could work with Plymouth.”
There is unequivocally nothing wrong with Plymouth. Plymouth is a sterling place - you can see Cornwall from there on a good day!
However, Plymouth is not Cornwall and any partnership of Cornwall with Plymouth should be based on a one-off partnership of equals and Plymouth should not be allowed to become a Trojan horse whereby Cornwall’s democratic voice is swamped by the larger population of English counties and her top jobs and services are moved to Exeter or Bristol.

Finally, your utterly ludicrous assertion that not more than one per cent of the Cornish population would welcome a Cornish Assembly is – well, just that - ludicrous. You said that you would challenge anyone on a wet October day to find more than one in one hundred who would like more politicians. I’m not quite sure what effect precipitation has on people’s view of politicians - but I’m sure it doesn’t have much effect on what they think about a Cornish Assembly!
Your attempt to conflate disdain for politicians with disdain for a Cornish Assembly is laughable and disingenuous to say the least.
Cllr Atherton I have a challenge for you.
Come with me while I knock on one hundred doors and listen to exactly what people think about a Cornish Assembly – or, admit that you are wrong and that support for a Cornish Assembly amongst the people of Cornwall is far greater than you would have us believe.
Yn lel,
Stephen Richardson

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Cornwall's Democratic Deficit

How many times do you hear that a National Cornish Assembly would be 'another layer of expensive politicians'?

The real facts are  that Cornwall has a massive democratic deficit! See our document on a National Assembly for Cornwall - sections 60 - 64.

So we are already spending less on democratically elected and accountable community representatives - democracy in Cornwall is being run on the cheap.

Further still we believe that a National Assembly would save money - even allowing for some extra administrative costs. An National Assembly for Cornwall could sweep away the politically appointed and democratically unaccountable quangos such as the LEP.

The Cornish LEP came into being in a blaze of glory claiming that thousands of jobs would be created. Several years later and the only job that can be laid fairly and squarely at the door of the LEP is the one that carries a big salary - the post of LEP chairman!

Instead of privatising public bodies and spending public money on boosting private profit a Cornish Assembly could make investments in public services.

Not another layer of expensive politicians - a way of making them more accountable to the people and helping to improve public services.

Say NO to supersized LOCAL government - demand a NATIONAL ASSEMBLY!

Julia Goldsworthy, the failed MP who's only legacy was a rocking chair expenses scandal, is on the
Westminster electoral comeback trail.

In an attempt to re-ingraciate herself with the electorate (and get back onboard the expenses gravy train with a newly raised salary to boot), she is heading the Lib Dem assault on devolution for Cornwall.

The Lib Dem party, the pick 'n mix party who like to throw any sweetie into the bag that they think may get them elected, are, yet again, re-inventing their policy on devolution.

Like dodgy used car salesmen, they are willing to take the clapped out Cornwall Council, tart it up a bit and add a few gadgets before passing it off as a deluxe new National Assembly. Of course, like any cut and shut, the whole thing will fall apart - probably with tragic consequences.

Cornwall Council is a failed experiment. It is too big and overcentralized to work as democratic and responsive local government and does not have the capacity to handle national problems.

Mebyon Kernow is calling for a true National Assembly for Cornwall.

An assembly which can do away with unelected and politically appointed quangos such as the LEP and tie public spending to public accountability.

An Assembly which can take full controll of our housing and development policies - rather than having Westminster dictate housing numbers to us.

An Assembly which can prioritise spending on our NHS instead of selling it to the highest bidder.

And as part of a new democratic settlement for Cornwall we need local government reform. We need to do away with Cornwall Council altogether and take real local decison-making powers closer to the people through four smaller unitary authorities and by enhancing the powers of towns and parishes.

Mebyon Kernow is the only political party with real vison and ambition for the governance of Cornwall. We have a raft of policies which have been carefully thought through and developed over years. While the Lib Dems gather in the pub and fiddle around with the back of a fag packet we are the only party that has devolution policies that do what they say on the tin.

MaKe The Difference - support our vision, join our party, get involved - tomorrow may be too late and if you don't act now then, like the Scots, you will wake up to the usual broken Westminster pledges.

Friday, 19 September 2014

How Depressing! :-(

Today I am feeling very depressed!

No - not because of the way the referendum went in Scotland. Ok the result was disappointing but the Yes campaign worked miracles to get the result that it did fighting against the full weight of the establishment and media. At the end of the day the people chose, yet again, to believe the false promises of the Westminster establishment politicians. It may be disheartening but the sheer scale of the engagement in the decision by the Scottish people was truly uplifting.

What is so depressing is the way that it is back to business as normal for Westminster.

No sooner had the ink dried on the ballot papers but the excuses, ruses, justifications and obfuscations began as to why Scotland won't get what they actually voted for - devomax.

Add to that our local Westminster representatives talking down Cornish aspirations and you begin to think that they are gong to get away with bertrayal and deceit yet again.

For example we have Sarah Newton. She has obviously read the Project Fear campaign handbook by deliberately misleading people about devolution to a National Assembly of Cornwall and talking in terms of 'independence' and separation. At the same time she makes it clear that her idea of devolution is giving powers and control of massive chunks of public spending to unelected and unaccountable quangos such as the LEP. Giving control of public money to businessmen with vested interests is not devolution - it is privatisation by the back door!

To top it all off, I arrived home at lunch time to find a letter from George Eustice awaiting me. Apparently George is very concerned about overdevelopment in Illogan and wants to do something about it. I'll tell you what George - why didn't you vote against your government's relaxing of planning laws and their introduction of a presumption in favour of development if you were concerned about overdevelopment in Illogan. Or maybe you should support the idea of a devolved Cornish National Assembly which would have control over Cornwall's planning strategy instead of Westminster - that would be one way to allow people to have a greater say in how their localities deal with development.

This hypocrisy in Westminster politicians is bad enough but the kowledge that they are probably going to get away with it yet again makes it depressing.

Dick Cole, has called for a mature, wide-ranging and respectful debate about devolution. I agree with him but until we can have a debate involving a little bit of honesty from Westminster I think it is a bit of a big ask.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Is the West Briton Biased?

Below is the text of a letter that I sent to the West Briton. I sent it in a week before the paper was due to be published. In the same edition there Sarah newton gives her Conservative view of 'devolution' and  an overtly party political letter from Simon Rix was published.

People often say that they believe that the West Briton is biased against MK but I have always said that I didn't believe this to be the case. However, I do begin to wonder given that I have had several letters rejected since I became the PPC for Mebyon Kernow whereas previously my letters were mainly printed.

I have sent a letter to the West Briton asking them where I am going wrong that they don't think my letters fit to be published on such a regular basis. I'll have to wiat and see if I get a reply.


Today the people of Scotland will decide whether or not their country will become independent.

Whichever way the vote goes it has become clear in recent months that the United Kingdom will never be the same again. All over the island of Britain, from John O’Groats to Land’s End or from Aberystwyth to Great Yarmouth people have been discussing the implications of the Scottish debate and their utter disillusionment with a centralised Westminster government.

The Westminster political parties have all espoused the benefits of the union – yet it becomes clearer every day that they are defending their own party political interests by setting out the imagined benefits of a highly centralised system of government.

At the same time each London based party sets out its own tawdry interpretation of ‘devolution’ in an attempt to appear that they might be prepared to give up some of their power to allow people run their own affairs.

The Tories try to convince us that placing responsibility for massive amounts of public spending into the hands of unelected and politically appointed quangos is devolution. Where is the local democracy? This is not devolution it is privatisation by the back door.

Meanwhile Labour is certain that regional bodies are the answer. Cornwall would get swamped in a ‘South West England’ region. It would have a miniscule political voice and an even smaller opportunity to develop the Cornish economy.

Of the London based parties the Liberal Democrats shout the loudest in favour of devolution for Cornwall and yet have failed to set out their vision for Cornish devolution. They have no clearly defined plan as to exactly what powers they believe Cornwall deserve or how any new powers might be used. Another vague pledge to be discarded when the going gets tough.

The only party that has set out a clear proposal for real and democratic devolution to Cornwall is Mebyon Kernow. The Party for Cornwall believes that people of Cornwall should be responsible for the vast majority of public spending in Cornwall through an elected national legislative Assembly.  MK is the only party that has a proposal for devolution that will do what it says on the can!