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

Monday, 25 May 2015

A Case for Cornwall - Neither fish nor fowl!

Cornwall Council, through its leader John Pollard, has produced a document 'A Case for Cornwall'

Cornwall Council is currently responsible for a budget of just over £1.1 billion. In total there is up to £5 billion spent on providing public services in Cornwall.

Cornwall Council, as our local government, is responsible for around one fifth of public spending in Cornwall while four fifths are spent on our behalf by central government or central government agencies.

John Pollard's Case doesn't stand up. It is neither one thing or another. It is neither fish nor fowl.

On the one hand it is big in ambition for Cornwall Council - or, actually, democratically unaccountable  'public service delivery partners' - on the other hand it is woefully short of ambition for the people of Cornwall.

A Case for Cornwall will not lead to greater public accountability for delivery of public services in Cornwall. It is not about devolution to local communities or strategic accountability to the people of Cornwall.

Much of the Case talks in terms of 'piggy backing' on existing Westminster programmes or EU schemes controlled through Westminster to 'unlock' access to various pots of money.

The problem is that, almost without exception, the implementation of any benefit derived from these schemes will be implemented by bodies that are not directly accountable to the people of Cornwall through any elected body. Further, it is worse than this because more often than not the pots of money come with many central Westminster strings attached.

For example - take the LEP. This is a body which has been set up by central government - but how is it accountable? It certainly isn't accountable to the people of Cornwall. We can't remove its board members if we don't think it is doing a good job.

The LEP has been given a pot of money under a deal with central government called the 'Growth Deal'. This has been heralded as a major achievement for Cornwall. The problem is that the Growth Deal is about 'unlocking potential for development' in Cornwall - code for enabling the building of more houses. Worse still it is absolutely clear that the Cornwall and isles of Scilly LEP will be responsible to Westminster rather than Cornwall Council for the way that the fund is administered and used.

The headline is: 'Devolution to Cornwall' the reality is 'Disguised Central Control from Westminster'.

The Case is also inevitably rhetorical and unrealistic in areas where Cornwall might expect to see some real benefit. It is often like the wish list that the beauty queens of old would compile. John Pollard may as well wish for 'world peace' or 'an end to hunger' as for some of the things in the Case. Why would a Tory government which has just slashed £197 million from local government in Cornwall start to hand some of this back in the convoluted schemes to be found in the Case. It just won't happen while there exists a central government ideology of reducing local government funding to levels where it can't function properly.

Throughout the document John Pollard, through Cornwall Council, speaks as the 'voice of Cornwall'.

I think that, actually, the 'voice of Cornwall' is calling for real and meaningful change in the way that Cornwall is governed.

If Cornwall Council were serious about meaningful devolution to Cornwall and truly believed that Cornwall deserved 'parity' with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland (as it says it does) it would be adding its voice to calls for a legislative Assembly which can take control of the £5 billion spent in Cornwall without reference to Westminster.

If Cornwall Council were serious about developing:

" ... a governance model which will strengthen local accountability, ensure democratic decision making and provide greater transparency to reconnect communities with public services."

it would recognise that it Cornwall Council itself needs to be reformed.

In fact the imposition of a single unitary authority in 2009 needs to be recognised as the failed experiment that it is.

We need to get rid of one single local authority and replace it with local government that truly is more locally accountable, democratic and community based. Local government which can operate within strategic and cohesive frameworks developed by a democratically accountable legislative Assembly.

Friday, 22 May 2015

After 30 years - sensible street signs for West Tolgus

Beacon View Park has a rather curious layout. While one part is contained in a cul-de-sac the first
few houses are around the corner - on a different road altogether.

This has proved a nightmare for local residents for over thirty years. Now new signage has been installed - making it clear where the different houses are.

I managed to work with officers at Cornwall Council to get the job done for residents after they bought the issue to my attention.

One resident told me what a tremendous difference the new signs make - her visitors and deliveries arrive now without problems.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

10 questions to ask John Pollard about his 'Case for Cornwall"

10 Questions to ask John Pollard about 
‘A Case for Cornwall’

  1. The new Conservative government will be bringing forward plans to create a Devonwall parliamentary constituency. A major part of the justification for ‘A Case for Cornwall’ is that Cornwall is a single political entity - what do you intend to do to ameliorate the threat of Devonwall to Cornwall’s distinct political status?

  2. ‘A Case for Cornwall States’

    “An increasing number of Cornwall’s towns and villages have more than 1 in 5 dwellings classed as second homes, which are distinct from holiday homes in that they are invariably empty for large periods of the year. We want to work with the Government to develop proposals that would enable local communities to have a greater control over the numbers of second homes to maintain a more balanced housing market.”

    What are the proposals that have been formulated to be ‘developed’ and why don’t you simply call for the devolution of all planning policy, procedures and appeals in Cornwall to Cornwall?

  3. ‘A Case for Cornwall’ claims that recognition under the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities gives us ‘parity’ with the Welsh, Irish and Scottish parts of the UK. If this is so then the ‘ambitious’ thing to do would be to call for a legislative assembly for Cornwall to match our counterpart nations. Why does Cornwall Council’s ambition fall well short of real ‘parity’ with the other nations of the UK?

  4. If you are ambitious for Cornwall why not support the creation of a legislative Assembly, similar to the Scottish Parliament?

  5. You have used the phrase ‘Stand up for Cornwall’ as a tag line for your proposals and encouraged the idea that people who support ‘A Case for Cornwall’ are ‘Standing up for Cornwall’. Does this mean that people who do not support ‘A Case for Cornwall’ do not ‘Stand up for Cornwall’?

  6. What is the difference between ‘worklessness’ and ‘unemployment’?

  7. ‘A Case for Cornwall’ claims that: Cornwall Council has “a strong and proven track record of strong financial management”. Do you maintain that Cornwall Council can be trusted with even more of our money following the recent debacle surrounding the Council’s failed contracts with BT?
      8. How will you make sure that the people of Cornwall rather than multinational corporations benefit from Cornwall's natural resources?
  1. The theme that runs through ‘A Case for Cornwall’ is that Cornwall Council wants to ‘work with government’. Recently ‘working with government’ has resulted in £196 million of cuts in public services in Cornwall. Why would the people of Cornwall expect Westminster to change its approach to Cornwall Council in the future?

  2. ‘A Case for Cornwall’ cites Newquay Airport of Cornwall’s successes. In 2011 the LEP’s chairman claimed that the Aerohub would create 1000 new jobs - but the number is well below this. It seems that every day a new tranches of public money is given to the LEP which claims that it will create thousands of new jobs. The LEP consistently fails to deliver on promises of creating jobs - who is the LEP accountable to and what procedures are in place for reviewing the performance of the LEP? 

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Cornwall Council's 'Case for Cornwall' - doesn't stand up!

A Case for Cornwall - Does it Stand Up? 

Published on 30th March 2015, Cornwall Council’ ‘A case for Cornwall’ purports to be:

“… a package of bold measures which support Cornwall Council’s new strategy to create a prosperous Cornwall that is more resilient and resourceful. “
However, we think, it is just a cap-in-hand begging bowl held out to central Westminster Government. An obsequious attempt to touch up the powers that be in London for piecemeal devolution to a local government Authority. An Authority perceived by many of the people that it is supposed to serve as a failure. Some would say that more powers to Cornwall Council is a bad mistake claiming that the Authority is already over-centralised, too big and nigh on impossible to hold democratically accountable to the people of Cornwall.

The Unitary Authority in Cornwall is perceived by many as being a poor vehicle to deliver public services in Cornwall. Surely what is needed is local government which is more accountable to local residents - not less. Unfortunately ‘A Case for Cornwall’ promotes the further and extended dependence on ‘arms length bodies’ and multi-national companies - none of which will be available to be questioned by the Cornish public. The plan seems to be to mitigate the financial burdens placed on Cornwall Council by selling off the Authority’s responsibilities to the highest bidder. We would argue that such action will reinforce the perceived failure of Cornwall Council as decisions affecting people in Bodmin or Bude, Penzance or Penstraze are moved ever further away from Cornish communities.

The Truro and Falmouth constituency party of Mebyon Kernow - The Party for Cornwall argues that a legislative Cornish Assembly (similar to the Scottish Parliament) is required to bring strategic government and decision making home to Cornwall. We need to reform local government and do away with the single Unitary Authority in favour of four smaller authorities which would be closer to the communities that local government is supposed to serve.

We believe that ‘A Case for Cornwall’ is far from ‘a package of bold measures to create a prosperous Cornwall’. Rather, it represents an abject lack of ambition for Cornwall but a great deal of ambition for some Cornwall Councillors and Officers.

Join us in demanding more powers for Cornish communities and less for centralised bureaucracy. Join us in demanding meaningful reform of local government instead of taking it further out of the reach of local residents. Join us in making your feelings known to John Pollard.

If you would like more information on how we will be truly ‘Standing Up For Cornwall’ then please contact me at starichardson@btinternet.com. Join us in the fight to bring ethical government home to Cornwall and closer to the people.

Cllr Stephen Richardson (on behalf of the Truro and Falmouth constituency party of Mebyon Kernow - The Party for Cornwall)

Saturday, 9 May 2015

A Fresh Start

Now that the general election is done Mebyon Kernow will be taking a long hard look at itself.

While the Lib Dems and the  Labour Party are clearly falling apart, and support for UKIP will undoubtedly fall off now that the question of the UK's EU membership is about to be settled once and for all, MK has basically stood still.

It could be argued that the general election is an encouraging result for MK given the nightmare that some of the parties are facing. However, if MK is to develop further and become a significant electoral force, then we have to acknowledge that there is a lot of work to do. We need to expand into the vacuum that is being created by a general drift to the right and the populist, sheeplike determination of Labour and Lib Dems to follow this drift.

We face many challenges but we also have many strengths.

We need to build on our strengths and address the challenges.

Over the Summer I shall be conducting a wide ranging survey of public and MK members' opinions in order to glean objective data and positive suggestions in our quest to be an ever stronger voice for the people of Cornwall.

If you are an MK member you will be able to attend one of several consultation sessions to be held in key towns right across Cornwall. You can also go to the members' forum on the MK website to join in the discussion.

If you are not an MK member, but have positive suggestions, why not email me at starichardson@btinternet.com ?