Sunday, 24 February 2008

Lib Dem MPs fail Cornwall

The Draft Cornwall (Structural Change) Order 2008 to set up a single unitary authority was debated in the House of Commons (Delegated Legislation Committee) on 7th February.

All five of Cornwall’s MPs were present and four spoke in favour of the Order – even after the Government’s Local Government Minister John Healey MP clarified that “no specific additional powers are attached to this restructuring to establish a single unitary council.”

Andrew George meanwhile used the debate to describe the Order as “technically, legally and politically defective” and a botched job. He also accused the Minister of producing a ‘minimalist’ regulation which “failed to meet the ambitions of the people of Cornwall.” However, the two MPs representing Cornish constituencies on the Delegated Legislation Committee (Julia Goldsworthy and Dan Rogerson) both voted for the proposal following the debate.

The Order actually passed through the House of Commons on 18th February by 287 votes to 116. Andrew George voted against the order but the other MPs did not vote.

Throughout the debate around Cornwall County Council's bid for a unitary authority, the Liberal Democrat leadership of the Council and Cornwall’s five MPs made claim after claim that a single unitary authority would lead to the devolution.

They even continued with this misinformation after a leading government civil servant visited Cornwall and rubbished their statements that a unitary authority for Cornwall would be given greater powers.

And now we have ridiculous situation of four Cornish MPs continuing to speak in favour of the proposals during a House of Commons debate - even after the Local Government Minister confirmed that the creation of a single unitary authority for Cornwall was about local government reform and nothing more – while Andrew George tries desperately to distance himself from his colleagues.

It is about time that Cornwall’s Liberal Democrats came clean and admitted that they have let Cornwall down by abandoning their commitment to a Cornish Assembly and that their half-baked proposals for a unitary authority will not lead to the devolution of greater powers.

I think that supporters of the campaign for a Cornish Assembly will be greatly interested in the following time-line of promises and pledges.

Sunday, 17 February 2008

Fiftieth birthday for CND

This weekend marks the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.

As a CND member and the leader of a political party that has supported complete nuclear disarmament for over 25 years, I believe it is vital we continue to push campaigns to outlaw nuclear weapons further and further up the political agenda.

CND is as relevant now as it was back in 1958. And it remains total madness that the British Government wishes to replace their Trident missile system at a cost of £75 billion-plus over the next 20 years or so.

Just think how we could better spend £75 billion on piblic services - on hospitals, schools, education and so much more.

Saturday, 16 February 2008

Sign the MK petition

Mebyon Kernow – the Party for Cornwall has launched a petition against proposals in the ‘Regional Spatial Strategy for the South West’ to massively increase house-building in Cornwall.

I hope that you will join us in making sure that thousands of people sign the petition in order to leave the various authorities (both elected and unelected) in no doubt about the strength of feeling in Cornish communities.

The petition states the following:

The SW Regional Spatial Strategy (RSS) aims to massively increase house-building in Cornwall.

· We object to the construction of 68,700 new properties in the next twenty years which would mean the equivalent of one new house for every four existing properties in Cornwall.

· This will have an unacceptable impact on our environment, Cornwall’s communities and infrastructure.

· We, the undersigned, call on central government to allow Cornwall’s democratically elected representatives to decide what is right for our area and to deliver a housing strategy that focuses on providing affordable homes to meet local needs, instead of promoting unsustainable house-building for its own sake.


Sunday, 3 February 2008

Objecting to the RSS

I am pleased to be able to report that, this week, a leading committee of Restormel Borough Council has hit out at plans to massively increase house-building in Mid Cornwall as set out in the latest draft of the Regional Spatial Strategy.

At Wednesday’s meeting of the planning policy committee (Policy and Scrutiny 4), of which I am the chairman, councillors supported my proposal to make immediate representations to the Government stating that the “Council does not support the proposed increases which it is considered are excessive and inappropriate to the needs of local communities.” It was also agreed to contact the other principal councils in Cornwall to make similar representations.

As I stated in a previous post on this blog, the original RSS produced by the unelected SW Regional Assembly in 2006 proposed that 45,000 houses should be built in Cornwall up to 2026, but an ‘Examination in Public’ has upped that figure to 68,700. Of these, it expects 15,700 properties to be built within the Restormel area.

In advance of this week’s meeting, I looked closely at the figures. The overall increase in house-building for the ‘South West region’ is 23%, while for Cornwall it is 53%. In Restormel however, it is an even unsustainable and unwarranted 83%. This equates to a 35% increase in Restormel’s housing stock in only two decades.

The full motion passed by the meeting was as follows:

“Policy and Scrutiny Committee 4 recommends that Restormel Borough Council sends immediate representations to the Department of Communities and Local Government on the figures for house-building in the Regional Spatial Strategy stating that the Council does not support the proposed increases which is considered are excessive and inappropriate to the needs of local communities; contact Cornwall County Council and the other five district councils to request that they make similar representations; note the remainder of the document and start work on a detailed response to the panel report in advance of the official consultation.”