Tuesday, 30 September 2014

MK demands Party Election Broadcast

On behalf of Mebyon Kernow – the Party for Cornwall, I have responded to a consultation by the Broadcasters’ Liaison Group about Party Election Broadcasts (PEBs) at the 2015 General Election.

In previous General Elections, MK has been denied PEBs because the threshold guidelines have specified that a “political party will qualify for one PEB” if it stands in a “minimum of one sixth of the seats up for election” in one of the “home nations” of England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

In order to be allowed a Party Election Broadcast, MK would therefore need to stand in a total of 89 seats across “England.”

I have described the situation as absurd. How can it be fair that MK – a Cornish political party – would need to stand in all six seats in the historic nation of Cornwall, as well as a further 83 seats outside of Cornwall, in order to be allowed a broadcast?

By contrast, political parties in Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland would only have to stand in three, seven and ten seats respectively. And this has meant that, over the last few years, a host of political parties – including the Christian Party (Wales), Scottish Green Party, Scottish Socialist Party and the Scottish Trade Union and Socialist Coalition – have been allocated airtime.

Mebyon Kernow – the Party for Cornwall has requested that the Broadcasters’ Liaison Group agree that genuine “regional” or “national” parties which stand candidates in a majority (or all) of the seats in a particular area be allowed an election broadcast.

A power-house democratic body for Cornwall

My column in tomorrow’s Cornish Guardian will be as follows:

I have campaigned for devolution to Cornwall for my entire adult life and I will make no apology for covering this important issue for the third consecutive week.

In 1997, when he launched his Government’s plans for a Scottish Parliament, the Scottish Secretary Donald Dewar stated that the aim was for a “fair and just settlement for Scotland within the framework of the United Kingdom.” He added that it would “strengthen democratic control and make government more accountable.”

In the same year, the Welsh Secretary Ron Davies argued that the creation of a Welsh Assembly would “give the people of Wales a real chance to set their own priorities” and to provide “leadership to reinvigorate all aspects of Welsh life and culture.”

I believe that Cornwall also needs a “fair and just settlement” as described by the late Donald Dewar, and a powerhouse democratic body that can provide the real leadership outlined by Ron Davies.

That is why I want to see a democratically-accountable National Assembly that can set the funding and policy framework for the majority of the public sector within Cornwall.

And following the NO vote in the Scottish referendum, the leaders of the three largest London-based parties have all been talking about devolution, but I have been extremely disappointed by the responses from local representatives of the largest Westminster parties.

The Conservative Party and the Labour Party have already set out their opposition to a Cornish Assembly.

Tory MPs such as George Eustice have begun to scaremonger, releasing statements about “more politicians,” a “waste of money” and “flash new parliament buildings.”

Candy Atherton meanwhile, speaking on behalf of the Cornwall Labour Party, said that a Cornish Assembly would just be “another layer of bureaucrats.” That must be somewhat galling for those Labour MSPs and AMs serving in the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly – their national legislatures – to be described as “bureaucrats.”

I am disappointed at their lack of ambition and I am confident that a National Assembly would be good for Cornwall’s democracy and its economy.

The present reality, as I see it, is that the Westminster Parliament retains control over most political decisions of real significance. Local government makes up only a portion of the public sector, and central government continues to remove power and financial resource from Cornwall Council, transferring influence to unelected bodies such as the Local Enterprise Partnership.

A National Assembly of Cornwall would be ceded powers from central government and would also reclaim powers exercised by a wide range of other unelected bodies. Likewise, many civil servants based in places such as Bristol and London would not be necessary. Professionals dealing with, for example, Cornwall’s environment, emergency services and principal highway network, would be based in Cornwall – creating many new jobs and boosting the local economy.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

The Labour Party opposes a Cornish Assembly

Ed Miliband recently declared that: “Devolution is for everyone.”

I am therefore very disappointed that Candy Atherton, apparently speaking on behalf of the Labour Party in Cornwall, has set out its opposition to a Cornish Assembly.

Speaking to a journalist at the Labour Party Conference, she claimed that “we certainly believe in devolving power and responsibilities to the local level,” but added that she wanted the unitary authority to work with the unelected Local Enterprise Partnership.

She said that “The last thing the electorate want is more politicians. I challenge you to knock on doors in a wet October and find more than one in 100. Mebyon Kernow are not exactly top of the pops.”

She added that she wanted additional flexibilities for Cornwall’s one principal authority, and that an Assembly would just be “another layer of bureaucrats.”

Well, it must be somewhat galling for those Labour MSPs and AMs serving in the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly - their national legislatures - to be described as “bureaucrats.”

I would remind Candy Atherton that in 2000/2001 over 50,000 people signed declarations calling for a Cornish Assembly, which clearly stated:

“I support the Campaign for a Cornish Assembly … We, the People of Cornwall, must have a greater say in how we are governed. We need a Cornish Assembly that can set the right democratic priorities for Cornwall and provide a stronger voice for our communities in Britain, in Europe and throughout the wider world.”

Candy Atherton was an MP at the time and did not support the campaign. Indeed, on the day that we delivered it to 10 Downing Street (12th December 2001), she actually misrepresented it in a debate on regional government in Westminster Hall. She said:

“The Cornish Assembly petition, with 50,000 signatures, is being delivered to No. 10 Downing Street today. It is a great petition, but I think that many of those who signed it wanted to show support for devolving power, rather than a desire for a purely Cornish Assembly.”

In 2014, I would hope that there are many Labour Party members and supporters out there who do support a Cornish Assembly. Please come forward and publicly back the campaign for a new democratic deal for Cornwall.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

A new democratic settlement for Cornwall

My column in today’s Cornish Guardian addressed the outcome of the Scottish independence referendum. It was as follows:

In last week’s column, I considered how the referendum on Scottish independence could have significant constitutional implications for the whole of the United Kingdom. And it already seems to be happening.

The people of Scotland voted NO to independence by a margin of 55% to 45%, and there is already considerable debate about the degree to which that NO vote was underpinned, or even guaranteed, by promises of additional powers for the Scottish Parliament from David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg.

The head of the Better Together campaign even acknowledged that, as a consequence, there was a “cry for change,” which was likely to be “echoed in every part of the UK.”

And speaking immediately after the result was announced, David Cameron himself told the assembled media at 10 Downing Street that it was “time for our United Kingdom to come together and to move forward.” He added that a “vital part … will be a balanced settlement, fair to people in Scotland, and importantly, to everyone in England, Wales and Northern Ireland as well.”

Depressingly, though somewhat predictably, the Westminster establishment immediately descended into disarray. The leaders of the three largest London-based parties publicly disagreed with each other about what they had actually offered the people of Scotland.

The First Minister of Scotland, Alex Salmond, has already accused them of “tricking” voters, while pledging to “hold Westminster’s feet to the fire on the ‘vow’ that they made to devolve further meaningful power to Scotland.” He further offered the view that the “real guardians of progress are not the politicians at Westminster … but the energised activism of tens of thousands of people who I predict will refuse meekly to go back into the political shadows.”

Many Westminster politicians are talking about devolution or new settlements for the “four nations” of the United Kingdom. But they seem to have a blind spot for that other unmentioned nation – Cornwall – whose people were recently recognised as a national minority.

It is my hope that the people of Cornwall will come together and speak up to demand a new democratic settlement, which takes significant political and economic powers from Westminster and brings them home to Cornwall.

I want to see a powerful legislative Assembly, though I acknowledge there may be many different views about what is best for Cornwall. But let us look at all the options and ideas, and let us attempt to mirror the recent debate in Scotland which was, in Alex Salmond’s words, a “triumph for democracy.”

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

My latest report to St Enoder Parish Council

My report for tonight’s meeting of St Enoder Parish Council covers the period 19th July – 22nd September. It is as follows:

1.         Council meetings

I have attended a range of meetings over the last two months. These included: Cabinet (2), Environment, Heritage and Planning Policy Advisory Committee (PAC) (2) and three associated pre-agenda briefings/meetings, Economy and Culture PAC, Partnerships PAC, Strategic Planning Committee, Central Sub-Area Planning Committee, China Clay Community Network, a meeting of PAC Chairmen, and a briefing on the budget pressures for the unitary authority.

2.         Other meetings

I also attended meetings of the Leader / Community Led Local Development working group (2) and the new (shadow) South and East Cornwall Local Action Group (2). Locally, I have attended meetings of Summercourt School Governors, Indian Queens Pit Association and the Clay Country Training and Work Centre.

I was fortunate to be invited to speak at the Edinburgh International Book Festival on the implications of the Scottish independence referendum for the rest of the United Kingdom (12th August) – it was £10 a ticket – and I also took part in a Conference on social enterprise at Truro College (12th September), where I was one of the invited speakers.

3.         South and East Cornwall LAG

As noted above, I have been heavily involved with the setting up of four Local Action Groups in Cornwall, which will allocate EU funding to local business and groups. Much of the work has been undertaken by the Leader / Community Led Local Development working group, which I have continued to chair.

I can also confirm that I have been selected as one of Cornwall Council’s three representatives on the new South and East Cornwall Local Action Group, which will extend from the China Clay Area to the Tamar. This presently exists in a shadow form, but the LAG will be formalised later in the year, when central government confirms the contract, and associated funding allocation, for the LAGs.

4.         St Enoder Neighbourhood Plan

One of my main priorities for the last nine weeks has been the finalisation of the questionnaire for the St Enoder Neighbourhood Plan. I am very pleased that the document (complete with freepost envelope) has been delivered around the whole of the Parish, and that we held our first two consultation events at Summercourt (17th September) and Indian Queens (22nd September).

I would like to thanks all members of the Council who are serving on the working group and/or have helped to deliver the questionnaires (including the Clerk).

5.         Budget debates

The ruling Liberal Democrat and Independent Cabinet has produced a document which sets out how it might cut a further £196 million from its already shrunken financial base over the next four years, as a consequence of yet more cuts from central government.

The situation is extremely grim and many of the cuts are extremely unpalatable. These include the privatisation of services and the loss of 1,300 jobs, right down to all future consultations with Parish Councils (including planning) being via email.

These potential cuts are being considered by the Council’s various PACs and Members are being asked to either “support” the “proposed budget savings” or find “alternative savings proposals achieving as a minimum the same level of proposed savings …”

6.         Penare Pig Farm, Higher Fraddon and associated AD plant

Over the last two months, I have received an increasing number of complaints about the construction of the biogas plant and the works on the pig farm at Penare. These can be summarised below:

- Personal complaint to Greener for Life

First, I would report that I have written a letter of complaint to the owners and future operators of the biogas plant (Greener for Life) and their present contractors (FLI Energy). It addresses their failure to involve the Parish Council with its communication with local residents, as well as their failure to inform either the Parish Council, or myself as divisional member, about their decision to “dig up” the road through Higher Fraddon and down Fraddon Hill for a gas pipe.

It is my understanding that it was originally planned that the pipe would be laid across agricultural land but that final agreement was not reached with a local farmer. I was especially livid because Fraddon Hill had only been surface dressed in July and Cormac were about patch the road through Higher Fraddon.

My letter to Greener for Life was as follows:

I am writing to formally raise concerns about the failure of Greener for Life to keep St Enoder Parish Council, and myself as the divisional member on Cornwall Council, adequately informed about its construction phase of the biogas plant at Penare Farm.

You will recall that when the pre-commencement conditions for the development were discharged, in regard to Condition 4, it was agreed that:

“… the developers shall ensure that in regard to the arrangements for regular liaison with the local Parish that your engagement with the local residents of St Enoder Parish shall be in association / partnership with St Enoder Parish Council. Furthermore you should also supply to the Council your indicative timetable for works including anticipated timescales of construction for information purposes.”

It is a great disappointment to me that the above approach to community engagement did not materialise.

I would point out that you also failed to inform either the Parish Council, or myself, that you intended to dig up the Higher Fraddon road – at the time that I had Cormac lined up to patch the very same road.

You will recall that, on a previous visit to site, I informed both Greener for Life and FLI Energy that the road was due to undergo repair work, so that you would be aware of potential delays.

I was therefore extremely disappointed that you did not think to inform me of your works, which would inevitably lead the postponement of the patching works that we planned.

I would add that I am grateful to FLI Energy for acting on recent complaints I have brought to them about the construction works, but add that I hope that both Greener for Life and FLI Energy will strive to develop a more engaged relationship with the Parish Council.

- Various complaints about the construction of the AD plant

A number of local residents have brought concerns to me about the construction works, many of which have related to traffic. It should be noted that vehicle movements were controlled by a Construction Environmental Management Plan, which states:

HGV deliveries will be planned and increased deliveries will be consulted with local residents.

We expect on average 5-7 staff vehicle cars, in addition there will be deliveries and plant movement, and we will undertake a fortnightly plan which will highlight any busy days for deliveries. This can be made available for inspection on request. We will also liaise with local residents.

Total vehicle movements will be in the order of 10-12 daily, although there will be certain days where concrete pours will take place and the number of vehicles will be increased. Letter drops will be carried out if required. The same will apply for large deliveries of steel, tanks etc.

The maximum vehicle size will be artic, this will be less than 10 visits perhaps 2 per month.

We will take all necessary precautions to avoid peak flow, and school hours.

The submitted plan was approved after consultation with the Highways Agency and the Council’s Highways Development Management Officer. It would be normal for traffic to increase when key concrete pours are planned because they would need to get in sufficient concrete as and when necessary on certain days to ensure the concrete mass cures at the same time.

The Council also included the following in its sign off letter:-

No construction activities shall be undertaken except between 0800 and 1800 hours Mondays to Fridays and between 0800 and 1300 hours on Saturdays. There shall be no such activities on Sundays or Bank Holidays.

I met with David Madders from the contractors (FLI Energy) and Johan Lourens (Greener for Life), who will be responsible for the running of the plant once it is operational, on 8th September.

Many of the complaints were about the number of vehicles, the size of some vehicles, their speed, damage to people’s property (such as drives, walls, etc). Photographs were also supplied showing large vehicles struggling get around the corner at the top of Higher Fraddon. Others included the large amount of dust, a recent episode of machinery working on a Sunday, and the urgent need for a meeting with local residents.

Following this meeting, David Madders sent me an email which responded to a number of the concerns. Printed below are some of the responses:

I feel before commenting on individual concerns that your neighbours surrounding the site are made aware that FLI Energy are contracted to build just the Biogas site. The Pig Facility and the associated traffic/noise/dust/nuisance has nothing to do with this project whatsoever, any complaints surrounding those activities should be addressed to the farmer directly. Also the works bringing services to the site are being managed and paid for by Greener for Life and any concerns/comments regarding these activities should be addressed to GFL directly.

Dust – I acknowledge that the road up to and around the corner from site is particularly dusty during this dry spell and to mitigate things I have contracted a sweeper to spend 4 hours a day [in Higher Fraddon] twice a week until the end of the construction period (circa end of November). After this time any construction related vehicles will be delivering to the pig farm.

Speed of vehicles – I acknowledge the resident’s concerns regarding the speed of both delivery vehicles and workmen. I will speak to the workmen directly and have placed an order for the … signs. [Please note: the signs, which will request that vehicles driving to and from the site show care and keep below 20 mph, have already been erected.]

Hours of work – I apologise for any noise created on Sunday. I’ve investigated and found the culprit. We had a broken down crane on site and an over-exuberant fitter thought he’d fix it on a Sunday without permission. I’ve contacted all our contractors to remind them of our obligations. There will be no FLI presence on site at any time on Sundays.

Flies – From our site tour and discussions yesterday regarding this nuisance I think we are in agreement that the biogas construction is not the cause of this and it is the adjacent farming operations.

With regard to the photos of vehicles turning the corner, the first low loader vehicle was delivering/collecting from the farmer. The second is delivering a container to me. It should be noted that whilst the vehicle is large it is around the size the majority of vehicles that will be delivering waste and collecting waste from the plant once it is opened.

From our discussions yesterday, Greener for Life have confirmed that to minimise traffic movements they intend to utilise a clever vehicle which can deliver dry material waste to the plant and collect the waste digestate in the same truck meaning half the traffic movements.

The traffic movements of the Biogas plant be around 30 per week so aprox 6 large trucks a day plus whatever the pig farmer has totalling around 50 a week.

From our site tour yesterday I confirmed that most of our big deliveries of vessels and equipment have arrived. We had lane closures on the A30, 3 nights during the last two months to get things in without using [the Higher Fraddon road].

- Works on the Pig Farm

Following a previous visit to the biogas plant, I requested the contact for the owner of the actual pig farm, as it had become apparent to me that new piggeries were being constructed on site and that a planning application for the redevelopment of the site had neither been submitted nor consented. 

It took a while for the information to be provided and I was immediately contacted by employees from the site, who sought information about the issue. I informed them that the site did not have a valid planning permission for the works that were being undertaken. This information was forwarded to the owner of the site who actually lives in the Republic of Ireland.

I have since had it confirmed that he has hired a local planning consultancy firm to put in a part-retrospective planning application for the pig farm.

Cornwall Council is aware of the situation. I requested that a senior planning officer and the planning consultant consider how this problem is dealt with. I remain disappointed that this has not happened and I have sought further assurances that the Council and developer entering into a dialogue about how the situation is dealt with.

I have also spoken to workmen on the pig farm site and asked that their staff, and individuals making deliveries, also respect a voluntary 20 mph speed limit in the area.

- The planning permission and future vehicle movements

A number of residents have also raised queries with me about the number of vehicles that would be travelling to and from the pig farm and biogas plant, once construction works have ceased.

Members will recall that planning permission for the biogas plant was granted by the former County Council in 2009 (NR/08/00389/WSENV). I was not on the County Council and took no part in the discussions because of an ‘interest’ caused by my former employment with the Council as an archaeologist. However, my recollection is that the application was successful because it argued, through the planning process, that it would actually reduce traffic. It then had its implementation period extended in 2012 for another three years (PA12/01700). 

At the time of the 2009 application, and according to the planning report, “the existing pig farm” generated 74 “two-way” traffic movements each week, as follows:

5 x 44 tonne articulated lorries (pig feed delivery)
2 x 6 wheel rigid lorries (pig feed delivery)
6 x delivery vans (pig feed delivery)
3 x 6 wheel rigid lorries (livestock delivery)
8 x tractor and livestock trailer (livestock delivery)
15 x 10m3 vacuum tankers (removal of slurry)
5 x 10m3 vacuum tankers (removal of dirty water)
10 x tractor/tele handler (infer pig unit movements)
20 x cars (staff)

The 2009 consent conditioned that the number of vehicle movements for both the pig farm and biogas plant in the future would collectively be no more than 51 “two-way” traffic movements each week, as follows:-

4 x 44 tonne articulated lorries (pig feed delivery)
2 x 6 wheel rigid lorries (pig feed delivery)
6 x delivery vans (pig feed delivery)
3 x 6 wheeled rigid lorries (waste delivery)
6 x tractor and livestock trailer (waste delivery)
8 x 32 tonne rigid lorries (waste delivery)
1 x 44 tonne articulated tanker (waste delivery)
10 x 10m3 vacuum tankers (biofertiliser removal)
1 x 15m3 vacuum tankers (separated solids)
10 x cars (staff)

This was also specified in a planning condition (No 20) as below.

Once operational the number and types of vehicles visiting the site shall not exceed those set out in para 11.26 (pages 256/257 of Volume 1 of the Environmental Statement). The operators shall keep contemporaneous records of all vehicles visiting the site for a minimum period of two years and shall provide written details of such vehicle movements at the request of the LPA to show compliance with this condition.

In 2013, a “non-material amendment” was agreed between the developer and Cornwall Council. This was not presented to me as local member or to the Parish Council. It was to change some of the imported organic material feedstocks and the Odour Management Plan was updated accordingly to reflect the other changes.

The “traffic movement overview” was also modified to be as follows:

3 x 44 tonne articulated lorries (whey)
1 x tractor and trailer (straw manure)
6 x 32 tonne articulated lorries (broiler manure)
2 x 44 tonne articulated lorries (fish waste)
2 x 44 tonne articulated lorries (blood)
1 x 44 tonne articulated lorry (rumen fill)
1 x 32 tonne articulated lorry (food waste)
4 x 6-wheeled rigid lorries (food waste)
5 x tractor and trailers (maize silage)
5 x tractor and trailers (grass silage)
5 x tractor and trailers (beet)
5 x 44 tonne articulated lorries (feed deliveries)
6 x 6-wheeled rigid lorries (livestock deliveries)
3 x tractor and trailers (no description)
2 x private vehicles (staff movements)

The new traffic movements show an increase in the size of the some of the vehicles coming to the plant, and large reduction in the number of staff vehicles. The new figures concern me and contradict other things that I have told, such as how the transport of maize silage feedstock to Penare from Treravel Farm will be undertaken, and it is my intention to request that the “traffic movement overview” be revisited (see below).

- Treravel application

I also attended the Strategic Planning Committee for the discussion on the planning application (PA14/03475) at Treravel Farm for storage tanks for digestate from Penare Farm and clamps for maize silage to feed the biogas plant.

The following condition was agreed and I have been assured that I will be consulted when the Operational Traffic Management Plan is submitted.

Prior to any vehicle transporting silage from the approved storage facility at Treravel Farm to the Anaerobic Digestion (AD) Plant at Penare Farm, Higher Fraddon [which had conditional planning permission (PA12/01700)] and/ or prior to any transfer of liquid or solid digestate from the aforementioned AD Plant to the approved storage facility at Treravel Farm, the applicants shall have submitted to and had approved in writing by the LPA, an Operational Traffic Management Plan (OTMP).

The OTMP shall include the following:-

- specification of approved route between the two sites (to be shown on a plan);
- details of sizes of vehicles;
- protocol in respect of advice to drivers to adhere to specified routes;
- control measures for drivers including appropriate disciplinary actions for non-adherence to the protocol;
- contingency measures should the approved route become temporarily unavailable.

The OTMP shall be implemented as approved for the duration of the approved development

As noted above, I question whether what is proposed in relation to Treravel Farm is in line with the “traffic movement overview” agreed as a “non-material amendment” in 2013. I will therefore be asking for a meeting in the near future with planners from Cornwall Council and Greener for Life to seek detailed information on traffic movements.

- Proposed new road?

At the Parish Council meeting in July, Mike Clarke and John Deane (Greener for Life) did a presentation seeking support for a potential access road to the biogas plant from the A30. As members will recall, we deferred discussion of the topic and requested further information about the issues and, in particular, correspondence with the relevant decision-making body (Highways Agency).

I have spoken to a range of people including the planning agent for the original permission and staff in the Council’s planning department, but they did not have any relevant paperwork about previous discussions.

I have requested further information from Mike Clarke and other staff at Greener for Life but have not yet received anything.

7.         Unauthorised development on land adjacent to the Kelliers

Early in September, it was brought to my attention that land immediately to the east of the Kelliers was being developed without planning permission. A previously overgrown field had been cleared, a wooden fence erected around the enclosure and hard-standing had been laid down for seven caravans. I was able to persuade the enforcement team to prioritise investigation of this site and they visited the area within 24 hours.

The landowner told enforcement officers that he intends to submit a planning application for a holiday caravan site, but if that is unacceptable he has stated that he would attempt to make it a site for gypsies and travellers. 

On the 17th September, the landowner cleared part of a bank of soil within the Kelliers and opposite his entrance, so that it would make it easier for the delivery of caravans. He did the works without consent from the landowner (Cornwall Council) and he was still on-site when I visited the Kelliers with the Clerk. There was a conversation during which I pointed out the unlawful nature of what he was doing.

The enforcement team from Cornwall Council are actively monitoring the situation and have given advice to the landowner that he should stop works, but it is clear that he is not following their advice. The enforcement team have also served a PCN (Planning Contravention Notice) on the landowner.

8.         Indian Queens School

In July, I reported how I had attended a public consultation at Indian Queens School concerning the plans for the additional classrooms at the site (16th July). The planning application was submitted on 28th July, and I was disappointed that the “traffic management plan” produced by consultants for the unitary authority did not take much notice of the worries of local residents concerning the existing problems with traffic and congestion.

I have continued to make representations to Cornwall Council about local resident’s concerns and will report back in more detail at the next Full Council meeting in October.

9.         20mph speed limit around the Drang and Suncrest Estate

I am pleased to be able to report that the recent consultation into a 20 mph speed limit on the roads around the Indian Queens Primary School received a positive response and the works will be happening in the future.

10.       Highways budget

In the previous Council, I had a personal budget for highways works within St Enoder Parish which totalled £24,000. Members may recall that I funded a number of small schemes and spent half of the allocation on streetlights in the Carworgie Way and Halloon Avenue estate.

In this Council (2013-2017), because of the cuts, I have no such pot of funding. The authority does however have a central allocation of money, extremely limited in scope, but to which members can bid for support. Members were given a deadline of mid August to put forward schemes for consideration and I have registered all proposals listed in the Parish Plan and which the Parish Council has discussed in recent years. These were as follows:

-  Entrance points into the main built-up areas of St Enoder Parish and other key locations. These include: Old A30 westbound into Indian Queens, old A30 eastbound into Fraddon, A39 southbound into St Columb Road, A39 northbound into St Columb Road, west-bound carriageway (Newquay Road) into St Columb Road, old A30 westbound into Summercourt near the primary school, A3058 northwards into St Austell Street, Summercourt, and A3058 southwards into Summercourt.

-  Measures relating to the expansion of Indian Queens Primary School and ongoing problems with traffic congestion / conflict with local neighbours (see School Travel Plan by Hyder Consulting). These include pedestrian crossings on St Francis Road and Chapel Road, parking restrictions near the School, new footpath links to Harvenna Heights estate (to be completed by Ocean Housing in 2016) to the west, and linking Halloon Avenue to the north, extension of footways on St Francis Road, introduction of crossing patrol(s), and widening of entrance into the Drang as suggested by local residents.

-  Traffic management measures to combat traffic congestion, parking problems and conflict between car drivers and local residents around the Co-op and along St Francis Road.

-  Pedestrian crossings at Summercourt crossroads.

-  20 mph speed limit by Summercourt Primary School, potentially linked to gateway features.

It should be noted that Cornwall Council has a long list of proposals for a 20 mph speed limits near schools – a small number of which are done each year. All schools have been assessed on a range of criteria, but any scheme for the area around Summercourt Primary School is still two-thirds of the way down the list. I have therefore formally requested that the criteria which underpins the list is reviewed and changed.

11.       Works on the local road network

At Parish Council meetings over the last six months, I have reported on a range of planned works on local roads.

I have had a number of complaints about the surface dressing along the old A30 between Fraddon and Indian Queens, including the amount of loose gravel that ended up on the pavements. I have made a number of representations to Cormac about this and there have been a number of attempts to tidy up / reduce the amount of loose gravel in the area. I am not satisfied with what has happened and I am continuing a dialogue with the relevant officers at Cornwall Council.

As noted previously, the patching of the road through Fraddon had to be postponed because contractors for the biogas plant are excavating the road for a gas pipe. I am in contact with Cornwall Council / Cormac to seek assurances that the patching will be carried out immediately after the pipe-laying has been completed.

A road ditch at Gaverigan, where there has been regular flooding of the local road, was also cleared by Cormac and I have asked them to revisit a similar road ditch at Higher Fraddon. The ditch in Higher Fraddon was cleared in July but the water does not appear to be draining away through the pipe which local residents say is there.

The following works continue to be planned for 2014-2015:

Burthy and Chytane - patching
Carnego Lane, Summercourt - patching & surface dressing
Carvynick, Summercourt - patching
Narrow Lane to St Enoder - patching & surface dressing
Newquay Road, St Columb Road - patching & surface dressing

I am also continuing to push for patching or further patching in the following areas:

Barton Lane, Fraddon
Trevarren village

12.       Drains in Fraddon

I have not yet had the opportunity to study the camera survey of the road drains throughout Fraddon was undertaken earlier this year. I will report back in more detail at the next Parish Council meeting.

13.       Loss of the Claybus

On 30th July, I attended the Cabinet meeting which agreed the unitary authority’s approach to mobile library and mobile one stop shop services.

Three options had been presented at previous meetings and the Cabinet agreed to “retain one mobile library van (visiting stops for twenty minutes only on a monthly basis), community/micro library support and expansion of Home Library Service.”

I unsuccessfully argued against the cuts which I said would be extremely damaging to the China Clay Area, because our communities do not have a permanent One Stop Shop or any static libraries.

The Cabinet duly sent out a press release with the positive message: “Council’s Cabinet votes to retain mobile library service in Cornwall.”

I prefer the interpretation of a colleague who pointed out: “Unfortunately, because of a typographical error, two words were missing from the [press release] headline. It should have read: ‘Council’s Cabinet votes to retain 12% of mobile library service in Cornwall’ … currently, the mobile library service makes 665 stops fortnightly. In future, it will make 172 stops monthly … hopefully, we will not make the same error in future press releases when we cut services by over 80%.”

The decision means that the Claybus will cease to operate within a matter of months, though the one surviving mobile library van, for the whole of Cornwall, will call at stops in St Enoder Parish.

14.       Planning matters – traveller site at Toldish

At the Parish Council meeting in July, we discussed the decision of an “out-of-Cornwall” planning inspector to overturn the decision of Cornwall Council to refuse permission for two traveller pitches near Toldish.  

Following the meeting, I wrote to the Planning Service and requested that they challenge the ruling. They declined to take this course of action and the response from Nigel Doyle was as follows:

I have carefully read the appeal decision letter.  I regret that I consider the prospects of a successful challenge to the decision to be poor. Challenges can only proceed on public law grounds and these are narrow.  These narrow grounds do not provide an opportunity to rerun arguments on the planning merits of the case.

The Council must have recognised that this would be a difficult appeal to win given the case officer’s recommendation, and the Inspector’s analysis and overall conclusions seem to me to provide no basis for an arguable public law challenge. While individuals may disagree with the Inspector’s conclusion it seems to me that this conclusion was lawfully open to him on the evidence. He has balanced the issues and come to a clear decision that is in no way perverse.     

15.       Planning matters – Central Sub-Area Planning Committee
            (4th August)

The developments (PA14/00882): residential development for 20 dwellings on land west of Kilburn, Fraddon and (PA14/00652): use of land for the stationing of 44 holiday lodges in place of 46 motor home touring pitches at Carvynick, were presented to this meeting. Both were recommended for approval. I attended and spoke at the meeting, along with the Chairman of St Enoder Parish Council, who set out local objections to the proposals.

The application for Carvynick was deferred because of uncertainty about the layout plan and concerns as to whether it was possible to position 44 separate units within the site. The meeting voted to “request the applicant to submit a scaled drawing indicating the size, layout and spacing of the proposed holiday lodges.”

I understand that the applicant has not provided a plan as requested and the application has been place on the agenda of the next meeting of the Central Sub-Area Planning Committee, which will take place on the 29th September.

In my last July report, I set out the range of concerns, which I share with the Parish Council, about the application for housing on land to the west of Kilburn. At the planning meeting, I strongly – and repeatedly – argued against the application and I was very disappointed when the application was granted by eight votes to six. The members of the Planning Committee did however agree that the indicative plan was “not acceptable for the following reasons: inadequate space standards for the affordable housing, inequitable division of land take between the open market and affordable housing, disparity between size of the affordable and open market housing units, and lack of pepper potting of the affordable housing units.”

16.       Planning matters – Gaverigan Manor Farm wind turbine

The application for a wind turbine on Gaverigan Manor Farm has been recommended for approval by planning officers. Enoder Parish Council objected to the proposal and I have referred it to the Central Sub-Area Planning Committee. It has been placed on the agenda of the next meeting, which will take place on 29th September.

I have given guidance to both the applicants and the nearest objectors, and I requested that members of the Planning Committee visit the site in advance of the meeting. The site visit took place on the 22nd September and I attended, along with six members of the Committee.

17.       Parish Council business

I have also assisted the Clerk and other Parish Councillors on a range of issues and it was wonderful to be able to attend the opening of the new Youth Club building, by Cllr Bunyan, on Sunday 17th August.

18.       Inquiries

Throughout the last month, I have also helped numerous people and local organisations with advice and guidance on a wide range of issues.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

BBC Sunday Politics - the link

Anyone who wishes to view today’s exchanges about devolution on the BBC’s Sunday Politics, can view it on:


BBC Sunday Politics ... today

Today, I will be appearing on the Sunday Politics show. The programme starts at 11.00 on BBC1 and the “South West” snippet, which will involve me, should commence at around 11.30.

The main debate will focus on the implications of the Scottish referendum and, I understand, the other participants will include Truro and Falmouth MP Sarah Newton and a representative of UKIP.

Saturday, 20 September 2014

MK meeting in St Austell and Newquay Constituency: Friday 26th September

A meeting for Mebyon Kernow members in the St Austell and Newquay Constituency has been arranged for the evening of Friday 26th September. The meeting will take place at ClayTAWC in St Dennis.

Issues for discussion at the meeting will include our approach to the selection of a parliamentary candidate, the implications of the referendum on Scottish independence on the campaign for more powers for Cornwall, the profile of Mebyon Kernow in Mid Cornwall, as well as future MK activities in the area.

Anyone from the St Austell and Newquay Constituency, who would be interested in finding out more about the meeting, can call me on 07791 876607.

Friday, 19 September 2014

Alex Salmond

The announcement from Alex Salmond that he intends to stand down as the leader of the SNP at the Party’s November Conference, and then as First Minister, has been met with considerable surprise.

In his statement, he stated how he was “immensely proud of the campaign which Yes Scotland fought and of the 1.6 million voters who rallied to his cause by backing an independent Scotland, adding that he was also “proud of the 85 per cent turnout in the referendum and the remarkable response of all of the people of Scotland who participated in this great constitutional debate and the manner in which they conducted themselves.”

He focused on the necessity to “hold Westminster’s feet to the fire on the ‘vow’ that they have made to devolve further meaningful power to Scotland. This places Scotland in a very strong position … the real guardians of progress are not the politicians at Westminster, or even at Holyrood, but the energised activism of tens of thousands of people who I predict will refuse meekly to go back into the political shadows.”

Alex Salmond is an inspiration. He led the Scottish National Party with distinction, turning it into a party of government, becoming Scotland’s longest-serving First Minister, and changing the very political landscape of modern Scotland, securing more and more powers for his homeland.

He should be extremely proud of what he has achieved and how he has changed Scotland for the better.

Cornish Assembly: the Liberal Democrats need to come clean

Two days ago, I wrote a blog about the Liberal Democrat’s “commitment” to a Cornish Assembly.

I was extremely critical about Alex Folkes’ statement that: “My belief is that the current Cornwall Council should take on more powers and become the assembly.”

And I set out my incredulity about the Lib Dem view that devolution to Cornwall should be about further local government reform and not the creation of a new and powerful Cornish Assembly.

But further to this, I have just seen a report that Cornwall’s Liberal Democrats will launch their campaign for a Cornish Assembly at a meeting in Bodmin, next week, which will be addressed by Lib Dem MPs and parliamentary candidates.

Julia Goldsworthy is quoted as saying:

“As Scotland and Wales take still more power from Westminster, the rest of the UK cannot be left behind. We need real devolution in Cornwall too. Not just more power for local government, but a proper legislative assembly for Cornwall like Wales has.

“Ours is the only UK party committed at the highest level to a Cornish Assembly, and we have the capacity to deliver it. The Conservatives continue to believe that Cornwall should be ruled from London.

“Real devolution from London will mean we can devolve even more power from the new Assembly to towns and parishes all around Cornwall.”

I am confused. The “proper legislative assembly for Cornwall” referenced in the statement contradicts what Alex Folkes said only days ago. But the statement also talks about devolving more power to towns and parishes, as if it was only a unitary authority.

We need clarity from the Liberal Democrats. What exactly are they going to be campaigning for?

Tories oppose a Cornish Assembly

This morning, I took part in a short debate at the Radio Cornwall studio about the outcome of the Scottish independence referendum and, obviously, the impact on the wider UK. Also involved was Truro and Falmouth MP Sarah Newton and academic Dr Joanie Willett.

We are hearing David Cameron and other Tories talking about the decentralisation of political powers, but 
Sarah Newton made it clear that she opposes a Cornish Assembly.

Sarah Newton and I did not agree on a single thing during the debate. I have since read an article on her website, which set out her perspective on devolution which I found perplexing in the extreme.

She wrote:

“As we watch another Celtic nation decide on its future relationship with the British state it is right to consider Cornwall and our future. Predictably supporters of a Cornish Assembly are jumping on the independence bandwagon. Like the Cornish Assembly campaigners I believe that Cornwall is special and has a unique history, language and culture. However I don’t believe that we need to create a costly, new institution to express our identity. Do we really need a Cornish Assembly to be proudly Cornish?

“What we do need is more decisions about Cornwall being made in Cornwall. Our Duchy is a distinctive place, with distinctive needs. Distinctively Cornish solutions are needed. This is why at the last election I stood on a manifesto that promised ‘Power to the People,’ proposing a devolution to powers from Westminster to people and communities around the UK. I have been pleased to help deliver some of these powers to Cornwall.”

The list of examples that she gave in her article included the ability to agree a Local Plan that delivers the “right level of housing for the Duchy,” which is not what is happening in practice because of the interference of central government, changes to the National Health Service, and that the unelected Local Enterprise Partnership has a “new flexibility and local control” over aspects of Cornwall’s own European funding!

These are not good examples of democratic devolution and I am saddened that she chose to describe a Cornish Assembly as a “tokenistic institution …”

Her talk of the unique history, language, culture and distinctiveness of the Celtic nation of Cornwall merely masks her refusal to treat Cornwall as a meaningful political entity in its own right, just as her empty promises of “Cornish solutions” and “Power to the People” obscure the fact that the Conservative Party is a London-centric party, more concerned about “English-only” votes in Westminster than democratic devolution to Cornwall. 

MK comment on the significance of the Scottish independence referendum

I have just released the following statement on behalf of MK.

Mebyon Kernow wishes to repeat its call for a mature, respectful and wide-ranging debate about the future of the whole of the United Kingdom, all its constituent parts and how they are governed – with Cornwall at the heart of that debate.

The people of Scotland did not vote for independence, but the NO vote was underpinned by promises of additional powers for the Scottish Parliament from David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg.

The three leaders of the Westminster parties claim that a ‘stronger Scottish Parliament’ would actually strengthen the basis of the United Kingdom.

This has huge constitutional significance and it would now be hypocritical for Cameron, Miliband and Clegg to deny the opportunity of devolution to Cornwall through its own National Assembly.

Now is the time for the people of Cornwall to speak up and demand a new democratic settlement, which takes power from Westminster and brings it home to Cornwall.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Cornish Assembly? A response to Lib Dem councillor Alex Folkes

When the Labour Government and Cornwall’s Liberal Democrats imposed a unitary authority on Cornwall in 2009, I warned that it would do great damage to the campaign for a Cornish Assembly – limiting the ambition of those politicians, many from London-centred political parties, who had given a degree of support to greater powers for Cornwall.

Sadly, recent events have shown that I was correct.

Following on from his appearance on the Sunday Politics South West (13th September), prominent Liberal Democrat councillor Alex Folkes has written about his “support” for a Cornish Assembly.

I would like to bring the attention of readers to the following extract:

“The Liberal Democrats have announced that we will be fighting the next general election on a pledge to devolve powers from Westminster including the establishment of a Cornish Assembly. We believe in devolution on demand and recognise that what is right for one area may not be right for another … The discussion about exactly what powers a Cornish Assembly should have and what should fit around it is still to be had. My belief is that the current Cornwall Council should take on more powers and become the assembly. I don't see the need for the creation of a new tier of councils below the assembly. More powers and responsibilities could be given to beefed up town and parish councils to fulfil the role.”

I am so saddened at Alex’s view that devolution to Cornwall should be about further local government reforms and not the creation of a new and powerful Cornish Assembly.

And I would like to remind him of a few things.

The Lib Dems contested the 2005 General Election and Cornwall County Council elections with a Cornish Manifesto, which included a commitment to a Cornish Assembly.

Upon winning all five Cornish constituencies and control of Cornwall County Council that year, they published a list of priorities that included a pledge to “establish detailed plans for a Cornish Assembly” within their first year of office.

At another conference of Cornish Liberal Democrats in November 2005, they re-affirmed their commitment to the campaign for a Cornish Assembly. The motion specifically stated that “devolution to a Cornish tier of strategic regional government” was needed in advance of any reform to local government structures. In their press material to publicise the event, Andrew George MP said: “… the Government will not get away with their belief that they can fob us off with a rearrangement of deckchairs on the Titanic of local government.”

At that time, Cornwall had a County Council (82 councillors) and six district councils (249 councillors) – a total of 331 elected members.

They had a fantastic opportunity to unite local communities behind radical democratic reform. And it was such a simple message. We could create a Cornwall-wide strategic National Assembly, rationalise local government with a single tier of unitary authorities and remove power from a range of unelected and unaccountable bodies – almost all based outside of Cornwall.

But the Lib Dems did not take forward their pledge of “devolution to a Cornish tier of strategic regional government.” They jettisoned their commitment to a Cornish Assembly and pushed through the centralisation of local government with the creation of a single unitary authority.

Five years on – following the terrible austerity measures of the Coalition and a continued shift of power away from Cornwall – the inability of some leading Liberal Democrats to distance their “local government” mindset from calls for more powers for Cornwall does show a terrible lack of ambition.

At the same time, their timidity allows opponents of Cornish devolution (many to be found in the ranks of the Conservative and Labour parties) to argue against “more politicians” and “more layers” of governance – even though Cornwall is already suffering from a massive democratic deficit and has less democratically accountable politicians than most other parts of the United Kingdom.

I have a message for Alex Folkes and the Liberal Democrats.

If you are serious about support for a Cornish Assembly, you need to think of Cornwall as being on a par with Wales and Scotland. And helping to deliver a new democratic settlement that matches that which has been won east of Offa’s Dyke and to the north of the Solway Firth.

Cornwall (population 534,000) is disadvantaged by not having a National Assembly that can legislate for the best interests of Cornwall and its people. And in terms of local government, Cornwall only has 123 councillors on its single principal authority – just 37% of the number of councillors we had before 2009.

In contrast, Scotland (population 5.29 million) has 129 MSPs and 1,222 councillors on 32 local authorities, while Wales (population 3.06 million) has 60 AMs and 1,254 councillors on 22 local authorities.

Now is the time to make the case for a proper, powerful and empowering National Assembly for Cornwall – and I would recommend that he reads MK’s “Towards a National Assembly for Cornwall.”

Further information
The full text of Alex Folkes’ article can be found at: http://lansonboy.blogspot.co.uk/2014/09/devolution-discussion-on-sunday-politics.html
MK’s “Towards a National Assembly for Cornwall” can be found at:

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Another indyref interview

This afternoon, I was interviewed by Eddie Mair for his PM slot on Radio 4. The programme concentrated on the implications of the referendum for the remainder of the UK, and also featured Leanne Wood from Plaid Cymru and Richard Carter from Yorkshire First.

The programme can be found at:

Monday, 15 September 2014

Neighbourhood Plan for St Enoder Parish

The members of St Enoder Parish Council are presently out and about delivering an important survey to all properties within my local Parish – complete with a freepost envelope to make it easy for local residents to respond.

All completed questionnaires returned by Saturday 4th October will also be entered into a prize draw, with four lucky winners all receiving a prize of £50.

I am a member of a working group from the Council, which is working on a Neighbourhood Plan. This will agree a range of planning policies, for example, to identify what land should be safeguarded for the benefit of the community and to set out where future housing might be built.

This questionnaire is a vital stage in the preparation of a Neighbourhood Plan. All the responses will shape the document so that it fully reflects the views of local people. This is an important survey and we hope that local residents will take the time to complete the questionnaire and let us know what they think.

Three consultation events are also planned for September, which will allow local people the opportunity to meet members of the steering group and to give further information about what you want for St Enoder Parish.

The events are as follows:

Wednesday 17th September – Summercourt New Memorial Hall: 2.00 – 8.00
Monday 22nd September –- Indian Queens Victory Hall: 2.00 – 8.00
Tuesday 30th September – Fraddon Village Hall: 2.00 – 7.00

Quotes from the BBC Politics Show (South West)

Having just finished my piece for this coming week’s Cornish Guardian – which focused on the attitude of the London parties to more powers for Cornwall – I have just watched today’s edition of the Politics Show (South West), on iplayer.

There was a feature on the implications of the Scottish referendum for Cornwall, which included contributions from myself, my good friend Dr Joanie Willett and the Leader of Cornwall Council, John Pollard. George Eustice MP (Conservative), Cllr Candy Atherton (Labour) and Cllr Alex Folkes (Liberal Democrats) meanwhile took part in the studio debate.

I found the whole thing very depressing. Listed below are some quotes from the programme.

John Pollard argued for more powers to the unitary authority, saying it could act as an Assembly, stating that Cornwall had “one geographical region, one culture, one history, one heritage, one language, and one council …” The Cornish Language Partnership, in particular, must be worried if the Council Leader thinks there is only one language in Cornwall.

Candy Atherton talked a lot about devolution to what she described an “appropriate area.” She stated that she opposed a Cornish Assembly, saying “we don’t need a whole new load of politicians, another layer, that is the last thing people want, but they do want to have control over what’s going on in their community. And not Whitehall bureaucrats or Whitehall politicians making the decisions.”

Alex Folkes said “we want to see a transfer of powers to individual regions based on what is right for those regions … Cornwall would be considered a region. It is explicitly made clear in our pre-manifesto that a Cornish Assembly is what we want to see … I think we should be seeing a wholesale transfer of powers … I think we should see huge powers transfer along the lines of the Welsh Assembly. Lets move those powers to Cornwall. We don’t need to have another layer of bureaucracy. We can enhance the Cornwall Council to become an Assembly …”

George Eustice confirmed that he did not support the case for a Cornish Assembly. Echoing Candy Atherton, he said “We don’t need a new Assembly paying lots of money for another tier of politicians. We just don’t need that in Cornwall.”

I am distressed how so many of Cornwall’s so-called “leading” politicians refuse to acknowledge the massive democratic deficit facing Cornwall and fail to see the difference between regional/national government and local government.

If you want to watch the piece – not to be recommended – it can be found at:

Sunday, 14 September 2014

This week's Cornish Guardian article ... more powers for Cornwall?

My column for this coming week’s Cornish Guardian unsurprisingly focuses on the upcoming Scottish independence referendum. It includes much of the material I have blogged about over the last couple of days. It will be as follows:

The referendum on Scottish independence, which will take place on Thursday 18th September, is increasingly forcing politicians to consider the wider constitutional implications of the vote.

Whatever the result in Scotland, I hope it will herald a rethink about the governance of the whole of the UK

David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg have published a joint declaration which promises to “strengthen” the powers of the Scottish Parliament if the people of Scotland vote NO. They claim that delivering a “strong Scottish Parliament” will actually strengthen the basis of the United Kingdom.

If the Conservative Party, the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats all agree that greater powers for Scotland would be beneficial to the United Kingdom, they must also accept that the devolution of significant political and economic powers to other parts of the UK is also appropriate and would be equally beneficial to one and all.

As the Leader of Mebyon Kernow, I have challenged the leaders of the three largest London-based parties to support the creation of a strong Cornish Assembly which, to use their recent words, would also strengthen the United Kingdom.

And it just happens that the Liberal Democrats have published a “pre-manifesto” document and sent out a press release claiming they would “campaign at the next General Election to introduce a Cornish Assembly.” But the relevant section of the pre-manifesto document confusingly states that the party would enable “greater devolution of powers from Westminster to councils or groups of councils working together (for example to a Cornish Assembly).”

For Labour, Ed Miliband has declared that: “Further devolution is coming to Wales, and Scotland’s example will lead the way in changing how we are governed in England too … with extensive new devolution to local government from Cornwall to Cumbria.”

I am extremely disappointed that both the Liberal Democrats and Labour are couching talk about devolution within the context of local government. We need to be more ambitious than that for Cornwall. We need a new democratic deal on a par with Scotland and Wales – a legislative Cornish Assembly – not just a few more additional powers for local government.

But I am also disappointed by the attitude of local Conservatives such as Sarah Newton MP. When asked about the creation of an Assembly – for a constituent part of the UK – why does she feel the need to scaremonger that such devolution would lead to the break up of the United Kingdom, when David Cameron is claiming the opposite?

Miliband pledges "Devolution is for everyone" ... really?

Ed Miliband – writing on The Guardian website – has declared that: “Devolution is for everyone. A no vote will change all of Britain.”

The full statement can be found at:

Extracts include the following:

There can be no doubt that this referendum has changed Scotland. But it has not just changed Scotland; it will change Britain, because the thirst for democratic and economic change that has been heard from the people of Scotland will lead to change throughout Britain after 18 September.

…  Scotland has led the way, but devolution is not a project just for Scotland. Further devolution is coming to Wales, and Scotland's example will lead the way in changing how we are governed in England too. That is why we have proposed changing the way we are governed in England, with extensive new devolution to local government from Cornwall to Cumbria.

I have little faith in what will come out of the Labour Party and there are a couple of other points that I would like to say:

Firstly, when the Labour Government was in power, it refused to consider devolution for Cornwall. It ignored the 50,000 individually-signed declarations for a Cornish Assembly delivered to 10 Downing Street in December 2001 and, instead, disgracefully chose to centralise local government in Cornwall in the face of 80% opposition.

And secondly, Milband’s "new" offer is about local government. A few additional powers for local government – which for the record is being destroyed by the Westminster classes – is not enough. We should have more ambition for Cornwall and that must mean a legislative Cornish Assembly.

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Lib Dems unveil (unclear) plans for a Cornish Assembly

The Liberal Democrats yesterday published a press release with the heading: “Lib Dem plans for a Cornish Assembly unveiled.”

It stated:

The Liberal Democrats have announced that they will campaign at the next General Election to introduce a Cornish Assembly.

Liberal Democrats in Cornwall have long fought for greater powers for the Duchy and for recognition of “Cornwall’s unique heritage, culture and constitutional status.”

In 2009, Dan Rogerson MP introduced the Government of Cornwall Bill to Parliament which proposed a legislative Assembly for Cornwall similar to the National Assembly for Wales.

Introducing a Cornish Assembly was already a national Liberal Democrat party policy, but will now feature in the party’s planned manifesto for the next General Election in May 2015.

The press release followed the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg’s launch of a Liberal Democrat ‘pre-manifesto,’ which they said contained a commitment to greater Cornish self-government.

Sadly, I have to be very cynical about the announcement.

I cannot forget that the Lib Dems contested the 2005 General Election and 2005 Cornwall County Council elections with a Cornish Manifesto, which included a commitment to a Cornish Assembly. And, upon winning control of the County Council that year, they published a list of priorities that included a pledge to “establish detailed plans for a Cornish Assembly” within their first year of office. The Lib Dems did not take this pledge forward and, even worse, pushed through the centralisation of local government in Cornwall – undermining the case for a Cornish Assembly that they claimed to support.

However, I have looked at the pre-manifesto document, and the relevant section which is “7.2 Devolving power in England” (sic). It states the following and the relevant statement is highlighted in red.

Liberal Democrats believe that in England too, far too much power remains concentrated in Westminster; ours is one of the most centralised countries in the Western world and that has to change.

Only by returning power to the communities, villages, towns, cities and regions of England can we drive growth, improve public services and give people the freedom to run their own lives.

We will:
• Reduce the powers of the Department of Communities and Local Government to interfere in democratically elected local government in England.
• Remove the requirement to hold local referenda for Council Tax changes in England.
• Build on the success of City Deals and Growth Deals, to devolve more power and resources to groups of local authorities and local enterprise partnerships, starting with back to work support.
• Introduce ‘Devolution on Demand,’ enabling even greater devolution of powers from Westminster to councils or groups of councils working together (for example to a Cornish Assembly).
• Establish a commission to explore the scope for greater devolution of financial responsibility to English local authorities, and new devolved bodies in England.

I am not impressed and it is all so confused. Why is the “commitment” to a Cornish Assembly couched in the terminology of local government? And why does reference to “Growth Deals” have to be to “groups of local authorities” and unelected and unaccountable “local enterprise partnerships”? And what are the “new devolved bodies” in the final bullet-point.

In the coming days, I will be seeking clarity and further details from local Liberal Democrats about their less-than-clear "proposal."