Saturday, 24 December 2016

Best wishes for Christmas and the New Year

As we edge ever closer to the festive break, I would like to wish everyone a very Happy Christmas and a prosperous and healthy New Year.

I would also like to thank all those people who have been supportive of my work throughout 2016, as both the councillor for St Enoder and as the leader of Mebyon Kernow.

I can assure you all that I am most grateful for the help and encouragement I have received. It is much appreciated.

Nadelik lowen ha blydhen nowydh da.

Friday, 16 December 2016

Out and about in St Enoder Parish

This week, I have been delivering my latest (six-monthly) newsletter in Fraddon, Indian Queens, St Columb Road and Summercourt.

We have covered more than half of local residences and we will be doing our best to get around as much of the remainder of the Parish as we can before Christmas.

It has certainly been great to bump into so many people and I look forward seeing many more of you next week.

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

My latest monthly report to St Enoder Parish Council

At tonight’s meeting of St Enoder Parish Council, I tabled my latest monthly report which covered the period from 24th October to 11th December 2016. It was as follows:

1. Council meetings

I have attended a range of formal meetings at Cornwall Council over the last six weeks. These included: Full Council (2), Planning Policy Advisory Panel (3), associated preparatory and follow-up meetings (4) and a workshop, Central Sub-Area Planning Committee, Constitution and Governance Committee and associated informal meeting, Electoral Review Panel (2) and associated workshop, member briefings (3), Group Leaders meeting, China Clay Network meeting, a meeting of members from the Clay Area, Incinerator Liaison Group, and meetings relating to Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities (3).

As well as the meetings listed above, I have had a large number of informal meetings with council officers at the unitary authority, and I have attended four meetings of St Enoder Parish Council and two meetings of the working group for the St Enoder Neighbourhood Plan (2).

2. Other meetings

I have also attended meetings of the ClayTAWC centre where I am Chairman (3), St Austell Bay Economic Forum (2), and the South and East Cornwall Local Action Group.

3. Full Council: 1st November

A special meeting of the Council was held to consider its position on the review into parliamentary constituencies. I am pleased to report that there was an overwhelming majority (78 votes to 12) against a cross-Tamar constituency.

In addition, I attended three days of hearings into the review at Exeter (7th November) and Truro (10th and 11th November). During the second day in Truro, I gave a twenty minute presentation in support of keeping Cornwall whole.

4. Full Council: 22nd November

At the second meeting of Cornwall Council in November, the budget for 2017/2018 was agreed and the Local Plan was also adopted by the authority.

The Liberal Democrat and Independent administration budget for 2017/2018 included a council tax increase of 3.97%, which included a precept levy of 2% to be specifically used for social care. A majority of councillors supported the budget, myself included.

None of the other political groups moved any amendments in the debate. And the telling thing for me was that the unitary authority will raise an additional £14 million from council tax next year but, because of ongoing cuts from central government, the Council will, overall, end up with £2.5 million less to spend on services.

In terms of the Cornwall Local Plan, councillors accepted the recommendations from the Examination in Public (EiP) run by an independent inspector – even though individual councillors raised concerns about a number of the changes. However, the strategic policies in the Local Plan now give greater surety to those groups working on Neighbourhood Plans for their local parishes.

5. Neighbourhood Plan

My priority in recent weeks has been the drafting of the second consultation for the St Enoder Neighbourhood Plan. The draft is on tonight’s agenda and I would like to thank my colleagues for their support in this work.

It is my hope that the document will be finalised this month and circulated in January.

6. New play area in Indian Queens Recreation Ground

Since my last monthly report, it is great to see that the tarmac path from the car park at the Recreation Ground to the new play area has been completed, and I would like to publicly thank local contactors T Julian and Son for the fantastic job that they did.

7. Lindsay Fields, Fraddon

I am pleased to be able to report that the “open space” in Lindsay Fields, Fraddon, has been transferred from the developer to Cornwall Council. I am presently seeking clarification from the environment section at the unitary authority about their likely maintenance regime.

It is ironic that, at the same time, the Parish Council has had to take on maintenance for the entrance area into Heather Meadow because Cornwall Council (Highways) were unwilling to look after it.

8. The Kelliers

The transfer of the freehold of the Kelliers to the Parish Council is taking longer that I had hoped. I am presently seeking an update from Cornwall Council about what is causing the delay.

9. Bus shelters

Since Cornwall Council’s recent comical communications with local parish councils about who is responsible for local bus shelters, I have formally requested that the unitary authority clean all shelters for which it has responsibility. I have asked that this include the removal of Graffiti.

I have, in addition, requested street cleaning throughout St Enoder Parish.

10. Highway matters

I have been in regular contact with the local CORMAC representative on a range of issues.

I understand that Cornwall Council is devising a scheme to combat the ongoing flooding problems at the entrance to Gaverigan Manor Farm.

CORMAC has also removed two of the three grit bins on the approach to Pedna Carne because they had “reached the end of their lives.” I have complained and one of the bins is likely to be replaced so that there will continue to be two bins on the steep approach road.

11. Planning matters: Pines Tip

In my last report, I confirmed that the timetable for the appeal into the refusal of the application for three wind turbines on Pines Tip (Strategic Planning Committee; 10th March 2016) has not yet been published. That is still the case and I am awaiting a meeting with planning officers to consider how the authority will approach the appeal.

12. Remembrance Day

I was also pleased to lay a wreath at the St Enoder War Memorial at the annual Remembrance Day event and I am pleased that the monument is now protected as a Listed Building, thanks to the hard work of the Clerk.

13. Inquiries

During the last month, I have also helped numerous people with advice and guidance, the nature of which has been very varied.

14. Newsletter

I have produced my (six-monthly) newsletter which I am aiming to distribute around the Parish in the next ten days or so. Any help with deliveries would be much appreciated.

15. Nadelik Lowen

And at this time of year, I would like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year.

Monday, 12 December 2016

Today is the 15th anniversary of the 50,000 Declarations at Downing Street

Fifteen years ago today(12th December 2001) I was part of a delegation which presented 50,000 declarations demanding a Cornish Assembly to 10 Downing Street.

I am extremely proud to have authored the actual declaration, which had been launched by Mebyon Kernow on St Piran’s Day in 2000.

The declaration was clear and forthright.

It stated that: “Cornwall is a nation with its own identity, culture, traditions and history” while noting that it suffers “severe and unique economic problems.”

In addition, the declaration stated that “important decisions about our future are increasingly taken outside of Cornwall” and concluded that “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.”

In a period of less than twenty months, teams of volunteers under the inspirational leadership of Paddy McDonough visited town after town, setting up street stalls and getting the individual declarations signed.

It remains a truly amazing achievement that over 50,000 people – more than 10% of the adult population of Cornwall – signed the declaration in such a short period of time, and it is my view that these declarations continue to represent a great statement of intent from the ordinary people of Cornwall.

But as we look at what has happened since 2001, it is clear that the aspirations of the 50,000 signatories have been badly undermined by the Westminster parties.

It is nothing short of disgraceful that Tony Blair’s Labour Government (which supported devolution to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) dismissed the declarations in an off-hand manner and refused to even consider representations for greater powers for Cornwall.

Instead the Government, in tandem with the Liberal Democrats on the old County Council, pushed through the centralisation of local government in the face of massive opposition. They even had the brass neck to promote the creation of the unitary authority by using the language of devolution.

And now, we even have a Conservative Government further undermining democracy and the very territoriality of Cornwall with their plans for a cross-Tamar parliamentary constituency and regionalisation based on an anomalous “south west” region.

Over the last 15 years, I have certainly heard much talk about devolution, local control and democratic change from the political establishment in Westminster, but it has all been “hollow words” as far as Cornwall has been concerned.

To the politicians who serve in this present Government and those who served in previous administrations, I would say it is obvious that Westminster does not know what is best for Cornwall. And it is time that they gave due regard to the 50,000 declarations and backed meaningful democratic devolution to the historic nation of Cornwall. 

[This will be my article in this week’s Cornish Guardian].

Friday, 9 December 2016

“The Casey Review” fails own test by denigrating Cornish identity

It is appalling that “The Casey Review” by Dame Louise Casey has criticised the expenditure of money on the Cornish language in a report on the need for greater social cohesion.

How can a review into “integration and opportunity in isolated and deprived communities,” sanctioned by the former Prime Minister and Home Secretary, feel it is necessary to be so dismissive of such an important part of the UK’s cultural tapestry.

The offending section was as follows:

1.67. Too many public institutions, national and local, state and non-state, have gone so far to accommodate diversity and freedom of expression that they have ignored or even condoned regressive, divisive and harmful cultural and religious practices, for fear of being branded racist or Islamophobic.

1.68. This accommodation can range from relatively trivial issues such as altering traditional cultural terms to avoid giving offence, to the department responsible for integration policy spending more in 2011-12 and 2012-13 promoting the Cornish language than the English language, or some trade unions challenging a strategy for all public sector workers to speak English. At its most serious, it might mean public sector leaders ignoring harm or denying abuse.

1.69. This has not helped the communities which many well-intentioned people in those institutions have wanted to protect; more often it has played straight into the hands of extremists. As a nation we have lost sight of our expectations on integration and lacked confidence in promoting it or challenging behaviours that undermine it.

Whatever positive justification there might have been for the study, the disrespectful attitude to Cornish identity is totally unacceptable.

It has even lead to spurious reports in the Sun and Daily Express.

The Sun headline read “Corn Identity” while a sub-heading Daily Express stated “EXTREMISM is on the rise and integration is stalling because the Government is spending more money on Cornish lessons than English lessons, a damning report has claimed.”

What a shameful nonsense.

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Anything but a United Kingdom …

My article in this week’s Cornish Guardian – under the above heading – is as follows:

A number of political parties based far away from Westminster, including Mebyon Kernow and Plaid Cymru, have long campaigned for an Economic Fairness Act.

It may not sound exciting, but such an Act would ensure that all parts of the United Kingdom would get their fair share of government investment, and it would commence the rebalancing of the UK economy away from its present fixation on London and the South East of England.

The importance of this campaign is shown by the recent statement from the Bank of England’s chief economist, Andrew Haldane, warning that inequality in the UK is becoming more pronounced.

And is it any wonder? I have certainly raised such concerns in this newspaper column on numerous occasions.

A few years ago, I wrote about how an independent report had detailed a shocking bias in how arts funding was distributed around the UK. The most telling figure was that the Department of Culture, Media and Sport had distributed £450 million of public funding to what it deemed “major national cultural institutions” – with London receiving £49 per head of population compared to just £1 per person outside the capital.

And some 18 months back, I commented on the research from the Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute, which documented another massive bias towards London in terms of infrastructure investment. It concluded that most other areas will be getting a raw deal with planned public investment per head in London being recorded at £5,304.73 compared to £805.29 in the South West.

I have often commented on the unfairness of funding settlements for councils in rural areas and, earlier this year, even highlighted the irony of Conservative MPs lambasting their own London-centric Government for “shifting funding from rural to metropolitan areas” and describing the funding as “extraordinarily unfair,” with one even stating that his local council had not only “trimmed off” the fat, but had “gone through the surface of the bone” and, in some instances, was “sucking out the marrow.”

And in the most recent Autumn Statement, the monies allocated to the Local Growth Fund were much less than had been anticipated.

It is therefore to be welcomed that the Bank of England’s chief economist has issued a challenge that regional inequality is among the most important issues facing the UK.

In an interview with the BBC, he said that these long-standing gaps “have nudged a little wider over the course of the UK's recovery” and “if you look at the level of income within region, per head, it is only really London and the South East where that is back above the levels it was before the crisis.”

Thank you for your efforts, Mr Haldane. I just hope the Government will start listening.

Sunday, 4 December 2016

The Autumn Statement ... all a bit gloomy!

My article in last week’s Cornish Guardian addressed the recent Autumn Statement and the setting of Cornwall Council’s budget for 2017/2018. It was as follows:

The first autumn statement from the new Chancellor, Philip Hammond, has rightly generated a host of very gloomy headlines.

His statement included projections of lower growth from the Office of Budget Responsibility, while resultant discussions have focussed on the likelihood of higher inflation, lower tax revenues, continuing austerity and a squeeze on household incomes.

The independent Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) has meanwhile reported that “workers would earn less in real wages in 2021 than they did in 2008,” with additional analysis showing that the biggest losers in the next few years will be people on low incomes.

Paul Johnson, the director of the IFS, commented that “this has been the worst decade for living standards certainly since the last war and probably since the 1920s."

It is such a massive contrast to the personal circumstances of Mr Hammond’s predecessor at the Treasury. Instead of focussing on his role as an MP, George Osborne recently raked in a total of £320,000 for giving five lectures to financial institutions and a university.

And it was especially disappointing that Philip Hammond did not act to address the crisis in adult social care.

This even led to a cross-party appeal from the Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrat and Independent leaders of the Local Government Association for “urgent action” without which the “quality and safety of care of our elderly is at risk.”

One newspaper summed up the situation as “elderly care close to collapse as council funding runs out.”

Last week also saw the Liberal Democrat and Independent administration at Cornwall Council set its budget for 2017/2018 when a majority of councillors, myself included, voted for a council tax increase of 3.97%. This included a precept levy of 2% to be specifically used for social care.

Projections show that the unitary authority will raise an additional £14 million from council tax next year but, because of ongoing cuts from central government, the Council will, overall, end up with £2.5 million less to spend on services.

At the council meeting, Conservative councillors voted against the budget but failed to put forward any alternative proposals for consideration, and did not even acknowledge how cuts in central government funding were, to a large degree, responsible for many of the financial problems being faced by Cornwall Council.

In these very difficult times for local government, it is well-documented that there are many dangers associated with the Council’s budget and, for the sake of our public services, we need to do everything that we can to put pressure on the new Chancellor to end the under-funding of local councils.

Monday, 21 November 2016

Good news … Conservative MP opposes Devonwall

In my column in this coming week’s Cornish Guardian will be as follows:

Politics is increasingly partisan these days and politicians often fail to compliment their opponents, even when they do something worthy of acknowledgement.

But in my column this week, I am pleased to be able to praise Steve Double MP for opposing the creation of a Devonwall parliamentary seat.

Last Friday in the House of Commons, MPs debated a Private Members Bill entitled the Parliamentary Constituencies (Amendment) Bill. Tabled by a Labour MP from the north of England, the Bill proposes to make changes to the process by which parliamentary boundaries are presently being reversed.

It seeks to keep the number of MPs at 650 – not the 600 presently preferred by the Tories – and to allow the Boundary Commission more flexibility in redrawing constituency boundaries. 

And from a Cornish perspective, if passed, the Bill would put an end to the proposal for a cross-Tamar seat.

The debate took place at the end of the week and, because many government MPs were not present, it passed its second reading by 253 votes to 37. It now moves to the committee stage and it is anticipated that MPs from the governing party will look to derail the Bill in the coming weeks.

But last Friday, Steve Double was one of two Conservative MPs who voted for the Bill, and therefore against Devonwall and against his own party. 

Full credit to him for him for listening to the people of Cornwall and making it clear that he took this action because it was the “only way” he could see to “address the issue of the Cornish border and maintain Cornish MPs in Cornwall.”

It was, though, extremely disappointing (big understatement) that he did not get support from other Cornish MPs.

Two were present and voted against the Bill. And one of these, Sheryll Murray, participated in the debate and did all she could to undermine Steve Double’s arguments.

In 2010, Sheryll Murray pledged that she would “fight on and on” to make sure that the border was protected, but appears to have done a shocking u-turn.

Instead of backing her colleague from St Austell and Newquay, she called on MPs to “kick” the legislation into the “long grass where it belongs.”

And in a particularly unedifying section of the debate, she called out Steve Double for claiming he was speaking “on behalf of the Cornish,” adding that she wanted it “put on the record” that she was a “Cornish girl” and he “was not speaking” for her.

To be fair to Steve Double, he dealt with it well, pointing out how may people had raised the issue with him in his constituency “on the doorsteps, in the pub and at surgeries” and that it was an issue that he “as a Cornishman” felt strongly about.

It is my strong view that now is the time for us all to put pressure on George Eustice MP, Scott Mann MP, Sarah Newton MP, Derek Thomas MP, and even Sheryll Murray MP, to follow Steve Double’s example and do the right thing and oppose Devonwall.

Sunday, 20 November 2016

A couple of extracts from my speech at 2016 MK Conference

It was great to see so many friends at the 2016 MK Conference and to see such enthusiasm for winning a better deal for Cornwall.

I am pictured above with some of the speakers at the 2016 MK Conference: Dr Joanie Willett (MK liaison with the European Free Alliance), Natalia Pinkowska (EFA Vice-President) and Plaid Cymru AM Steffan Lewis.

Here are a couple of extracts from the early part of my speech.

An army of practical visionaries

I must make comment that this year also marks the 50th anniversary of Gwynfor Evan’s stunning victory in the Carmarthen by-election of 1966.

When he became the first member of Plaid Cymru to be elected to the Westminster Parliament – and he delivered a breakthrough which forever changed the face of British politics.

Some years later, when I was a young student at St David’s University College in Lampeter, I was the Secretary of the local college branch of Plaid, and I was privileged to meet Gwynfor on a couple of occasions.

I found him a truly inspirational man.

And what I took from those meetings as a young man was two things.

First, he had a vision for his country as an inclusive, progressive, self-governing nation.

And second, he knew there was no “magic bullet”, no easy route by which he could achieve his aims.

But that he and other members of the Party would need to dig deep and work and work and work for Wales, if he was to succeed.

And that is why Gwynfor had a relentless work ethic to make things happen. Which he and his colleagues did. Setting Wales on a political journey for home rule, that is continuing.

At Plaid’s Conference last month, I was also struck by the words of Adam Price, one of Gwynfor’s successors as member of parliament for Carmarthen and now the town’s representative in the National Assembly.

He said that – at its best – a political party is “an army of practical visionaries, a movement of doers and dreamers that together get things done.”

How right he is. And how we, as members of Mebyon Kernow and the wider Cornish movement, need to rise to the challenge to become just that “army” which Adam has described.

Faith in the people of Cornwall

I am proud to be the leader of Mebyon Kernow.

Ours is a political party that unashamedly seeks to give political expression to Cornish nationhood … and to secure a better deal for all the people of Cornwall.

But I do not want us to be defensive in any way or to simply practice a politics of grievance. 

Because I have faith in the people of Cornwall.

I look out across our fine nation and I see men and women of heart and spirit, of conscience, of talent, of invention, of ingenuity, of great common sense ... who together, have the skills and the passion, and the where-with-all, to build a better Cornwall … but we need to wrestle political power from the deadhand of Westminster to give us the tools to do the job.

Sunday, 13 November 2016

Remembering the fallen of the First World War

Thousands of people attended the recent Remembrance Day commemorations across Cornwall and I was honoured to be able to lay a wreath at my local war memorial in St Enoder Churchtown (above).

It is right that we remember the dead from all conflicts but, as we continue to mark the centenary of the First World War, it is especially important that we learn more about the war which engulfed the globe between 1914 and 1918 and led to the tragic deaths of millions, leaving no community untouched.

2016 is particularly poignant as it marks the one-hundred-year anniversary of the Battle of the Somme, one of the bloodiest battles of the whole conflict, which took place between 1st July and 18th November 1916. Forever etched on the consciousness of a continent, it also marked an intensification of the Great War and a resultant rise in the number of casualties.

In my home area of Fraddon, Indian Queens, St Columb Road and Summercourt, some sixty men, mostly clay workers and farm labourers, did not return home from WW1.

Thirteen lost their lives in 1916. Six of these men were killed in action on the Western Front, with Frederick Langdon (Fraddon), Henry Francis Osborne (Penhale) and John Thomas Andrew (Trevarren) buried alongside thousands of their comrades in France and Belgium. No known grave survives for the other three: George Bullock (St Columb Road), Basil Henry Gregor (Fraddon) and William Nicholls (Retew), and they are remembered on the Thiepval Memorial. A colossal structure, it includes the names of over 72,000 British and Commonwealth soldiers who died in the Somme sector.

According to his “medal card” a seventh soldier, Samuel John May (Fraddon) succumbed to an unnamed disease contracted when on active service in France. Having returned to the UK, he passed away and is buried in his home parish in the churchtown at St Enoder.

By 1916, the conflict was increasingly global with diseases, including malaria, also taking a terrible toll.

Two local men from the Summercourt area, Arthur Carhart and Samuel Gill, died in India, while Arthur Randolph Kendall (Fraddon) and Walter Vincent Trenerry (Summercourt) died in Iraq. Arthur Kendall was a prisoner at the time of his death. Harry Osborn, a former resident of St Enoder Parish, who had lived in South Africa for many years, also died from malaria and is buried in Tanzania (formerly known as German East Africa).

Closer to home, Philip Charles Rundle (Indian Queens) died whilst based at the HMS Vivid training unit at Devonport. He was aged only 17 and the cause of death was recorded as pneumonia. He is buried in Bodmin, close to where his parents were living in 1916.

Each year, as the names of the fallen are remembered, it is important that we task ourselves to discover much more about who these men were, what they did in their lives, what happened to them, and the consequences of their deaths for their families and friends.

[This will be my article in this week’s Cornish Guardian].

Saturday, 12 November 2016

Government response to Cornish language petition is "shameful"

The Department for Communities and Local Government yesterday issued its response to the petition, signed by over 10,000 people, to reinstate funding for the Cornish language.

The extremely short statement was as follows and has been widely condemned:

“The Government has provided Cornwall Council with substantial spending power to allocate resources to their local priorities, including the Cornish language.

“The Government has always been clear that its funding of some £650,000 since 2010 to support the development of the Cornish language was time-limited, and that the Council should seek alternative sources in order to place it on a more sustainable basis.

“Cornwall Council has a core spending power of £1.7 billion over four years from which they can allocate the necessary resources to local priorities, including the development the Cornish language, if they wish.”

The response is frankly shameful and it is clear that central government is not being truthful with the people of Cornwall.

It has previously been confirmed that a five year programme of funding was actually in the 2015 “devolution deal” until removed by central government just before the document was finalised. The leader of Cornwall Council, John Pollard, has since told the local media that he had been “reassured” by the DCLG that the removal of funding from the document “was a technical matter” and “that another funding route would be identified.”

A very measured statement has been published by Cllr Loveday Jenkin who, as well as being MK’s Deputy Leader, is the Chairman of Kowethas an Yeth Kernewek.

“The Government statement that the funding for the language over the previous 5 years of between £120,000 and £250,000 a year (total £650,000) was a time-limited commitment is not the understanding of the Cornish language community from either this Government or previous ones. This amount of money has enabled the voluntary sector to develop to meet the increasing demand for Cornish language services across Cornwall. Most of these services are supplied from the voluntary sector so small amounts of public sector funding are very efficiently spent.

“The Cornish language community are aghast at the misunderstanding of the Westminster government in relation to its responsibilities in respect of Cornish under Parts 1 and 2 of the European Charter for Regional and Minority Languages 2002 and the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities 2014.

“Previous discussions with local MPs have emphasised that the respect and promotion of the Cornish language is a UK State responsibility which has not been devolved to Cornwall Council in its entirety. Unless and until it is devolved to a Cornwall wide governing body with sufficient powers to cover the relevant agencies to ensure respect and promotion of the language at all levels of government the Cornish language community consider that the Government is in breach of their responsibilities under these international treaties.”

“So much for all those Tory promises”

It has been a pretty hectic week and I have only just realised that I hadn’t posted my latest article in the Cornish Guardian, which was published on 9th November under the above title. It was as follows:

When the United Kingdom Government signed off the so-called Cornwall Devolution Deal in 2015, it claimed that it was "historic" and a “major step” in their commitment to “extend opportunity to every corner of our country.”

The Prime Minister David Cameron said the deal would put power in the hands of local people and talked about the “fantastic potential that Cornwall holds.”

The deal also included reference to “Cornwall’s rich and unique heritage, including its historic revived language and passionate communities.” It even noted the importance of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities.

At that time, I saw it somewhat differently from the press office of the Conservative Party.

Through Mebyon Kernow, I welcomed the fact that devolution was being talked about but criticized the very limited scope of the deal. I described it as unambitious, and also hit out at the growing influence of unelected and unaccountable entities – such as the Local Enterprise Partnership – which have no democratic legitimacy.

Some two years on (Friday 21st October 2016) the Communities Minister, Sajid Javid, was at an event in Exeter titled “South West Growth Summit.”

Speaking in the context of a potential “devolution deal” for the 17 local authorities in Devon and Somerset, he branded the previously “historic” Cornwall Devolution Deal as “not ambitious.” He made reference to the fact that the deal did not include any new money (even though it was Conservatives who refused various requests from the unitary authority for additional investment) and went on to tell the attendees from those two counties: “What’s the point of going down that route?”

In his speech, he disparagingly added that “some in Cornwall see their county as distinct from the rest of the region, a special case that should be handled separately from everywhere east of the Tamar.” He linked this statement to a few more comments about rivalries and tensions in the wider South West, before adding “that whole attitude has to change.

So much for the Conservative’s promises and their (threadbare) commitment to Cornwall, Cornish distinctiveness and our “rich and unique heritage.”

I can cope with Tory politicians contradicting each other and showing one and all that their spin does reflect any reality. But I am worried that central government seems to be, once again, looking to promote a “large south west” model for future governance which would see Cornwall’s distinct needs marginalised – just as the UK Government is pushing forward with a boundary review which disrespects Cornwall’s historic border.

Friday, 11 November 2016

Boundary Commission hearing at Truro – day two: A report

At Lys Kernow (“New County Hall”) in Truro today, a further twenty speakers appeared at the second day of the Boundary Commission hearing. All raised objections to the proposal for a cross-Tamar constituency.

The full list of speakers was as follows:

Angela Angove, Malcolm Brown, Eileen Carter, Lance Dyer, Zoe Fox, Ken George, Deborah Hopkins, Jane Howells, David Hughes, Juliet Johns, Angus Lamond, Charmian Larke, Rob Lawrence, Denzil Monk, Colin Retallick, Mr and Mrs Ronan, Craig Weatherhill, plus me (see my earlier blog entry for a copy of what I said).

Ken George gave his presentation entirely in Cornish which was translated into English by Mark Trevethan.

Once again the representations were extremely well-crafted and, over the two days of the hearing, it was reassuring that fifty people took the time to oppose Devonwall, while only three speakers (all Conservatives) failed to speak out against a cross-Tamar seat.

But there is so much more still to do, especially in terms of lobbying central government for an amendment to the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act.

Let's keep working on this campaign.

Mebyon Kernow representation to today's Boundary Commission hearing

At the second day of the Boundary Commission hearing into new parliamentary boundaries, I made the following statement on behalf of MK

 Mebyon Kernow strongly objects to the proposals for parliamentary constituencies which do not respect Cornwall as a political or electoral unit; and we object specifically to the proposal for a “Devonwall” constituency which you have named “Bideford, Bude and Launceston.”

We believe that the creation of such a cross-Tamar seat would be a disaster for Cornwall, breaching our historic border which has existed for more than one thousand years.

It would also be against the Council of Europe’s Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, through which the Cornish people have been recognised as a national minority. I will address this in more detail in a while.

Importantly, we would stress that this is not just a symbolic issue.

MK would maintain that the creation of a “Devonwall” seat would have a significant and detrimental impact on the future governance of Cornwall as a coherent political and economic unit.

Issues such as the future devolution of powers and the provision of public services would be undermined; we would be correct to fear for the loss of political and economic power out of Cornwall; and that the ability to prioritise the distinct needs of our local communities would be further denigrated.

I will not dwell on this as I believe this strategic argument was ably covered through the previous representations from Cornwall Council.

At this point, I would state that we understand the present constraints of the Boundary Review process – as presently being taken forward – is dictated by the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act 2011, which specifies that the electorates for individual seats (except for four named seats treated as exceptions) must be within 5% of the United Kingdom average.

In addition, whereas Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales were protected as entities in the legislation – even being allowed their own Boundary Commissions – Cornwall was denied such recognition.

On behalf of MK, I would therefore formally raise an objection that the design of new parliamentary seats for Cornwall is being undertaken by a Boundary Commission for England and not a Boundary Commission for Cornwall.

We also object to the consequences of the present approach, namely setting the electorate of Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly (within a larger and artificial area) to gauge our entitlement to 5.27 MPs – which means that it would be a statistical impossibility for the Boundary Commission to propose five seats for Cornwall and Isles of Scilly because of the 5% rule.

That is why we are building a strong campaign to persuade central government to modify the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act to ensure that Cornish constituencies remain whole and lie entirely within the boundaries of Cornwall (and the Isles of Scilly).

We further agree with previous speakers that, as far as Cornwall is concerned, the whole process is “not fit for purpose.”

We would remind the Commission that in Exeter on Monday, representatives of the Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat parties expressed the view that they were content that the basis for the Boundary Review for Cornwall (and the South West of England), which was the electoral region for the EU referendum – and that they were content with the Commission’s sub-division of that area into four sub-regions.

On behalf of MK, I would state that we do not agree with those observations.

It is nonsensical that while the Commission is failing to recognise the integrity of Cornwall, it wishes to respect the extent of a wholly artificial governmental region.

It is doubly nonsensical that the Commission has come up with a “Cornwall and Devon” sub-region – so that while it fails to respect Cornwall’s national border it has, by default, ensured that the county boundaries between Devon and its neighbours of Somerset and Dorset would not be crossed.

Please accept this as a formal objection to the very basis of your Review and the geographical approach that has been undertaken.

Perhaps the key point is that Cornwall is not some generic geographical sub-division of England, but is a Celtic nation with its own distinct identity and culture – just like Scotland and Wales. It also has a unique constitutional position which sets it apart from the rest of the United Kingdom.

You have already heard much about Cornwall’s distinct nationhood and our unique traditions.

Ours is a national identity of great time-depth, and I would like to share some historic quotes with you, for a bit of colour, and to further emphasise this point.

In 1603, the Venetian ambassador wrote that the late Queen Elizabeth 1 had ruled over five different “peoples:”

“The English, Welsh, Cornish, Scottish ...and Irish.”

A little earlier, in 1535, Polydore Vergil wrote that:

“the whole Countrie of Britain divided into iiii partes; whereof the one is inhabited of Englishmen, the other of Scottes, the third of Wallshemen, [and] the fowerthe of Cornishe people, which all differ emonge them selves, either in tongue, ... in manners, or ells in lawes and ordinaunces.”

My personal favourite is from the resigning Archdeacon of Cornwall in 1342. He wrote:

“The folk of these parts are quite extraordinary, being of a rebellious temper and obdurate in the face of attempts to teach and correct.”

And we mustn’t forget the disturbance in Bodmin in the early 12th century, when visiting French monks suggested that King Arthur was coming back to again reign over Cornwall.

I can assure that these last two references do not represent threats, but shows how our Cornish passion which persists to 2016 has very deep roots; and why we are determined to campaign hard to guarantee that it will endure for centuries to come.

I will not labour this point further today because I believe the relevant arguments have been made repeatedly over the last two days.

Except to emphasise that ours is a national identity which survives and thrives into modernity. I am sure that you will agree, you have been very lucky to be treated to a number of presentations wholly or partly in the Cornish language, which is perhaps the most clear and compelling demonstration of Cornwall’s nationhood and its sense of difference from the rest of the United Kingdom.

I would suggest it is telling that you will not be hearing any presentations in non-English indigenous languages in your hearings in Exeter, Bristol or Poole – or indeed experiencing anything like Mr Thomas’s terrific rendition of “Bro Goth Agan Tasow.”

It is the view of Mebyon Kernow that the border between Cornwall and England, which has been in place since the early tenth century, should have been respected by the 2011 Act, just as the borders between England & Scotland and England & Wales were safeguarded within the legislation.

As you have heard repeatedly, three years after the Act was confirmed, in April 2014 central government recognised the Cornish as a national minority through the Council of Europe’s Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities.

At that time, as has already been mentioned a few times, central government stated that:

“The decision to recognise the unique identity of the Cornish, now affords them the same status … as the UK’s other Celtic people, the Scots, the Welsh and the Irish.”

Central government further summarised the significance of the Convention as follows:

“The broad aims of the Framework Convention are to ensure that the signatory states respect the rights of people belonging to national minorities, undertaking to combat discrimination, promote equality, preserve and develop the culture and identity of national minorities, guarantee certain freedoms in relation to access to the media, minority languages and education and encourage the participation of people belonging to national minorities in public life.”

Indeed, central government has also made reference to “Cornwall’s unique geography and rich heritage” in the devolution deal it agreed with the unitary authority.

It is undeniable that the UK authorities and various statutory bodies are failing in their duties with regard to the Framework Convention and the 2011 Act is significantly in conflict with many of the 32 articles contained within these protections.

As well as defending the culture and identity of national minorities, the Convention also seeks to protect the political integrity of territories associated with such groups.

I would ask you to study the relevant documentation and I would, in particular, bring your attention to articles 15 and 16.

Article 15 refers to the “effective participation of persons belonging to national minorities in cultural, social and economic life and in public affairs …”

The text in the explanatory report on article 16 meanwhile refers to the need to “protect against measures” such as the “redrawing of administrative borders” which could restrict the rights and freedoms of people belonging to national minorities.

The notes even raise concerns about gerrymandering.

And the fact that 57% of voters in the Devonwall seat would be resident in Devon, putting the residents of the Cornish part of the proposed cross-border constituency into a minority, further contravenes the Convention.

Frankly, it would also be relatively simple for central government to amend the Act.

Only a few months ago, the Government agreed “emergency” legislation to extend the deadline for people seeking to register to vote in the referendum on the European Union following the failure of the Government’s registration website. The Government could likewise deliver a simple amendment to the 2011 Act, to respect the Framework Convention and Keep Cornwall Whole.

And it is our hope that the Boundary Commission will recognise these arguments and make representations to the UK Government (as the signatory state) to correct this unjust situation.

We would wish to make a number of further detailed comments.

The first is about the level of representation.

Mebyon Kernow is not seeking that Cornwall be over-represented in the Westminster Parliament. In December 2015, Cornwall’s electorate was recorded as 392,223, while that of the Isles of Scilly was 1,651, making a total of 393,874.

If Cornwall had five seats, the average electorate would be about 78,775, which is extremely close to the top end of the Government's own range of between 71,031 and 78,507 electors per seat.

Indeed, as you have already heard, Cornwall without the Isles of Scilly would fall within the Government’s range as noted above, and it is ridiculous that the rigid application of the 5% rule as set out in the legislation is deemed more important than Cornwall’s very nationhood.

Secondly, I would wish to address the issue of electoral unfairness, often raised by government spokespeople.

In this, I would like to quote from a recent letter I received from a local Conservative MP. She stated that the present constituencies were “out of date” and “real unfairness had crept in with some constituencies having 21,000 and others 108,000 constituents.”

I thought that this comment was somewhat helpful in bringing attention to the poorly contrived legislation which underpins this process.

I believe that the reference to a seat with 21,000 voters is false as this is the Western Isles of Scotland – but that seat is protected within the legislation and will continue to exist with 20,887 voters. As is the seat for the Orkney and Shetland Islands, with a projected electorate of 33,229 voters.

The figure of 108,000 meanwhile refers to the present single seat for the Isle of Wight, but the legislation would in future allocate two seats to the Island. Indeed, the present proposals indicate electorates of 52,180 and 53,268 – both well below the government range.

This really puts into context our call for Cornish seats which are less than 300 voters outside of the Government’s preferred range.

A third new point is the practical difficulties of other aspects of this Review.

It cannot be denied that the rigid guidelines from the legislation and the resultant threat to Cornwall’s historic border is dominating this Review and, as a consequence, there is little real consideration being given to the detail of potential constituencies in Cornwall.

It is normal practice to minimise disruption when making changes to constituency boundaries, with the Commission seeking not to divide areas of significant community identity.

This is a particular problem in Cornwall – the landmass of which is a relatively thin peninsula.

Four of those five presently proposed seats – which lie entirely within Cornwall – stretch from the north coast to the south coast.

Obviously with this constrained geography, the rigidity of the Review, the 5% rule and the need to focus on whole council divisions, there is very limited scope in how parliamentary seats can be developed.

One key example, in your proposals, is the creation of the (i) Truro & Newquay, and (ii) Bodmin & St Austell seats, which mean that the unique China Clay Area is split between two constituencies.

The three divisions of St Dennis & Nanpean, St Enoder and St Stephen would be allotted to the Truro & Newquay seat, while the three divisions of Bugle, Penwithick & Boscoppa, and Roche would end up in Bodmin & St Austell.

The lack of local understanding in this area is exemplified by the fact that the actual parish of St Stephen-in-Brannel would also be split between the two proposed constituencies.

As has already stated, this area has often lost out to other areas across Cornwall. It often feels dumped on – for example with the construction of a massive incinerator - and it is disappointing that once again – this time through the Boundary Commission – the integrity of the Clay Area is deemed less worthy than the integrity of other areas.

It is my hope that such issues can be revisited once we have successfully dealt with the “Devonwall” issue.

In concluding, I would note that the resounding message that you heard from speakers at this hearing is that we wish to Keep Cornwall Whole.

It is my hope that the Boundary Commission will, in its heart of hearts, recognise that – as far as Cornwall is concerned – the Boundary Review is flawed and would damage the best interests of our nation.

Please join us in recognising this self-evident reality and making representations to central government to rethink their approach to Cornwall, to modify the existing legislation and make sure that a cross-Tamar, “Devonwall” constituency is not created.

Thursday, 10 November 2016

Great news: Ban on new properties in St Ives becoming second homes upheld

The High Court has dismissed a challenge to the policy in the St Ives Neighbourhood Plan which prevents new-build properties being occupied as second homes.

The informative press release from Cornwall Council is as follows;

Cornwall Council is welcoming the news that the claim for judicial review submitted by RLT Built Environment Limited of the authority’s decision to support the publication of the St Ives Neighbourhood Development Plan and put it to a referendum in St Ives has been dismissed on all counts.

The judgement handed down today by Mr Justice (now Lord Justice) Hickinbottom means that, subject to no appeal being lodged, the Council will now be able to progress the ‘making’ of the St Ives Neighbourhood Development Plan (NDP).

The decision also means that town and parish councils with similar policies in their Neighbourhood Plans will also be able to progress them. These will be dealt with on a case by case basis subject to supporting evidence and the relevant Examiner’s report.

“This is a hugely important judgement for Cornwall, St Ives Town Council and for the residents of St Ives who wanted to ensure that any new homes in the town would be the resident’s sole or main residence,” said Edwina Hannaford, the Council’s Cabinet Member for Planning.

“We also know that a number of other local communities, both in Cornwall and across the rest of the country, are also interested in including similar policies in their own Neighbourhood Plans and have been watching this case with interest”.

The St Ives NDP was the subject of referendum on 5 May 2016 and 83% voted in favour of Cornwall Council using the St Ives NDP to help decide planning applications in the Neighbourhood Area which covers St Ives and Carbis Bay.

Immediately prior to the referendum RLT Built Environment Limited, a firm of architects specialising in residential development and design, challenged the Council’s decision made on 17 March 2016 to proceed to referendum. The original challenge comprised 8 grounds, all but 3 of which were abandoned prior to the hearing on 6 October 2016, with the main challenge claiming that Policy H2 – the principal residency requirement, was incompatible with Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

In dismissing the judicial review Mr Justice Hickinbottom said he had not been convinced by any of the grounds put forward by the claimants. “I do not consider any of the grounds strong – and I have expressly found some to be unarguable” he said. “I heard full submissions on all of the grounds, and I have given a full judgment. In all the circumstances, not without hesitation, I shall grant permission to proceed on all grounds; but, having done so, refuse the substantive application”.

Boundary Commission hearing at Truro – day one: A report

At Lys Kernow (“New County Hall”) in Truro today, speaker after speaker appeared at the Boundary Commission hearing to raise objections to the proposal for a cross-Tamar constituency.

The various representations were extremely well-crafted and made a strong case against Devonwall. Many people called for the Boundary Commission to join them in making representations to central government to amend the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act, while many outlined the distinctive characteristics of Cornwall and its identity. Three people gave presentations entirely in Cornish which were translated into English by Mark Trevethan.

People at the hearing who opposed Devonwall came from a range of Cornish cultural groups, some independent councillors, as well as a representatives from a number of political parties (Green Party, Labour, Liberal Democrats, Mebyon Kernow and even one Conservative!)

I left at six and there were still a couple of people due to speak later. The full list of speakers against Devonwall up to 6.00 was as follows:

Candy Atherton, Bert Biscoe, Dee Brotherton, Armorel Carlyon, Mike Chappell, Matthew Clark, Merv Davey, Mael Garrec, Peter Harvey, Claire Hewlett, Loveday Jenkin, Ian Lobb, Andrew Long, Greg Matthews, Nev Meek, Jack Morrison, Dave Munday, Gareth Parry, Mick Paynter, Amanda Pennington, Milo Perrin, John Pollard, Helen Rawe, Donald Rawe, Hugh Rowe, William Thomas, Mike Tresidder, Sarah Tresidder and Robert Webber. Apologies if I have missed anyone.

Highlights for me included the kilted William Thomas bursting into song with a fabulous rendition of “Bro Goth Agan Tasow, and Mael Garrec from the Union Democratique Bretonne making an insightful contribution about the negative aspects of border-blurring which had been experienced in Britanny.

Three speakers did not oppose a cross-Tamar seat. They were all Conservatives – George Eustice MP, Tim Smith and Richard Stephens.

I will be speaking tomorrow at about 2.30 and there are still a number of open slots for the hearing which will last from 9.00 to 5.00.

Staff from the Boundary Commission were very accommodating today and a number of people who turned to support other speakers were able speak themselves in some of the vacant slots.

So if you are free tomorrow – why not come along, have a say and oppose Devonwall!

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

The Boundary Commission hearings in Exeter … a report!

The Boundary Commission will be in Truro tomorrow for the first day of a two day hearing into the proposed new parliamentary boundaries for the “South West.” Hearings were also held in Exeter on Monday and Tuesday (7th and 8th November), and I attended the morning session on Monday. My report is as follows:

The Boundary Commission had invited all political parties with an MP in the Westminster Parliament (Conservative, Green, Labour, Liberal Democrat and UKIP) to make representations. Each was given a thirty minute slot. I have complained that it was unjust that Mebyon Kernow was not invited to make a similar representation and I have been assured that I will be allowed extra time to speak on behalf of MK in Truro on Friday.

On Monday, the first speaker was Labour’s Greg Cook from London, who described himself as Head of Political Strategy. He welcomed that the “south west region” was the “sub-national building block” for the Review, and fleetingly noted the unhappiness about the Cross-Tamar seat. He additionally queried the name of the Bideford, Bude and Launceston constituency, questioning whether the name should include reference to two Cornish towns when the majority of the seat was in Devon! Mr Cook’s main focus was on local boundaries around Gloucestershire, Bournemouth and Dorset.

Second up were the Liberal Democrats. They were represented by Gavin Grant (from their “Western Counties region”) and Ian Jolly (from their “Devon and Cornwall region”). They did say that they wished to “protest at the creation of a cross-border seat” but recognised that it met the recognised legal and population requirements. They did not point out the irony of a political party organised on a “Devon and Cornwall” basis arguing against a “Devonwall” seat.

They did build some humour into their presentations. When Mr Grant had to give his home address at the beginning of his presentation, he said it was less complicated than Mr Jolly’s who he said lived in rural Devon. Mr Jolly lives in Cornwall. They also managed to spell Camborne wrong on their powerpoint presentation.

And then it was the turn of Roger Pratt from the Conservatives. He also made a fleeting reference to Cornwall, noted that it was “not possible” to prevent a “Devonwall” seat, and stated that they thought it best that the Tamar was breached to the north – rather than in the south.

Iwan Jones spoke on behalf of the Green Party and set out clear opposition to the basis of the whole review and the creation of a cross-Tamar seat. UKIP meanwhile declined to take up the offer to present their views.

Richard Williams then spoke on behalf of Cornwall Council for about twenty minutes and delivered a comprehensive speech in opposition to “Devonwall,” making it clear that the unitary authority will continue to make representations to central government to change the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act to Keep Cornwall Whole.

I trust that update is of interest to you all.

Monday, 7 November 2016

Letters to lobby against Devonwall - AVAILABLE NOW

Mebyon Kernow has prepared a number of “proforma” letters that can be used to oppose the imposition of a “Devonwall” constituency.

The letters are for the Prime Minister Theresa May, the Minister for the Constitution Chris Skidmore, the Boundary Commission and Cornwall’s six MPs, and are principally calling for an amendment to the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act to Keep Cornwall Whole.

The letters make it easier for people to join in this important campaign. They can be downloaded from Letters to oppose Devonwall and sent off to the addresses on the individual letters.

Hard copies will also be available at MK’s Conference in Truro on 19th November, when we will be collecting together completed forms and sending them off in bulk to the Government, Boundary Commission and MPs.

Please join us in opposing the cross-Tamar seat.

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Looking back: Six years on ... the Devonwall vote

After spending much of today debating Devonwall at "County Hall," I have just realised that today is also the sixth anniversary (1st November 2010) of a particular Westminster vote on the Parliamentary Voting Systems and Constituencies Bill.

The vote was on an amendment to protect parliamentary boundaries in a number of areas including parts of Scotland, Anglesey, the Isle of Wight and Cornwall & the Isles of Scilly. It was moved by the late Charles Kennedy, but was voted down by 315 votes to 257 votes.

As I recorded at the time, all six Cornish MPs voted to support Kennedy’s amendment, but unbelievably they only won the support of twelve other Conservative / Liberal Democrat colleagues which included Scottish MPs and the member for the Isle of Wight. The MPs were as follows:

Peter Bottomley (Worthing West)
Philip Davies (Shipley)
George Eustice (Camborne and Redruth)
Philip Hollobone (Kettering)
Sheryll Murray (South East Cornwall)
Sarah Newton (Truro and Falmouth)
David Nuttall (Bury North)
Andrew Turner (Isle of Wight) 

Liberal Democrat
Andrew George (St Ives)
Stephen Gilbert (St Austell and Newquay)
Mike Hancock (Portsmouth South)
Charles Kennedy (Ross, Skye and Lochaber)
Greg Mulholland (Leeds North West)
Alan Reid (Argyll and Bute) - teller
Dan Rogerson (North Cornwall)
Bob Russell (Colchester)
Adrian Sanders (Torbay)
John Thurso (Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross)

Over 95% of Coalition MPs voted against the amendment. This included Conservative MP Mark Prisk who spent the months leading up to the General Election masquerading as a Shadow Minister for Cornwall.

The political tally was as follows:

For the amendment (257): Conservative (8), Democratic Unionist Party (2), Independent (1), Labour (228), Liberal Democrat (9), Plaid Cymru (3), SNP (5) and SDLP (1).
Against the amendment (315): Conservative (273), Liberal Democrat (42).

Please note that (4) tellers are not included in the above totals.

Cornwall Council votes to oppose Devonwall

I am very pleased to be able to confirm that the members of the unitary authority have overwhelmingly re-affirmed their commitment to opposing Devonwall. 

The motion agreed to continue to lobby central government to change the legislation and make further representations to the Boundary Commission about the inappropriateness of a cross-Tamar seat.

I made the MK perspective clear once again: “Travesty – an assault on Cornwall’s very nationhood.”

But I was very conciliatory and appealed to “one and all” to oppose the creation of a Devonwall seat. I suggested that we were all councillors because we wanted Cornwall to thrive and succeed; that we wanted the best for Cornwall – but added that what hope was there for that “noble aim” if central government refuses to even acknowledge Cornwall as a distinct political unit.

The Conservatives moved an amendment which stated that the Council should not bother to offer any challenge to the process, which lead to much criticism of their group.

The Liberal Democrats were particularly quick off the mark to point out the failings of the Conservative group and to condemn their MPs for not standing up for Cornwall on this issue.

I found that quite amusing, as I had been among the protesters at Polson Bridge on Sunday when the Lib Dem MP Norman Lamb (from Norfolk) was among the speakers. He did a grand job; lovely speech! But he forgot to mention that, in 2010 when there was a Coalition government, he had failed to support the amendment to keep Cornwall whole. Indeed, he had actually been one of the tellers for the Government, when 95% of Coalition MPs had voted down the amendment!

Today’s vote at Lys Kernow to continue to oppose Devonwall was passed with 78 votes in favour. I understand this comprised six Conservatives and everybody who wasn’t a Conservative.

There were 12 votes against – all Conservative!

Monday, 31 October 2016

Cornwall Council to consider Devonwall proposal

The members of the unitary authority will be considering their position on the parliamentary Boundary Review tomorrow.

Back in May, councillors voted to oppose the creation of a Devonwall seat after I had tabled a motion to that effect. In particular, it was resolved that:

“1. that the Government be urged to respect the spirit of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities and take all necessary steps to amend the Act [Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act 2011] prior to completion of the said parliamentary constituency review to specifically protect the parliamentary constituencies of Cornwall so that they remain fully within the boundary of Cornwall;
2. to write to all the Members of Parliament for Cornwall to seek their urgent and active support for the proposed amendment as set out under paragraph (1) above; and
3. that the Leader seek an urgent meeting with the Boundary Commission for England to raise the fundamental constitutional issue of the integrity of Cornwall’s boundary and the impact of the said Framework Convention that is critical to the effective implementation of the said parliamentary constituency review.”

The recommendation in the report for tomorrow’s meeting does not deviate from this. It sets out the nature of the representations to be made to the Boundary Commission, but also sets out that the Council will continue to lobby central government to change the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act.

I am optimistic that councillors will support the recommendation that has been prepared.

One point of particular note is that Cornwall Council has sought legal advice on whether it would be possible to launch some form of judicial challenge. The answer, from two prominent QCs, is not helpful in that regard.

The view is summarised as follows in the report: 

“The legislation governing the boundary review does not breach the rights of Cornish people under the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities. The Framework Convention is not part of UK law and so it cannot be used to mount a direct challenge to an Act of Parliament and any further change to the 1986 Act Parliamentary Constituencies Act 1986 [as amended by the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act 2011] is a matter for Parliament.”

But this does not stop us from continuing to lobby central government to respect the spirit of the Framework Convention. Indeed, this must still be our priority.

Sunday, 30 October 2016

Polson Bridge protest says no to Devonwall

Polson Bridge was the place to be today, when campaigners congregated to protest against Government plans for a cross-Tamar “Devonwall” parliamentary seat. 

I was proud to represent Mebyon Kernow at the rally and I would like to say a massive thank you to Esther Johns, her family and friends, who worked so hard to organise this important event.

We were there because the “Boundary Commission for England” is recommending a Bideford, Bude and Launceston seat, which would breach the thousand-year-old border of the Tamar and undermine the very territorial integrity of the historic nation of Cornwall.

And this has not come about by accident. It has happened because of the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act, which was agreed in 2011. This does not protect Cornwall (and the Isles of Scilly) as a political unit and states that the electorates for individual seats must be within 5% of the average seat size.

Put simply, the number of voters mean it was a statistical impossibility for the Boundary Commission to propose five whole seats for Cornwall and Isles of Scilly.

To stop Devonwall, we need a simple amendment to the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act to ensure parliamentary seats lie entirely within Cornwall (and the Isles of Scilly), and that is why many people are working hard to put pressure on local MPs and the Minister in charge of constitutional matters, Chris Skidmore.

Please join with us in this campaign. Please lobby Mr Skidmore who can be contacted at the Cabinet Office, Whitehall, London, SW1A 2AS or via

But we really do need to swamp the Conservatives with correspondence. Our local MPs, who were not present at Polson Bridge, are not listening at the moment.

On October 10th, Plaid Cymru MP Jonathan Edwards tabled an Early Day Motion in the House of Commons, on behalf of Mebyon Kernow, which set out opposition to the creation of a cross-Tamar parliamentary constituency. Not one Cornish MP has supported the EDM, and only two from outside of Scotland and Wales.

And just over a week later, SNP MP Pete Wishart tabled a motion which called for the Boundary Review to be abandoned and, instead, the number of unelected peers in the House of Lords to be slashed. Cornwall’s Tory MPs all voted with the Government and against this proposal. And unforgivably, they did not even use the opportunity of the debate to speak out against the proposed Devonwall seat.

In addition, the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act is shamefully in conflict with the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, through which the UK Government accepted that the Cornish should be treated with the same status as the “UK’s other Celtic people, the Scots, the Welsh and the Irish.”

Please don’t delay. Put pressure on your local MP to Keep Cornwall Whole.

[This will be my article in this week's Cornish Guardian].

Thursday, 27 October 2016


Mebyon Kernow – the Party for Cornwall will be holding its Annual Conference on Saturday 19th November 2016.

It will take place in the Council Chamber at Lys Kernow (“New County Hall”), Truro.

The Conference is an open event, and we would like to formally extend an invitation to anyone who would like to join us on the day. All are welcome.

The doors will open at 9.30 and the event will commence at around 10.00. In the morning, there will presentations on topics such as how central government is failing to respect the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, the impact of cuts to funding for the Cornish language, the ongoing campaign for a Cornish Assembly and much more.

There will also be guidance on how to make representations against the threatened cross-Tamar Devonwall constituency.

In the afternoon, there will be a number of speeches. In addition to Cllr Dick Cole’s traditional keynote address as party leader, other speakers already confirmed include Steffan Lewis (Plaid Cymru AM for South Wales East), Natalia Pinkowska (Vice-President of the European Free Alliance) and Dr Joseph Toms, who will be speaking about the National Health Service.

There will also be an opportunity to participate in a number of discussions and a chance to find out more about next year’s important elections to the unitary authority and the many town and parish councils across Cornwall.

We would love to see you at the Conference.

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Next MK meeting in St Austell and Newquay Constituency

The next meeting for Mebyon Kernow members in the St Austell & Newquay Constituency has been arranged to take place this Friday (28th October).

The meeting will take place at ClayTAWC in St Dennis and start at 7.30.

We will be discussing a range of issues including the threat of a Devonwall constituency and we will giving guidance as to how people can object to a cross-Tamar seat. We will also will be reviewing local planning matters and also the upcoming 2017 elections to the unitary authority.

Anyone from the St Austell & Newquay Constituency, who would be interested in attending the meeting and / or finding out more about MK and its local campaigns, can call me on 07791 876607 or email me on

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

My latest monthly report to St Enoder Parish Council

At tonight’s Parish Council, I will be tabling the following report, which covers the period 26th September to 23rd October 2016. Some of the content has already been featured on this blog, but the report is here for the sake of completeness.

1. Council meetings

I have attended a range of formal meetings at Cornwall Council over the last month. These included: Full Council, Constitution and Governance, a meeting for Cornwall Councillors in the China Clay Area, a meeting of Group Leaders, a meeting between the leadership of the Council and the Chairs of the various Policy Advisory Committees, a member briefing, and an all-day Planning Conference which was held in the parish of St Enoder at Kingsley Village

As well as the meetings listed above, I have had a large number of informal meetings with council officers.

2. New play area in Indian Queens Recreation Ground

In the last few weeks, I have continued to work with the Parish Clerk in negotiating with the suppliers about some “snags” which have now mostly been dealt with.

In my last monthly report, I did write about the grant application I had submitted to the National Lottery’s Awards for All programme on behalf of the Parish Council. It was for a grant of £10,000 to construct a tarmac path from the car park area to the new play area in the Recreation Ground, to make it easier to access the new facilities during the winter months when the field can get quite wet and boggy.

I can report that, on the 11th October, the National Lottery publicised that we had been successful

Local contactors T Julian and Son have already started work on site and the path will probably be completed by the end of this week.

3. Planning hearing; Land to east of the Kelliers

As I reported previously, on 16th August I attended and spoke at the informal appeal hearing into the part-retrospective proposal for seventeen caravans on land to the east of the Kelliers (PA15/06186).

Councillors will recall that the landowner placed seven caravans on the site without any form of planning permission in the autumn of 2014. Subsequent applications for 12 and then 17 caravans were refused by Cornwall Council and the landowner went to appeal.

The Inspector has dismissed the appeal and upheld the Council’s enforcement notice, which means the site must be cleared within nine months.

In her conclusion, the Inspector wrote: “The developments fail to protect or enhance the natural environment and are of a poor design that has little regard to the characteristics of the area. I recognise that the caravans are occupied for residential purposes and that compliance with the notice will therefore result in the loss of accommodation for those tenants. However, in light of the harm that I have identified, I consider the refusal of planning permission is necessary and that a period of nine months in which to comply with the notice is a proportionate response when balancing the harm against the loss of accommodation for the current tenants … to conclude, I find that, the adverse impacts of granting planning permission would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits, when assessed against the policies in the National Planning Policy Framework taken as a whole.”

4. Planning hearing; biogas plant at Higher Fraddon

As I reported previously, on 2nd September, I attended and spoke at the informal hearing relating to the “non-determination” appeal into the “regularisation” application for the biogas plant (PA15/03073) and the associated appeal of Cornwall Council’s decision to refuse the related application (PA15/05220) to modify traffic movements to the site.

The Inspector has issued a planning permission for the site and consented the number of vehicle movements requested by the applicant (Greener for Life), though he has also strengthened some of the 21 conditions attached to the planning permission, as suggested by myself, the Parish Council and local residents.

The Inspector also showed some sympathy for local residents and the tone of his ruling was clearly critical of both Cornwall Council and Greener for Life.

The decision notes that I had “argued that because the tanks had not been built in the exact location and to the height of the approved plans in PA12/01700” and made the case that the development was unauthorised and no planning permission therefore existed “for the biogas plant as built.” The Inspector acknowledges we argued that little weight should be given to planning permission PA12/01700 and the associated non-material amendments (NMAs), but the Inspector took a different view. He has decreed that “permission PA12/01700 and the NMAs constitute the appellant’s fall-back position and as such are relevant material considerations that must be afforded significant weight.”

The Inspector did say that: “I have read the numerous objections from neighbouring residents and have considerable sympathy for these neighbours in terms of the way the biogas plant has adversely affected their living conditions, in part as a result of the NMAs.” But, in spite of this, he went on to say that “in view of the fact that PA12/01700 has been lawfully implemented I must assess these appeals by comparing the development as permitted, including the amendments in the NMAs, with what the appellant now proposes.”

Because of this, in considering Appeal A (PA15/03073) which related to the regularisation of the site as built and reduction of the digester closest to residents, he focussed his attention on the height of the digester and came to the view that Appeal A should be allowed.

In terms of Appeal B (PA15/05220), which related to traffic movements, he was critical of the nature of the access road, stating: “I agree that the access road is manifestly unsuitable to accommodate any increase in HGV numbers due to its blind bends, narrow width and lack of any footway or central white line.”

But he went onto state that he needed to assess “whether the appeal proposal would lead to any increase above the number and type of movements that have already been permitted,” adding that “I am concerned to minimise the impacts of HGV traffic to the AD plant on residents living on the access road. But it would be unreasonable to impose a condition limiting such movements to less than that already permitted and implemented.”

He therefore decided that the 35 HGVs per week requested by the application were “less than in the implemented permission,” which “the Council saw fit in 2013 to grant permission for the NMA allowing this.” I fundamentally disagree with his ruling on this, as the first NMA was unworkable and should never have been agreed. I am not sure that the Inspector grasped the significance of the evidence relating to traffic movements presented at the hearing, and he came to the view that Appeal B should also be allowed.

The Inspector issued a single consent for the two appeals with a single set of 21 conditions. Those of particular interest to local residents are as follows:

Condition 14
The Inspector has detailed that: “The weekly number and types of vehicles visiting the AD Plant site shall not exceed the following: 35 Heavy Goods Vehicle movements, 7 Staff/Other Vehicle movements (Light Goods Vehicles) - Total number of movements per week for the Anaerobic Digester Plant: 42.” He also agreed that: “The operators shall keep contemporaneous records of all vehicles visiting the site and shall provide written details of such vehicle movements at the request of the LPA, in order to show compliance with this condition”

One addition he made was that: “The definition of Heavy Goods Vehicles shall be agreed between the applicant and the Local Planning Authority (LPA) by the appellant submitting to the LPA within one month of this decision a list of vehicles types (including dimensions) of this class that will service the plant.” He also stated that once these had been agreed, only such vehicles would be able to be used to “import material for the digesters and remove the digestate.”

I am very disappointed that he did not reduce the number of HGVs in this condition, as I do not believe that the plant would be able to operate with only seven non-HGV movements per week. Indeed, the Inspector himself noted that residents had provided “compelling evidence” that vehicle movements, particularly of smaller vehicles, were consistently are “in excess of those permitted;” but simply concluded that the Council could take enforcement action or allow more (smaller) vehicle movements.

Condition 15
The Inspector sided with local residents in terms of delivery times for the plant. He did not consider that Greener for Life should be able to undertake deliveries from 7am to 7pm, and imposed the following condition:

“During school term times, vehicles delivering to and from the site shall operate only between the hours of 9am to 3pm and 4.15pm to 6pm Monday to Friday and between 8am–1pm on Saturday. There shall be no deliveries on Sundays or Bank/Public Holidays. Outside of school term times, vehicles delivering to and from the site shall operate only between the hours of 9am to 6pm Monday to Friday and between 8am–1pm on Saturday. There shall be no deliveries on Sundays or Bank/Public Holidays.”

Condition 20

The Inspector agreed with the unitary authority that “within two months of the date of this permission” the operators had to submit a revised Odour Management Plan to the Council for approval, which had to include “covered storage on site for all imported material.” He further defined “covered storage” as meaning “all waste and biocrops imported by lorry shall be stored either inside the main reception building or that the outside storage bays where the biocrops are currently stored shall be roofed and walled via a scheme to be submitted as part of this revised Odour Management Plan.”

Other conditions
It is the case that Greener for Life has much work to do in the coming few weeks. As well as agreeing the detail of HGVs entering the site with the Council (within one month) and submitting the Odour Management Plan within two months, Greener for Life will have to supply further information to meet three other conditions. These are as follows: (i) details of surface water drainage, (ii) the company’s vehicle management policy and (iii) the proposed scheme of planting; and must all be submitted within two months. It is also stated that the planting must be carried out within six months.

Costs ...
At the appeal, Greener for Life also attempted to persuade the Inspector that an award of costs should be made against Cornwall Council, but failed.

Greener for Life argued that the actions of Cornwall Council were “unreasonable” and resulted in “unnecessary costs” to their company. In particular, they moaned about the fact that councillors took a different view to planning officers and even criticised elected members for deferring both appeals on 19th November in order to consider the possibility of an alternative access off the A30 and deferring Appeal A on 11th February to look at the detail of specific conditions.

The Inspector did not agree with Greener for Life and his ruling was very critical of them.

He wrote: “The deferral from the November 2015 Committee was sensible so that the Council could explore with Highways England whether an access could be created directly off the A30, which would have overcome most of the residents’ problems with the plant … in view of the breach of several of the conditions attached to the original permission it was not unreasonable of the Council to defer the application from the February 2016 Committee in order to carefully consider the precise wording of the conditions, given the issues raised by neighbouring residents at that Committee meeting.”

It was also quite telling that he added: “The appellant’s response at the hearing to Cllr Cole’s assertion that it had declined to discuss the wording of the proposed conditions following that deferral was unconvincing. The evidence presented by the Council, residents and Cllr Cole points to a lack of urgency on the applicant’s part in seeking to resolve problems to residential neighbours arising from the plant. The Council was obliged to relook at the conditions carefully in view of the significant number and serious nature of residents’ continuing objections.”

And in another part of the ruling, he made clear his view that Greener for Life should have been “more focussed” in trying to resolve problems they had caused.

5. Biogas plant at Higher Fraddon

As noted above, the biogas plant now has planning permission and Cornwall Council has already written to Greener for Life to inform them what is expected from them from this point onwards.

Sadly, a number of complaints have already been made that lodged that Greener for Life are failing to meet certain conditions (such as the number of vehicle movements). I am monitoring the situation.

6. Pines Tip

The timetable for the appeal into the refusal of the application for three wind turbines on Pines Tip (Strategic Planning Committee; 10th March 2016) has not yet been published. I have formally requested a meeting with planning officers to consider how the authority will approach the appeal.

7. Cornwall Local Plan

The Inspector into Cornwall’s Local Plan published his final report at the beginning of October. Following his Examination in Public (EiP), which took place between two inquiry sessions in May 2015 and May 2016, he has ruled that the Plan can be made “sound” – or, in other words, consistent with central government regulations – if a range of changes are made to the document.

This includes an increase in the overall housing target from 47,500 to 52,500 for the period 2010 to 2030 – which I know will disappoint many people, myself included. He has also inserted an additional target for 2,550 bed-spaces in communal facilities for older people, and revised the affordable housing policy to make it less ambitious but consistent with the Government policy – which is sadly a backward step.

The attempt of local MK councillors to get the so-called eco-community removed from the document has also failed.

The Local Plan will now be re-presented to the Council’s Planning Policy Advisory Committee (which I chair) on Wednesday 26th October, before going forward for adoption at a meeting of the Full Council on Tuesday 22nd November.

8. Devonwall

In addition to my local activities, I have been heavily involved in the campaign against the creation of a cross-Tamar “Devonwall” seat for the 2020 General Election.

I have been informed that all Parish Councils have been written to by a local campaign group asking them to write to the Minister for the Constitution and the Boundary Commission in support of the campaign.

It is my hope that St Enoder Parish Council will be keen to do this.

9. Inquiries
During the last month, I have also helped numerous people with advice and guidance. These issues have been very varied, though there has been a significant rise in housing queries, many of which relate to new rental properties which will soon become available on Ocean Housing’s Harvenna Heights estate.

Monday, 24 October 2016

K for Kernow

Following the much-heralded recognition of the Cornish people as a “national minority” through the Council of Europe’s Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, radio amateurs from Cornwall contacted Ofcom to request that the new status be reflected in their call signs.

In their representation to the “independent regulator and competition authority,” the Poldhu Amateur Radio Club and various individuals pointed out that radio hams in the other Celtic parts of the United Kingdom had their own Regional Secondary Locators or RSLs.

Many people were delighted when Ofcom initially agreed to permit radio amateurs with a main station address in Cornwall to use their own distinctive RSL of “K” as part of their call signs.

Obviously, the symbolic “K” comes from the initial letter of Kernow.

But we were all extremely disappointed when the regulator changed its mind and the original offer of a permanent RSL was downgraded to a one-year temporary RSL for the calendar year of 2016.

That said, the use of the temporary RSL was well-received by radio hams in Cornwall and, earlier this month, Poldhu Amateur Radio Club sent a detailed submission to Ofcom.

This set out how the RSL had delivered a significant boost to their endeavours, while causing no problems whatsoever. The representation also appealed to Ofcom to review its previous decision and to make the Cornish RSL permanent.

I was pleased to be able to support this initiative and, with the Leader of Cornwall Council John Pollard, drafted a letter of support for the Poldhu Amateur Radio Club which was also signed by all the group leaders on the unitary authority; Adam Paynter (Liberal Democrat), Andrew Mitchell (Independent), John Keeling (Conservative), Tim Dwelly (Labour) and Bob Egerton (non-aligned group).

The response from Ofcom came extremely quickly – in about a week – and declined to agree to the extension to the Cornish RSL.

Their response is obviously discriminatory and it is clear that they had given little or no consideration to the Framework Convention. And it is my view that, following on from the “national minority” recognition, it would be unjust for Cornwall to be the only Celtic part of the UK not to have its identity respected with a bespoke RSL.

If you agree with me that this decision makes no sense at all, you might like to join radio amateurs throughout Cornwall who will be continuing to lobby Ofcom. The address to send letters to is Riverside House, 2a Southwark Bridge Road, London, SE1 9HA.

[This will be my article in this week’s Cornish Guardian].

Sunday, 23 October 2016

I have been re-elected leader of Mebyon Kernow …

In recent months, a number of political parties have been caught up in leadership battles, but I can report that I have been re-elected leader of Mebyon Kernow without a formal contest.

MK has annual elections to fill the four posts in its leadership team and nominations for the position of leader closed on 5th October.

It was confirmed at our National Executive meeting on Friday (21st October) that I was the only nominee and thereby re-elected unopposed.

I believe that I am one of the longest serving political leaders in Britain, having been first elected the leader of Party for Cornwall in 1997.

And as you will see from the above photograph, I looked a lot different back then – dark hair and all!

The other three members of the MK leadership team were also elected unopposed. These were as follows:

Deputy Leader – Cllr Loveday Jenkin
Treasurer - Cllr Andrew Long
Party Development Officer - Cllr Michael Bunney

Conservative double-speak on devolution

When the UK Government “agreed” its so-called “devolution deal” for Cornwall in 2015, it claimed that it was a “major step” in their commitment to “extend opportunity to every corner of our country” and that Cornwall would be gaining “historic new powers.”

The Prime Minister David Cameron said the “deal” would put power in the hands of local people and talked about the “fantastic potential that Cornwall holds.”

At that time, Mebyon Kernow criticized the “deal” for lacking ambition and hit out at the growing influence of unelected and unaccountable entities – such as the Local Enterprise Partnership – which do not have democratic legitimacy.

And, of course, the utterances from senior Tories were indeed "spin."

On Friday, a leading Conservative admitted that MK were correct.

At the “South West Growth Summit” and, in the context of a potential “devolution deal” for the 17 local authorities in Devon and Somerset, the words of Communities Minister Sajid Javid were reported as follows:

“He argued that Cornwall’s Devolution Deal without an elected mayor was not ambitious and did not involve any hand over of money. ‘What’s the point of going down that route?’ he said.”

There were clearly additional discussions about the Cornwall as part of a wider south west once again, which would see our distinct needs marginalised – just as the UK Government is pushing forward with a boundary review which disrespects Cornwall’s historic border.

It all shows that we need all politicians in Cornwall to coalesce around our calls for a Cornish Assembly with meaningful political powers.