Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Pave paradise and put up a parking lot

no parkingIt's now more than two years since the police managed to off-load responsibility for enforcing car parking rules onto local councils. Next week Cornwall Council's Parking Policy Advisory Panel considers the state of play in its latest annual report. A couple of interesting numbers: annual cost of Civil Parking Enforcement - £1,123,832. Annual income from Penalty Charge Notices - £937,651. Which helps demonstrate, I suppose, what a thankless task it is to be in charge of car parking. Not helped by radically different approaches in each of the former district councils. All sorts of reviews currently underway at County Hall, with a view to a standard one-rule-for-everywhere policy by April. Expect the cost of parking fines to rise sharply.

Monday, 30 August 2010

Black September at County Hall

Monday 13th September will see the start of a very strange week at Cornwall Council, as it launches a series of "Star Chamber" meetings designed ultimately to identify the 2,000 jobs likely to be axed at November's emergency budget. What's a Star Chamber? Well, I suppose the short answer is that it was a medieval court system, introduced in the 14th century. Wikipedia offers this:
"Over time it evolved into a political weapon and became a symbol of the misuse and abuse of power."
Hmm. I'm reliably informed that these Star Chamber meetings will not be open to the press or public. The first official announcement of who has done what to whom will be at the October Cabinet meeting. Unless someone wishes to let me know earlier...

Council webcasting: more please

Cornwall Council is considering extending and expanding its webcasting operation, which launched as an experimental project in May to a generally favourable response. Officials now recommend continuing the scheme until April and expanding it to cover not only full council meetings, but meetings of the council's Cabinet as well. As a journalist who is not always able to escape the office to attend council meetings in person, I have to confess I really hope councillors vote the extra £12,000 needed to make this happen. The County Hall webcasting I have seen so far is of a very high standard and makes a real contribution to "transparency."

Sunday, 29 August 2010

Bolted horses and stable doors

Interesting all-party motion coming before the next full meeting of Cornwall Council on 7th September (the day after the Parliamentary Voting Systems and Constituencies Bill is scheduled for its second reading in the House of Commons):
"This Council notes the introduction into the House of Commons of the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill and urges all Members of Parliament to vote to ensure that the Bill enables the Boundary Commission to take account of important factors such as special geographical considerations, local government boundaries and local ties when recommending the allocation of constituencies, without being unduly constrained by electoral quotas, thereby enabling Cornwall to be represented by MPs whose constituencies lie entirely within the boundaries of Cornwall."

The motion is supported by Alec Robertson, Doris Ansari, Neil Burden and Dick Cole among others. I'm sure it wasn't too dificult to get them to sign up to this - if the Bill is still alive by 7th September it will be a last-ditch battle in committee to get the sort of amendment that will get them off the hook before the third and final reading. I wonder what the councillors' motion would have said if it had been to advise MPs before 6th September?
But if the Bill later gets through committee without a pro-Cornwall amendment, does this motion imply that our coalition MPs should then vote against the proposed legislation? Expect much wriggling and contortion on Conservative and Lib Dem benches in the weeks ahead.

Friday, 27 August 2010

Flashman leads the way

We can only speculate about what shoppers in Truro's Ann Summers "women's lifestyle" store must have made of it when their consuming was interrupted by Cornwall councillor Jim Flashman taking his Miscellaneous Licensing Committee on a tour of the premises this morning. It was a fact-finding mission ahead of the debate about whether to permit an "adult products" shop in Little Castle Street. The verdict - approved, subject to conditions - will no doubt outrage protestors.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Slow train coming

Sooner or later our six coalition MPs are going to have to decide if the geo-political integrity of Cornwall's boundary with Devon matters more than their respective party interests as enshrined in the Parliamentary Voting Systems and Constituency Boundaries Bill.

I'm grateful to the Keep Cornwall Whole campaign for drawing my attention to a letter sent by the Boundary Commission to Saltash Town Council. The campaign's interpretation of that letter is that the Commission will not be able to save Cornwall if the Bill succeeds in its present form:
"As a result the focus of our efforts clearly must shift towards the bill, which comes before Parliament on 6th September."

Some of our MPs will undoubtedly try to amend the Bill at the committee stage. And should they fail, will they then vote against it? The campaign is planning a meeting at County Hall, Truro, at 7pm on 31st August. Should be lively.

1858 and all that

When it comes to digging up original sources I fear I am still way behind Mudhook. For more than a year he has linked to the Cornwall Submarine Mines Act 1858. Awesome.

The Duchy, the Crusades and history's unfinished business

Let me make this quite clear - I am NOT comparing any of Cornwall's nationalists with Osama Bin Laden. I would describe those nationalists I have met as generally gentle, thoughtful people who are genuinely puzzled by any reluctance to share their beliefs. I do however have a question for them:

Bin Laden's campaign of international terrorism is based on his belief that the Western world's Crusades (1088-1314) never ended. He is still trying to fight those wars and refuses to consider that the world might have moved on.

After all, it's not as if there was an umpire or referee who blew a whistle at the end and declared one side or the other the "winner." As with so much of history, things just sort of fizzled out when everyone got tired of or bored with all the slaughter. History doesn't always have a tidy ending, particularly in countries which don't have a written constitution and whose monarchies are largely for ceremonial, rather than political, purposes.

So here's my question (or questions): at what point did we move on from The Black Prince's investiture as the first Duke of Cornwall in 1337 to the modern day Duchy of Cornwall? If the answer is "we haven't" then what would it take to convince you that the Black Prince is no longer relevant (at least, not to most people?)

And to those who seek to turn the clock back - why stop at 1337? Why not campaign for an earlier start? Are we not all African?

Wednesday, 25 August 2010


Florence Rose Endellion Cameron

Us and Them

Should it be the Duchy of Devon? Or is Devon a county? The Duchy of Cornwall owns four times as much land in Devon (28,507 hectares) as it does in Cornwall (source: Duchy of Cornwall accounts 2010).

Bona Vacantia

From the Duchy of Cornwall's 2010 annual accounts:
"During the period, His Royal Highness in right of his Duchy of Cornwall, received bona vacantia (being the estate of deceased intestates resident in Cornwall and dying without next of kin) of £69,000 (2009: £34,000) before allowing for ex gratia payments and other associated costs of £22,000 (2009: £30,000). Surplus receipts of bona vacantia by His Royal Highness are paid over to The Duke of Cornwall's Benevolent Fund; £50,000 (2009: £Nil) was paid during the year. At 31st March 2010, the Duchy retained £150,000 (2009: £154,000) within creditors to meet potential future claims from individuals statutorily entitled to estates which had previously passed as bona vacantia to His Royal Highness."

At £69,000 this relic of feudalism is more than double the previous year, but would still be insufficient to pay Cornwall Council's chief executive for four months.Nevertheless, a 21st century progressive democracy might have alternative uses for the money - any suggestions?

Duchy says Cornwall is a county

From the Duchy of Cornwall's official website:
"Of the Duchy's 54,090 hectares, 7,126 (13 per cent) are in Cornwall. The county of Cornwall covers 354,920 hectares, so the Duchy only owns 2 per cent of the county."

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

BBC Radio Cornwall first with Cameron interview

Chris Young interviews David Cameron Prime Minister David Cameron tells BBC Radio Cornwall reporter Chris Young about the birth of his daughter, at the Royal Cornwall hospital, Truro. The interview was broadcast live to news outlets around the world.

Clegg continues to hold the fort

I'm assuming David Cameron is now on paternity leave. What chance Nick Clegg will be invited to be a godfather?

Baby names, anyone?

Demelza? Tamsin? Merryn? Lowenna?

A Conservative in labour?

Media rumour-mill in overdrive at the moment after unconfirmed report that eight-and-a-half-months pregnant Samantha Cameron has gone to the Royal Cornwall hospital in Truro.

Monday, 23 August 2010

A ripping yarn

Mike Chappell of the Celtic League protesting about the BBC. He also raised more than £100 for Shelter. Thanks to Mike for permission to reproduce this video.

Prime Suspect

Drinking coffee at the Galleon cafe on Polzeath beach yesterday: a man bearing an uncanny resemblance to Prime Minister David Cameron.

Saturday, 21 August 2010

From Dumnonia to perfidious Albion

kilbrandon2.jpgPesky things, original sources. Those who like to quote selectively from the Royal Commission on the Constitution 1969-73 Volume 1 (better known in the blogosphere as the Kilbrandon Report, named after Baron Kilbrandon, a Scottish judge and Law Lord, formerly known as Charles Shaw; died 1989) tend to leave out these bits, even though they are from the same paragraph and pages (para 329, pages 101-102):
"Cornwall has, however, been governed as part of England for a thousand years and, despite its individual character and strong sense of regional identity, there is no evidence that its people generally have a wish to see it separated for the purposes of government from the rest of England. What they do want is recognition of the fact that Cornwall has a separate identity and that its traditional boundaries shall be respected. While we studied with interest evidence presented to us, we have not been able to find ways in which this demand could be met within any framework of constitutional change that we would consider appropriate."

Not much comfort there for the nationalist cause. But a few sentences later:

"The creation of the Duchy of Cornwall in the fourteenth century may have been in some respects a mark of English overlordship, but it established a special and enduring relationship between Cornwall and the Crown. Use of the designation on all appropriate occasions would serve to recognise both this special relationship and the territorial integrity of Cornwall, on which our witnesses laid great stress."

As I have blogged before, Kilbrandon was careful to use the word "appropriate" - there is not even a hint of "should" or "ought" or "must" call Cornwall a Duchy. And Kilbrandon's context (usually ignored by those who seek to quote him) is in terms of the "relationship between Cornwall and the Crown." In other words, he was sucking up to the Royals. And is he being just the teensiest bit patronising towards those witnesses "who laid great stress" on Cornwall's territorial integrity?

There are 580 pages in the Kilbrandon Report and several references to Cornwall - in all of them Kilbrandon calls Cornwall a county. For heaven's sake, he even lumps Cornwall in with a South West region (para 221, page 70):
"The new counties of Avon, Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Gloucestershire, Somerset and Wiltshire will be in the region."

The Kilbrandon Report is now 40 years old and of dubious relevance. Commissioned by Harold Wilson, published by Edward Heath, it lead to important reforms in Scottish law, particularly in relation to children's rights. Its main contribution towards modern British politics was to lay the groundwork for early thinking on Scottish and Welsh devolution.

But a clear mandate for calling Cornwall a Duchy? Definitely not clear at all, and certainly not in the context that some Cornish nationalists claim.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Air passengers vanish

News that East Midlands airport had lost nearly one million passengers in 12 months, due to the economic squeeze, volcanic ash disruption etc, prompted me to seek similar data from Newquay: I am grateful for the airport's reply:
Terminal Passengers (000's)
2007-08: 357
2008-09: 408
2009-10: 359
2010-11 (forecast): 329

This is a 19.4% drop over the last two years, or 79,000 passengers. Not as bad as East Midlands but I suspect worrying for those seeking to pursue plans for the airport's expansion.

Cause without a rebel

St Ives Lib Dem MP Andrew George kindly sends me his latest press release, celebrating 100 days of coalition government. The release says Andrew "campaigned against the VAT rise." Really? Hansard records that on 20th July, at the crucial third reading, all six of Cornwall's MPs, including Andrew, voted in favour of it. No doubt Andrew will be writing to the House of Commons authorities to deny this disgraceful slur...

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Primates, pets, and Prime Minister's promises

On his last official visit to Cornwall, David Cameron told the Wild Futures monkey sanctuary: "It seems to me a very strong case that you have..." when asked what he would do to prevent primates being kept as pets. Mr Cameron's original comments on the issue are recorded here.

The monkey sanctuary has now had his considered reply: "the government does not believe that a regulatory regime is necessary."

Rachel Hevesi, of Wild Futures, says she is disappointed and believes the Prime Minister has back-tracked on his comments in July.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

It must be even worse than we thought

St Austell & Newquay MP Stephen Gilbert tweets to say he's just been interviewed about Cornwall's housing crisis - by the Middle East TV network Al Jazeera, better-known for its coverage of goings-on in Gaza.

Truth stranger than fiction?

Conservative MP for the City of London and Westminster, Mark Field:
"I reckon that defending a record in government will necessitate Conservatives giving most Liberal Democrat incumbents a free run in their seats. By way of reciprocation in the dozen or so Conservative-held seats most vulnerable to the Liberal Democrats, candidates from the latter party would also stand down."

No shortage of Tory-Lib Dem marginals in Cornwall. Mr Field's suggestion might guarantee a 3-3 share of Parliamentary representation by these two political parties forever. Just think of the money, time and effort that could be saved...

Monday, 16 August 2010

Keeping their heads down

I notice that none of Cornwall's three Conservative MPs has signed Early Day Motion 613, challenging the proposed date of a referendum on whether or not to change the voting system. This is a key part of the Parliamentary Voting Systems and Constituencies Bill, which I fear is in danger of taking over my life.

As none of the three Cornwall Conservatives is an enthusiast for the Alternative Vote system - indeed, Camborne & Redruth's George Eustice has vowed to campaign against it - I assume they are waiting to see which way the wind blows. The number of declared Tory troublemakers (45) is large enough to worry the government's whips.

Still in neutral

The wheels of local government sometimes turn painfully slowly. On 2nd July Cornwall councillors decided to write to deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg on the issue of second home voters. No letter has yet been sent. I understand the relevant officials have been on holiday.

A Cornish baby for Sam Cam?

Midwives at the Royal Cornwall Hospital, Treliske, are wondering what extra excitement their rotas might bring over the next two weeks as 8-months-pregnant Samantha Cameron begins her family holiday in Cornwall. If the baby is born in Truro, will he or she be Cornish?

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Cameron family on their way

The Prime Minister and his family start their holiday in Cornwall tomorrow. I think the plan is for two weeks close to a north Cornwall beach. I'm sure they'll have a lovely time.
(Memo to Dave: Don't worry. Everything's fine. Nick's in charge.)

Cornwall calling

frankphillips.jpgFingers crossed as tomorrow I start my first week reading the news on BBC Radio Cornwall. The last time I read the news for a BBC local radio station was in 1979 (four years before Radio Cornwall was born.) In those days the job seemed to involve several people, including one whose main function seemed to be to press a button which made a bulb in the studio go from red to green. Scripts were pounded out by typewriter and read from sheets of paper. Some of the studio equipment, which had been salvaged from Broadcasting House, needed time for the valves to warm up.

These days the quest for ever-greater value means that one person does pretty much everything. I think I have three separate studio computers to operate simultaneously, reading the news from a screen (let's hope it doesn't go blank) in between navigating the BBC's own internal computer system, which lets me find stories on other networks. I watched a colleague doing it last week and it looks pretty scary.

Friday, 13 August 2010

The principal principle

Three blog posts on the same subject on the same day? Time to get a life.

I am grateful to officials at the House of Commons for confirming that my analysis of procedure in relation to the Parliamentary Voting Systems and Constituencies Bill is correct.

The Order paper for business on 6th September is now available and you can read it here. You can see that there are two amendments, one from Labour and a separate one from a group of Scottish Nationalist and Plaid Cymru MPs. So there will be a division. If enough Tories rebel the government could be in trouble.

Cornwall's six coalition MPs have already missed the deadline for submitting a Second Reading amendment to preserve separate constituencies for Cornwall. I wonder if this is an indication of how seriously they take the issue?

What it means is that if the Super Six really do want to save the Parliamentary boundary with Devon they will have two opportunities to vote to defeat the Bill on Monday 6th September.

I suspect, however, that for entirely different reasons they will vote for the coalition government - the three Lib Dems because they want a referendum on the Alternative Voting system, and the three Conservatives because they want a boundary review which will change future electoral mathematics in their favour.

It is possible to make a principled case either in favour or against both measures. But not if you want to save the boundary between Cornwall and Devon. The Bill in its present form looks like a dog's breakfast designed to hold the coaltion together, rather than make serious democratic reforms. Why not hold separate votes on separate parts of the Bill? But if keeping Cornwall's voters in Cornwall is really the principal concern of your MP, he or she should vote against the Bill on Monday 6th September.

Anti-Devonwall campaigners in separate camps

A new campaign group, Keep Cornwall Whole, looks set to lobby The Boundary Commission. This would suit Cornwall's MPs because it shifts the focus away from Parliament and takes the heat off them. But if you read the Bill, it's quite clear that if it gets through Parliament in its present form, thousands of Cornish voters will have to share their constituency with Devon at the next election.

Keep Cornwall Whole is lead by the Lib Dem Mayor of Saltash, Adam Killeya. I am not aware of a separate campaign lead by the Conservatives, but in these modern coalition times I suspect that Keep Cornwall Whole will suffice for both Tories and Liberal Democrats.

As I have blogged in previous posts, the Labour Party has its own self-interested reasons for opposing the Parliamentary Voting Systems and Constituencies Bill but that doesn't mean the votes of Labour MPs, together with those of the Scottish Nationalists and Plaid Cymru, cannot be used to "Keep Cornwall Whole." Labour's Jude Robinson has started an on-line petition.

Smoke & Mirrors

Cornwall Lib Dem councillor Alex Folkes takes me to task in his excellent blog for identifying 6th September as a key date in the Parliamentary timetable for legislation which, in its present form, would transfer thousands of Cornwall's voters to Devon. I stand by my story and here's why.

The key question is whether or not, when the Parliamentary Voting Systems and Constituencies Bill has its Second Reading on 6th September, there is a division. The Bill is so controversial that MPs will almost certainly demand a vote. The Labour Party in particular, viewing the prospect of its northern strongholds decimated, will take any opportunity to amend or kill the Bill in its present form.

If the Bill survives 6th September, then (as Alex suggests) it will go to committee and the Lords before coming back to the Commons for its third and final reading. But Nick Clegg's proposals could be ambushed at any time.

The question for Cornwall's MPs is whether their enthusiasm for Cornwall's geo-political integrity outweighs their enthusiasm for party loyalty and the coalition government. If it is the former, then there is no reason why they should not join in attempts to change or defeat the Bill on 6th September.

I cannot help but wonder if any of Cornwall's MPs will table an amendment to the Bill themselves. If not, why not?

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Gamekeeper turns poacher

Dean Ashton, former director of Children's Services at Cornwall Council, is to lead Sandy Hill Community Primary School's application to opt-out of local authority control and become a self-governing academy.

In October Mr Ashton resigned his council job as Ofsted prepared to publish a highly critical report about his department. He had been in the post for only 11 months. Mr Ashton is also a former deputy headteacher at Penrice Community College, St Austell.

George's Online Diary

Camborne and Redruth MP George Eustice blogs his reaction to the government's education cuts:
"As a former student, I was incredibly disappointed not to have been able to get Cornwall College access to funding to refurbish the campus at Pool."
An earlier post tells how he will campaign against the Alternative Vote. Of course, Hansard records how Members of Parliament actually vote when various measures come before them and I'm sure there will be no inconsistency between what George writes in his blog and how he votes at Westminster.

An old joke

tax bombshell posterThe Finance Bill has received Royal Assent and so the increase in Value Added Tax, to 20%, is now law. All six of Cornwall's MPs voted in favour of it.

Devonwall Bill runs into more flak

Nick Clegg's Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill, which will have the effect of delivering some of Cornwall's voters into Devon, has upset the all-Party committee set up to examine it. In a report presented to Parliament, the committee chair, Graham Allen, criticises the timetable for progressing the legislation, claiming it puts his committee in an extremely difficult position:
"When the House agreed to establish the committee, it did so, in the words of the Deputy Leader of the House, 'to ensure that the House is able to scrutinise the work of the Deputy Prime Minister'. In the case of these two bills you have denied us any adequate opportunity to conduct this scrutiny."

The legislation's second reading is scheduled for 6th September, with many people watching Cornwall's six coalition MPs to see if - despite promises to "save Cornwall" - they ultimately vote in favour of the Bill.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Has Cameron forgotten his monkey promise?

monkey When David Cameron last visited Cornwall, on 9th July, a woman from the Wild Futures Monkey Sanctuary near Looe asked him if he agreed that primates are unsuitable to be kept as pets. You can see and hear the exchange here. (46:30) This is what he said:
"Every now and again at these meetings you get asked a question and you've got absolutely no idea what the answer is! (applause) I didn't know. I will go and find out. It seems to me that you've got a very strong argument. It's not like Tarzan and Cheetah. That was a film. That wasn't real life. One thing I can say, because politicians make these promises, and then sometimes forget........So we will get you an answer. Give us your name and email address. It seems to me a very strong case that you have...."

The Prime Minister then went on to talk about a stray bat in Downing Street and the remaining few minutes were sheer showbiz.

A month has passed. David Cameron's views on whether primates should be kept as pets remain a mystery. Please don't comment with jokes about his coalition partners.

Class war

Signs of the coalition starting to fray? South East Cornwall Conservative MP Sheryll Murray Tweets is to ask why St Ives Liberal Democrat Andrew George doesn't want to share a standard class railway carriage with her. And she re-Tweets this message:
"Andrew George still traveling 1st class, hope he's topping up his allowance?"
Not very friendly.....hasn't she heard, they're on the same side now?

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Gravity 1 - 0 Smith

coasteeringIt's probably not unheard of for teenagers to tell their parents to go and take a running jump - but in my house they really mean it. And so it was that I come to have made my first attempt at coasteering - or "jumping off a cliff into the Atlantic Ocean," to give a more detailed title to the most extreme part of what the sport involves.

Actually I'm not sure that "sport" is really the right word, but then that has been said through the generations: what once was said about skateboarding is said now about coasteering. But regardless of whether it's a sport or just a "craze," coasteering is fast becoming a regular money-spinning venture in Cornwall, particularly on the north coast.

Both my daughters seem to have grown up in wetsuits, never far from their surfboards; the beach has been a huge part of their lives. And against my better judgement, defying the wisdom of my years etc etc, I submitted to the kids' encouragement, took myself off to Port Gaverne and pondered the chances of beating gravity.

I could have just said "no." I could have protested about the difference between necessary risk and unnecessary risk; about the needless burden on medical and emergency rescue services; I could have said I am far too old; I could have just been honest about my cowardice.

And you know what? It's great fun. Hauling yourself out of the water and climbing 30 feet up the cliff is the hard part. Jumping back in is relatively easy (if you don't think about it.) Gravity completes its mission far too quickly. Either that, or I need a bigger cliff. David Cameron, who is about to start a fortnight's holiday in north Cornwall, should try it.

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Dormouse scuppers Morrisons plan for Wadebridge

dormouseAbsence of evidence is not evidence of absence. This is the important principle which looks as if it's going to become a crucial factor in the "battle of the supermarkets" currently raging in Wadebridge, where Sainsbury's and Morrisons are racing to develop new sites to the north of the town and Tesco is seeking expansion to the south.

Morrisons wants to build on the existing Wadebridge Football Club ground. Part of the deal is a new football site outside and to the west of the town at Bodieve. The proposed new football site is due to come before planners on Thursday and is a "make-or-break" element of the supermarket project: no new football club, no Morrisons.

The 10.5-acre site at Bodieve is currently agricultural and - possibly - home to a handful of dormice. Dormice are now so rare that they are on the list of European Protected Species and it is against the law to disturb their habitat. No-one has seen any dormice on the site but that doesn't matter - they have been seen just over a mile away and so there is a risk that they might take offence at the construction of six football pitches, floodlighting, changing facilities and 70 car parking spaces.

And so, notwithstanding what planning officer Gavin Smith sees as the community benefit of a new sporting facility, which is supported by both Sport England and the Football Association, he is recommending a refusal of permission:
"In the absence of the opportunity for the planning authority to consider the impact on a protected species as a material consideration, I am of the opinion that permission
cannot be granted to this application."

Supporters of the proposed new football site are now desperately hoping that a dormouse survey, due to be completed by November, will prove that no dormouse will be harmed by the project.

Meanwhile planners are soon to consider the Sainsbury's application, just yards from the existing Wadebridge Football Club (where Morrisons wants to go), at Higher Trenant. The proposed Sainsbury's site is on land owned by Cornwall Council.

Those councillors who are keen to sell to Sainsbury's, and cash in on a surplus asset in order to benefit Cornwall's council taxpayers, might now discover a new interest in nature conservation in general and the protection of dormice in particular.

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Bill Jenkin remanded

Just heard that Cornwall councillor Bill Jenkin, facing sexual assault charges, has been remanded on bail by West Cornwall magistrates until 2nd September. No plea taken at this morning's hearing.

Neil Plummer quits Independent group for MK

neil plummer
Cornwall councillor Neil Plummer has resigned from the Independent group and joined Mebyon Kernow. I suspect it's unlikely that he'll resign his Stithians seat and fight a by-election under his new colours, but it's nevertheless a move which might have some knock-on effects on committee memberships and appointments to outside organisations. Neil says he found himself increasingly out of step with the Independent group, claiming some senior members "appeared to want to control the way I voted."

Who on Earth can he mean?

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Miliband-the-younger vows to save Cornwall

If Ed Miliband becomes leader of the Labour Party next month, we can expect "the Cornish question" to move up the political agenda, even if only slightly.

Miliband was on BBC Radio Cornwall this morning saying he supported "absolutely" the campaign to maintain whole Parliamentary constituencies within Cornwall and would therefore be voting against the coalition government's Parliamentary Voting and Constituencies Bill.

Only a cynic would suggest that Ed's distaste for this Bill has anything to do with the fact that it would also abolish many of the smaller constituencies which just happen to be, currently, safe Labour seats in the north of England. You can read the Bill here.

We don't yet know how the other Labour leadership hopefuls feel about constituency boundaries, but I suspect that on this issue they all speak with one voice. I am less confident when it comes to forecasting how Cornwall's six coalition MPs will vote.

The Cornsh Zetetics blogger has an interesting post on the subject. I wonder if any mischievous Parliamentary troublemakers will table the sort of "hands off Cornwall" amendment which he suggests:
"At present paragraph 9.3 (1) of Part 2 of the bill reads - Each constituency shall be wholly in one of the four parts of the UK (England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland)

This sentence needs amending to read

Each constituency shall be wholly in one of the five parts of the UK (England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Cornwall)"

An important number in the weeks ahead will the one which tells us the size of the Tory rebellion. Enough to bring down the coalition?

Cornwall's Conservative MPs are generally in favour of the constituency boundaries part of the Bill but opposed to that part of it which seeks a referendum of the Alternative Vote electoral system. The Lib Dem MPs want a change in the voting system and a review of boundary changes. But both Conservative and Lib Dems have said they want to save Cornwall and so are opposed to boundary changes which would effectively sell Saltash and Torpoint to Plymouth.

If there is a form of words which will deliver all of these things, in a single Bill, to both sides of the coalition, I can't imagine what it looks like. Any suggestions?

Monday, 2 August 2010

Welcome, Councillor Mary McWilliams

mary mcwilliamsCongratulations to Lib Dem candidate Mary McWilliams, who polled 427 votes in a Redruth Town council by-election to beat the only other candidate, Labour's Linda Moore, who got 139.

Mary is almost certainly the first ever black woman to get elected as a councillor in Cornwall. In one of the least racially diverse parts of Britain, where black and Asian people still account for less than 1% of the population (2.3% average in the South West and 9.1% in England), Mary's achievement should not go unrecognised.

Perhaps not quite as historic as President Obama now leading the United States of America but a milestone nonetheless. Incidentally, African Americans make up 14% of the population in the USA.

Nick spills the beans about Dave's Cornish holiday

With Downing Street still characteristically "secret for security reasons" about the Prime Minister's holiday plans, it's the Deputy Prime Minister I have to thank for telling me when David Cameron will visit Cornwall.

Hansard records that Nick Clegg told the House of Commons:
"The PM will take his vacation in the second half of August."
Mr Cameron told us in early July he would soon be returning to Cornwall for his holiday. Two years ago the Cameron family spent their vacation near Harlyn Bay, Padstow. I understand the Prime Minister has booked two weeks' leave and I expect he will once again spend his holiday on Cornwall's north coast. Samantha Cameron is due to give birth in September.

Nick Clegg is currently spending his family holiday in Spain but will be back in the UK, ready willing and able to "hold the fort" (his words) while Dave is making sandcastles on the beach.

Quarterly headcount stats: jobs freeze starts to bite

My thanks to Cornwall Council for the latest batch of statistics:

Total headcount March 31 2010: 20,963

Total headcount June 30 2010: 19,970

Headline fall: 993

After a slow start, the freeze on recruitment now seems to be having some impact - with 1,077 fewer employees now than at the end of September 2009. I suspect there may be quite a time lag between staff departures and the collation of the statistics. A literal interpretation of the most recent quarter implies people are now leaving at the rate of 330 per month,or about ten per day. That would be quite a stampede. In any event, getting headcount down to below 20,000 marks a significant milestone.