Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Blogger bunks off

I've gone to chase tennis balls (gone are the days when I could go and hit tennis balls.) Back on 3rd February.

Friday, 21 January 2011

Sir John retires

Sir John Banham, 70, the recently-appointed chairman of the Cornwall & Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership, is to retire as chairman of chemical company Johnson Matthey PLC. He has chaired Johnson Matthey since 2006 and will step down formally at the AGM in July. Cornwall Council has still not answered my question about how much it is costing the public purse (in compensation to Johnson Matthey) to have Sir John chair the LEP.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

There's (not) one missing

The government won yesterday evening's Parliamentary vote on the scrapping of Education Maintenance Allowance by 317 - 258. Five of Cornwall's six MPs backed the proposal to abolish EMA - Conservatives George Eustice, Sarah Newton and Sheryll Murray and Liberal Democrats Dan Rogerson and Stephen Gilbert. I can find no mention of St Ives MP Andrew George in either lobby.


This will teach me to read to the bottom of the page. Andrew tells me he missed the first vote because he was doing a Newsnight interview, but joined his colleagues in voting for the government (ie to abolish EMA) in the second vote, which the government won by 319 - 256.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Campaign Kernow calls time

The idea of taking a Cornish team to the Commonwealth Games has finally bitten the dust.

Cause without a rebel?

Today's Parliamentary debate on plans to scrap the Education Maintenance Allowance will test the mettle of Cornwall's Lib Dem MPs. Watch out for more Hansard coming back to haunt them at the next general election in 2015 - today's 16-year-old school leavers, and their younger siblings, will be old enough to vote.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Devonwall deal in the Lords?

James Landale reckons the game's afoot.

Game over for St Tudy's new school?

I've been trying for some time to get clarification about funding for a new school at St Tudy. The crucial issue was to get central government to extend its March 2011 deadline for a £1.3million contribution. The Department for Education has just sent me this email:
"Since the school is a VA school, capital grants for projects at the school are subject to two rules which are relevant in this case.

· grants can only be paid against receipts on spend rather than as an upfront allocation;

· grants have to be spent in the year for which they are made. 2005 Targeted Capital Fund allocations would have been expected to be spent by 2008 at the latest

in view of the financial situation, HM Treasury is no longer allowing departments flexibility to carry forward unspent funding form the last spending review period into the new one."
I have asked Cornwall Council for a comment and will update this post when I get it.

Friday, 14 January 2011

Paws for thought

It's been nine months in the writing, it runs to 22 pages with 53 pages of appendixes, and its main conclusion is to leave things as they are - with town and parish councils making such changes as they see fit. But if you want to read the Cornwall Council report about dogs on beaches, you can do so here.

Rainy Day Camborne

Rarely can so much effort have gone into generating such a low turnout. Barely one in five voters bothered yesterday, and so Labour's Jude Robinson was quite right to express caution when asked on BBC Radio Cornwall this morning to assess the significance of her victory in the Camborne North by-election.

The losing parties will be even more willing to downplay the result, particularly the Liberal Democrats. They seemed shocked to discover that their campaign slogan "Only the Liberal Democrats can beat the Conservatives" no longer works, particularly when the voters know full well that only the Liberal Democrats are keeping the Conservatives in government. Life in a coalition is certainly tough.

When this council ward was last contested in June 2009 it was won by the Conservatives despite the presence of an Independent candidate. Yesterday there was no Independent but the Conservatives still lost ground. In 2009, Labour came fifth, behind Mebyon Kernow, and with only 11% of the vote. Last night MK managed only 32 votes, just one more than the Greens.

I think Jude's success will make the Cornwall Council chamber a more interesting place - a lone voice, to be sure, but a voice which is clearly one of Opposition and not confused by the Con-Lib coalition deals at Westminster.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Devonwall Bill crunchtime on Monday night

My colleague James Landale has a good article about the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill:
"The crunch will come next week. The Government has scheduled an extra three days to complete the committee stage of the bill in an attempt to prevent opposition peers delaying it further. Government peers are threatening to keep the Lords sitting through Monday night to get through all the amendments, with some already promising to come with their sleeping bags. If the bill is delayed further there will not be enough time for it to get through its remaining legislative hurdles and become law by 16 February, the deadline set by the Electoral Commission watchdog which will oversee the referendum."

From Camborne North to Old & Sad

Once upon a time by-elections ran according to a well rehearsed script. But today's polls, for Cornwall Council in Camborne North and for Parliament in Oldham & Saddleworth, take us into a fascinating new world. The blogosphere and the Twitterati will be very busy tonight. I can't wait!

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Administratively England

Tenpercentsolution.pdf This pdf file from Democratic Audit includes this paragraph:
"The Duchy of Cornwall has something of a special status among English counties - in some ways it is only administratively rather than culturally 'England' at all. Local opinion in Cornwall has been against a 'Devonwall' seat crossing the county boundary. It would not affect overall equality much to give it (plus the Isles of Scilly) a specific exemption, although the decision whether to give it 5 or 6 seats of its own is a matter of fine judgement."
Meanwhile the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill continues to rumble through the House of Lords.

Pickles makes it harder to use empty homes

Communities and Local Government secretary Eric Pickles has just made it harder for councils to use empty properties - councils must now wait two years, rather than six months. There are currently more than 4,000 homes in Cornwall which have been empty for more than six months.

According to the Empty Homes Agency only 44 orders have been issued in England since the law was introduced in 2006. I asked Cornwall Council if it had ever used this legislation (Empty Dwelling Management Orders) and if so how often. Here's the reply:
"The answer is no EDMOs have been applied for/secured by Cornwall Council or any of the 6 previous councils. In relation the Empty Property Strategy this change will not have a dramatic effect. EDMO powers are only one of the powers available to the Council to bring problem long term empty properties back into use. After all informal avenues have been explored the use of enforcement action will be considered and the most suitable power identified. The changes outlined by Mr Pickles are likely to result in EDMO powers being suitable in fewer cases."

Cornwall Council, agency workers, and Lord Ashcroft's nice little earner

I'm sure you're familiar with the saying that what goes around comes around, and in the world of money and politics it's nearly always true. So if, for example, someone gives pots of money to a political party then sooner or later they usually get it back.

It's why the trade unions bankroll the Labour Party; big business bankrolls the Conservative Party; and each looks after their own. Not directly, of course. There's seldom a clear-cut paper-trail. And I'm certainly not suggesting any kind of improper relationship. But some facts just scream out to be reported and readers encouraged to form their own judgements. So here goes.

Cornwall Council often has a need for temporary workers. Hiring temps is itself a time-consuming business so last year the council contracted a company called Comensura to do it. Comensura, based in Luton, does not actually have a vast reservoir of council workers itself, but instead provides the software to find staff with the appropriate skills and qualifications. There was no public debate about this and not one single member of the council has had any opportunity to vote on it.

It is not disputed that agency workers are often on minimum wages and go without holiday, sick pay or pensions. Although the last Labour government introduced the Agency Worker Regulations in January last year, in a bid to comply with European Union legislation protecting workers' rights, the rules are not due to be implemented until October this year. The Conservatives made it clear before last year's election they opposed the regulations. The department for Business, Innovation & Skills now says it will "adjust its guidance" about the new regulations before October.

The council's current contract with Comensura is worth £200,000 a year, although the total spend on temporary workers is close to £8.5million. Comensura makes its money by charging about 30 pence on each transaction. Senior council officials are so pleased with the arrangement that they now want to increase the volume of business with Comensura and are suggesting a "strategy for extending the use of Comensura to engage and manage all current and new interim workers."

The idea of "outsourcing" some staffing functions is not new and has its roots in the New Labour hey day. Comensura tells me that over the past ten years it has won contracts with more than 100 councils, of all political persuasions. The company declined to discuss details on the grounds of commercial confidentiality, but pointed to local authority consortia in the north west and north east which would certainly include some Labour councils.

The company's statement said:
"All of Comensura's services are procured under European Union procurement law. This guarantees a robust and strict buying procedure is followed at all times and ensures aspects, such as political party leadership, are not factors that influence decisions. Cornwall Council is a key customer of Comensura and our services will ensure that the Council get the best value for money from their usage of temporary worker suppliers."

My own research, based on news reports covering 28 local authorities, found that 75% were Tory, 14% had no overall control, 10% were Labour and 1% a Lib Dem/Plaid Cymru coalition. I accept that news reports are not the most reliable evidence, but even allowing for the decline in the number of Labour councils, and the Conservative Party's recent advances in local, this suggests Labour has been less enthusiastic about outsourcing jobs to agencies - and more sympathetic to the concerns of the trade unions. As per my opening paragraph, what goes around comes around.

Comensura is wholly-owned by a parent company called the Impellam Group, which shares the same Luton address. Until April of last year, more than 57% of Impellam was owned by Lord Ashcroft, the celebrated non-domiciled tax-dodger and historically one of the largest-ever individual donors to the Conservative Party. On 6th April 2010 Lord Ashcroft transferred his holding in Impellam to his children.

The question for Cornwall Council was simply whether it was aware that Comensura was owned by a controversial politician such as Lord Ashcroft. I don't recall much of a public debate (or even any debate at all) when Comensura was brought in last October, although I've no reason to think it was done by anything other than the normal procurement process. This is what the council had to say:
"When letting a contract the Council's main focus is to ensure the company selected has both the capacity and capability to deliver the service to the appropriate standard and offers best value for money for council taxpayers in Cornwall. Detailed evaluation of the management of the company is not key to this assessment, unless, for example, a company director has been convicted of a criminal offence or is in some other way declared inadmissible. This is certainly not the case with Comensura. As a result the Council was not aware that the parent company which owns Comensura was, itself, formerly owned by Lord Ashcroft.
"The decision to award the contract to Comensura was made using the Council's Procurement Assurance Scheme under which a panel of senior officers are required to ensure an open and transparent procurement process for all high value contracts. In accordance with the Council's normal procedure for such high value contracts, the recommendation from this panel was then considered by the relevant Corporate Director who made the final decision. There was no public debate because the decision to award the contract to Comensura was made by Council officers and not by elected Members."

So much for the facts. I wonder if anybody has asked the County Hall trade unions what they think?

How much for Sir John Banham to chair the LEP?

I have asked Cornwall Council for further and better particulars about this statement, issued on 22nd December:
"Given the intensive nature of the work required, Johnson Matthey, the company that Sir John currently chairs, has been recompensed for the time that he has committed to addressing the areas such as low cost green energy for Cornwall, connectivity, creating vibrant rural communities and affordable housing. Sir John will not receive any remuneration himself, and as previously stated, the roles of chairman and board member of the LEP will not be subject to any remuneration other than normal expenses once the formal LEP is established and operating."
There was some confusion as a result of answers given at yesterday's full council meeting. Some councillors came away with the clear impression that the council is paying Sir John direct. Sir John tells me that he is not being paid at all. No doubt there might be a question of out-of-pocket expenses. But let's be clear - Sir John's experience and expertise is not cheap. A day in the ofice costs Johnson Matthey more than £1,100. Details of his £280,000/year, not counting pension, remuneration here.

Putting your foot in it

Cornwall Council chief Kevin Lavery has broken his foot. Shame on those councillors who could hardly contain their humour yesterday - who speculated if it was caused by him (a) dropping his wallet on it or (b) kicking one of the slower-moving Cabinet members? I suspect the truth is closer to (c) - knowing his passion for football. Indeed, I believe the council holds photographic evidence, which might or might not be relevant to the unfortunate metatarsal.

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Car park charges - the last word?

Cornwall Council seems set to finalise its new tariffs for car parking at this week's Cabinet meeting. Full details of what you'll pay, where and when can be found here.

The decision follows a consultation process which provoked all the usual dire warnings about how shopkeepers will be forced out of business - responses were received from 1,045 people/organisations. This included 19 Cornwall councillors (out of 123!) one community network, 41 Parish, Town or City Councils, two MPs (out of six) and 18 other organisations. There were also petitions from four places.

I have to say I'm really not sure about the relationship between car parking charges and the buoyancy of a town's economy. If all it took to stimulate a massive boost in retail turnover was cheap car parking, then presumably Camelford (where parking has always been free, and will continue to be free) would be the busiest town in Cornwall. Somehow I doubt that this is the case.

Nothing to do with us, gov

I asked the government department for Business, Innovation & Skills if it had an opinion about "Nolan Procedures" for appointing board members to the Cornwall & Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership, particularly in the light of founding chairman Sir John Banham's enthusiasm for appointment by"stakeholders'" election, similar to a PLC . This was the reply:
"The LEP board appointment process will be for the LEPs themselves to decide. Central Government is not dictating how they should do it though of course we would encourage best practice."

So I then asked, for the initial appointments, at a time when the LEPs obviously do not actually exist, who should appoint the first board members? To which BIS replied:
"It's for the partners who put forward the initial LEP proposals to appoint the board members."

Friday, 7 January 2011

John Wood is new Indy group leader

Congratulations to Cornwall Councillor John Wood, the member for Roche, who I understand is to be elected unopposed as leader of the Independent group. There had been mutterings of a contest but cometh the hour, no-one came. There will now follow lots of obvious questions about the future of the Conservative-Independent coalition at County Hall, which might take a few days to answer...

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Latest LEP blueprint, Sir John Banham & Lord Nolan

Click on this link (it's a Word document but will also open with Notepad, Wordpad etc) to read the latest version of Sir John Banham's blueprint for the Cornwall & Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership. This version was written on 15th December to update the original, written on 4th December.

Sir John tells me he is currently working on a further version to reflect comments and opinions he has received in recent weeks. He also tells me he sees the board members being (initially) appointed and then subjected to re-election by a ballot of "stakeholders" in similar fashion to a PLC. Here's an extract from Version 2 document:
"The Partnership should be set up as a Limited Company, subject to exactly the same corporate governance rules as are set out in the Combined Code of the London Listing Authorities. The closest analogy would probably be publicly-quoted investment trusts, which do not have any corporate staff beyond a small secretariat that supports the entirely non-executive Board of Directors; all fund management activities are sub-contracted to an appointed fund management company.

"During the start-up phase, while the directors are being recruited and SPVs established, the Partnership would need to look to Cornwall Council for the necessary support.

"The Partnership would be structured to oversee a series of special purpose vehicles (SPV), as well as the work of the CDC. Each new SPV would have its own Board of Directors, management organization and shareholding structure/joint venture partners; management and employees would own up to 10% of the equity in each enterprise. The Chairman of each would sit as a Director of the Partnership; and the people of Cornwall would have a significant strategic shareholding in the vehicle which would be funded by Cornwall Council."

Just before Christmas Cornwall Council sent me a statement saying board members would be appointed through a Nolan process - a reference to Lord Nolan's recommendations to improve the transparency and integrity of public appointments.

I asked Sir John about this and he's clearly not keen on a Nolan process. I don't see how both Sir John and the Council can be right....so let's fire off a few more questions to County Hall and see what comes back.

And of course, both Sir John and the Council are at odds with a sector of the small business community, who think the main purpose of the LEP is to support (rather than change fundamentally) Cornwall's existing economic model. There's a meeting of small business interests at Roche this evening, so no doubt more to report tomorrow.

By the company he keeps

Get your diaries out now to note 10th and 11th February in St Albans and The Guardian's Public Services Summit of 2011. Headlined "New Models, new relationships, a new era," the event promises to explore "how we can create agile, innovative and resilient public services." Speakers include a galaxy of Leftish Guardian-reading luminaries (although DPM Nick Clegg was recently declared by the Daily Telegraph to be the country's third most influential Right-winger) - and our very own agile, innovative and resilient Cornwall Council chief, Kevin Lavery.

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Inside Cornwall's LEP - what it will do and who will do it

If there were any fears that the approaching Cornwall & Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership might be short of ideas they will soon be dispelled by Sir John Banham's draft prospectus - a 16 page document emailed to various interested parties and now sitting on my desk.

Sir John's blueprint will please some and appal others. Indeed, I forecast some in the small and medium-sized business sector will be apoplectic. But those who like the idea of Cornwall taking ownership of some "commanding heights" of its own economy will be delighted with the goal, even if they have reservations about the way of reaching it.

Over the next few days I'll probably blog quite a bit but here are the headlines:

Sir John plans to appoint five partnership board members to each chair "Special Purpose Vehicles" - specialist companies designed to develop particular sectors of Cornwall's economy. Each company would get up to £5m "seed corn finance" - some of which would be used to remunerate these individuals with founders' shares.

The five companies proposed are:

Cornwall Real Estate Investment Trust
Cornwall Green Energy
Falmouth Marine Developments
Cornwall Small Business Services
Cornwall Post Office Services

As a taste of the radical thinking now up for discussion, Sir John writes:
"Every local authority with housing responsibilities could sponsor a Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) in which its own pension fund would be a corner-stone investor, to meet local demand for energy-efficient homes costing £75,000 - £80,000 each."

The last person I know to suggest using pension funds in this way was Tony Benn in the 1970s. But those hoping to see an organisation which simply distributes grants to small business will be disappointed.

There is also talk of setting up an energy supply company to provide cheap electricity to public buildings and turning Falmouth into a destination for international cruises.

I've asked Cornwall Council if these ideas are shared by chief executive Kevin Lavery - the response was "this is a very early draft and we have no comment." I've also put in a call to Sir John and hope we'll be able to hear from him on BBC Radio Cornwall's breakfast programme tomorrow morning.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

The State of the County

My thanks to Cornwall Council for answering these questions so promptly:
1. Has there been a "State of the County" open meeting and if so when was it?There has not been a "State of the County" debate since the creation of the new Cornwall Council.
2. Have there been any requests for such a meeting?
There have been no requests from councillors or the public for such a meeting.
3. Are there currently any plans for such a meeting and if so when will it be?
The Working Group set up under the Chairman of the Council to consider all aspects of Council meetings has already looked at this and will be making recommendations as to whether this initiative should remain part of the Constitution and, if so, how it can best be progressed. There was a similar attempt to hold a Council meeting along the lines of a "State of the County" debate during the days of the previous County Council which, it has been accepted, was less than successful. The Chairman and the Leader wish to ensure that any "State of the County" debate achieves the aim of furthering the engagement of the public in local democracy therefore the structure and content are very important.
4. Are there any additional standing orders for the conduct of such a meeting - such as where it might be held, should (say) more than 100 members of the public wish to participate, as well as councillors, and County Hall's chamber turns out to be not large enough; who would be called to speak, time limits for speakers etc
The Member Working Group will consider these issues as part of trying to ensure maximum engagement

Magic numbers, value for money and simply doing the right thing

If any small business in Cornwall was told it was suddenly to take a £332,000/year cut in income it would probably be in some difficulty. Yet that is precisely one consequence of Cornwall Council's recent budget for Tremorvah Industries, a small business operating on the Threemilestone industrial estate, Truro, as part of the council's Adult Care department.

Tremovah currently employs 54 people, 44 of them supported by the government's Workstep Employment Grant, a discretionary allowance which helps people with disabilities (often the result of an accident) find their way back into work. Tremorvah was established in the early 1980s, having originally been part of the rehabilitiation centre at Truro's old City hospital.

Cornwall Council's budget plans for its £332,000 subsidy to be scrapped, over time, leaving Tremorvah to eventually brave the realities of free markets. Given the highly specialised nature of its products (mostly concerned with improving access and mobility for people with disabilities) and its core remit - to provide work for people who often have quite a profound disability themselves - Tremorvah's survival in a competitive global environment is far from assured.

For some reason the impact of the budget cuts on Tremorvah didn't make headlines when the budget was actually agreed. Must have been one of those pesky details which so easily get overlooked.

Council officials are now suggesting that instead of scrapping the subsidy, they could instead simply boost Tremorvah's turnover by buying more of its products. Within three years, the argument goes, turnover will be large enough for Tremorvah to survive without council support.

Officials point out that only 11% of Tremorvah's business is currently with the council and that by making the business a "preferred internal provider" they could increase this to 31%. The deadline for making this happen is 31st March and officials are keen to embark upon a "benchmarking" exercise designed to show how this would be good value for money for the taxpayer, as well as comply with EU competition rules.

The obvious question is that if the council has a need for more of Tremorvah's products and services, why isn't it buying them already? I forecast some free-market-defying accountancy-wizardry will be needed to make the business case. Indeed, the lexicon of local government jargon may need to be extended to find a new word for "subsidy."

But this is to ignore the wider, far more important question - and one which puts the "budget hawks" at County Hall in a difficult position. What does our "Big Society" actually expect from people who have the sort of disabilities which prevent them from elbowing their way to the front of the jobs' queue?

Monday, 3 January 2011

Open, transparent, etc etc etc

Enthusiastic readers of Cornwall Council's constitution have been asking me to find out why, in the 18 months since the council was launched, it has failed to hold at least one "State of the County" debate. This is what you find when you turn up the Council Procedure Rules document on the council's own website:

State of the County of Cornwall Debate

15.1 Calling of debate - The Chairman of the Council will call a State of the County of Cornwall debate annually on a date and in a form to be discussed with the Leader.

15.2 Form of debate - The Chairman will decide the form of the debate with the aim of enabling the widest possible public involvement and publicity. This may include holding workshops and other events prior to or during the State of the County of Cornwall debate.

15.3 Chairing of debate
- The debate will be chaired by the Chairman or in his absence the Vice-Chairman.

15.4 Results of debate
- The results of the debate will be: (i) disseminated as widely as possible within the community and to agencies and organisations in the area; and (ii) considered by the Leader in proposing the budget and policy framework to the Council for the coming year.

Sounds like fun - if the council ever gets round to holding such a "State of the County" debate, the pubs will be empty. I shall make the usual inquiries.

Wonders of the wireless age

My list of New Year's resolutions contains many of the things I didn't get round to in 2010 - including the completion of this blog's survey of Cornwall's media. I confess to terror at the sheer enormity of the task - particularly when it comes to writing about local radio (BBC managers, please look away now.) I don't suppose that when Guglielmo Marconi began tinkering with valves and copper wires at Poldhu in 1901 he imagined what would be broadcast across Cornwall not much more than 100 years later.

This post is confined to conventional free-to-air local radio - internet-based radio stations will feature in my survey of new media.

BBC Radio Cornwall has its headquarters in Truro, launched in 1983, and is available on 95.2 FM (East Cornwall), 103.9 FM (West Cornwall) and 96.0 FM on the Isles of Scilly.

Pirate FM, based in Redruth, was Cornwall's first commercial local radio station and launched in 1992. It is available on 102.2 FM and 102.8 FM.

Atlantic FM, based in St Agnes, joined the commercial fray in 2006. It is available on 105.1 FM and 107FM.

So far, I hope, none of this is controversial - although I feel I am tip-toeing through a minefield.

All three stations broadcast a mixture of music and speech-based programmes, including news and current affairs, but that mix varies according to their perceived target audiences. Radio Joint Audience Research (RAJAR), owned jointly by the BBC and the commercial radio sector, publishes local radio data on a quarterly basis.

All three stations are required to comply with a statutory framework of rules as set out by the government-appointed regulator, Ofcom. In terms of their editorial content, this regulation sets them apart from the "free to anyone who owns it" world of the printed press.

BBC Radio Cornwall is wholly funded by the television licence fee and is part of the world's largest broadcasting organisation. BBC Radio Cornwall is required to meet the same standard as any other part of the Corporation and its staff actually have to sign for (as proof of receipt) copies of the BBC's Editorial Guidelines.

Pirate FM is owned by UK Radio Developments (UKRD) whose chief executive is the former insurance salesman and leader of Penwith District Council, William Rogers. In 1997 William was the Conservative Party's Parliamentary candidate in St Ives. The founding chairman of Pirate FM was James St Aubyn, now a non-executive director of UKRD, who lives on St Michael's Mount. According to the UKRD website, James "is also responsible for St Aubyn Estates, which consists of some five thousand acres in West Cornwall, some owned for more than six centuries."

Pirate FM is today one of 15 local radio stations owned by UKRD, which also owns 46 websites across the UK.

Atlantic FM is 47% owned by the Tindle Radio Group, whose chairman, Sir Ray Tindle, featured in my earlier post about local newspapers. The chairman of Atlantic FM is Richard Eyre, a former chief executive of ITV.

According to Cornwall Pure Business (funded by the former Cornwall County Council and EU Objective One): "The premises (Atlantic) occupies at Wheal Kitty were converted by Carrick Council with the help of the RDA and Objective One. Atlantic FM then had to develop their part of the project to suit their own needs and install their state of the art equipment. But it is thanks to the vision of Carrick Council and its funders that Atlantic FM is able to broadcast from what must be the most scenic broadcasting locations in the UK."

This is, I hope, an entirely factual survey of Cornwall's local radio - but there is obviously plenty of room for opinion in the "comments" section of this blog.

Still to come - before the end of the year - my survey of Cornwall's television and new media.

Sits Vac: County Hall cat herder

The deadline approaches on Friday for nominations to become the new leader of Cornwall Council's Independent group. The group then meets at 2pm on Tuesday 11th January to vote in a straightforward first-past-the-post election. At the moment, I am aware of only one candidate - Roche councillor John Wood.

Sunday, 2 January 2011

The starting line

If there was only one reason why a general election in 2011 is highly unlikely, regardless of Vince Cable's claim to have a "nuclear" button capable of triggering the collapse of the coalition, it is the latest opinion poll evidence suggesting that such an early election would be very bad news for the Conservatives and even worse news for the Liberal Democrats. So for what it is worth, I forecast that the Con-Lib coalition will probably hang together. For the alternative is that they would surely hang separately.

Indies and MK play musical chairs

One of the agenda items not reached at the last Cornwall Council meeting, and therefore held over until the 11th January "mopping up" meeting, is the allocation of committee seats to reflect accurately the political balance of the council. The defection of former Independent councillor Neil Plummer to Mebyon Kernow on 4th August should have resulted in MK gaining two additional committee seats and the Independent group losing two. But it hasn't worked out like that - MK has declined the Indies' offer of places on the Pensions and Sea Fisheries committees in the hope of gaining something more eye-catching. The dispute now looks set to be resolved by a meeting of the full council. As the council's lawyers have observed:
"If the determination of seats is held over until the February Council meeting the Mebyon Kernow Group will have been deprived of seats for more than six months. It is respectfully suggested that not allocating seats for such a long period is neither rational nor reasonable and it will expose the Council to the risk of challenge for failure to properly comply with its duty to review and determine the allocation of seats. The allocation of seats within the current number of seats available is achievable and should not take several months to resolve."

Devonwall Bill: zzzzzzz

A New Year and a new deadline to keep an eye on: 24th February. Meanwhile Parliament's website tells us: "Line by line examination of the Bill continued on Monday 20 December. Amendments discussed covered clause 8 and 9. Committee stage continues Monday 10 January when further amendments will be discussed."