Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Back in Cornwall … report on ONS meeting to follow

Pleased to be back in Cornwall after today’s Office of National Statistics meeting in Westminster’s Queen Elizabeth II Centre (above) at which I represented Cornwall Council and made the case for a Cornish tickbox.

The visit to London has been covered by the Guardian:

In the next few days, I will be producing a report for the unitary authority, and I will also post a summary of the nature of today’s discussions on this blog in a few days.

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

The 50,000 declarations - 16 years on!

Sixteen 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. And we must continue to campaign hard to secure meaningful devolution for Cornwall.

Sunday, 3 December 2017

Singing in Cornish - a celebration

Having seen Gwenno in concert at the weekend, my column in this week's Cornish Guardian celebrates those who sing in the Cornish language. It will be as follows:

There are many truly wonderful aspects to Cornwall’s identity and culture, and I consider the most important factor in our distinctiveness to be the Cornish language.

This is because, to me, the continued existence of our own Celtic language, emphasises that we have a national identity, rather than simply a regional or county character.

For many decades, there have been a large number of people who have worked so incredibly hard to promote and celebrate Cornish, and it is right that we pay a heartfelt tribute to them all.

If we look back to the 1970s, at the forefront of the promotion of the language – through song – there was the much-loved and internationally respected folk singer Brenda Wootton.

She performed and recorded many Cornish language songs which included the 1973 LP Crowdy Crawn, produced in partnership with Richard Gendall. Richard, who passed away in September at the age of 92, wrote over 450 songs for Brenda, of which about a third were in Cornish.

The Davey family meanwhile formed a group called Bucca and released an LP in 1980 titled “An Tol an Pedn an Telynor” (The Hole in the Harper's Head), which included Cornish songs and was distributed in 13 countries across the world.

As a consequence of the foresight of Richard, Brenda, Bucca and many others, the Cornish language is now a natural and an increasingly prominent part of modern life in the Duchy.

At last year’s spectacle surrounding the “Man Engine,” which was a positive, inclusive and unashamed celebration of Cornwall, the language was ever-present, showing it to be a vital and living part of our present and future.

Like Brenda Wootton, many modern-day performers, with well-deserved high profiles, have regularly sung and recorded in Cornish.

These include the traditional music specialists Dalla and The Changing Room, who saw their video for a track off their latest album, “Gwrello Glaw” (Let It Rain), viewed by over 500,000 people online.

And this weekend, I was privileged to be able to attend a joyous concert at Falmouth’s The Poly by well-known Welsh singer Gwenno and her support act, Hanterhir, who both sang in Cornish and were both fantastic.

Gwenno was brought up in Cardiff speaking both Welsh and Cornish – her father is a Cornish poet – and it was indeed inspiring to see her showcase her new album (due out in March). It is entirely in Cornish and is already receiving significant coverage throughout the music world, positively promoting Cornwall’s national language to a much wider audience.

There is so much to be positive about and I would heartily recommend the music of Gwenno and groups such as The Changing Room, Dalla and Hanterhir, who really appreciate the importance of Cornish. Why not check them out?

Friday, 1 December 2017

Parliamentary Constituencies (Amendment) Bill - an end to Devonwall in sight?

I am pleased that the Parliamentary Constituencies (Amendment) Bill has today passed its latest hurdle in the House of Commons, when it was read for a second time.

It seeks to amend the Parliamentary Constituencies Act 1986 “to make provision about the number and size of parliamentary constituencies in the United Kingdom; and for connected purposes.”

In particular, it specifies that the number of UK constituencies should 650 and that “the electorate of any constituency in Great Britain shall be (a) no less than 92.5% of the Great Britain electoral quota, and (b) no more than 107.5% of that quota.

If this Bill makes it into legislation it will end the present Boundary Review that is seeking to reduce the number of MPs to 600 and would create an unpopular cross-Tamar parliamentary constituency.

Today’s division was 229 votes in favour of the Bill and 44 against.

Three Conservatives voted with the opposition and in favour of the Bill. Only one of Cornwall’s six Tory MPs took part in the vote, with George Eustice voting against the Bill.

It is very disappointing that he and his colleagues did not use the opportunity to vote against Devonwall.

Monday, 27 November 2017

My latest report to St Enoder Parish Council

Tomorrow night, I will be presenting my latest monthly report to a meeting of St Enoder Parish Council. It will cover the time period of 23rd October to 26th November, and will be as follows:

1. Council meetings

During the last month, I have attended a range of formal meetings at, and associated with, the unitary authority. These included: Full Council (and associated agenda briefing); Cabinet; Economic Growth and Development Overview and Scrutiny Committee; Neighbourhoods OSC; Electoral Review Panel (and, as vice-chairman of the Committee, a meeting for Cornwall Councillors at Launceston plus three associated public meetings in Liskeard, Pool and Truro); Group Leaders’ meeting; (two) member briefings covering topics such as a government consultation on housing and a Cornwall-wide residents survey; China Clay Area Network meeting; a consultation meeting on a possible housing development in Summercourt; and a “Housing Delivery and Growth Summit.

In the same period, as well as a number of informal meetings with council officers and others, I attended three meetings of St Enoder Parish Council.

2. Other meetings and activities

I have attended meetings of ClayTAWC (where I am Chairman) and the St Austell Bay Economic Forum. As well, I helped out at the 40th annual show of the Indian Queens Cage Bird Society, which took place on 25th November at Fraddon Village Hall.

3. Investment programme from Cornwall Council

See previous blog entry.

4. Strategic narrative for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly

In recent weeks, there was considerable coverage of the work being done by a consultancy firm on a “strategic narrative” for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. I have been extremely critical of what has been happening and it very much came into the public domain when a presentation was made to the “Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Leadership Board,” which comprises senior councillors and representatives of various public sector bodies.

In particular, I had written to the leader of Cornwall Council on this matter as follows:

“You will already be aware of our misgivings about how the leadership of Cornwall Council commissioned this report for the ‘Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Leadership Board’ without any input from the wider democratic membership of Cornwall Council.

”On numerous occasions I have raised concerns about this, and I have also, quite often, asked about the progress of the work being undertaken by the consultants thinkingplace, but have had little or no meaningful feedback. This includes at the most recent meeting of the Economic Growth and Development Overview and Scrutiny Committee on 1st November, which was only two days before the presentation to the ‘Leadership Board’ on 3rd November.

”I have received a number of concerns from people who have heard about Friday’s briefing at the ‘Board’ meeting, and I took some time over the weekend to view the webcast. I share the concerns that have been raised with me, and I note that it was confirmed at the Board meeting that the ‘strategic narrative’ would be launched in January 2018.

”I am seeking clarity on what the role of the Cornwall Council’s elected members will be in this process in the coming weeks, and when we will be able to have our say about the ‘vision’ for Cornwall should actually be.

”In addition, I was concerned to see that in the Board’s work programme, under ‘regional and sector collaboration,’ there was the ‘development of a Great South West’ proposition. This is not something that my group supports. We remain concerned at the significant effort going into this ‘regional’ experiment from representatives of the public sector in Cornwall when they should be making a better case for the primacy of Cornwall in all forms of governance, administration, etc.”

5. Waste Collection and Cleansing Contract

Since the last Parish Council meeting, I have made representations about the limited extent of street cleaning in rural communities and the number of public waste bins in communities such as ours.

The Neighbourhoods OSC and the Cabinet have agreed that, as part of the ongoing work setting out the content of the next contract (for waste collection, street cleaning, beach cleaning, etc), additional analysis on these areas of concern. Further to the Parish Council’s formal request to Cornwall Council for enhanced bin coverage in St Enoder Parish, I am in discussions with council officers and will update further when I have firm feedback.

6. Outreach Post Office at Indian Queens

The outreach Post Office continues to be run from the ante-room of the Indian Queens Victory Hall for two three-hour sessions each week.

Unfortunately, there have been some technical problems which meant that, on a few occasions, it could not be opened, but it looks like these issues have been sorted.

7. St Enoder Neighbourhood Plan

An additional consultation was about the appropriate level of housing growth in Summercourt has taken place. The forms were hand-delivered to all properties in the village along with a freepost envelope, and all responses received will be in assessed in the near future and fed back into the work to produce our Neighbourhood Plan.

8. Planning matters

I am dealing with a range of planning and enforcement matters in St Enoder Parish, and will report in more detail in my next monthly report.

At this time however, I can confirm that the appeals relating to conditions at the Higher Fraddon biogas plant will be heard by an informal hearing. This will take place at Roche Victory Hall on 7th February.

9. Highway matters

I am also following up on a host of highway issues, including speed recordings at three locations, and I will also report in more detail in my next monthly report.

10. Grass cutting (Cornwall Council)

With regard to my ongoing representations to Cornwall Council about the maintenance of those areas in our parish which they own, I can report that the unitary authority has finally started to sort out the garden area in Clodan Mews, St Columb Road.

11. WW1 project

I am very pleased to be able to lay a wreath at the St Enoder War Memorial on Remembrance Sunday, and that our First World War project is up and running. We held our first community engagement event at Summercourt’s New Memorial Hall on 4th November and similar events are planned elsewhere in the Parish.

We have already received photographs of soldiers from two local families, which will be featured in the book.

12. Opposition to Devonwall

At the recent Cornwall Council meeting, I moved a motion reaffirming the unitary authority’s opposition to a cross-Tamar parliamentary seat. There was massive support for the motion – and it was across all political parties.

The strength of the vote for the motion (and against Devonwall) was so great that the Chairman, Mary May, did not even bother to ask if there were any votes against the motion.

The agreed motion was as follows:

”1. Cornwall Council write to the Prime Minister and the UK Government to request that they (a) take measures to end the parliamentary boundary review and stop the imposition of a cross-Tamar Devonwall constituency, and (b) ensure that future boundary reviews respect the articles of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities and guarantee that parliamentary constituencies remain fully within the boundaries of Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly;

”2. Cornwall Council write to all the Members of Parliament for Cornwall to seek their urgent and active support for the efforts of the unitary authority and others to ensure that Cornwall’s territoriality is respected.”

13. Inquiries

During the couple of months, I have also helped numerous people with guidance on a vast array of issues.