A statement from Cornwall for Change

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Cornwall for Change (C4C) represents the interests of over 70 town and parish councils. We have been asked to make a statement about our current position.

The current situation in Cornwall

  • 47,500 extra houses expected (with a population increase of over 100,000), through the Local Plan
  • A further 5000 houses, courtesy of the Planning Inspector, to accommodate for an expected increase in second homes
  • £150m spent on an incinerator using out-of-date technology; with uncertain health consequences; and ignoring the financial and waste benefits of recycling.
  • Over £1 billion total of combined debt and pension fund deficit (and rising), with no plan to address this situation
  • Primary schools at an average of 95% capacity (so some are over 100%)
  • Doctor’s surgeries under breaking strain
  • 131 public toilets closed
  • Two known black alerts at Treliske Hospital
  • Local councils’ views generally ignored

What can we hope for?

One third of town and parish councils – the ground zero of local government – have protested at the high-handed behaviour of Cornwall Council. We all know about the budget cuts imposed upon Cornwall Council by Central Government, but the fundamental claim is that in terms of development, neither Westminster nor Lys Kernow act specifically in the best interests of Cornwall and its people. For this reason our associates have declared that Cornwall Council is “not fit for purpose.” It follows that these 70 town and parish councils believe that decision-making should be based on the actual needs of local people, care for our unique natural environment and a proper regard for a sound local economy.

This is the root of C4C, a group whose central values are common sense; a respect for genuine democratic process; modesty (in the sense that we are ordinary people with a passion for Cornwall); honesty; and a desire that others should be able to share a reasonable hope for a better future for Cornwall. Thus we are directly concerned with all economic, environmental and community issues in the Duchy.

In addition to the pleas of many town and parish councillors, these concerns are also shared by a wider caucus of disparate groups, loosely referred to as the Alliance. They have also recognised that strategic and structural flaws in local and central government are causing distress at many levels of our society and that the general public feels powerless to oppose or change them. What can an Alliance of committed citizens in Cornwall hope to achieve and how might it make a difference?

The story so far

To answer this, we first need to understand the state of affairs as it stands in January 2015.

As a result of two meetings between Cornwall for Change and Cornwall Council and a meeting with Sarah Newton (MP for Truro and Conservative Government whip) the Council has:

  1. dismissed, without explanation, a number of robust evidence-based case studies prepared by C4C, that illustrate the Council’s dereliction of duty.
  2. sought to privately and publicly deny C4C’s authority of support by town and parish councils
  3. caused a blackout on coverage in local newspapers (presumably by dint of it’s ‘buying power’ in the media) who have willfully ignored press releases or letters from C4C. There is only one exception to this.
  4. caused some revival of interest in CALC

We have noted some greater care and softening of tone by Cornwall Council over the past year but, as the Local Plan and the Devolution Deal demonstrates, decision-making remains firmly under instruction from Westminster. Refusal to adhere to their whims comes with a financial penalty. Local MP’s, instead of looking to the electorate who placed them in power, promote and support the Westminster ideals to the detriment of our local economic, environmental and community values.

C4C as a voluntary group has no funding, no reserves and has received a total of £200 support from a charity. We have no resources other than our reason, passion and stamina. Cornwall Council receives £1.2 billion by annual stipend from central government and it directly employs over 6000 persons. All of these employees necessarily act within the system dictated by Westminster. It has a department that employs 15 persons dedicated to communications and media relations, with a total wage bill of £406,000 (FOI request, August 2015). The role of the comms team is to tell the public what a “great job the Council is doing in tough economic times” and how “it is working smoothly with central government”.

In the summer of 2015, Cornwall Council announced that they had secured control over additional funds through the ‘Case for Cornwall.’ In the opinions of many Cornwall Councillors and local Councillors, this is a poison chalice, which transfers long-term responsibility for certain areas of governance to the Council, without a sustainable means to execute them. Cambridge MP Daniel Zeichner described such tactics as: “…sleight of hand from the Chancellor. He tends to outsource his tax rises, so the council gets the blame instead of him.”

Conclusion

Our hope is for ethical governance: our aim is the well-being, wealth and protection of one and all in the Duchy. Cornwall Council, though no doubt acting sincerely, is part of a system that puts gross national economic wealth first, second and third. This particularly suits any organisation that has significant capital and, in our current climate, gives mere lip service to communities and the environment.

The Council seems to hold all the aces. But there is one – and a significant one – that we have up our sleeve. So well hidden that we often ignore it ourselves and much more importantly, many in the general populace disregard it.

The vote. Specifically for the 2017 local election of Cornwall Councillors.

We have to identify those Councillors who will wholeheartedly endorse and actively support ethical governance. We have to support them vigorously and ensure that they win at the 2017 elections. Where there is no suitable current Councillor or candidate, we have to find and cultivate genuinely intelligent, good-hearted and well-trained people to represent us. We have to invade the system with a moral strength that allows us all to stand up for Cornwall.

A very wise old justice of the peace once advised us, in dealing with difficulties at ‘County Hall’, that we have to make ourselves “thoroughly objectionable.” This is the tactic we must use in regard to those candidates or existing Councillors who ignore ethical governance. We will also aim to use the same tactics with our MP’s so that our message is heard in the corridors of Westminster.

This is the only way we can be assured of a good heart, a clear mind and a strong backbone of ethical governance. This is the only way can we hope to create a future that respects the deep culture of Cornwall. This is the only way that we can build respect for the well-being of ordinary people and the natural environment into ‘the system’.

Above all, it requires each of us to take responsibility for our actions and to commit to a single practical plan that we can execute to the benefit of One and All.

With our best wishes for 2016,

The Cornwall for Change steering group.

Paul Dyer (Chair), Armorel Carlyon, Andrew Hargreaves, Stephen Henry, Geoff Henwood, Orlando Kimber, Dave Lanyon, Tristan Mackie, Ken Rickard, Martin Stephens.