Archive | October, 2013

A big black hole

25 Oct

OK, the gloves are off. What is going on at County Hall? Groups of people in earnest conversation, looks more like the departure lounge at Heathrow. Bits of overheard conversation about “big black holes” and “If you think it is bad now, just wait a bit” make me think it is to do with The Budget.

If it is to do with the inability of Cornwall Council to provide us with the services that we have paid for via Council Tax, then it is about time we got some answers. If things are as desperate as we are told, then it is no good messing about with the “tea money”, we have to start looking at the big items of expenditure. One of the biggest is the waste contract, coming in at just under half a billion, and as this has to be paid off over a number of years, things are going to get a lot worse. Something is very wrong here.

At a very simplistic level, we pay our Council Tax to have our waste collected and treated. Most people cling to the ideas of fifty years ago when “waste” was something nasty, and you were lucky that those nice people came and took it away. Therefore you expect to pay for it. However, times have moved on, and waste is now a resource and a commodity that is worth money. The average value of one tonne of recycling is about £36 although some materials are worth a lot more. If you take your old car to the scrap man, you expect to get some money for it. Well, you would expect the Council to get some money back for your recycling wouldn’t you? But, two thirds of the waste is currently put into black bags and not recycled, so you wouldn’t expect money for that would you? Well you would be wrong.

It so happens that due to the waste contract signed by the Council they have to pay somebody else to treat our waste. Therefore instead of getting £36 per tonne for our recycling, we have to pay Sita £56 per tonne to take it away to sell it. And that is not all. The black bag waste will soon be being used as fuel in an incinerator to generate electricity. The sale of the electricity is going to make money, so even the black bag waste is worth a lot of money.

Therefore, we are giving the Council our recycling and our black bags that are both worth money, and paying our Council Tax, and instead of this creating wealth for the Council to put into supplying services, they have to pay somebody else to take it away. You couldn’t make it up could you? So what happens when you confront the Council with these facts? You get an answer that is so obscure that it would make a magicians cloak look transparent. The Council say that as a result of making a present of all our valuable rubbish to Sita, those nice people have agreed to only charge us £500,000,000 for the contract! Otherwise it would have been more!

When you ask exactly how much we are being let off paying, the answer is top secret and the public are not allowed to know. When asked where we can see the figures, again we are told we are not allowed to see the figures, but apparently it is such a bad deal we have to pay for it with our recycling, our rubbish and our Council Tax, and the Council still haven’t got enough money for the basic services.

Now if I had a son still living at home, and in a decent job, I’d ask for a contribution towards the house-keeping. If he said he was always broke and couldn’t pay, I’m afraid I would start looking for evidence of some sort of addiction that was sucking all his money away. The Council are addicted to these smooth talking salesmen who have got them hooked on out of house contracts with our money. If you ask them to stop they can’t, not because they would get cold turkey, but because the dealers have got better enforcers than the public. They are called expensive lawyers.

So what can we do? Well if it was my son I would physically keep him away from his supply. Therefore the answer is simple. Your rubbish belongs to you. If you don’t like the way the Council are dealing with it, give it, (or better still join with the rest of your community and sell it), to somebody else. This is the way that the system works in California where they have an 80% recycling rate. Rubbish is such a valuable commodity that recycling bins have to be chained down to stop them from being stolen. Wake up before we all go down a black hole.

Cornwall needs to be Proclaimed

23 Oct

This week I went to see the film “Sunshine on Leith”, an everyday story of Scottish Folk. It follows the trials and tribulations of a pretty ordinary family living in the “suburbs” of Edinburgh. It deals with some gritty subjects such as marital infidelity, life changing injury from IEDs, humiliation in public, heart attacks etc, but it does it in a totally unexpected way.

The film genre is what one might call Mac Bollywood. You may have seen these Indian epics where a whole street full of ladies in sari’s suddenly open umbrellas and break into an massive and complex dance routine, well imagine that outside the National Gallery of Scotland. Not only that, each time the plot has a twist, the characters break into song – always a song by the Proclaimers, hence the title of the film. The effect is unusual to say the least.

The most telling thing for me was the National pride of Scotland that showed through the film, not the chocolate box Scotland of Stags on moorland or Bagpipers in the mist, but the “in your face Jimmy” attitude of love of your fellows, whether in the Army, down the pub, at work or where ever.

The best example of this was when one of the girls in the story (who was the only English person), challenged her boyfriend as to what he would do if she decided to go home to her parents. He said “What go to England!!?? – No Way!” (He had just come back from Afghanistan so travel was nothing new to him!). The idea that “we are different and proud of it” shone through like a searchlight.

When the credits rolled it turned out that the film had been part funded by the Scottish Tourist Board. So here is the challenge – can we find a Cornish band with a big enough back catalogue to cover all the scenarios in a drama? Can we find enough talent in Cornwall to act and produce it? More to the point can we find enough money to make it? Do we have the heart to underline our own cultural destiny in some more modern way than King Arthur and Tin Mining?
Where is the pride in being Cornish? Let us feel it and show it to the world.

Hey! I’m a minority

4 Oct

Isn’t Politics a messy business? Yesterday I went to a presentation/workshop hosted by Cornwall Council, but with the main speakers coming from a Government Office in London.
As we were nearing the end of the session we were asked to fill out a questionnaire to mark our satisfaction with the day. Most of us had just got to the bit where it asked: “Has the meeting today been satisfactory in dealing with issues of equality and diversity”, and then one of the Whitehall ladies started answering a question about grant money. There must have been some legal issue with differences in Scotland and Wales, because she said rather forcibly, “This only applies in England”. At this point the senior representative of the Cornwall Council delegation sprang to his feet and said with all seriousness, “I feel sure you will not mind me pointing out that it applies to Cornwall as well” Phew! That was close. He nearly got a minus score on his questionnaire!

In a similar, but bigger arena, an MP put his rather large foot in it yesterday concerning Ed Miliband’s father Ralph. When it was pointed out to the MP that Ralph Miliband had been a humanist Marxist at a time when such Philosophy was considered to be the modern approach to left wing politics, and did not mean that because he felt that representative democracy was not the right doctrine, that didn’t mean that he was anti-British. The MP retaliated by saying that Communism was a dirty ideology and had been responsible for killing millions of people. Hang on a minute! How many people did the great god capitalism kill in the Korean War, the Vietnam War and the atom bombing of civilians in Hiroshima and Nagasaki? All in the name of Democracy.

Why don’t politicians think before they make such statements? Possibly due to the fact that some Public Schools produce a lot of dross because they have to deal with all abilities across the range. It doesn’t matter which party you choose, (except MK of course), most of the top 25% are Public School boys who couldn’t do anything else except go into politics. If you look at behaviour in the House of Commons, it equates pretty well to a bunch of spoilt 14 –15 year olds.

Apart from being part of a minority, there was one very, very interesting thing I learned yesterday. A spokesperson from Democratic Services was talking about eligibility to vote in Cornwall with regard to second homes. The official line is that in order to vote in two places in local elections or referenda, the householder must prove that they spend a considerable amount of time in each residence. The ideal was obviously stated as being 50% in each. This status is questioned when the person applies to be put on the electoral register, but there is no check to see if they have answered truthfully. The reason for this was said to be lack of staff and money, but it was admitted that there were probably a “fair” number of people registered to vote who only spent a few weeks in Cornwall. A hint was given that some entries on the register would be re-checked. And more stringent interpretation of the rules applied in future.