Archive | April, 2014

Is this a dagger that I see before me????

24 Apr

Well it either is or it in’t, Pard.

So somebody up in London (a politician no less) has recognised Cornwall as being a Celtic Nation. Well whoopee! Could there be an election coming up?

I am glad that at last somebody has recognised who we are, but I agree 100% with Loveday Jenkin when she said on the posh BBC Radio 4 this morning
“We’ve always known who we are, it’s just that until today, you lot didn’t”

At least now there seems to be less in the way of a Cornish Assembly.

Giss on!

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Time Lines

23 Apr

Michael Gove seems to think that History is about giving a child a sense of time passing, and therefore wishes the curriculum to be concerned with time lines. Consequently, I don’t think we are going to get very much local history taught in Cornish Schools, even though this obviously has its own time line running through it.

Looking back into the past gives everybody a chance to remember milestones. These are quite often related to family events and personal moments. Often these memories are fleshed out by recalling where we were at the time, and all the other ambient details, and such flashbacks seem to either bring the past much nearer, or make it fade a long way into the distance.

It has only just struck me that five years ago this week, I was standing at a lectern in the Council Chamber at what was then County Hall. I was having my three minutes worth of rant as to why the council should not allow the building of a rubbish incinerator at St. Dennis. I was one of several speakers, and felt very nervous, three minutes is no time at all to put over a complex argument, but I do remember that we had a sort of plan between the objectors that we would not cover the same ground. I can remember going to sit at the back of the Chamber and waiting for the Planning Committee to cast their votes. When the result came, it was 22 in favour of refusal and one abstention. We were stunned and some of the speakers burst into tears, but the harder ones reminded us that there would be an appeal.

The appeal came after Cornwall County Council had morphed into Cornwall Council. It was apparent from the start that the new Tory administration was firmly behind the Incinerator, even though the planning department had no alternative but to oppose it. The consequent Public Inquiry started just under a year later and lasted for six months. Day by day we watched the two parts of Cornwall Council battling it out between them, (at our expense), with the community groups popping up from time to time to deliver well aimed thrusts.

By the time The Inspector had passed his decision to Eric Pickles for ratification, Mr. Justice Collins had overturned it, and Lords Carnwarth, Moore-Bick and Lady Arden had reinstated it, yet another two years had passed. There was still a possibility to halt the process and ditch the contract, as the developer and contractor, SITA, claimed that the Incinerator would now be considerably more expensive, (growing from £117m to £145m), but instead of a proper review, Cornwall Council decided to give SITA a low interest £25m loan (which they claimed had nothing to do with the increase in price). Then, one year ago, just before the Councillors prepared themselves for elections, the final revised contract was signed.

During the whole of this sorry four year saga, the Tories had been in control with a baggage trailer of Independents bobbing along behind in coalition. Most of the time Alec Robertson was the Leader and in retrospect made one terrible mess of everything. Even at the time, it was obvious that he knew very little about waste technology, (and probably cared even less). Then almost one year ago exactly, the electorate showed that they had had enough of the Tories and dumped them into third place. The new Council was finally bashed into some kind of shape consisting of the Independents, (who I suspect are all really closet Tories with one or two exceptions), and a coalition of Lib-Dems who are chums of the Tories in Westminster and unable to bring about the kind of seismic shift that would shine any light into the murky depths the Cornish political scene.

So, one year after the election, what has changed at Lys Kernow? I think the answer must be “Not a lot”, and any change there has been is for the worse, (if that were possible). Why do the public put up with the same old nonsense year after year without finding some radical solution? It isn’t really much good looking into the past if you don’t learn by your mistakes.

Unitary Authority – the first five years of duplicity

15 Apr

Phew! I’m back in the saddle. It has taken me a few months to get back onto my soapbox. The hiatus was largely caused by storm damage to my house and the disruption of phone and Internet caused by various trees and wind damage in the small Cornish lane where I live. I was off line and phone for most of the first two months of the year. It is amazing how I came to rely on the routine based round modern communication; it has taken me almost another two months to get back on top of all the work that built up.

Well, now back, I am aroused by the anti-democratic goings on at Cornwall Council – yet again. The collective Council slogan is that they are a “transparent” Authority. It always seemed to me that the jewel in the crown of open and transparent democracy was the built in ability for members of the public to make their way to Truro and sit at the back of any Committee and if they wished, to submit a question for answer. The same was also true of the full Council meetings. Even this system was far from perfect, in as much as the questions had to be in three days in advance, consist of less than fifty words, and no member of the public was allowed more than two questions per year.

However flawed we thought the system was under the Conservatives lead by Rottweiler Robertson, it is now proving a great deal worse under the Lib-Dem Independent hotch potch . The Committees, now called PACs (Portfolio Advisory Committees), meet less frequently, usually every two months, and it has become the norm for the members of the PACs to conduct business through informal meetings. These informal meetings are held in private, with the public excluded, and the minutes are not circulated. While no formal motions or decisions can be discussed at these meetings, they form an ideal platform for the non-elected Council Officers to exert their control over the Members and disseminate the latest stitched up figures. This prevents the more astute members of the public from questioning data supplied in reports and pointing out the discrepancies.

A classic case in point is the recycling regime, subject to a report to an informal PAC meeting. I have no idea what was said, but I have heard a rumour that it concerned the withdrawal of a long awaited decision to start collecting mixed plastic for recycling. Those of you keen on saving the planet will know how important it is to remove all the other plastic, in addition to bottles, from black bag waste. We have been told that the new collection would take place for about the last two to three years. We were even told that, due to the brilliant way the collection contract had been engineered by the super officer staff at the Council, there would be no additional cost as this had been factored into the contract. Rumour has it that the collection has now been ditched – due to additional cost!

While on the subject of recycling and duplicity, I think we should celebrate the glorious fist five years of the Unitary Authority as blazoned across the pages of the West Briton. I am currently working my way through a consultation document for The House of Commons Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, with regard to waste policy. One of the questions for comment was: “What chance is there that the UK will meet the target of 50% recycling by 2020?” I checked on the official DEFRA web-site and the trade league table drawn up by letsrecycle.com to see how Cornwall had been doing over the past five years. The figures published are broken down into sections, and the one for comparison to the “50% by 2020” figure is called Total Recycling. The figures for Cornwall are: 2009 – 36.23% 2010 – 36.87% 2011 – 36.00% 2012 – 33.80% 2013 – 33.88%.

The really shocking feature of these figures is that this represents total recycling, and includes garden waste and recycling taken to HWRCs. The actual figure for separated recycling left out by households in 2013 is only 11% ! However, back at Lys Kernow, the officers have been supplying their own figures to the members for recycling and are regularly giving figures in the low forties, in other words ten percent above the true figure. When challenged on this, (by me in a public question), the answer was given that the figure would be checked and I would be informed of the reason why there was a difference. The answer when given, (and not circulated to the members who were given the original figure), was that there were differences in the method by which DEFRA and the Council calculated their figures. ”Errr. One for you – two for me?” As DEFRA are responsible for the mandatory 50% target, I would suggest that the DEFRA figures are the correct ones.

In the meantime they are sinking more rapidly into the mire as they play with our Council Tax, and run out of excuses. They used to blame everything on junior members of staff, but now they have sacked them all. I understand that there is a recorded message on the switchboard “If you wish to speak to the caretaker’s dog, press one, if you wish to speak to anybody else, abandon hope”