Minority Status for the Cornish

After a long campaign and with three previous unsuccessful bids, the Cornish have been granted Minority Status under the EU Framework Convention of National Minorities. This is fantastic news, and credit should go to all those – it is a long list – who lobbied and never gave up. This is especially to my fellow Cabinet Member, Bert Biscoe who has been a leading part of the campaign for the last 20 years.

St Pirans

Under the status, the Cornish will be afforded the same protections as the Welsh, Scottish and the Irish.  This means that Government departments and public bodies will be required to take Cornwall’s views into account when making decisions. The convention ensures that the rights of national minorities are respected by combating discrimination, promoting equality and preserving and developing the culture and identity of national minorities. 

inclusion in the convention will mean:

  • Recognise the distinctiveness of the Cornish and enhance the United Kingdom’s reputation as a country that celebrates and supports the diversity of its inhabitants.
  • Further the economic interests, not just of Cornwall, but of the United Kingdom as a whole.
  • Help strengthen the confidence of our young people that they are encouraged to identify with their cultural identity, and that this is valued by the rest of the country.
  • Help strengthen the ‘Cornish’ brand and provide a mechanism whereby the Cornish can establish and strengthen links with other groups accorded similar status across Europe and around the world.  
  • Create stronger links between communities and a greater understanding of shared values to help create more vibrant communities than can shape their own future.

Cornwall Council has stated its support for the Cornish as an ethnic minority in its Equality and Diversity Framework which can be found here.  This was strengthened in 2011 when the then Group Leaders endorsed the framework. More recently, a working group led by Cllr Bert Biscoe and Cllr Julian German and including Cllr Malcolm Brown, Cllr Dick Cole, Will Coleman, Maureen Fuller, Ed Rowe, Ian Saltern and Cllr Douglas Scrafton. Cornwall’s MP’s have also played their part in achieving this status. And therefore should be congratulated for their work.

Sadly, Minority Status does not attract – at the moment –  extra funding, but this excellent news should be celebrated for all those who have Cornwall’s best interest at heart.

The confirmation on Minority Status was set for the 24th with a Government Minister visiting Cornwall (surely not politicking so close to European and National Elections!) to deliver the message and was therefore embargoed till then – hence the timing of this blog and playing by the rules of honouring the embargo.

However in the age of social media, this story was first broke by a national; which sort of let the cat out of the bag and the embargo became nothing more than a word.

It is however, rather ironic the news of Cornish Minority Status broke on St George’s Day……

I will leave you with one further though and a question that attracts a different answer depending on who you ask the question to. What makes you Cornish? Birthright, or how you feel?

10% of households have 43% of the wealth in the UK

I am starting to fall in love with the ONS website and the amount of data is releases on a day-to-day basis. It really is a treasure trove (if you’re that way inclined) of information. Today, the ONS released details on wealthiest households by region in the UK. 

A household required total wealth greater than £967,000 to belong to the wealthiest 10% of the distribution. The least wealthy 10% households have a wealth of £13,000 or less. The median wealth is £232,000.

It is not surprising, that the wealthiest is region excluding London is the South East. However, the South West is the third wealthiest after South East, London. That was a little bit surprising. Sadly the information provided is not broken down per region. The amount of wealth held by the top three is: South East 15.5%; London 12.5% and the South West 11.2%. For Scotland as a whole country it is 6.9% the lowest for the whole of the UK. Wales is better at 8.1%.

The combined net wealth of all private households within Great Britain is £10.3 trillion. The wealthiest tenth of households owns £4.5 trillion or 43.8% of overall wealth* and were over 850 times wealthier than the least wealthy tenth of households.

In contrast, and more shocking, the combined wealth of the bottom 50% of households is £1.0 trillion; a value which accounted for 9.9% of aggregate total wealth. The bottom 50% has a wealth of less than £232,000. I am totally staggered at the statistics of 10% of households owning nearly 44%, or £45 trillion of the wealth in the UK.

So what is household wealth? This includes property, pensions, possessions, cars and even private number plates! Before reading this ONS data, I would have thought most household wealth is made up of property. But I was wrong (in part) in thinking this. Nearly all households in this top wealth decile had private pension wealth (98.0%) and the median value of private pension wealth for these households was £742,000. In fact, 56.6% of wealth comprised from a private pension held by the top 10% of households.

It gets worse as more than two out of five households (43.3%) in the least wealthy half of the distribution had no private pension wealth at all and the median value of private pension wealth held by this group was £4,000. This is worrying as this group if having no private pension they will rely more and more on a State Pension. If that is not kept up with the cost of living, then households will be at a greater risk of poverty later in life.

Though unlike those in the highest percentage, property wealth made the largest contribution to total wealth for the least wealthy half of households (36.6%) even though only 41.4% of households in this group had any value of property wealth. Car ownership is included with only 38% in the bottom 50% of households not owning a car. Compared to 4.3% in the top 10%.

In the report it shows almost four out of every five household heads (78.1%) living in the wealthiest 10% of households were in high skilled managerial or professional occupations. In comparison, just over one in every four household heads living in the least wealthy half of all households held a job at this level (24.9%). Over half (55.1%) of household heads living in households in the top 10% of wealthy households had gained a qualification at degree level or above. 16.4% of household heads with a degree level qualification or higher living in households in the bottom half of the wealth distribution. 

Which sort of goes on to prove high-skilled jobs come about from education, but if further education now cost so much in line with the Governments increase in fees, the poorer households will be even at a greater disadvantage. Though I do acknowledge having a degree or higher qualification, there still needs to be a job for you to put it to good use.

Thanks to the ONS in allowing the use of the graphs, pictures and information.

There really is so much information contained within this report and the Wealth and Assets Survey that I could include, but it would take up so much space. However, I feel that if the Government and in part the Local Authority does not address the issues in the report, it will only get worse.

The ONS has even produced a YouTube video to explain the report. This is rather nice of them. (Yes I know, I could have just posted the video, but that would have been easy!)

 *The Wealth and Assets Survey (WAS) 2008/10  is a longitudinal survey conducted by the ONS which aims to address gaps identified in data about the economic well-being of households. It gathers information on, among others, level of assets, savings and debt; saving for retirement; how wealth is distributed among households or individuals; and factors that affect financial planning.

Other sources: Wealth in Great Britain in July 2012

Suicide Numbers in Cornwall

Suicide and the aftermath is a difficult subject to cover. The aftermath is often the most difficult because it leaves family and friends left wondering if they could have done something. I have a first hand experience of dealing with suicide and attempted-suicide from my days in the military, and as a former member of a Coastguard Rescue Team.

In Cornwall the suicide rate is 9.2 per 100,00. This equates to among 50 and 70 deaths each year. In England the average is 7.9 deaths per 100,000. So, Cornwall is slightly above the English average, but from the information I have been provided it is coming down. The highest rates are seen in young to middle-aged men and older (>75yrs) men.  I feel this area should be further investigated to look at the reasons why suicide is high.

A lot of partnership work is being carried out among various agencies to reduce the suicide rate. This is also an aim of the Local Area Agreement and is a strategic aim for NHS Cornwall and Isles of Scilly. The strategy steering group included membership representing the PCT, CFT, Outlook South West, police, Local Authority (Supporting People), Coastline Housing and mental health service users.

The local authority working with other agencies has identified various hotspots which reveals that the cliffs on the north coast and the Tamar Bridge have been the site of several suicides.

To try to reduce suicides at these sites, local landowners are displaying notices with the Samaritans help line number. Network Rail is also displaying Samaritans posters at ‘hotspot’ stations. This is good work and no doubt this type of co-operation will help reduce the suicide rate.

My worry, is the continued budget pressures local authorities are facing from central government, any of this good work could be undermined if further cuts are handed down. Pressures are also being felt by other agencies who will also have to make difficult choices in funding options.

Let’s hope these cuts do not have an adverse effect on the current good work being carried out by the various agencies.

The number for the Samartians is 08457 90 90 90. Their website is HERE. Samartians are not just there to talk about feeling suicidal, but some other common reasons to call Samaritans are:

  • Relationship and family problems
  • Loss, including loss of a job, a friend or a family member through bereavement
  • Financial worries
  • Job-related stress or overwork
  • College or study related stress
  • Body image issues
  • My advice is if you are feeling any pressure call them.

The Samartians are there to help, so call them.


Regional Pay is not Fair Pay for Cornwall

One of the current ‘good ideas’ to come out of the coalition Government is regional pay. Like the proposals for VAT on pasties, regional pay will have a very negative impact on the economy, and workforce of Cornwall.

Cornwall is already suffering from a poor average wage compared to other regions and the UK as a whole. I have always known the average wage in Cornwall was poor compared to other regions, but I am somewhat shocked how bad the difference is.

For example, the average full-time earning for residents (people who live in, but not work in Cornwall) is £21,993. This is much lower against the average wage in the South West – £24,640; England and Wales – £26,185; UK – £26,095. The other figure for full-time workplace (people who work and live in Cornwall) is: Cornwall – £21,258 and for the South West – £24,236; England and Wales – £26,166; UK – £26,079.

As you can see, Cornwall’s full-time worker and resident is very underpaid compared to the national average. Even in the South West region, Cornwall workers are paid on average £2,500 less. However, this is only full-time workers. The figures are more startling if you include part-time workers; which is a large part of Cornwall’s workforce.

The average wage for workers, both full and part-time in Cornwall is £17,201. This is a huge drop from just full-time workers and is 19% less than the average UK worker. It also represents the real wage in Cornwall. Of course, the South West, England and the UK will also see a drop if you include both full and part-time workers. For the South West, this is £19,609; England £21,650; UK £21,326.

This can also be broken down further on the Parliamentary Boundaries, and shows even within the borders of Cornwall there is a difference in what you will be paid. Looking at workplace earnings, Truro and Falmouth has the highest levels due to the density and range of jobs in Truro (health, local government, professional business services), followed by Camborne and Redruth. Higher resident earnings reflect the impact on the earnings total of those people who commute to other areas. This is most noticeable in South East Cornwall due to proximity to Plymouth, However for South East Cornwall’s pay for those living and working in those areas are seeing the worst pay-scales. These figures are:

St. Ives: Workplace – £15,626/Resident – £16,217

Camborne and Redruth: Workplace – £19,029/Resident – £18,250

North Cornwall: Workplace – £16,039/Resident – £16,700

South East Cornwall: Workplace – £13,940/Resident – £17,588

St Austell and Newquay: Workplace – £17,237/Resident – £17,170

Truro and Falmouth: Workplace – £19,611/Resident – £19,624

It is bad enough for Cornwall to be paid far less than parts of the UK, but even within the borders of Cornwall the wage-scales are vastly different. It is shocking to see these differences, and for my own area in the St. Ives constituency is the second worst-paid area. This must change, but if the Government gets its way, we could see many people being paid far less than they currently are.

If you then add house prices for Cornwall compared to other areas, it really is disheartening. For example the average house price (April 2012) for:

Cornwall – £184,311
South West – £174,261
England/Wales – £160,417

It is bad enough for Cornwall workers to be paid 19% less, but they will pay on average 13% more for a house! God help us if the stupid proposal for regional pay is brought in.

Stadium for Cornwall Report to be Discussed

Next Wednesday (22nd Feb) at Cornwall Council’s Environment and Economy OSC, the details and plans for the Stadium for Cornwall will be discussed. This meeting is likely to attract a lot of attention because it will be the first time Councillors outside of the Cabinet have had the chance to discuss this project.

The Strategic Planning Committee, which I am a member of, passed outlining planning permission for this stadium a few months ago. It is no secret I supported these plans for various reasons, but I still had concerns on who, and how, this stadium will be paid for. In the report for discussion (click HERE) it clearly lists the costs and who will be footing the bill for the 10,000 seat stadium.

The finance for this stadium project will come from three main sources. These are Inox Group & Exemplar Projects (Truro) Ltd, Truro & Penwith College and the Cornish Pirates Rugby Football Club Ltd. They will form a new delivery company called Cornwall Community Stadium Ltd (CCSL). The capital cost for a 10,000 capacity stadium (including all stands and a mezzanine floor) is approximately £15,200,000. The cost of construction can be met in the majority by the individual members of CCSL. If further funding is required, this will be sort from borrowing. Interestingly, Cornwall Council is clearly identified as not being a source of funding (outside of what they have already committed).

The plans and facilities for the stadium are as follows:

  • 10,000 capacity stadium – of which 4,200 will be seated in the main (West) stand and delivered in the first phase. The remainder will ultimately be covered standing/seating, potentially in a later phase as temporary/de-mountable provision;
  • Compliant with the requirements of Premier Rugby and the Football League;
  • West Stand to include facilities for Truro and Penwith College, including: Business centre space (for their exclusive use) on the mezzanine level; dual-use of 15 no. corporate boxes/hospitality space/teaching space; training kitchens on the first floor; frontage at ground floor level
  • Club Shop and Ticket Office,
  • Club Facilities (inc. changing rooms, medical & anti-doping facilities and offices)
  • Ground floor public bar area
  • Cornwall Community Stadium Ltd office
  • Floodlights
  • Press seating for 30 people & press conference room
  • Control Room in accordance with the Green Guide
  • Parking for cars and buses

Personally, from reading this report, this plan looks exciting and if it all happens it will be a great asset to Cornwall. Of course there of those who are against these plans due to the location, costs etc. One of the biggest issues which needs to be addressed is highways. Another is of the flight-path of the near-by aerodrome.  I hope these concerns can be overcome in a sensible way without the need for a long and expensive legal battle.

However, will there be a sting in the tail? You see the plans for discussion are in two parts. The first part being discussed in full public view. The other part will be discussed in closed session. It is the closed session that will be the really interesting part. Who know what’s in that part of the report, as that has not been sent to any Councillor yet.

Next week is sure going to be busy!


Changing the Governance at Cornwall Council

It has been nearly three years since Cornwall Council officially became the main local authority in Cornwall. The model chosen as the main governance is the cabinet system (formal title is executive arrangement) using the ‘strong leadership model’.  My previous experience on how an authority was run was at Kerrier District Council.  This, like Cornwall Council, used the cabinet system, but the cabinet of 10 was from the political balance of the council.   I thought this was a good system because it reflected all groups and parties of the council.

All might change (or not) thanks to the Localism Bill that became law last year in November.  In that Bill, it gives powers to local authorities to establish a system of governance that best suits the area it serves.  The three basic options are the cabinet system, committee system, or a hybrid.  If a hybrid is chosen, this system can only be implemented if it has the permission of the DCLG Sec of State.

I have been selected by the Independent Group, along with Cllr’s David Biggs (Tory), Adam Paynter (LD) and Dick Cole (MK) to start work on the various options that could be implemented.  The issue is complex, and has many different parts to it before any final decision on the governance can be made by the full council.

In truth,  we have a blank piece of paper on the future of how Cornwall Council could be run.  The first thing that the working group has undertaken is talking to all the Cornwall Councillors during February.  This will start with a letter going out to them this week inviting them to put in their views and experience on how Cornwall Council works.  We are not just asking for all the negative stuff, but what also works.

Also, parish and town councils will be asked for their views, comments and experience on dealing with Cornwall Council.  Again, it is not just the negative side we want to hear, but also what works too.  Other key partners like health, the police will also be asked for comments, as will the public.  Senior council officers and staff will also be asked for their views. After all, they will be the ones who have to work under the system.  The working group felt the staffs views were very important.

Once the initial consultations have taken place, the working group will look at the how these views could be made into options. It is these options that will be critical to either keeping the same model, revert to the committee structure, or come up with something very different.

However, it will not be the working groups decision on what is the best form of governance, but the whole of the council. It is hoped an initial report will go to the full council in June/July for more guidance as to the direction of the work.  I hope that during this phase some of the various options will be trimmed.

This work is not about reinventing the wheel, but finding a form of governance that works, and is fit for the people of Cornwall.


Is Cornwall Council Truro-centric?

The accusation of Cornwall Council being Truro-centric is thrown around by anyone who is not within spitting distance of Truro. Whilst those who live in Truro say too much is already here and it should go elsewhere.  Is it, or is it just the perception because the main administrative building is located in Truro?

Let’s start by going back in the midst of time to 1973. Then like in 2009 there was a massive change to local government. In this change many of the town boroughs were disposed off and replaced by District Councils. Like in 2009 there was a massive outcry that local government would be somewhere-else-centric, and the old way was better etc.

In Helston’s case (Porthleven was still part of Helston till 1981) the hotbed of political and administrative activity moved north to Camborne at Dolcoath Ave. Those still in local government from the change in ’73 still harked on about the good old days and how the District Councils where too centric to the areas they were located in.

I joined Kerrier District Council in 2007 and knew no difference. However, those in the south of the district often complained all the love, money went north, and since the change the south got nothing. Like now, it was often said it was all so much better when we had the previous set-up. See the similar thread?

Is this is how Cornwall Council is seen?

Now with the administrative capital of Cornwall Council being in Truro it seems all the other areas claim they are left out. But is it? It would make sense that all the main administrative work is located in one area to make it more cost-effective on the tax-payer. Those who need to access basic council services can do so by going into the One Stop Shops (OSS). I have never heard anyone complain there is no OSS in Porthleven, it is just accepted it is in Helston.

There are also other means of contacting the council. Either by phone, email, Internet website or the Councillor elected to serve that division. Granted those others means are not perfect, but on the whole it is a good service. After all, the average person would not contact the council on a daily or weekly basis.

For me, I live 20 miles from Truro, so travelling to Truro is easier for me than others who have to come from further afield. But again, I know others who travel from near the Devon border on an almost daily basis to attend vital meetings, or to gather information. So it can be done.

If all the money went to the administrative centres I would be more concerned, but it does not. Many areas including Porthleven do get attention. This is done by putting forward sensible ideas, working with officers and knowing how far you can push things. Not, like I have heard before ‘I want it because I am a Councillor and my area never gets anything because it is located in the East/West/North/South/Darkside of the Moon’. People skills get you what you want, not banging the desk saying my area gets nothing.

So whilst I know it may seem Cornwall Council is Truro-centric, I don’t believe it is. The main administrative building has to go somewhere. The geographical nature of Cornwall unlike other authorities boundaries who have a  more rounded geographical area plays a part too; as it is not logical just to plonk the council’s main offices right in the middle of Cornwall.

Then again, it would save me travelling if the administrative centre was in Helston, but that is not likely to ever happen. So I will just have to continue to travel to the likes of Penzance, Camborne, Truro, St Austell, Liskeard, or Wadebridge to carry-out my duties.

Maybe it is the set/make-up of the council that is more of a concern, than its location. That very subject is now being discussed at Cornwall Council.


(yes, I changed the spelling of ‘capitol’ to capital because everyone missed the joke..)

Bideford and Bude a Forced Marriage

The initial report from the Boundary Commission has been released. For Cornwall there are going to be some pretty big changes. As most people thought, (who cared) there will be a shared MP between Devon and Cornwall. No doubt this will be met with anger in some quarters.

The report is HERE; first released by the blogger Guido Fawkes, But if you dont want to click, here are the full details including the areas included in the new parliamentary seats.

Bodmin and Newquay  (75,997) which includes –

Bodmin Central Bodmin East, Bodmin West, Colan and Mawgan, Lanivet, Mount Hawke and Portreath, Newlyn and Goonhavern, Newquay Central, Newquay Pentire, Newquay Treloggan, Newquay Tretherras, Newquay, Padstow, Perranporth, St Agnes, St Columb, St Dennis, St Endellion, St Enoder, St Issey, Wadebridge East, Wadebridge West.

Falmouth and Camborne (76,547)
Camborne Central, Camborne North, Camborne South, Camborne West, Carn Brea North, Carn Brea South, Constantine, Falmouth Arwenack, Falmouth Boslowick, Falmouth Gyllyngvase, Falmouth Penwerris, Falmouth Trescobeas, Illogan, Mabe, Penryn East and Mylor, Penryn West, Redruth Central, Redruth North, Redruth South, St Day and Lanner, Stithians, Troon and Beacon.

Liskeard  (76,970)
Callington, Fowey, Gunnislake, Kelly Bray, Liskeard Central, Liskeard North, Liskeard South and Dobwalls, Looe East, Looe West and Lansallos, Lostwithiel, Menheniot, Pelynt, Rame, St Cleer, St Germans, St Ive, Saltash Burraton, Saltash Essa, Saltash Pill, Saltash St Stephens, Stokeclimsland, Torpoint East, Torpoint West.

St Ives ( 78,428)
Breage,Gulval and Heamoor, Gwinear-Gwithian and St Erth, Hayle North, Hayle South, Helston Central, Helston North, Lelant and Carbis Bay, Ludgvan, Marazion, Mullion, Newlyn and Mousehole, Penzance Central, Penzance East, Penzance Promenade, Porthleven and Helston South, St Buryan, St Ives North, St Ives South, St Just in Penwith, St Keverne and Meneage, Wendron, Bryher  Isles of Scilly, St Agnes  Isles of Scilly, St Martin’s  Isles of Scily, St Mary’s  Isles of Scilly, Tresco

Truro and St Austell  (75,651)
Bugle, Chacewater and Kenwyn,Feock and Kea, Ladock, St Clement and St Erme, Mevagissey,Mount Charles,Penwithick, Probus, Roseland, St Austell Bay, St Austell Bethel, St Austell Gover, St Austell Poltair, St Blaise, St Mewan, St Stephen, Threemilestone and Gloweth, Truro Boscawen, Truro Moresk, Truro Tregolls, Truro Trehaverne,Tywardreath


Bideford and Bude (Cornwall) 74,685
Altarnun  Cornwall, Bude North and Stratton  Cornwall, Bude South  Cornwall, Camelford  Cornwall, Flexbury and Poughill  Cornwall, Launceston Central  Cornwall, Launceston North  Cornwall, Launceston South  Cornwall, Poundstock  Cornwall, St Teath  Cornwall, Tintagel  Cornwall, Appledore Torridge, Bideford East Torridge, Bideford North Torridge, Bideford South Torridge, Clovelly Bay Torridge, Hartland and Bradworthy Torridge, Holsworthy Torridge, Kenwith Torridge, Monkleigh and Littleham, Northam Torridge, Orchard Hill Torridge, Tamarside Torridge, Torrington Torridge, Waldon Torridge,Westward Ho!

As you can see the new cross-border Parlimentary Seat will be called Bideford and Bude. I for one always expected the cross-border seat to be in the North of the County because for a start, there is not a rudy big river in the way.

Of course, these proposals are not definite because these still have to be approved by Parliament. That debate in the House could be rather heated, especially from those MP’s who face fighting another sitting MP, or receiving their P45’s.

I feel it will be rather interesting for the next few days.

When Should There Be a New Bank Holiday?

Yesterday’s meeting of Cornwall Council was a strange one. For me I came away with feeling unsettled. Hard to explain, but something did not feel right. For a start near 30 Councillors were missing for various reasons, and it gave the feeling of emptiness.

There was a debate on whether to write to the Government as part of its review on changing the May Bank Holiday. For some at Cornwall Council they want St Piran’s Day, the 5th of March to be a Bank Holiday. The problem I have with this is Cornwall Council is making this decision to request this change without any public consultation. In essence a few Councillors got together to summit a motion to council. This was knocked back to Scrutiny who were split on the idea before it was brought back to full council.

My understanding is the Government wants to replace this existing May Bank Holiday with one later on in the year. Sounds logical to me as presently we do seem to have a lot of holidays crammed into one period. The question is should Cornwall have a different bank Holiday to other parts of England? If so, how will that affect business and tourism? More importantly, the public of Cornwall should be consulted before this decision is made by Cornwall Council to lobby Central Government.

After near 90 minutes of debate the decision was deferred because the report on the whole matter was poor and lots of important information was missing, or excluded.

For the record, as an ex-naval man my personal choice for the new Bank Holiday would be on the 21st October. If the Royal Navy had lost that battle we would more than likely be singing La Marseillaise.

What’s yours?

Helston and Gorsedh

On Saturday I had the real honour of being part of the procession of the Bards down to Penrose amenity area, and more importantly, being in the inner circle for the Gorsedh ceremony. Before the procession and ceremony I watched the Cornish Wrestling. I enjoyed this too, as it showed this traditional sport was still alive in Cornwall.

This was the first time that the Gorsedh had been held in Helston, and sadly it will be a long time until it will comes back again. I have to say the organising committee of a handful of Helstoners really can be proud of doing such a fantastic job. It is a shame about the weather, but this did not deter from the day being so special.

I reckon there was around 300 Bards in the procession and it was good to see many familiar faces from Porthleven and Helston who have been made Bards. There was also Bards from distant shores including Australia, America, Breton and Wales.

I would love for the Gorsedh to come to Porthleven as like Helston it could really do this ceremony proud. I can honestly say taking part was one of the real highlights in my role as a Cornwall Councillor for Porthleven and Helston South.

 People being made Bards

Me and the 3 of the organising committee 

Thanks to Emma and Helston People Website for the use of pictures. More of ceremony can be found by clicking the link.

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