Super-fast Broadband – Who gets it first.

Super-fast Broadband is coming to Cornwall. The real question is what areas will get it first. Today I received an e-mail as to those areas. Sadly its not the Helston and Porthleven area, but I am sure we will get it as soon as possible. The area that are to receive it first are:

Leedstown, Chiverton Cross area, St Agnes, Portreath, St Day, Devoran, Stenalees and Par. These areas will be upgraded at the end of March 2011. These areas are ahead of the first main roll-out that will be in the South East area of Cornwall.  At the end of the day I am very pleased that this is happening in Cornwall. Too many times Cornwall being at the far west of the Country seems to get left out when things are being handed out.

At the end of the day this is good news. I am told that between 80% -90% of all businesses and households will receive this by 2014. The question is, what areas will not be able to receive it and how will this be overcome.

Voting – Stand up and be counted

I am struggling to understand the latest saga in the possible creation of a shared parliamentary boundary with Devon, or otherwise know as Devonwall. This concerns our MP’s. They have all made speeches on how bad this would be, and how it must not be allowed to happen. These are noble sentiments indeed by standing up for the people who are against this. It just all comes crashing down when it comes to voting for it. They all save one vote in favour for the motion. Granted it was all mixed in with a change to the voting system, but it was still in there. One MP did vote for and against, as that is seen as a principled objection. How brave.
So tell me why they did? If you disagree with something then vote against it. Stand up and be counted. So what if you are in the party which is proposing it. Just because they are, does not mean you blindly follow them and vote for it. If they, our MPs had kept quiet, or made no point in how they felt, then maybe, just maybe I might have understood. But to campaign, turn up at rallies and speak against the formation of a shared boundary and then vote for it is just plain wrong.
The topic is not the important part, it could be on anything, but the principle is the same. It is one reason I am an Independent. I can vote for what is best for the people who elect me. No one tells me how or suggest which way to vote. They have tried, but are met with a look that would include the words running, jump, take and a. Even at Cornwall Council block votes happen. No one will ever admit that there is indeed a whip, but it’s pretty hard to discount it when one hand goes up and the rest follow.
People have low opinions of politicians, this just enforces that opinion when a politician says they are against something, but when it comes to voting, they vote in favour.  One of our MPs posts a comment on Twitter about how to campaign against it. Did they really say this with a straight face? Anyway, here is the comment:
“If you haven’t written (to the House of Lords,) write now. If you’ve already written, write again. Don’t leave it to someone else.”
I am sure they will make some excuse as to why they did indeed vote this way. They will as sure as the sun comes up say its not over and there are other chances to stop this, but when it is your chance to stop, or at least make the point you are against something, then for the love of God stand up and vote against it. You may lose, but people will respect you more if you do stand up for what you say.

Tourism – It’s important

I sit on the Tourism Panel. Tourism is important to Cornwall. Without it, we would be up the creek without a paddle, and probably the canoe too. It equates to £1.5 billion to Cornwall, or in money terms the income equivalent of £3000 for every man woman and child who lives in Cornwall. It employs 40,000 people. So it’s very important to Cornwall.
From the stats and figures that we were shown today, it seems Cornwall has come though the current recession better than expected with the average length of stay down from 7.5 days to just under 7 days. We have around 88% repeat visitors. These are people who come back to Cornwall within 5 years. So it seems once they come, they will return. 
While the visitor numbers are good, it seems that whilst lots of money is spent in Cornwall a large part of it does not stay because of the VAT and Business Rates what goes to the central coffers of the Government. The Tourism Minister, John Penrose is currently draft a new Policy on Tourism that could mean that more of this tax money stays within the borders of where it’s been spent. One dreaded word that was mentioned by Malcolm Bell was a Tourism Tax. This was merely mentioned as an idea and nothing more than that (yet).
I raised a question what was Visit Cornwall (Tourism Wing of CC) doing to attract visitors to Cornwall during the Olympics. This is one of the largest events to happen to the UK since 1948 when the Olympics were last here. It has a huge potential to attract more people to visit Cornwall and more importantly revisit over and over again. At present nothing overtly happening, but Malcolm Bell did acknowledge more work should be done to attract those wanting to get away from the Olympics or wanting to see more of what the UK has to offer whilst they are here during the Olympics. He said he would get more details from Visit Britain who is handling a lot of the PR on tourism during the Olympics. I believe this is a trick not to be missed.
On the downside, Cornwall Development Company (CDC) which Visit Cornwall sits in is facing cuts along with everyone else. The danger that was pointed out by me and many other Councillors on this Panel is the budget for Tourism is seen as a soft target in these cuts. It may seem soft on paper, but current money that goes into tourism would have a more hard hitting effect on Cornwall and those who this industry support.
I am very confident that we have the right man at the helm in Malcolm Bell. From the meeting I have had with him he currently knows what he is talking about.

Public Transport – A shock to the system

It’s been a long time since I have had to rely on public transport as luckily I have a car, but this week has brought home to me how difficult it is get around if you don’t have a car, or access to one. I have had to rely on public transport because my car is very poorly with its head gasket gone.

Because a lot of my work as a Councillor is not in my local area, I have to travel. The big drawback to this is without a car I have to use the bus. I would like to use the train, but the nearest stations in Penzance or Camborne are over 15 miles away. So I have to get a bus to get to the station. Porthleven is hardly what I call remote; I would say there is an hourly service to Helston, some 3 miles away. This bus travels from Penzance to Falmouth. So its not that bad as long as you have plenty of free hours to a) wait and b) the time it take to get to a place. It’s just if you need to get to other places a problem arises.

Take Truro, its the de-facto capital of Cornwall, but there is only one direct service in the morning, but as I was told by First’s customer service that college children get priority, so if that hardly a good start for a commuter trying to get to work. This bus leaves at 7:30 am and gets in around 9am.  If not, I was told I could get to Truro via either Penzance (requires two changes) or Camborne (requires 3 changes). If I had to go via any of them, I might as well get off and get the train as it would be quicker. There used to be a direct route from Penzance to Truro via Helston/Falmouth but this was stopped some years ago. I dread to think how difficult it would be to get to anywhere east of Truro

At a recent Community Network meeting we discussed transport and buses. Sadly at this meeting First (the bus company) failed to send any senior managers to answer questions, even though they promised, but at the 11th hour they sent one of the general staff who could not speak on anything because he was not really in a managerial role that would have access to that type of information. All he said (no fault on him) I will take that question back to my boss.

I would never expect a public transport service like you get in a large city (would be nice though), but it would be nice to get one that enables you to get around without spending many hours waiting and travelling around in the aim of trying to get to somewhere that is only 20 miles away. The Government and to an extent Cornwall Council bangs on about ‘Green Travel Plans’ and how people should stop using their cars, but what is the alternative? People are not going to stop using a car because the alternative is just not there.

As for the price of a bus ticket, this is more expensive that using a car. That just makes no sense at all. I travelled back from Helston (3 miles) with my son. It cost £3.90 for both of us one way. Hardly a cheap method to travel around. Its just not affordable to use a bus as a regular means of travel. Personally I would be more than happy to pay more in Council Tax, or dare I say it in parking charges if that money went directly to fund better public transport. I would not have a problem with that.

I have to say it’s not until you have to try something you really know how difficult it can be. For me, I am looking forward to getting my car back; as I don’t really think I could cope without it until things change in public transport.

Devonwall – A Boundary

Much has been in the news about the proposals by the Government for a change to the voting system and reducing the amount of MP’s. The first part I am opened minded. I am looking forward to evaluating the different voting methods before I nail my colours to the mast. The second part I am also in agreement in principle, but that part has a mighty sting in its tail.

That sting is with a reduction in MPs certain historical boarders could change. It could result in the first Cornwall-Devon Parliamentary seat. To a vast majority that is just a step too far. They believe Cornwall should remain whole with ether 5 or 6 MPs. This looks like its purely a numbers game. Each Constituency should contain the same amount of electorate with a margin of 5%. That does not work well for Cornwall. Because for 6 MPs it does not have enough voters, but for 5 its has too many. Hence the possible ‘sharing’ of an MP with Devon.

So, where are we now?  Well last night Parliament voted in favour of this Bill. All the 6 Cornish MPs voted in favour, but this was only the second reading. It now passes onto the Committee stage where many believe the finer points will be argued and fought out. It will then return to Parliament for its final reading before going to the House of Lords, which will then return to Parliament to become law.

Simple? Well that’s until the Boundary Commission makes its report on how the seats should be divvied up. From my experience and listening to many others this Commission is a mystical beast, who seems to do what it pleases. Look at the previous Cornwall Unitary Boundaries. Many ancient parishes and boundaries were ignored just because of numbers. Much protest was made, but it changed little. I fear the new Parliamentary seats will be completed in the same way. Here is my previous Post on the Boundary Commission.

Today at Cornwall Council the Council voted in favour of fighting any plan(s) to share a seat with Devon. It will do everything in its power to stop this. That’s if the Commission will listen. Will all MPs fight this as well? Well I hope so, as to vote for a shared MP would surely cost them their seat at the next election.

What can the ‘Joe in the Street’ do? One very important thing they can do is to register to vote. Why? Well, the Commission is likely to use December 2010 electoral role for its information. It’s imperative that we have enough voters to retain the current boundaries, and not having to share it with our neighbours across the Tamar.

Stadium for Cornwall – Truro?

The latest news from County Hall (or its new name Lyns Kernow) is on a Stadium for Cornwall. This research has centred on where the best place it should be. I personally have been in two minds if this is viable due to need and cost. I am no expert on this, so I am always interesting in hearing and reading what so called experts say.
Stadium specialist Gardiner and Theobald has undertaken extensive analysis of possible locations across Cornwall based on four key factors: Social, Transport, Environment and Economic. 
These experts have identified a site(s). They are Truro and Threemilestone. There is no getting away from the fact that this stadium has to be near the main carriageway of Cornwall, and that is the A30. I won’t argue that point, but I will argue the point of why Truro?
Yes, Truro is the de-facto capitol of Cornwall, but there is a lot of Cornwall to the east of Truro. Maybe it should be further to the east. Maybe a more central location would be better. It’s the same reason why I would rule out a stadium to the west.  There have been many accusations that Cornwall or the powers-to-be are too Truro-centric. This plays into that charge. (picture is just for illustration) 
I would be very interested to hear as to why other location(s) were discounted and why. I am also of the view that this stadium should be built and run by a private concern, and not the Council. Sure we could help out with some funding, but to run it would not be a good idea. Look how well the Dome started.

Another question is that who will be ‘based’ at this stadium? will it be Rugby, Football, or both? Will it have a running track around it? If a team is based will they be asked to pay for some of the build costs. These are all questions that need to be addressed (and I would hope they are) before a brick is laid.  

I am told by a statement from Cornwall Council that a further study will take place and that will include a business plan which will identify the facilities and possible tenants. This is expected to be completed by the end of 2010.
But as I said at the beginning, I am not a stadium expert and will still keep an open mind when (IF!) I am consulted on this matter. 

Cornish – English – Duchy – County

I have decided to enter the fray (maybe foolishly) over English – Cornish – Duchy – County. I might as well be up front and say I am not a native of Cornwall. In fact, I was not even born on these shores. I have watched, read and witnessed many debates, blogs and twitter feeds on Cornwall, the people and how it fits in with the rest of the UK.  I am not going to claim I am any historical buff on Cornwall, but I will say what I have to say from my view point.

There is no getting away from it, but Cornwall is something special. I am proud to live here. So much so I can say I love Cornwall like someone born of this land. I have been here since my late teens, so I can honestly say I have grown up in Cornwall. I do however struggle with some of the claims, points and views that certain people have. I am not saying they are wrong, as everyone has the right to an opinion. Like I have.

The first one is what makes you Cornish? Are you automatically Cornish if you are born here? Even if you are only born here by sheer coincidence? What happens if both or one of your parents are not Cornish? Are you less Cornish if you are not from pure Cornish stock? If so, how far back do you have to go to claim to be Cornish. Grandparents, Great Grandparents? It’s an interesting point, and one I have asked many times. Only to get different answers. Maybe if you just  live in and love Cornwall that is enough?

As for Duchy – County this is a complex issue. It’s a shame that we cannot go back in time and ask what the King really meant when he granted the land and titles. Did he do it to keep his son busy with the administration of Cornwall. Did he do it so his son was so busy that he could not usurp his own position. It was not uncommon in those times for many claimants to the throne, or for there to be many attempts to take it from the current holder, and more importantly, the treasury that came with that position.

Many claim that Cornwall is a Duchy and therefore not part of the mainland (England or even the UK), thus not making it a County. But what would happen if the Sovereign stripped those lands off the current holder? Without a Duke, it can’t be a Duchy. Then what happens? It may sound simplistic, but to the more republican viewpoint they may argue why do we need these ancient offices of Monarchy, Dukes, Earls etc. So without these titles and positions, you can’t have the title of Duchy.  You can’t have it both ways, or pick what parts you like/don’t like. An interesting point is if there are no sons of the Monarch, the Duchy remains in the power of the Monarch.

Maybe if the Sovereign gave some sort of ruling on this we might all understand. As for the Government, it administers Cornwall the same as any other County. They after all are the law makers of this land(s). If Cornwall is independent, then is the Duchy of Lancaster too? At least that generally has a Government Minister who is the Chancellor for that Duchy.

Even better would be if someone took this whole case to the High Court for a final judgement on this issue. Then maybe this yes/no/maybe would all be sorted once and for all (or would it?)

Here are some other viewpoints on this interesting and (very) complex issue

Jason Williams – Graham Smith – Cornish Republican  – Cornish Zetetics – Mudhook

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