Thursday, 23 April 2015

Cameron pledges public money for Stadium. What does Scott Mann say?

David Cameron has today promised public money to fund a Stadium for Cornwall. Speaking to Tamsin Melville on BBC Radio Cornwall, he said:

"If it takes some extra money, I'd make that money available"

On the one hand this is a pretty blatant election bribe. Neither Mr Cameron nor anyone else in the Conservative Party has said anything like this before. Yet he happens to be able to come up with this very specific commitment during a visit to West Cornwall. Hmm.

On the other hand, where does this leave North Cornwall Conservative candidate Scott Mann? Scott famously resigned 'on a point of principle' as Deputy Leader of the Conservative Group when it was proposed to put public money behind the stadium. Is he happy that Mr Cameron should now be backing such spending?

To be clear, the principle of a stadium for Cornwall is one which the vast majority of people in Cornwall (myself included) support. It has been given planning permission and those behind the scheme have continually said that they will find the money privately. I wish them the very best of luck. But, for all of its benefits, any public money which goes into a stadium is money which is not available for spending on nurses, caring for vulnerable people, libraries, roads or whatever.

The current backlog of maintenance for Cornwall's leisure centres is up to £15 million. The total cost of a stadium - up to £15 million. If that amount of money is available from the public purse, then I would argue that it should be spent on the leisure facilities that truly benefit the whole of Cornwall.

General Election Hustings in Launceston

If you want a chance to quiz the candidates standing in North Cornwall in the general election, there will be a hustings event at Central Methodist Church in Launceston next Tuesday- 28th April at 7pm



Tuesday, 21 April 2015

The Tory plan to close Launceston police station?

Launceston Police Station is under threat. And the Conservatives - whose cuts have put it at risk but could still save it - are refusing to come to the rescue.

The front counter service has already gone. So local people have to rely on the very inconsistent 101 telephone service where they could be hanging on for 30 minutes or more. Before the front counter was closed, the Conservative Police Commissioner - Tony Hogg - was warned about the failings of his proposed alternative, but he went ahead anyway.

The next step has been to propose to remove the custody suite from the station. This is a very modern facility which has had a lot of money spent on it. It serves a wide area of Cornwall and Devon. But the force is now formally proposing to close it.

Why is this happening? The savings are being forced through by Conservative Home Secretary Theresa May. She has been clear that her party’s agenda is for massive savings across the public sector, and rural police are not exempt. So Devon and Cornwall police have to take their hit.

But it is also down to another Conservative politician - Tony Hogg the police and crime commissioner. It is he who sets the strategic direction of the force and decides where the money is spent. He could save rural policing and facilities such as Launceston’s. But he is refusing to do so.

The gradual run down of Launceston Police Station leads me to one question - is the complete closure of our police station next on the Conservative agenda?

When she was on a recent electioneering trip to North Cornwall, Theresa May was asked about the run down of Launceston police station. She said that “we have to rationalise our resources”. Alongside her at the time was local tory candidate Scott Mann who said nothing to oppose the cuts.

So - Theresa May, Tony Hogg and Scott Mann appear to have a plan to close down rural police stations. Can we trust them with our vote on May 7th?

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Mike Nicholls

Tonight I received the very sad news that former county councillor Mike Nicholls has passed away.

Mike served the people of Launceston for many years and, latterly, was elected as a member of the Royal Cornwall Hospital Trust Council of Governors representing East Cornwall.



Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Launceston Town Council says no to neighbourhood plan

Launceston Town Council tonight voted against moving forward with a neighbourhood plan. I regret that decision which I believe was taken following incorrect assertions and which will leave our town prey to developers.

A neighbourhood plan is a locally devised and legally enforceable document which allows a community to decide what sort of development it wants to see and where that development should go. There isn't complete freedom of decision. The neighbourhood plan has to be 'in conformity' with the Cornwall-wide Local Plan which, in turn, has to be in conformity with the National Planning Policy Framework. Both of these higher documents state that there will be development in all communities, so a neighbourhood plan cannot say 'no building'.

But, for all the restrictions, a neighbourhood plan is the best chance of protecting our town against over-development or building in the wrong place. The people of Launceston have said that we want to see new building, but only where it is sustainable.

Part of the problem is that our town boundaries are very close to the current edge of the built up area. So, in an ideal scenario, the town council would work with neighbouring parishes - Lawhitton, South Petherwin, St Stephens and St Thomas - on a combined plan. But (rightly) the town council cannot force those parishes to work with us and none have indicated they want to. But I still think it is right that we should move forward to do whatever we can to protect our town and encourage building in the right places not the wrong ones.

Unfortunately, there were those at tonight's meeting who believe that Cornwall Council will produce a binding document as good as a locally produced plan. That's not the case and so I fear that tonight's vote will simply leave the town open to more applications like the one at Upper Chapel which was allowed at appeal - in the main - because there was no local or neighbourhood plan to stop it.

Friday, 13 March 2015

Western Greyhound ceases trading

Bus company Western Greyhound has ceased trading this morning. A number of their routes run in the Launceston area. Cornwall Council are co-ordinating efforts to provide services with efforts being concentrated on school routes and those which meet a social need.

The news will cause difficulty for many people who rely on local bus services for work, education and social needs. I know that people in Launceston rely on WG services for travel to Exeter, for example.

Routes operated by the company fall into three categories:

- school routes
These are all covered today and the council (which contracts the operator) will be working to make sure that they are covered in the future too.

- commercial routes
These are the services which operate on a profit-making basis. The council does not have a role in them and they are registered with the transport commissioner. Normally, to register a new operator or route takes some time but, in these circumstances, I hope that any alternative company willing to step in and take up a WG route will be able to do so without delay.

- subsidised routes
These are non-profit making routes which the council subsidises in order to meet a social need. The council is working urgently with other operators to see if replacements can be found. However it may take some days to do so.

As you can imagine, this is a fast-moving situation. The council will be posting updates on its website. If passengers find that the service they rely on is not operating, it may be that another operator will accept WG tickets and passes. Alternatively, try to use local Facebook forums to seek other passengers in a similar situation who may be able to share lifts.

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Could you be Launceston's next town councillor? - UPDATED

Launceston town council is looking for a new member following the resignation of Maurice Davey. Maurice represented the Central ward.

The town council consists of 16 members (I'm one), in three wards. There are seven for Central, which I also represent on Cornwall Council, seven for South and two for the much smaller North. There were currently two members elected with a party label in 2013, but it is fair to say that the work of the council is wholly non-partisan.

The vacancy will be advertised and if ten electors call for an election then a full public vote will be held, probably at the end of June. If there is no call for an election then there will be a co-option with interested parties able to make their case to the current councillors who will vote on the new member.

If you think that you might be interested in becoming a councillor, the first point of contact should be the council clerk Rita Skinner - rita@launceston-tc.co.uk

UPDATE: Susan Roberts Alfar has also resigned from the council. Susan represented South ward.