Sunday, 29 April 2012

Pasty Tax protest march

It was horrendously wet today in Falmouth, but the pasty tax protest march went ahead nonetheless with between 500 and 1000 people marching from the Moor to Events Square in Falmouth.

The event was organised and compered by the comedian Kernow King - huge thanks to him and everyone who helped him out, especially local police sergeant (and fellow twitterer) Gary Watts. I can't imagine how many people would have been there if it had been a fine day - certainly a couple of thousand.

The march itself was led by the Falmouth Marine Band after a fine send off by the Deputy Grand Bard of Cornwall. At event square there were speeches from Ann of Ann's Pasties, myself, fellow councillors Loveday Jenkin and Bert Biscoe and MP Andrew George as well as the tax specialist John Endacott.

There were also performances from The Aberfal Oggymen, Porthleven Dinghy Club and many others.

There's a great series of photos on Facebook and I've attached a video of my own speech below.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

First bus company seeking your views

If you are a bus user in East Cornwall, First Group is looking for people to join their Customer Panel.

According to the First website:

The goal is to provide a forum for constructive change and input into strategic issues. This aims to lead to improvements in bus services in your local community. The Customer Panel is not designed to deal with one-off individual complaints which will continue to be handled by our Customer Services team.

If you are interested in finding out more, contact

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Ridgegrove waste - a solution is on the way

This morning I had a very positive meeting with officers from Cornwall Council's waste department, environmental health officers, the local housing officer and managers from Cory, the new waste contractors across Cornwall. The aim was to sort out a solution to the problems being faced by residents of Ridgegrove where communal bin collections were downgraded to once a week leading to rubbish strewn across the estate and the appearance of rats.

Following my previous intervention, Cory and the council have re-introduced collections twice per week until a long-term solution can be found. Many thanks to them for this.

We walked around the estate looking at the possible solutions. One option would be to revert to the previous service on a long term basis. However, this often leads to fly-tipping, inappropriate waste being put out for collection and almost no recycling.

Instead, the idea being proposed is to reintroduce a doorstep collection for black bag rubbish and recycling across the estate. This will require a lot of work by both the council and Cory to make sure that each house has a suitable and accessible place to put their rubbish out, to communicate this and to make sure Cory pick it up. But the willingness from everyone was there to make it happen and I think this is the best long-term solution.

It won't happen straightaway - the new service needs to bed down in other areas first and the new collections rounds need to be designed. But in a couple of months or so there will be a changeover with residents told where their new collection point is and the old communal bins taken out - and the twice a week collections will continue until then.

Many thanks to Cory and to everyone involved at the council for coming to today's meeting with a positive attitude and I hope that the new waste regime will bring a positive outcome for the people of Ridgegrove.

Beavers - They're not Britney Spears you know

The best quote I've read in a newspaper for some time is all about one of the three beavers that escaped three years ago from Lifton.

Asked whether he could identify a newly captured animal as one of those that escaped, the owener of the conservation facility said:

"Beavers are a brown amorphous mess. They're not Britney Spears."

h/t GraemeDenianyk

Friday, 20 April 2012

Apologetic council waste bosses face up to councillors

Cornwall Council waste bosses and contractors Cory faced up to disgruntled councillors today to answer questions on the problems of the new waste and recycling contract. We learned about the scale of the problem - and the challenges still ahead. There was still a good deal of spin, but a lot of tempers were soothed as all those at the top started their remarks with an apology for the failings.

Those on show included cabinet members Julian German and Steve Double. This in itself sparked a question as it had never been properly explained who was in charge. In the January reshuffle Julian gave up the waste portfolio to Cllr Double - yet it seems to have been him who has taken the flak and faced up to the challenges of the new contract. It was explained that, as Julian oversaw the initial stages of the changeover, it would be he who finished the job.

Also there were call centre boss Wayne Smith, Head of Waste and Transportation Nigel Blackler and Cory's boss Nigel Carr.

To me, the most telling statement was about the performance of the call centre. A unit designed to cope with about 3000 calls per day had 22,000 people trying to get through. Of these, about 7,000 calls made it to the call centre and about 4,000 were answered.

We were told that, in anticipation of the new contract, ten extra staff were taken on but that this proved to be "a drop in the ocean" and the number needed was more like 150. Even 20 days into the contract there is still a huge delay in answering calls (and a backlog of 2200 emails) and this is apparently due to the call centre operating at absolute capacity even though the number of attempted calls has dropped.

As well as the good information, there was still spin. Officers repeated the claim that the whole of East Cornwall had their new recycling boxes and bags despite many councillors saying they knew of areas that hadn't - including their own houses. There was also a claim that only very new houses were not listed on the council's web-based postcode finder. This is patently not the case as many properties - old and new - all over Cornwall have been unable to find their new collection days as the website doesn't recognise their post code.

Yesterday the BBC raised the issue of waste crews being unhappy with their new terms and conditions. The Cory boss said that the vast majority of his staff were happy but just a few were not. He seemed to indicate that this was because they could no longer 'go home at 1pm' and 'had to work a full day'. Yet he admitted that he would not dare ask staff to deliver pre-prepared letters to people unaware of the new recycling schedule because he was worried about the affect on morale.

Other key points:
  • The Council believed that empty recycling bags blowing about in the wind would not be a problem;
  • The Council is considering introducing a smaller recycling box for those concerned that it is too heavy or bulky to carry;
  • In some cases recycling was being picked up by normal waste lorries because of the missed collections "but it would all be hand picked back at the depot":
  • There was acknowledgement that the wrong lorries were being sent to many areas and so collections were being missed. As one councillor said "Two minutes watching Doc Martin would have told Cory that many areas are inaccessible to big lorries";
  • The location of dog and litter bins has been "quite challenging" and many were only emptied when someone told Cory where they were;
  • An inquiry will be held into the problems that have occurred but it will be led by the Environment scrutiny committee and not the Corporate Resources committee as reported yesterday. 
Overall, my impression was of a service transfer which was woefully under-prepared. Of course it's a big changeover, but it seems that neither the Council nor Cory did the right amount of work in advance to ensure that problems were minimised. Other services are still suffering as a result and may do for some time to come.

The Council has set itself a target of two months to get things right. Mr Blackler was quite clear that, by the end of May:
"we will have a service which will be working well. It will be the service that we wanted to put in place when we first set out. It will be a service which people will value and see the benefits of the changes that have been made.”
Councillors (and no doubt the public too) will hold them to that.

Council services grounded because Cory won't give them any diesel

It has emerged that many Cornwall Council services in the East have been grounded because control of fuel tanks at various depots has passed to Cory, the new waste and recycling contractors - and they won't give any fuel to council services.

Needless to say this isn't what is meant to be happening! But there is a huge range of frontline officers based at the Windwhistle depot in Bodmin who seem to have been affected by the problem.

At today's briefing on the problems of the new waste contract I raised this problem because of an email I had received from the dog warden who covers the Launceston area. He had been due to come to Launceston earlier this week but emailed me because he had not been able to get any diesel for his van. He wrote:

"When Cory took over the refuse contract they also took over the fuel tanks and we are not allowed to re-fuel there any more. At the moment we are waiting for fuel cards to arrive. As soon as they are available and I have fuelled up I will be up and do a visit."

At today's meeting I asked how many other services had been affected. The answer I was given was not promising. I was told that any affected drivers had been given fuel cards to enable them to get fuel from a local petrol station. Clearly in this case, however, that hadn't happened and the officer was confined to base as a result.

Obviously this isn't on the same scale as the huge problems being faced with the waste and recycling contract itself. But it just goes to show that the implications of the new contract were not properly thought through and other services have suffered as a result.

Consultation starts next week on Launceston traffic plans

At long last a consultation on plans to introduce residents parking and new yellow lines in Launceston and the surrounding area will be going to public consultation next week.

Together with my colleagues Sasha Gillard-Loft and Adam Paynter, I've been making representations for changes to various highways rules and regulations for a number of months. Because of the cost of making such changes (typically over £3500 for legal work and advertising), groups of requests are stored up until they reach a critical mass for a particular town or area.

Among the changes going out to consultation are proposals to introduce residents parking schemes in Kensey Hill, Race Hill and part of Western Road. There are plans for new yellow lines in Moorland Road in order to allow the town bus to pass freely and for new disabled parking bays in various streets. There are various other proposals around the town including the official removal of the now redundant parking bays outside the old Newport Post Office.

The official consultation starts on April 25th and lasts until May 18th. Properties which would be entitled to buy residents parking permits will receive a letter from the council. Other residents and visitors are encouraged to have their say as well by responding to the notices which will be in local press and advertised on the Cornwall Council website from the 25th. I'll post a link when this is available.

UPDATE - I forgot to mention originally that the price for the first car in a residents parking scheme has been cut from £55 to £25. A consultation in Truro found that many people would not be prepared the higher figure.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Pasty Tax protest march, Falmouth, Sunday 29th 2pm

After the disappointment of losing the pasty tax vote in the House of Commons yesterday, the campaign goes on.

My friend Kernow King has organised a march and celebration of all things pasty in Falmouth on Sunday 29th April. As the poster says, the event starts with a march from The Moor at 2pm. This will make its way to Events Square where there will be a few speeches, a lot of entertainment and maybe the odd beer or two.

It promises to be a grand day out. So if you care about the campaign to stop the pasty tax, please come along and bring the family. And it you can come up with a witty home made banner, so much the better.

Cornwall Council agrees to inquiry into waste fiasco

The demand made yesterday by Cornwall Liberal Democrats for an inquiry into the waste and recycling fiasco is gaining some traction. This morning one of the council's scrutiny committees agreed to hold an inquiry into the damage to the council's reputation.

Yesterday my colleague Jeremy Rowe wrote to the Leader of the Council asking for an apology for the failures and an inquiry into what went wrong. Jeremy's letter asked for the following:

First, that you and the council should stop pretending that these are only a few teething troubles and acknowledge that there are very large areas of Cornwall which have been failed by the new contract. Please issue a formal apology for these failures;

Second, we need to sort these problems out. I and my group have always been ready to assist in any way we can, but the pretence that there are no real problems and the lack of information is hindering moves to put the system right;

Finally, as a Council, we need to understand what went wrong. Was this a failure in preparation by either the Council or Cory? Why were so many collections missed and why could the call centre not cope? The latter is particularly important given that this is a service that we are considering selling to other public sector organisations. The waste and recycling service may be large, but it is hardly the only big contract let by this council. We need to ensure that the same chaos does not affect service changes in the future. I would therefore ask you to support my call for a full inquiry - led by the EP&E scrutiny committee - into the contract change and to ensure that officers and cabinet members make available any and all information requested by that committee.

Cabinet members are undoubtedly right when they say that there are aspects of the change which have gone extremely smoothly and we should recognise these successes. But we must also properly acknowledge the failings, apologise for them and ensure that they cannot happen again.

At today's scrutiny meeting, there was additional concern about the performance of the call centre. The corporate director who is in charge of the service said that there had been "an unprecedented number of complaints" and mentioned "up to 40,000 calls per day" (I question whether it is quite that number).

I welcome the decision to hold an inquiry and hope that the Leader of the Council will agree to provide all the information and evidence that might be needed to get to the bottom of what went wrong and to make sure that it cannot happen again.

The issue is covered on the front page of today's Western Morning News.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

MPs vote on #pastytax

MPs tonight voted by 295 to 260 against the Cornish Lib Dem amendment to abandon the Government's proposal for the pasty tax which will cost Cornish jobs.

During a debate on the budget VAT measures, there were seven MPs called to speak on the issue of static caravans and five on the subject of church alterations, but only one (Stephen) on the issue of the pasty tax.

The resultant vote was a lot closer than might have been predicted. Labour (sensibly) withdrew their own amendment on the subject which was not so well supported and allowed the vote to take place on the Cornish amendment. All six Cornish MPs backed this amendment - which shows both solidarity and hope for the future that the Government might still listen to reason.

The fight will go on as Dan Rogerson will be taking a group of pasty makers to meet with a Treasury Minister soon to explain why the proposals will hurt Cornish jobs.

But as things stand, I won't be buying Nick Clegg a pasty again. (Pic shows Nick eating a pasty I bought for him while talking to Cornish Lib Dems in Bodmin.)

Is thirty minutes hanging on the telephone really a service Cornwall wants to sell to others?

One of the major problems with the new waste and recycling contract has been the inability of the call centre to cope with the deluge of inquiries and complaints. Waiting times of 30 minutes or more are common as the facility struggles to cope with more than 8000 calls per day.

Yet this is a service that Cornwall Council wants to sell to other authorities and public bodies around the country.

My experience of the call centre has always been excellent - when I can get through. But if Cornwall Council wants to sell this service to others, it surely has to come up with a better way of coping with peak demand.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Rats spotted in Ridgegrove rubbish heaps

It was only a matter of time, but rats have been spotted in the piles of rubbish building up on the Ridgegrove Estate in Launceston. Perhaps this isn't surprising as the bins themselves became full last Saturday and, since then, residents have been forced to leave black sacks on the ground in the communal waste areas.

Cornwall Council's own website says:
It is important to remove rubbish and disused fixtures or equipment that may provide harbourage. Vegetation should be controlled around buildings and materials should not be allowed to accumulate in these areas.
They also say:
The Council does have a legal duty ensure that land owners keep their land free from rats and mice under the Prevention of Damage by Pests Act 1949.
But it appears that they are unwilling to enforce this rule on themselves.

Despite asking a number of times, no one at Cornwall Council has yet been prepared to give me an answer as to why the bins on Ridgegrove are no longer being emptied as often as they were before the new contract started.

NOTE - A number of people have asked why Ridgegrove gets a different service to the rest of town. The simple (and not very good) answer is because it always has. There is no reason in principle why a doorstep collection could not be introduced and this would have a number of benefits including cutting down on fly-tipping. But before Cornwall Council decides to arbitrarily change the level of service, it should at least have the decency to inform local residents. The problems with overflowing rubbish and rats were entirely predictable, but Cornwall Council chose to be high-handed.

Lib Dem President leads fight to scrap Air Ambulance VAT

Tim Farron MP, President of the Liberal Democrats, is leading the fight to scrap VAT paid by air ambulances. He wants the service put on the same footing as the RNLI and mountain rescue teams.

Tim is MP for Westmoreland and Lonsdale in the North West. Their air ambulance service currently pays about £24,000 per year in VAT - enough for an extra 10 missions.

As Tim told the local newspaper, it is quite right that the RNLI and mountain rescue services are exempt from VAT, but it is time that air ambulance services were given the same dispensation. The excuse from the government - that EU law doesn't allow such a change - was the same as was trotted out by the last government over VAT for mountain rescue teams. That was proved to be false and mountain and cliff rescue teams are now VAT free. RNLI has been VAT exempt since 1977.

The Cornwall Air Ambulance - the first in the country - would obviously benefit hugely from such a change. Good luck to Tim and his campaign.

Waste and recycling update - overflowing dog bins

The new waste and recycling contract is still causing a huge number of problems across Launceston (and Cornwall).

It seems that litter bins haven't been emptied for some time. I have reported the one on the corner of St Johns Road and Western Road. If you know of others, please get in touch.

As colleagues across Cornwall have found, the new contractor appears to be ignoring dog waste bins completely. The picture shows the one on Moorland Road outside the police station. Again, if you know of others, please get in touch.

I've been told of one street where the contractors came early and so missed picking up rubbish from half the houses. Whilst residents have been told not to rely on the old collection times and to get their rubbish out by 7am, it doesn't help when the contractors come round at 6am! If you have suffered a missed collection, please let me know.

And the saga of Ridgegrove bins continues. Nobody at Cornwall Council has yet had the courtesy to get in touch to explain why this area has had its service downgraded despite two emails from me asking for an explanation. The bottom photo shows the latest situation.

My colleague Adam Paynter has told me about a situation in Roydon Lane where residents haven't had their recycling collected for 13 days.

Pasty Tax campaign to go to Council

Together with Lib Dem colleagues, I have submitted a motion on the proposed pasty tax to go to the next Cornwall Council meeting on May 15th. The aim is to get formal council support for the campaign and to write to the Chancellor urging him to reconsider the move which will cost local jobs.

The full text of the motion reads:

  • Cornwall Council notes the announcement by George Osborne in his recent budget of plans to impose VAT at 20% on the sale of pasties sold hot from the oven as well as other savoury snacks.
  • Cornwall Council notes that the pasty industry is a successful part of Cornwall's manufacturing sector worth around £150m to the Cornish economy and employing thousands of people both directly and indirectly in Cornwall.
  • Cornwall Council further notes that a traditional Cornish pasty is a wholesome and healthy food made with high quality ingredients and is eaten every day by hundreds of thousands of people.
  • Cornwall Council welcomes the efforts being made by the Cornish Pasty Association together with accountants, business experts, local MPs and others to join together to fight the pasty tax.
  • Cornwall Council shares the concerns of pasty manufacturers that the imposition of 20% VAT on the sale of pasties will lead to a fall of around 15-20% on sales and consequent job losses in Cornwall.
  • Cornwall Council therefore resolves to ask the Leader of the Council, in consultation with the Director of Resources, to write to the Chancellor setting out this council's opposition to the pasty tax and calling on the Government to abandon the proposal.

And in today's Western Morning News, the paper highlights the potential backlash on Nick Clegg if the government presses ahead with the pasty tax.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Cornwall Council downgrades waste service to Ridgegrove

The number one topic for Cornwall Council at the moment is the new waste contract which is suffering failures all over Cornwall.

From people who have not had their new recycling containers delivered to the inability to get through to the call centre. And many thousands of residents have not had their waste picked up - some for as long as 15 days.

All this tells the story of an administration that has failed to deliver on a major new project. If you can't trust them to empty your bins, what can you trust them with?

And whilst many of these problems might be described as teething troubles, there are some changes which go deeper than that.

The Ridgegrove Estate in Launceston has communal bins areas. Residents have to take their black bags along to one of five or six mega-bins sited around the estate. These have always been emptied either twice or three times per week because of the amount of waste put there. And the contractors have always made sure that the bin areas are properly cleaned and disinfected each time.

But the new contract downgrades the level of service to just a single pick up each week. According to the officer who told me this, the person in Truro who wrote up the new contract simply 'forgot' that Ridgegrove needed a different type of service.

The pictures accompanying this post were taken today. They show the bin areas already full to over-flowing despite having been emptied on Wednesday. The next pick up is not due until next Wednesday.

I've asked Cornwall Council for an explanation of why the service has been down-graded and for an urgent re-think to restore the previous service. But so far, I've had no answer from any of the key decision-makers.

For a discussion about why Ridgegrove has a different type of service - and what might happen in the future - see this post.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Cornwall Council objects to Woburn village green status

To the surprise of absolutely no-one, Cornwall Council has formally objected to the application by local residents in the Woburn area of Launceston to register the open space off Woburn Road as 'village green'. Granting village green status would protect the land from future development.

Cornwall Council is claiming that the land is merely a 'narrow strip of grassland' and not suitable for dog walking (which, according to the Council, should only take place on pavements). They also claim that the area is not suitable for children playing games.

What the council fails to mention is that it is keen to sell the land for housing development and even submitted a planning application to boost the value of the land prior to sale.

Together with Cllr Sasha Gillard-Loft, I've supported the application for village green status and will continue to do so.

Tory establishment find their man (and it isn't Lance)

Poor old Lance Kennedy.

The Conservative Party establishment, desperate not to have him as their candidate for the Police Commissioner elections later this year, have now found their man.

Graeme Demianyk of the Western Morning News has the story that former Culdrose boss Commander Tony Hogg has been asked by George Eustice MP to put his name in the frame.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Pasty Tax summit

This afternoon I attended the 'pasty tax summit' organised by John Endacott of the accountants firm Francis Clark in Truro. He had brought together VAT and tax experts, pasty manufacturers and politicians to look for a way forward in the debate about the imposition of VAT on pasties.

The manufacturers told us that they thought the imposition of the pasty tax would lead to a loss in sales of 15-20% and this would have a consequent knock-on effect on jobs and the amount of money in the Cornish economy. Firms which had been planning to open new shops said that this measure would automatically end those plans and others have said that they will have to close shops. They said that this is simply the straw that will break the camel's back with rising raw material and fuel costs already making their life difficult.

There was a general perception that the Chancellor didn't realise what he was doing when he announced the pasty tax. He didn't fully understand the implications (the Office for Budget Responsibility papers are confused as to the impact) and clearly never expected to stir the hornets nest that he has.

Steve Gilbert, the Lib Dem MP for St Austell and Newquay, was present and he set out the options from a parliamentary perspective. Whilst there is a debate called by Labour for next week, this will be on such a wide range of issues that he does not expect it to be a proper study of the pasty tax issues. Steve, together with Dan Rogerson and Andrew George, is also asking the Speaker for a full debate on the pasty tax. Tory MP George Eustice has put forward his own idea for a 40 degree re-definition of 'ambient temperature', but the manufacturers pointed out that the only likely effect of this would be to give everyone food poisoning.

Among the manufacturers, the clear mood is that we will continue to fight this unfair proposal which will damage jobs and businesses. We hope that the Chancellor will see that he has made a mistake and will 'clarify' the proposal so that savouries sold out of the oven in bakeries remain VAT free. As things stand, the proposals are totally unworkable.

The next stage is a meeting with Treasury Ministers which Dan Rogerson MP is organising. But as a first step in the concerted campaign, this was hugely positive.

After the meeting, Steve recorded this short message:

Image shows Mark Muncey of the Cornish Pasty Association, John Endacott of Francis Clark accountants and Steve Gilbert MP.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Another waste update ('I'm alright Jack' edition) - UPDATED

Residents across Cornwall are still experiencing big problems with the new waste contract as I blogged last Thursday. In Launceston, our first major test comes tomorrow as that is the day when the majority of households have their first combined waste and recycling collection under the new scheme.

Elsewhere the situation doesn't look too rosy. One colleague sent me the picture on the left of what happened when Cory piled a load of bags for collection and then forgot to collect them. When she tried to call the waste company the person who answered said he was too busy to talk and put the phone down on her. Other colleagues report similar problems in their areas too.

The response from the administration has been very disappointing. Whilst we always knew that there would be teething troubles - as there can be with any new project - the portfolio holder simply tweeted to say that everything had worked fine in his area and the Leader of the Independents boasted that he got a problem in his patch dealt with straightaway. I'm very glad that the problems aren't occurring everywhere, but there has to be seen to be a lot more action to rectify the problems which have occurred.

UPDATE - This picture and the video below were taken on the Ridgegrove Estate this morning. Utterly disgusting.

Mid and West Cornwall shortlisted for new archive and record centre

A while ago I blogged about the prospects for the new archive and records office for Cornwall and suggested that North and East Cornwall need not apply.

Well 36 applications were made, including excellent bids from the East. But the shortlist excludes these and has taken forward two bids from West Cornwall and one from mid-Cornwall - Hayle, Redruth and St Austell.

I asked a council officer about how people from North Cornwall would be able to use a centre in Hayle and was told "Hayle has a railway station, go by train." It seems that this officer had failed to take account of the fact that, although Hayle is pretty well served by public transport, North Cornwall has no stations and a poor bus network.

Best wishes to all three of the remaining bids, but this is another opportunity for investment in the East missed.

Friday, 6 April 2012

An open letter to Tim Farron on the surveillance society

This morning, an open letter to Lib Dem Party President Tim Farron was published on Lib Dem Voice and I was one of the signatories. It was on the subject of the Home Secretary's reported plans to introduce more government snooping on personal emails and the surveillance society.

The full text of the letter is as follows:

Dear Tim,

We understand that the leaked policy on RIPA internet surveillance is now being reviewed more thoroughly, rather than rushed into the Queen’s speech. As such we would like you, as our president, to convey the following thoughts to appropriate Liberal Democrat ministers.

The Home Secretary wrote in the Sun on Tuesday that “Only suspected terrorists, paedophiles or serious criminals will be investigated.” This is akin to saying “if you’ve done nothing wrong, you’ve got nothing to worry about.” If the hacking scandal and ongoing Leveson inquiry has taught us anything, it is that argument is demonstrably false.

At first hacking was tolerated by the public when it was only celebrities and politicians who were victims. It was only after it was exposed that private individuals were hacked that there was public outrage. Even the Queen’s own police protection sold information about her to the News of the World. If our head of state cannot be safeguarded from corrupt police officers, what chance has the rest of us got?

This is our fear over these leaked proposals; we believe that extending universal, rather than targeted internet surveillance powers to the police, exposes innocent citizens to corrupt sections of authority. We agree with Julian Huppert MP when he argues that the police should only be allowed to access private internet usage when they have obtained a “named, specific and time-limited warrant” from a judge or minister.

In a February 2011 interview with the Guardian Nick Clegg said: “You should not trust government – full stop. The natural inclination of government is to hoard power and information; to accrue power to itself in the name of the public good.” And later: Clegg says the restoration of liberty is ongoing, and urges campaigners to “hold the government’s feet to the fire”. We are attempting to do just that with this letter.

Surely an important part of our party’s mission is to defend and protect the civil rights of our fellow citizens, and if we fail, our party’s liberal identity will be put at grave risk. We urge our ministers to heed our call – block these illiberal proposals and lead the charge for reform of RIPA to ensure our citizens enjoy the fair, free and open society we seek to build and safeguard.

I'm delighted that Tim has responded. You can see his thoughts here.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

The continuing trouble with waste

The new waste contract continues to give problems for Cornwall Council. As well as hugely long phone queues, there are numerous stories of missed collections and bags and boxes being left half-emptied.

As with any new contract, there are bound to be teething troubles in the first weeks. The test will be how quickly these mistakes are rectified and whether there are any still on-going after the first month.

I know that the Council has massively increased the number of staff on duty in the call centre to deal with queries, but if the waiting time is still 25 minutes or more in some cases then they clearly haven't got enough. And, whilst it is good that the new contract sees waste continue to be collected on bank holidays, it doesn't help that the call centre will be closed tomorrow and Monday.

I've had a few calls about problems in the Launceston area, but thankfully not as many as have come from other areas. If you have any concerns over the new system, please email me or call and I will pass them on directly to be dealt with.

Monday, 2 April 2012

Poor communications letting Cornwall Council down over waste

Cornwall Council's new waste collection contract is a major undertaking and will involve significant changes to most homes across the area. But, as if the changes weren't hard enough, they are being further let down by some pretty poor communications.

- I have had numerous complaints that people are left hanging on the phone for 15 minutes or more if they try to call either the dedicated waste line or the council's main number.

- I am told that many homes have yet to receive their new recycling bags and boxes even though their neighbours have. The Council has made it clear that some areas will not be delivered until the end of April, but if a resident sees that their neighbours have their boxes, they can only assume they have been missed - hence the calls to the Council.

- The website is still hiding the collection checker halfway down the front page. And even if you do find it, some people are finding that their postcodes are returned as 'not applicable'.

- Despite promises by the council that the old bags and sacks could be used until the end of April, residents have complained that recycling waste that is being put out in the old disposable sacks is not being collected, leaving bottles, tin cans and paper on local pavements and gardens.

Police seek info on Race Hill collision

Police are appealing for witnesses to a collision in Launceston on Friday 30th March 2012.

The collision took place at Race Hill near the Tesco superstore at 3.45pm and involved a young boy on a skateboard and a blue five series BMW car. The boy, aged 14, was taken by air ambulance to Derriford for treatment for head injuries, which were later described as minor.

Police are keen to hear from anyone who saw the collision or either the teenager or car shortly before the incident. Police are particularly keen to hear from a woman who was driving a burgundy car and stopped at the scene.

Anyone with information is asked to call police on 101 quoting reference 517 30th March 2012.