Saturday, 30 March 2013

Andrew Motion lays into second homes

The President of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, former poet laureate Sir Andrew Motion, has laid into second homes saying that "townies in the countryside" were "gutting" rural communities.

In an interview in the Times, Sir Andrew says:

"I think there's a question about whether second homes mean you have inert dormitory communities in the countryside through most of the week, very often lived in by people who scoot down in their cars, see their smart friends, don't join in the life of the community and don't feed into it. They're townies in the countryside, they make sure they're back in London in time to catch the 10 o'clock news on Sunday night. That means rural communities are gutted."

The CPRE is backing changes to the tax regime to make second homes much more expensive to buy and run.

Coincidentally, Sir Andrew is the star guest at this year's Charles Causley Festival in Launceston. He is appearing at 4pm on Friday 7th June. The festival runs the entire weekend from the 7th to the 9th.

Note - Link is to the BBC story rather than the Times which site behind a paywall.

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Woburn Green granted 'village green' status

This evening I got home to find a letter from the Planning Inspectorate giving me the fantastic news that the application for village green status for the open land off Woburn Road has been granted.

Huge congratulations are due to Phil Wagstaff and Dave Shadrick of the Woburn Residents Association who took the lead on the issue, together with town councillor Paul O'Brien. Alongside ward councillor Sasha Gillard-Loft, I helped them out and gave them support along the way.

This issue arose because Cornwall Council was seeking to sell off the land for housing development. Not only would such a development be wrong for the area, but it would also mean the loss of the open space which has been used by local people for many tens of years.

So the Woburn Residents applied for village green status which protects the area against all future development. They had to demonstrate that local people had used the land lawfully for recreational activities for more than 20 years. At a hearing over two days in the New Year they did so and the judgement was published today.

I'm very happy for the residents as it means that one more bit of green space has been saved for residents to continue to enjoy. I hope that Cornwall Council will learn the lesson that they cannot seek to sell off land willy nilly to the detriment of local people.

Cornwall council's tax bill problem

Cornwall Council has admitted that many of the council tax bills they have sent out contain the wrong barcode on them. As a result, residents are finding it impossible to pay at their local post office.

Whilst the majority of residents pay their bills by direct debit and are not affected by this problem, it is still causing a concern for those who do pay in person and for the businesses where they pay. For post offices, being able to offer the council tax payment service is a way of drawing customers into the shop. In short, it helps them stay afloat. If bill payers start losing confidence in the system then the post offices will suffer.

The fault appears to lie with a contractor who printed and sent out the bills. As such, the cost of putting it right (which could be as much as £50,000) hopefully won't come back to local taxpayers. New bills are being sent out to the 81,000 households and businesses affected and will be with residents by the April 1st deadline for first payments to be made.

But it appears that many people affected have been kept in the dark about the problems and what is being done to put them right. Although a statement was put on the council's website, it seems post offices have not been kept up to date and so they are unable to advise their customers to wait until the new (corrected) bill arrives on their doormat.

Monday, 25 March 2013

Council votes no to Western Road development

I'm very grateful to my colleagues on the council's planning committee for voting this afternoon against an application to build two three bedroom homes at the junction of Western Road and Carboth Lane.

The application would have seen the excavation of huge amounts of soil, the construction of a massive retaining wall and two houses being built up against the wall.

The two concerns I expressed to the committee were:

- that the construction of a retaining wall would threaten the safety of the main road into the town. I know that the council's highways department had concerns and were asking for a separate application before work could begin. Although I am sure that both the council and the applicant would have made sure the desperate problems of Looe would have been avoided, there is always a concern when large excavations are carried out;

- that the properties would have little or no amenity space (planner jargon for garden). The proposal would have seen no back windows on the ground floor of the houses and a 14 foot wall as close as 4 feet behind the houses on the upper floor. The amount of sunlight reaching the terrace at the back could have been measured in muted per day, even in summer.

The committee is not saying 'never' to the concept of any development on the site, but this application was refused on the basis of bad design and lack of amenity as well as concerns over structural security.

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Launceston set to become centre for disabled powerlifting

Launceston is set to become a local centre for disabled powerlifting after a town gym became the first in Cornwall to house a specially adapted bench.

It's all thanks to the generosity of Gold medal winning Paralympian Anthony Peddle who donated his disabled bench to town resident Jade Farrington after he retired from powerlifting. And to Crunch Gym on the Scarne Industrial Estate offered to host the facility to give as many people as possible the opportunity to try the sport.

Jade, who holds six able-bodied powerlifting records, had her left femur replaced with a metal prosthesis aged 9 following bone cancer and has competed and trained with the British Weightlifting Association for the Disabled.

She said: “I can’t thank Anthony enough for giving me his bench and bar. Crunch Gym owners Mark and Merwyn Quick travelled up to Chesterfield to collect them and I’m really grateful that they’ve found room for the bench in the gym.

“Cornwall gets a raw deal when it comes to sport, and disabled sporting facilities are practically non-existent, so to have this on the A30 where it’s easily accessible to so many people is fantastic. I hope making it available to the public will encourage disabled people to give powerlifting a go, and hopefully take it up on a competitive basis.”

Anthony Peddle is a Paralympic legend having competed in seven games. He won gold in Sydney in 2000 where he set a world record of 168kg which stood for seven years. He lifted 140kg in the under 48kg bodyweight category at London 2012 before retiring.

Jade said: “I hope the opportunity to lift on the bench he owned and trained on will encourage people with disabilities to try powerlifting and hopefully get a taste for it.”

Able-bodied powerlifting sees athletes compete at the squat, bench press and deadlift, while disabled lifters carry out the bench press only on a specially designed long bench which supports their entire body.

Crunch Gym member and wheelchair user Kyle Jordan, 16, was thrilled to see the bench delivered. He said: “It’s wider and allows me to feel stable and secure so I can focus purely on lifting. When I use standard narrow benches it’s difficult to get my balance so I can’t lift as much. Now I don’t have to worry and I can get the full benefit.”

Merwyn Quick said it was great that Crunch had become the first gym in Devon or Cornwall to offer a disabled bench.

“This is just the start of preparations to make the gym more accessible to all,” she said. “We’re just so privileged to have this facility.”

The bench is now available for disabled and able-bodied use. For details, call 01566 248252 or visit Crunch Gym.

Friday, 22 March 2013

The one where Sarah 'On Message' Newton comes unstuck

This afternoon I was in Plymouth to record the South West segment of the Sunday Politics Show. One of the other guests is Truro and Falmouth Tory MP Sarah Newton.

In the green room before the recording, we were discussing the fears that the new Home Buy support scheme could end up helping to subsidise the purchase of second homes - as I blogged yesterday.

Sarah declared that this was definitely not the case and that ministers had ruled it out. I agreed with her that there had been statements made by ministers that they would seek to exclude second home buyers, but that these had only come after the flaw in their original plans had been spotted.

Sarah declared that the Chancellor had been quite definite on this issue from the start. She could even prove it by showing me in the Budget Red Book (the official Treasury document with all the budget details) where it said that the scheme would only be for primary residences.

The trouble is that no matter how hard she looked, she couldn't find anything in the Red Book to prove her point.

So she declared that the statements were in accompanying guidance that was issued at the same time and was on her iPad. Strangely, she didn't attempt to show me that...

In other news, Sarah declared that the whole pasty tax shambles in last year's budget was spotted immediately by ministers and wasn't corrected straight away simply to set up a campaign so that the government could give ground. Hmm.

There is another 'Newton-ism' to blog about from the recording itself, but I will leave that until after the broadcast on Sunday morning at 11am.

It could be worse...

However much we might moan about the various failings of the Conservative-Independent cabinet on Cornwall Council, things could be worse. We could be in Torridge or Mid-Devon where the Conservative councils have sent out thousands of bills demanding a council tax increase of up to 17%. The bills are, of course, wrong and are having to be replaced.

Mid Devon has had enough bad publicity in the last week with their decision to abolish the rules of grammar and delete apostrophes from their road signs.

But now the council has sent out thousands of incorrect council tax bills and will have to go through the process again, leading to confusion and costing around £12,000.

According to the Western Morning News:
Conservative cabinet member for finance Neal Davey said the error was made by an officer and was "regrettable".

In Torridge, only 803 bills out of 30,553 sent out were right - a strike rate of just 2.6%. There too, the bills will have to be replaced at a cost of thousands of pounds.

Worried about council tax? Get your claim in for help as soon as possible

There will be many thousands of people in Cornwall who are worried about how they are going to be able to afford their council tax. Even though the Cornwall Council element of the bill has been frozen this year, it is still a lot of money to find.

Particularly hard hit are those who had previously been in receipt of council tax benefit. Until now, this means tested benefit covered up to 100% of the amount owed. Under the new rules imposed by the Conservatives and Independents, all working age households will have to pay at least 25% of their bill. That's a tax rise averaging £265 for 26,000 Cornish families.

A support scheme has been put in place to help those who feel they cannot afford this amount. Unfortunately, this scheme will only cover a maximum of half the debt. For some, this may well be enough. But for the least well off, I think this decision is very wrong. For the avoidance of doubt, the final decision to limit the support scheme was taken by Council Leader Jim Currie and not presented to full council.

If you do think you need help to cover your council tax bill, you should contact the council as soon as possible using the 'Exceptional Relief' application form on this page or you should call 0300 1234 121.

Claims will not be processed before April 1st, but all those received by that date will be processed before the reminder letters are sent out for unpaid April bills - so apply early to avoid running up any debts.

Although I still believe this is a bad scheme and the council should have retained the previous version to avoid imposing unpayable debts on the poorest, I am glad that they will be dealing with claims for help swiftly.

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Has the Chancellor set up a subsidy scheme for second homes?

Has the Chancellor miscalculated with one of his personal schemes announced in yesterday's budget? George Osborne announced state funding for people who buy newly built houses - a measure that he said would stimulate the building industry as well as provide more homes.

But it seems that Mr Osborne has failed to include rules which would prevent these new houses being bought as second homes. In effect, we could be seeing a subsidy for people to buy second homes in Cornwall.

Liberal Democrats have worked hard in Cornwall to close the loopholes that give unfair advantages to second home owners. The council has ended the second home council tax discount and we want to make owners apply for change of use permission before they can turn a house into a second home. Liberal Democrats have made affordable homes for local people one of our top priorities. Cornwall cannot afford for Mr Osborne to undo all this hard work and so we need him to be clear that his new scheme will not subsidise second homes.

Yesterday's budget also had a number of good wins for the Liberal Democrats. Among them was the announcement that the income tax threshold would rise to £10,000 - and that this would happen a year ahead of schedule. That promise was on the front page of the Lib Dem manifesto at the last election and will mean that, from April next year, more than 2.6 million people won't be paying any income tax and millions more will have a £700 tax cut.

Other wins included the announcement on child care cost support to help more parents go out to work and which could be worth up to £1200. Also in the budget was the abolition of the beer duty escalator which saw tax go up by 2% more than inflation each year. And in addition there will be an extra penny off a pint. That's a win for Lib Dem MP Greg Mulholland who has led the campaign to abolish it. It's also a win for local brewers like St Austell, Skinners and Sharps.

It would be a shame if all this good work was overwhelmed in the public mind by an ill-defined policy on new homes.

The Western Morning News has the story here.

UPDATE - ITN's Finance correspondent Laura Kuenssberg has tweeted: Lib dem source on Mortgage guarantee for second homes - 'we will not allow this to happen'

And World At One editor Nick Sutton tweets: Housing Minister Mark Prisk on #wato says purchasers would have to make a legal declaration they weren't buying second home.

Award for Cornwall Lib Dems

Cornwall’s Liberal Democrats have been named ‘Opposition Council Group of the Year’ by the Association of Liberal Democrat Councillors and Local Government Association Lib Dem group.

The award, announced at the recent party spring conference in Brighton, was handed over to the group by Party President Tim Farron during his visit to Cornwall yesterday, 20th March.

Receiving the award, Cllr Jeremy Rowe, Leader of the Liberal Democrat group on Cornwall Council, said:

“The whole group was delighted to receive this recognition from the party. We are a close knit team of people determined to do our best for our constituents and the whole of Cornwall.”

“Liberal Democrat councillors work hard both in county hall and in their divisions all year round. We are continually out on the doorstep talking to local residents, community groups and businesses.”

“Over the past year we have successfully achieved a budget which delivers a council tax freeze as well as investment in the services that people rely on like anti-social behaviour and potholes. But we have also seen successes in areas like parking, devolution and adult care.”

“As an opposition group, it is often difficult to change things. But Cornwall’s Liberal Democrats have successfully saved 20 libraries that were earmarked for closure by the Conservatives and saved many bus routes from the axe as well. We have spoken up for residents when the Conservatives couldn’t empty their bins.”

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Cornwall Lib Dems launch election campaign 2013

Cornwall's Liberal Democrats today launched our campaign for the elections on May 2nd. We were joined at the launch in Bodmin by Tim Farron MP, the President of the Liberal Democrats.

This election provides a real chance for Cornwall to move away from the wasted years of the Conservative-Independent coalition. Instead, Liberal Democrats are offering a positive vision for Cornwall - cutting waste and investing in the services that the people of Cornwall want.

Our key messages in this election will be:
  • We will cut waste and inefficiency, not the services that local people rely on;
  • We will provide homes for local people;
  • We will repair our roads and keep Cornwall moving;
  • We will cut parking charges across Cornwall;
  • We will keep our streets clean and collect your rubbish and recycling or give you money back;
  • We will fight for Cornwall, lobbying the government to make life better for Cornish businesses and residents.
These campaign themes reflect the views of the thousands of Cornish residents who we have talked to over the course of the past four years. Liberal Democrat councillors and campaigners have been working hard all year round to get a fair deal for our local areas. It is all too easy to get wrapped up in the bubble of County Hall. We are determined to campaign for what residents think is important.

In the coming weeks, Liberal Democrats will be publishing a more detailed manifesto for Cornwall,  based on the themes outlined above

Tim Farron MP, President of the Liberal Democrats, said:

“Cornwall’s Liberal Democrats showed their courage and determination in winning with their budget alternative. As a result of the Liberal Democrats, Cornish residents will have a council tax freeze this year as well as seeing cheaper parking charges, more road repairs, action to tackle anti-social behaviour and a cleaner Cornwall.”

“Liberals and Liberal Democrats across the country have always looked to Cornwall for a lead. Since the days of David Penhaligon, Cornwall has led the way. At this election too, I and my colleagues will be looking forward to a very positive result from Cornwall.”

Cornish Guardian coverage of the launch is here.

Friday, 15 March 2013

Cabinet has a toddler tantrum

Sadly, but not entirely unpredictably, Cornwall Council's cabinet have thrown their toys out of the pram when it comes to implementing the budget agreed last month by the full council. They are talking up the threat of service cuts rather than cutting back on waste.

The full council backed a Lib Dem amendment which will see a council tax freeze - saving every household between £20 and £70 this year. In addition, there will be £2.5 million invested to repair the roads over the next two years, cuts to parking charges, action to tackle anti-social behaviour and a spring clean for Cornwall. No wonder the cabinet didn't like it - they wanted to see a tax rise and no investment in services.

The key to paying for this was a cut to the amount wasted on consultants and agency staff. In just two years, this amount has risen from £750,000 per month to £1.1 million per month. Full council asked for this to be reversed. There needed to be no cuts in services and no front line staff axed.

But the cabinet could not give up their addiction to consultants and expensive agency staff. The council has issued a press release which doesn't mention a cut to consultants at all. And, whilst some departments appear to be able to cut back on agency spending with no real impact on performance, others claim that they must lose full time contract staff and cut services.

The Liberal Democrats are clear that there needs to be no loss to services, no cuts to localism and no cuts to the library service based on the budget passed by full council. These cuts have all been chosen by the current cabinet who are addicted to wasteful spending.

If the Liberal Democrats are given a position of influence after the May elections we will reverse these front line service cuts and implement the budget that was agreed by full council instead.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

New council tax support scheme will fail Cornwall's poorest

Back in January, Cornwall Council decided to impose a huge tax increase on 26,000 of the poorest working age families in Cornwall. As a way of mitigating the worst effects, the Conservatives announced that there would be an exceptional relief fund to help those who could not afford to pay. But nobody could have anticipated that the Tories would put a cap on the amount that any individual could claim.
When this poor tax was first imposed, the Leader of the Conservatives said she knew nothing about those affected. It's clear that none of her colleagues have bothered to find out since.
Liberal Democrats argued for the maintenance of the previous system because we know that there are many people in Cornwall who simply cannot afford to pay. But even having imposed the huge tax rise, there was still action that the Conservatives could have taken to protect the poorest of the poor. But they have failed to do that. Instead, they have guaranteed that thousands of families will hear the bailiff's knock on the door.

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Is there really such a thing as too much renewable energy?

According to Western Power Distribution, the answer is yes. The company claims that the infrastructure will shortly be insufficient to cope with the amount of energy being generated by renewable sources such as wind and solar in Cornwall.

I presume that the problem isn't simply confined to renewables. If someone were to build a nuclear or other big power plant in Cornwall then I presume the wires wouldn't be able to handle that either. But there are no plans for such schemes in Cornwall (and nor are there likely to be), but there are still many renewable schemes in the pipeline.

Western Power Distribution say that the schemes that currently have permission are sufficient to take the current network up to capacity. Would this be grounds to refuse more schemes? I would hope not. Surely each application should continue to be considered on their individual merits - good schemes will be approved and bad ones rejected.

My colleague Robin Teverson has hit the nail on the head, saying that the real problem has been the failure of Western Power Distribution to invest in the infrastructure themselves.  

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Ridgegrove Lane graffiti

Someone has been out and sprayed obscene graffiti on a number of garages and fences along Ridgegrove Lane.

This has been reported to the Police and to the council. The council will clean up anything on the road surface and on council housing or street furniture.

Sadly, the normal responsibility for cleaning up graffiti on private property falls to the householder. In this case, because the graffiti is obscene and is visible from the road, I have asked the council to consider cleaning it themselves if the householder is unable to do so.

(I've pixellated some of the words in the photo)

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Cornwall Council promoting Thai chicken and Polish bacon above Cornish produce

To return to my theme of yesterday...

You would think that Cornwall Council would see it as part of its job to promote Cornish businesses. We have some excellent food producers in Cornwall, but you wouldn't know that if you eat at the new Link Cafe in County Hall in Truro.

Today I have found out more about where the food comes from that fills the sandwiches and salads eaten by council staff, visitors and members. And it is pretty shocking reading.

The cafe is run by a company called Chartwells, which is a division of the multi-national conglomerate Compass. In turn, they stock a range of sandwiches, salads and other products produced under a label called Urban Eat. It turns out that this brand is owned by a company called Food Partners, and it is they who provided me with the information below.

I asked where the company gets its bacon from. In response, they told me:
"We purchase protein from UK based suppliers who source worldwide - including the UK.  Our pork is sourced from various European countries..."
Now, putting aside the whole issue of referring to pork as 'protein', I am concerned that it seems they don't have a constant source for their pork and bacon. Having a regular supplier is better for the farmer and better for the quality of food that reaches the consumer. Sourcing ingredients from across Europe seems to imply that they are forever searching for the cheapest product.

And as for the chicken...
"...and our chicken either Thailand or Brazil."
Have they not discovered that we have poultry producers in Cornwall and across the UK? Apparently not because they are flying their chicken in from Brazil or Thailand to fill our sandwiches. That's patently ridiculous.

If I go to either of my local butchers in Launceston, they will tell me where each of the products they sell comes from. They can tell me the breed, the farmer's name and where it was slaughtered. The same is true for butchers up and down Cornwall. Most even have this information chalked up on boards in their shops - they are proud of sourcing locally.

I also asked whether Food Partners sourced their ingredients according to any recognised scheme such as free range or organic. I am told that unless it says it is free range then it isn't and unless it says pole and line caught tuna then it isn't.

They have also helpfully provided me with information about their working conditions. They company tells me that:
  • Employees are free to work with us if they chose,
  • Free to join trade unions,
  • Working conditions are hygienic and safe,
  • Wages are paid according to UK legislation,
  • Working hours are defined within the EU working directive and are not excessive,
  • We do not discriminate nor treat our employees in a manner that is in humane or offensive
  • We do not employ child labour
I suppose it is good to hear that our sandwiches and salads are not produced using slave labour - but is there actually anything in those seven points that is not a requirement of the law?

In short - Cornwall Council's new cafe - which I think should be showcasing the best of Cornish produce - is selling sandwiches and salads which are trucked down the motorway from Heathrow every day. Many of the raw ingredients for these products, which could be found within five miles of County Hall, have actually been flown 10,000 miles around the world.

It's high time that Cornwall Council thought again about this cafe.

Launceston Hospital Update

Many thanks to the team at Peninsula Community Health, the company that runs Launceston Hospital, for sending through an update on works to bring the site back into use following the discovery of legionella bacteria in the water system.

They say:
Following the closure of Launceston Hospital two weeks ago on Monday 18 February extensive work is now underway to replace the boiler and update the water system throughout the general hospital site and associated buildings.
As part of the overall refurbishment works to the heating and water system, additional measures have been taken to ensure compliancy to Infection Prevention Control. This includes fitting approximately 25 new sinks and new flooring in areas of the hospital including the main entrance. A deep clean will also be carried out before we reopen the site.

Peninsula Community Health gave a full update to the Overview and Scrutiny Committee this week at Cornwall Council to say that we expect all works to be complete towards the end of March.

Following completion of works, the system will be disinfected and we will reopen after a clear result is received (this take approximately ten days following testing)

The safety of patients and staff is of paramount importance to PCH and therefore the Hospital will not re-open until all of the above work is completed and subsequent water test come back clear.

It is planned that Launceston Community hospital will reopen fully on Wednesday 8 April 2013.

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Choose Cornish Every Day (Cornwall Council excepted)

This St Piran's Day there is a new initiative launched encouraging people to buy more food and goods produced in Cornwall. The Choose Cornish Every Day scheme suggests that if everyone spent an extra £20 per year on Cornish produce, we would generate more than £10 million for the Cornish economy.

With the beef/horse meat scare, there is even more reason to choose Cornish food where you know the origin and supplier.

And buying your food from local shops and traders helps those businesses to stay trading, making sure that many of our villages and hamlets can remain viable communities.

So it's a great initiative.

Such a shame that Cornwall Council seems to be doing the opposite.

At County Hall in Truro there is a cafe which has been moved and renovated as part of the recent overhaul of the building. When it moved, a new multi-national company took over running the operation. Until recently they sourced all their fresh food, sandwiches and so on from Cornish suppliers.

But now they have changed that. All the sandwiches, salads, wraps, deserts and breakfasts will be imported, pre-packaged, from Heathrow on a daily basis.

I think that is a terrible move. Cornwall Council should be doing all it can to promote high quality Cornish food to our own staff, councillors and visitors, not mass-produced stuff with untraceable ingredients from a factory up the line. Was there no local company that could have run the cafe instead using local food and sustaining local jobs?

So please consider how much more of your weekly shop could come from Cornish suppliers and local shops and lobby Cornwall Council to do the same.

Happy St Piran's Day

Hope everyone has a very pleasant St Piran's Day. There are events taking place across Cornwall.

In Launceston we will see the lowering of the flag at the Castle at 6pm followed by a small parade to the town square and a celebration in Harvey's.

Friday, 1 March 2013

Tories in turmoil (non-Eastleigh edition)

Huge congratulations to Mike Thornton, the new Lib Dem MP for Eastleigh. With the Conservatives coming third behind UKIP, there are sure to be some serious recriminations within Mr Cameron's party.

But these are happening in Cornwall Tories too. Here the Conservatives seem to be imploding as a result of the budget vote on Tuesday when some blues backed the Lib Dem alternative plan for a council tax freeze and investment in services.

A month ago, the cabinet's portfolio holder for finance quit because she didn't approve of the budget drawn up by her own department (apparently she had been on holiday when the decisions were taken). Yesterday we saw one Tory cabinet member fired by the Leader because he voted for the freeze and against the official Cabinet line for a 1.97% rise.

We also saw two (so far) Conservative cabinet members quit their party and become independent. I understand that this is due to the tactics of the Conservative group leader. And I hear that there might be at least one more Tory who will leave the party in the next few days.

The Conservatives were already in three factions in County Hall. Now it seems that at least two of those factions are falling apart. And the war between the different factions is becoming both public and personal.

Council Leader Jim Currie on Steve Rushworth, the cabinet member he sacked yesterday saying he had "a beef" and "He is not compatible with the rest of the cabinet, it is as simple as that." 

Meanwhile, group leader Fiona Ferguson (who quit the cabinet last month) said she no longer considers Mr Currie to be a Conservative, claiming he has effectively become an Independent leader.

Elections in Cornwall are in two months and one day.