Cornwall’s interesting by elections

…and arrogant Lib Dems.

Last Thursday Labour came third in the Bude North and Stratton by election for Unitary Council with 120 votes.  The Lib Dems did well to hang on to most of their vote (958) despite opposition from the Tories (395), Labour (120) and an Independent (93).

Labour has not campaigned in Bude for a long time and it was always going to be difficult but we are committed to putting candidates everywhere we can in Cornwall so people can vote the way they want to. Adrian Jones is a great candidate, he worked his socks off for every vote and that deserves respect.

Adrian also set up a website to give people more information about him and his views. In it he was very open about Labour’s history in Bude and instead of the usual political jibes at opponents and mud slinging, he put out some thoughtful comments.

Shamefully, the Lib Dems decided to twist his words and put them in a petty leaflet to support their tactic of telling people they are the only alternative to Tories.  Which is also what one of their number tweeted to me after the results.

I don’t think it is up to the Lib Dems to tell people they have no choice in how to vote and I also think if they are offering an alternative to the Tory party they keep in government at Westminster, they should tell us what it is.

Currently the Lib Dems are all jumping about the closure of public toilets in Cornwall. While I share the concern they have not said one word about how they would save the money their government has axed from our council budget without these kind of drastic measures.

The Lib Dems ran the County Council from 2005 – 2009 and a more incompetent, wasteful and arrogant administration would be hard to find. Every year they screamed blue murder as the Labour government gave above inflation increases to Cornwall, every year they wasted more money and tried to blame every unpopular decision they made on the government.

Now you would imagine the swingeing cuts we are having to deal with in Cornwall have nothing to do with their party.

There was another by election on Thursday, in part of a ward the Lib Dems won in 2009 and voters gave quite a different verdict, which is interesting to anoraky people like me.

In Mount Charles Town Council by election, the Conservatives won with 266 (Anne Double, wife of the Unitary Councillor Steve Double and is it Tory policy to put husbands up for Unitary seats and wives for town council? Seems a bit old fashioned.) Independent 187, Labour 108, Lib Dems 90.

No, Labour didn’t win there either although we worked hard and we beat the Lib Dems. We go into the Wendron by election on November 24 with no certainty of winning either. What we will do is show our commitment to people in Cornwall by putting up a good candidate and working hard to win back trust and support.

4000 low paid workers in Cornwall betrayed by our MPs

 

The Government has voted to scrap pay protection for around 500 farm workers in Camborne & Redruth as part of the Public Bodies Bill.  Labour has tabled an amendment to save the Agricultural Wages Board but it was voted down by Tories and Lib Dems – including those from Cornwall.

The abolition of the AWB will bring to an end 60 years of pay protection for countryside workers like those here in Cornwall. The AWB was set up to provide basic pay and protection for fruit pickers, farm labourers and other farmer workers, including on wages, holidays, sick pay, overtime and bereavement leave. More than 4000 people in Cornwall will be affected.

 
According to the Government’s own figures, the abolition of the AWB will take £9 million nationally out of worker’s pockets. This is a terrible blow not only for local people who work in agriculture and their families but also for the economy. This is already a really worrying time for struggling families and shows once again that the Tories refuse to listen and the Lib Dems can’t be trusted.

 

As well as 500 people in Camborne & Redruth covered by the AWB, there are around 630 in South East Cornwall, 1100 in St Ives, 450 in Truro and Falmouth, 1080 in North Cornwall and 310 in St Austell & Newquay.

 

MPs who voted to abolish the board: George Eustice (Con Camborne & Redruth), Sheryll Murray, (Con SE Cornwall), Andrew George (LD St Ives) did not vote despite voicing concerns in the debate,  Sarah Newton (Con Truro & Falmouth), Dan Rogerson (LD North Cornwall), Stephen Gilbert (LD St Austell & Newquay).


Mary Creagh MP, Labour’s Shadow Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Secretary, wrote this letter to George Eustice:

 

“42 000 casual workers nationally will receive a pay cut next year when this year’s wages order runs out and they start a new job.  Removing these rights from low paid workers at a time when rural families are feeling the squeeze from rising gas and petrol bills shows a government that is out of touch with the needs of the countryside.

“I urge you to stand up for your constituents on Tuesday.  I hope you will support my amendment to the Bill.”

Full text of letter to George Eustice MP copied below:

Dear Colleague

Public Bodies Bill – Abolition of the Agricultural Wages Board– Tuesday 25th October

I am writing to you as an MP with over 500 agricultural workers in your constituency.  Tomorrow you will have the opportunity to represent their interests in Parliament by supporting Labour’s amendment to stop the government abolishing the Agricultural Wages Board (AWB).

The AWB ensures that 152,000 agricultural workers in England and Wales are paid fairly.  It is a partnership between industry and unions to set pay and conditions for people working in agriculture. It sets overtime rates, rates for night work, standby allowances, sick pay, bereavement leave and holiday entitlement.  It has worked well for over six decades.

The government estimates that abolishing the AWB will take £9 million a year out of workers’ pockets (through lost holiday and sick pay) and out of the rural economy and rural businesses. 42 000 casual workers will receive a pay cut next year when this year’s wages order runs out and they start a new job.  Children who currently receive £3.05p an hour are not covered by National Minimum Wage and so will have no wage protection when they do holiday or weekend work. Removing these rights from low paid workers at a time when rural families are feeling the squeeze from rising gas and petrol bills shows a government that is out of touch with the needs of the countryside.

The government has said that the financial benefits of abolishing the AWB are “negligible”.  Yet the Farmers Union of Wales is concerned that the removal of the AWB will leave farmers exposed as they, as small employers, will have to negotiate pay and conditions with staff on an annual basis which will increase bureaucracy for them.  Many small farmers also rely on providing their skills to other farmers at AWB rates to ensure the viability of their businesses

I urge you to stand up for your constituents on Tuesday.  I hope you will support my amendment to the Bill which removes the AWB from schedule 1.  Given the urgency of this vote I am copying this email to your local and regional press.

Yours sincerely

Mary Creagh MP

 

Shadow Environment Secretary

 

To find out more about Labour’s campaign, go towww.backtheapple.com


Trauma in Cornwall

For years, clinical reports have suggested that one in every five deaths from trauma (and half of these are road accidents) could be prevented by better trauma care.  Also, better long term recovery rates could be achieved so that more victims of accidents either make full recoveries or have better quality of life after the event.

Given that there are about 2,440 trauma related deaths in the south west each year, that is at least 500 people whose medical outcome should be significantly better than it is with the current system.

Trauma related injuries are the leading cause of death for people under 40 and the fourth most common cause of death for all ages. ( A sobering thought for all of us who think ‘It’s unlikely to happen to me’.)

These were some of the gripping details of today’s meeting on newly formed Trauma Network, which is concentrating on achieving these better outcomes.

Some more very significant information was that – with the exception of those conditions that immediately threatened lives such as bleeding to death or suffocating through blocked airways – it is better to go straight to a dedicated specialist trauma centre even if it means a longer journey than going to a local A & E.

The plan is to upgrade our two specialist centres – Plymouth and Bristol – as Trauma Centres, to also upgrade Treliske, North Devon, Torbay and Exeter to become Trauma Units – which are the next rung down in severity and put in place procedures so that paramedics, ambulance crew and doctors are all clear about the best place to take a patient quickly. Advance notice is sent to the unit or centre so that patients can be rapidly stabilised and treated, preventing delays that cost lives and make recovery less likely.

Finding the money to upgrade may be difficult even though this will clearly have huge benefits and save money (deaths and ongoing social care being expensive as well as the obvious need to prevent them for all our sakes).

This was a good meeting – not well attended by Councillors but it was at short notice – and a good briefing on how strategic changes at ground level to NHS care can have a really positive effect and should be supported.

 

Two Steps Forward for Camborne

If I described a place in Cornwall with good access to major transport links and two local parks, countryside within easy reach in two directions and about 15 minutes drive from wonderful beaches, good sports facilities, the best FE and HE college in the country, business facilities, two retail parks and a world heritage site…you’d imagine somewhere really swish.

On the other hand, if I said Tuckingmill, Camborne North or East Hill the image conjured up would be the derelict front of the old fuseworks building, a traffic filled road and a skyline dominated by the massive, rusting hulks of old South Crofty buildings.

That is why Thursday’s strategic planning committee meeting was so important for us and why I sat through four hours of planning applications in order to support plans put forward for Tuckingmill.

The first application was for 87 ‘dwellings’, 6 flats in the old V building at the back of the site, 6 one bedroom flats, 22 two bedroom flats, 22 three bedroom houses and 6 four bedroom houses.  The North Lights building (the derelict frontage to Pendarves Street) will be refurbished and 6 offices created plus a cafe.

Cornwall Council will be putting forward money to make ten of the homes discounted for local people but the developer could not subsidise any ‘affordable’ homes because of the costs of cleaning up the contaminated land.

Some of the councillors questioned this – quite rightly, but there are three reasons, I gave my support.

One is that the cost of houses in this part of Camborne is already very low and the clean up will be expensive.  Developers have to make a profit and subsidising affordable homes would hike up the cost of the other homes, possibly pricing them out of the market anyway.

Two is that this first part of the development is key to the rest. By cleaning up the land, building a new junction to Pendarves Street and restoring the important historic buildings, we will be taking the first step to regenerating Tuckingmill and Camborne North and Central, making this as good a place to live as it should be.

Three is that the next phase of development depends on the bid for the East West link road being successful and if the coalition government turn it down, the next set of plans (which were approved subject to the link road being built) won’t happen, so we need to get as much as we can done now.

This has been a long time coming. Development decisions are never straightforward and the residents of the area are going to have to live with a lot of building work for a while but it will be worth it.

Camborne Town Council recommended the planners to refuse the application but Carn Brea Parish Council supported. On this occasion, I think Camborne TC was out of touch and barking up the wrong tree. Or just barking?

But we can’t agree on everything and later in the evening, I attended a meeting set up by the hard working and feisty town councillor Jean Charman, bringing together representatives of the police, councils, councillors, business, church, housing providers and drug and alcohol services with the members of a Facebook group set up to protest about anti-social behaviour in Camborne.

It was a very positive evening, well chaired by George Le Hunte of the local Chamber of Commerce. Everyone had their chance to speak and explain concerns, put right misconceptions and understand each other’s point of view. I think everyone came out of the meeting with a desire to continue working together, involve more local businesses and set up a group that will change and improve the town centre and to lobby the council for more strategic and financial support to tackle alcohol and related problems here. It won’t happen overnight and success depends on people being committed to seeing it through.

So, two steps forward for Camborne.

Tory Calls for New Quango

Bit odd and does not sit well with the ‘Bonfire of the Quangos’ promised by David Cameron but perhaps that wasn’t quite as it seemed either.

Cornwall MP George Eustice has taken time off from worrying about Europe to call for a ‘Cornwall Heritage’ to replace English Heritage here, which may go down well with nationalists and those who don’t like anything English but it is hard to see how in these days of dwindling budgets, the administration of a new quango would do much except take funds away from protection of our heritage.

Perhaps, following through on the localism policies. it would be a better idea to give the money to Cornwall Council to help us protect our environment and culture.

I wonder how much European money went into heritage projects over the last few years?

Supporters of LEPs? Just the one, then.

Toward the end of today’s Q & A organised by South West CBI,  Robert Camp of Stephens and Scown, who was chairing the event asked how many of the local businessmen (and two women) in the room how many thought that the government’s Local Enterprise Partnerships would work in supporting and growing our economy.

Just one lone hand went up, which would have been a surprise in a room full of besuited businessmen (not forgetting the two women) except that one recurring theme of questions and answers had been the lack of a credible growth strategy from the government.

It was a privilege to be asked to represent the Labour view at this event at Exeter University and I hope I gave an interesting left of centre view as I think Labour is the party of business. Certainly, in the Q and A, I found much that I agreed with in views from the audience and panel.

Many were concerned at the lack of a coherent strategy, damaging decisions like the end of the feed in tariff on solar energy that killed a new industry at birth and the indecision over important structural decisions.

There were disagreements as well, of course, but I don’t feel that I was talking a different language to most of the audience.

Oliver Colville on the other hand….  It was the first time I had heard the Conservative MP for Plymouth Sutton speak.  He called it controversial.  I would describe it as a mixture of an anthropomorphised Daily Mail and a collection of Tory briefings delivered at random. He also dismissed my point about the growing deficit with an explanation of what a deficit is. Possibly he felt I was too dim to understand that Tory policies have meant this government is borrowing £46 billion more than planned as the economy stagnates.

It was a good event as well as an opportunity for Stephens and Scown to express pride in their company’s expansion and Exeter University to talk about their fantastic achievements, links with business across the world and future plans.

My thanks to Stephens and Scown for sponsoring the event, South West CBI for inviting me, Exeter University for hosting it and to everyone who took part.

Dysfunctional, moi?

Politics has had its ups and downs in the last couple of weeks.

Tory MP Andrew Tyrie launched a damning critique of Chancellor George Osborne’s ‘incoherent’ economic policy at the beginning of the Conservative Party conference – until he was led away for a quiet chat by Cameron’s right hand man, Steve Hilton.

George Osborne has his own problems. Since Labour left office economic growth has declined to the lowest of the G7 countries, the deficit is going up not down and he has just ordered £75 billion of quantitive easing by the Bank of England.  A measure he attacked as ‘ the last resort of desperate governments’ a couple of years ago.

Lib Dem Environment Secretary Chris Huhne was caught red handed flagging up a negative story about Theresa May, the Home Secretary, to a journalist with the words (not intended to be public) ‘From someone else fine, but I do not want my fingerprints on this story’

Our local MP George Eustice is busy reliving the glory days of the Conservatives infighting on Europe with his new group of sceptics demanding more Euro-scepticism at all costs but hopefully with the added bonus of ditching their Lib Dem coalition partners.

Defence Secretary Liam Fox is in a fine old tangle about whether meetings were pre-arranged or coincidental, whether his friend came on official business or not, whether his friend was on the payroll or not and generally whether there is a Ministerial code of conduct or not. (Yes, there is.)

And David Cameron in his speech to conference claimed the previous Labour government was dysfunctional.

Funny old world, isn’t it?