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The Cornish Unitary Authority by MK
It has been a bad week for democracy in Cornwall with the announcement that Cornwall County Council's unitary bid has been successful. Mebyon Kernow now has much work. We have to campaign like never before to make sure that MK councillors are elected to the new Council (though we do not know for sure whether the elections will be in 2008 or 2009) and we also have to reinvigorate the Campaign for a Cornish Assembly.But in the short term (ie. the next couple of weeks), we need to get as many letters as possible published in the local press condemning the decision, bringing attention to the lack of democracy in what has happenned and the Lib Dem's betrayal of the Assembly campaign.I hope you will be able to take a few minutes to write a letter to the local press.
GOVERNMENT ACCEPTANCE OF SUPPORT BY PARTNERS AND STAKEHOLDERS !
In its letter to the Chief Executive of Cornwall County Council, the DCLG stated "the Secretary of State considers that ... the proposal would command a broad cross-section of support from a range of stakeholders, both public and private sector, as well as some support from the general public. She notes that whilst certain districts carried out polling which came down heavily against the unitary proposal, the climate in which the polls took place suggests that the results need to be viewed with caution."It is interesting how the Government notes the support from 'stakeholders' (unelected agencies, quanghos, etc) but largely dismisses the views of the people of Cornwall.By contrast, the Somerset bid for unitary status failed. In the letter to Somerset County Council, the DCLG stated "whilst the bid does command some support, representations from a range of stakeholders, both public and private sector, as well as the majority of views expressed by the general public, indicate that the proposal would not command a sufficient broad cross-section of support from a range of stakeholders. She notes that whilst the climate in which the polls were conducted suggests that the results should be viewed with caution, there was a high turnout and a very high percentage of voters opposed to the proposal."How can lack of support in Somerset be taken into account but not Cornwall?
LACK OF PUBLIC SUPPORT
The reality is that the people of Cornwall do not support the unitary proposal, but the County Council has continued to claim public support based on spin, fabrication and misrepresentation. Printed below is a recent letter I sent out condemning the County Council's most recent submission to the Department of Communities and Local Government. It contains a few examples of the County Council misrepresentation.Having just read Cornwall County Council’s ‘supplementary submission’ to the Department of Communities and Local Government in support of their bid for a single unitary authority, I have to say I am very disturbed by their blatant use of misinformation and spin to fabricate a ‘broad cross section of support’ for their proposal. The County Council document states that it sought the views of the public through a MORI poll, focus groups and the distribution of information leaflets. But it fails to inform central government that the MORI poll was carried out in advance of the details for their bid being worked up and that 91% of those surveyed stated that "they would like more information on any proposal before making up their mind."The document also fails to include the full facts about the County Council’s disastrous leaflet consultation which did not even reach most homes and were returned by only 665 households. Interestingly, their incredibly biased leaflet still generated more opposition to the County Council’s proposal than support for it.Rather than acknowledge the widespread opposition to their proposal, their ‘supplementary submission’ prefers to note “the feedback we have received suggests that many people have not fully understood our proposals.”Considerable space in the document is used to rubbish the polls by four of the district councils and the sample survey carried out by North Cornwall District Council, which shows over 80% of respondents are opposed to the unitary bid. The County Council criticises the content of the material distributed by the district councils, though it was much less biased than their own material and they even had the nerve to “call into question the validity of the result.”The County Council claims that Restormel Borough Council did not vote to oppose the bid. That is completely incorrect and the Borough Council remains opposed to the ‘One Cornwall’ bid. They also claim that “many of the larger town and parish council have reacted positively” but the reality is that the majority of town and parish councils oppose the bid.
UNITARY COUNCIL WILL NOT BE A CORNISH ASSEMBLY
In its editorial, last Thursday, the Western Morning News stated "The remarkable has happened. After many years of campaigning for a Cornish Assembly, the county is to get the next best thing. Cornwall and Exeter are to become single tier authorities whilst Somerset's bid is rejected." We need to actively combat the lunacy that a single council for Cornwall is akin to a Cornish Assembly or a 'step in the right direction' - and blast the Lib Dem's for their claims that a single council will get more powers devolved to it.The Lib Dems claim that they would ‘give local communities more say,’ even though decision-making would be centralised to Truro and democracy would be weakened – not enhanced. They also say a single council would ‘create a stronger voice for Cornwall,’ even though the government has already made it clear that no extras powers would be devolved to unitary authorities.
Don't forget how Mr David Prout, the Director of Local Democracy at the DCLG, when visiting Cornwall, confirmed that a unitary authority would not be able to draw down powers from regional and central government and actually said that a “unitary authority will be a unitary authority” and that there were “no goodies” on offer.
There is some talk that given the coming abolition of the SW Regional Assembly and the shift of its powers to the RDA, some economic regeration matters may be devolved to a 'sub-regional' of 'county' level. But there is no evidence to suggest that Cornwall (unitary) will be treated any differently to, for example, Somerset (two-tier).
LIB DEMS HAVE BETRAYED CAMPAIGN FOR A CORNISH ASSEMBLY
And we must continue to remind voters that the Liberal Democrat MPs and councillors were elected in 2005 on a local manifesto which included a commitment to a Cornish Assembly. Upon winning control of the Council, they even published a list of priorities that included a pledge to “establish detailed plans for a Cornish Assembly” within their first year of office. They did not do this and by promoting a single council for Cornwall, they have undermined the campaign for a Cornish Assembly.As I said above, I hope you will be able take a few moments to write a letter to the press to push forward the views of Mebyon Kernow.
Party Leader Cllr Dick Cole
Mebyon Kernow - the Party for Cornwall