8 March 2010

Today the strategic planning committee of Cornwall unitary council met to decide whether it supported Option A, the official choice of the unitary cabinet, for the Penzance terminal of the ferry and freight link with the Isles of Scilly. Today the committee went with Option A, having previously rejected it.

There has been a very robust debate about the options for the terminal(s). People in Penzance have freely given their views on the various options and have not been of one mind.

My prime interest has been centred on broader questions. What does localism mean? Who gets to make the final decision on an issue? How much weight should local opinion carry? How can one measure or even gauge local opinion as opposed to being influenced by noise? I believe that in general localism is oversold and its difficulties and limitations too often unexplored. These questions will continue to come up again and again as one-and-all Cornwall grapples with natural disagreements among its people.

However, in this post I wish to highlight the reporting of the debate at the committee. A running account was twittered on the net both by Alex Folkes, Libdem councillor for Launceston, and by Richard Whitehouse of thisiscornwall, which is the internet site of the local weekly newspapers. An excellent job was done, points from the debate relayed impartially, and the result of the vote given as soon as it was declared. That is capital work. They merit our congratulations and thanks.

I think it is time that Cornwall council considered broadcasting over the internet to bring its unitary meetings to the world outside Truro. That would be bringing democracy to people who cannot attend meetings and enable them to make their own judgements on council work and to be better able to scrutinise the council. Watching and listening voters would be better informed. It is 2010, let us embrace the possible.