18 November 2009

I shall post here continuing good news for Cornwall, developments which will positively help the people of Cornwall and the local economy and everyday lives. Everyone who wants the people of Cornwall to succeed in the modern world will welcome them. This post covers the second half of 2009. Vorsprung Cornwall 1 and 2 cover 2007, Vorsprung Cornwall 3 and 4 cover 2008, and Vorsprung Cornwall 5 covers the first half of 2009.

* Tonight, 18 November, is the festival of lights in Truro. People parade the streets, often in costume, on floats with lanterns they have made, young people to the fore. It is a newish thing for Truro but defying the winter dark with lights is as old as the hills. A joyous night, Cornwall celebrating, confident, happy.

* The Ofsted inspection of Gwinear primary school describes it as “an outstanding school.” Read the 24 October 2009 report here and note the many outstanding scores. (November 2009)

* The September festival at St Ives is now in full swing, a fortnight of music, guitars aplenty, song, drama, open art studios, and poetry recitals. The festival goes on strongly. Indeed, Cornwall has numerous festivals: for example, Trevithick day in Camborne, Golowan and Mazey day in Penzance, Obby Oss in Padstow, Run to the sun and the music festival in Newquay, the agricultural show in Wadebridge, and next month Lowender Perran in Perranporth, and many more. There is a strong celebratory and varied culture across the county. Art galleries, publicly and privately owned, everywhere in Cornwall are putting on exhibitions throughout the year.

* Business Cornwall reports that the pottery at Lelant in west Cornwall is closing as the owners are retiring but a wine shop and cafe is to open in the premises and that £480 000 is to be spent on improvements at Carn Brea Leisure Centre at Camborne. These are good stories of enterprise and investment in Cornwall when we face economic difficulties. Additionally, three gangmasters have lost their licences after an investigation into the living conditions and wages (and other matters) of some migrant workers. This is positive news that the authorities will act to protect workers and this enhances Cornwall’s reputation and supports the work of decent gangmasters. (September 2009)

* The report by John Mills into the temporary and unplanned closure of Newquay airport as it transformed into a civilian airport has now been published. There are some criticisms about management of risks and the project and some sensible recommendations for the future but nothing alarming. Mills rightly sums up the airport project as having “created a vital and excellent asset for the benefit of the whole county.” It’s important to recognise that. (August 2009)

* A parliamentary answer shows how much unsung outstanding progress has been made in council house standards in Cornwall. Three former districts, Caradon, Carrick, and North Cornwall had council houses; the other districts had disposed of theirs. In 2004 a large 46 percent of these council houses in Cornwall failed to meet the decent homes standard; in 2008 this had fallen to 7 percent. In numbers the fall was from 4964 houses to 767. That is still too many and the 2008 percentage in former Caradon, 14 percent, is much too high but government and local councils have worked well to tackle this in Cornwall and throughout England and make homes decent for people. The new unitary council must continue with this work.

The detailed data is at DEP 2009-2057 here (July 2009).


17 March 2008

Back to the ejection of the migrant workers in Penzance. Penwith council has set out its arguments in a letter to the Cornishman, a local newspaper, and the blog St Ivean, which first challenged these events, has counter-replied.

I still don’t know clearly what happened, the sequence of events, whether this was the only way as Penwith council suggests, or whether there was a better way as the St Ivean suggests. We need more knowledge to be able to judge. Half a story, which is what we have at present, is not good enough.

Were the laws under which the authorities acted correctly followed? Is a dawn raid usual practice among authorities in circumstances like these? How many migrants are we talking about, were there any children (the original Cornishman report mentions a “family” so presumably there were), how many properties were involved, what was the issue with each, what are the migrants’ living circumstances now? Will they get their lost wages? Will anyone be prosecuted for anything?

There is also an unnecessary confusion about rehousing and the language of the council on this issue in the original 14 February report and in the Cornishman letter is unhelpfully fuzzy where it should be clear. I see the difficulty: the council cannot stand aside from overcrowded and unsafe accommodation, if that is what it was, and yet it does not have to rehouse temporary migrants. In such circumstances what is and should be its policy as homelessness is not acceptable either? This is a difficult question which should be publicly aired.

It isn’t just a question of more knowledge; there is an issue of how the council does things and how its actions are perceived. The quotations in the Cornishman report of 14 February suggest that some of the migrant workers were seriously unhappy at the circumstances of their ejection and that they have a perception of being treated with too little respect by the council that sought to help them. This should make Penwith and the other authorities think whether there are things they could have done differently for the same final result. It would be reassuring to be told that they have discussed the events with the migrant workers and got their considered take on it so that the views of those being helped can inform the ways of helping.

I certainly support work to ensure that migrant workers get a fair deal and I believe the council and other authorities have their interests at heart – that is unreservedly commendable and the importance and value of this work should not be lost sight of in the questions thrown up. The point now is to ascertain what happened and whether there is or isn’t a better way to deal with this sort of circumstance as migrant workers are part of life in west Cornwall and there will be other days.