SWIPE – South West Independent Party for England! A pipe dream …?

A post from East Devon Watch August 2015 is recently seeing revived interest from readers. Here it is again – the points it makes no less relevant now:

“Following on from our post about how much the South-West loses out to other areas of Britain, particularly the South-East, we have been considering the suggestion that we should create in this region a party similar to (but definitely not the same as) the Scottish National Party – a party representing an area which finds itself time and again the poor relation to other areas.

One should recall that the South-West has had a long tradition of non-conformity. Indeed, search on the words “south west england” and “nonconformity” and a whole host of links will turn up. Devon County Council even has web pages for it:

http://www.devon.gov.uk/index/councildemocracy/record_office/north_record_office/leaflets/sources_for_history_of_nonconformity-2.htm

Admittedly, this refers specifically to religious non-conformity. But the South-West showed its independent thinking by being a hotbed of liberalism when liberalism was something more than Nick Clegg getting into bed with the Tories. From Yeovil to Cornwall, this area steadfastly refused to be buttonholed into conformity to the pendulum swings between Labour and Conservative.

So, given that the area is now so definitely politically blue, are we getting a better deal? The post from earlier this week shows very definitely that we are not:

https://eastdevonwatch.org/2015/07/31/is-it-time-the-west-country-had-its-own-party/

So, Owl thinks it is time we started thinking about alternatives.

Firstly, what is the South-West? Officially (for political and statistical purposes) it consists of nine official regions of England: Gloucestershire, Bristol, Wiltshire, Somerset, Dorset, Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. The Owl thinks that we can discount Gloucestershire (hunting, shooting, fishing, the residences of Prince Charles and the Princes Royal and MI5 keep them firmly blue!) and Wiltshire seems just a little too close to the Home Counties and includes Swindon – definitely out. Dorset we dismiss too – they are totally conformist (see Letwin, Oliver and Grand Designs)!

That leaves Bristol, Somerset, Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. Bristol has gone extremely green over recent years and are likely to remain so (hopefully) and the Isles of Scilly have always done their own thing and have never considered themselves part of mainland life, but they can have the option of joining us within Cornwall (as at present). This leaves Devon, Cornwall (including the Isles of Scilly if they so wish) and Somerset. These three counties have so much in common. Long sea coasts, poor infrastructure and transport links, large retirement communities, large number of second homes, tourism forming an important part of economic life, a history of being overlooked when the honey pot is being shared out.

Imagine a specific party for Devon, Somerset and Cornwall! Imagine what a group of people from this area who held the balance of power in Parliament could achieve. Imagine just how powerful that could be.

And the acronym: South West Independence Party England – SWIPE!

Take a SWIPE at London-centric politics – devolution for the Cornwall, Devon and Somerset region!

Alas, just a pipe dream – for now …”

https://eastdevonwatch.org/2015/08/02/swipe-south-west-independence-party-england/

Interesting petition in Cornwall demands resignation of Chief Planning Officer!

Almost 5,000 signatures already!

“Cornwall is being destroyed. Since Mr Mason took office, Cornwall’s natural and built environment has experienced continued and accelerating degradation. Our precious, unique landscape and cultural heritage is disappearing through the continual facilitation of ugly and inappropriate hyper-development. Shockingly, this development has even failed to address local housing needs, as it is clearly not designed to meet that objective, being cynically marketed up-country. Nor has it benefited our persistently weak economy. Apart from the obvious damage to Cornwall’s landscape integrity, increasingly angry and upset residents are afflicted by soaring levels of traffic congestion and air pollution. Flooding risks have increased, and surgeries, schools and Treliske hospital are all failing to cope with the huge population growth created by the facilitation of rapid in-migration.

The Council’s short-sighted, mass-urbanisation culture, which has become utterly out of control under Mr Mason’s tenure, fails to recognise that Cornwall’s rural nature is one of its most important and highly valued assets. Planning blight, seemingly encouraged by the Chief Officer, is often, and increasingly, imposed against the wishes of parishes and residents. Why Mr. Mason and the Council should want to turn Cornwall into a replica of ugly, depressing and blighted parts of the UK cannot by answered by sane and rational argument. Soon, everything that gives Cornwall its charm and distinctiveness will be obliterated for ever. Mr Mason’s idea of planning is one of the reasons the Council is viewed with contempt by so many people.

Cornwall and its people deserve better – much better. Mr Mason has conspicuously failed to demonstrate any intent to try and protect us from the predatory, hyper-development agenda of national developers, as the unsustainable Local Plan target of 52,500 new houses demonstrates. It is time he went and is replaced by someone who has Cornwall’s best interests at heart.”

https://www.change.org/p/cornwall-council-phil-mason-council-s-chief-planning-officer-has-failed-cornwall-and-must-resign

When is enough, enough?

Owl says: “social care beds” … what exactly are they? Residential homes? Nursing homes? Community hospital beds? Whatever they are – Cornwall doesn’t have enough of them.

So, how do they measure “enough”? Certainly in Devon our Clinical Commissioning Group doesn’t do numbers, so we will be hard-pressed to know if Devon has too much, enough, not quite enough, critically few or “disastrously dangerous” levels of anything measurable.

“The Care Quality Commission’s (CQC) calling on Cornwall’s health and social care managers to have “courage” to radically overhaul services.

The CQC points to the county having less social care beds than other comparable parts of the country.

In its annual report, the CQC says the system is “straining at the seams” because of increasing numbers of frailer pensioners and people with long term complex conditions.”

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/live/uk-england-devon-41509465

Care Quality Commission considering transferring control of its Clinical Commissioning Group to Cornwall Council

AND

“On the same day as the Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust has been placed in special measures, the CQC has also highlighted problems with the wider health and social care system in Cornwall.

It said too many patients were stuck in hospital waiting for the support they needed to live at home, or be placed in residential care, and managers had lost sight of the needs of people using services.

Its review calls for “urgent and significant change to improve” to ensure people move through the system more effectively.

NHS England said it was considering transferring the management of the county’s Clinical Commissioning Group to the council. A director of adult social services and health integration could also be appointed.”

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/live/uk-england-devon-41434125

Another south-west hospital buckles under the strain

Which pushes the falling domino to Plymouth … which pushes it to Exeter … which pushes it to … us.

“The Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust has been placed in special measures following a damning report from health watchdog the Care Quality Commission.

Inspectors visited the trust in July and raised concerns about patient safety in surgery, the maternity unit and the paediatric emergency department, as well as long delays in cardiology and ophthalmology.

Chief Inspector of Hospitals Professor Ted Baker said patients had been “let down” with some “placed at risk” and the people of Cornwall “deserved better”.

Speaking on BBC Radio Cornwall, the trust’s chief executive Kathy Byrne (pictured) apologised unreservedly for the trust’s failings.

She said patients should “not be worried” and the trust had taken action on all the areas of concerns raised by the CQC’s warning notice.”

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/live/uk-england-devon-41434125

Nothing happening in Cornwall

“Cornwall Council says it won’t be having a full council meeting in September because there are “no substantive agenda items”.

In a statement, the council said: “The full council meeting planned for September has been cancelled as there were no substantive agenda items and the only standing items related to member and public question time.

“The council’s meetings are run so that its business can be carried out efficiently; considering the interests of the community, the importance of using members’ time effectively and the cost of holding a meeting.” …

The decision means there has been no full council meeting since 25 July, and the next one is scheduled for 21 November.”

http://www.bbc.com/news/live/uk-england-devon-41041118

Local politics: no change unless WE the voters change it

Another local blog (Facebook – Devon United) republished this article from East Devon Watch originally blogged 3 YEARS AGO

“What a GREAT time to be an Independent candidate!

Grassroots rebellion over arrogant leadership in Devon and Cornwall
By Western Morning News | Posted: October 05, 2014
By Phil Goodwin

Westcountry councils face a growing rebellion from a grassroots movement weary at being ruled by an out-of-touch and “arrogant” leadership, the Western Morning News on Sunday reports today.

Campaigns have sprung up across the region in opposition to a perceived centralisation of power which has left many voters feeling removed from the democratic process.

A revolt in Cornwall has seen parish councils form an alliance against the “emerging dictatorship” of the unitary “super council” and threaten to picket County Hall in protest. [Last week, Cornwall’s Lib Dems and Independents again formed a ruling coalition]

In Mid-Devon, a petition has been launched against the cabinet-style of government, where decision-making power is confined to a handful of senior Conservative figures. [Conservatives majority refused to make the change]

In East Devon a quasi-political pressure group has been formed to unify opposition after a series of controversial planning issues. Paul Arnott, chairman of the East Devon Alliance, said chief executives and unelected officers wield excessive influence and are answerable only to a powerful political elite. [EDA had its first county council success this month and Independents at EDDC now number 16].

“What we see now is a kind of corporate CEO mentality which is just not appropriate at a district council,” he added. “This not Wall Street – it is East Devon, and we are supposed to be following a localism agenda.

“The effect is setting a tone of unelected arrogance – we would like to see a return to the wise and kindly town clerk approach of days gone by.”

Labour’s Local Government Act of 2000 introduced modifications to the old committee system, including the cabinet and leader model, which is common throughout Devon and Cornwall. This allows the ruling party to populate the cabinet with its own members, regardless of the make-up of the council. [Still the case in East Devon]

In Mid-Devon, where the Conservatives hold a 57per cent majority of the 42 seats, the Liberal Democrats and Independents have no representation and all of the senior power is concentrated in nine Tory councillors. [Still the case in Mid Devon]

The same set-up can be seen at Devon County Council, where Tories hold 61per cent of the seats but all the cabinet posts, and at East Devon District Council, where a 71per cent majority holds 100per cent of the cabinet posts. [No change]

The Campaign for Democracy in Mid-Devon hopes to collect the 3,000 signatures required to force a referendum on the style of governance. [Didn’t happen]

Nick Way, a Lib Dem member at the authority, supports a return to the committee system. “I think it is more democratic, particularly for a small authority like us,” he said.

“The current system is almost like a dictatorship of the majority – at the end of the day they have a majority but a change would make it easier for their back-benchers to have more of a say and influence policy.”

Harvey Siggs, a Somerset county councillor and vice chairman of South West Councils, says he understands the frustration given the cuts but disagrees with claims of a democratic deficit.

“In Somerset we spend a lot of time trying not to be remote,” he added.

“A good cabinet does its absolute best to be as transparent as possible and we still have to be accountable to the full council.

“With the pace of life and all the things that need to be dealt with, I don’t think the committee system is fit for purpose.

“All too often the disaffected people are around planning. There are winners and losers but mostly, the losers don’t complain.”

[Somerset’s Leader, Conservative John Osman was deposed by a Lib Dem this month but Tories still have a stranglehold on the council]

In Cornwall, representatives of 15 parish councils packed a hall in Chacewater last week in a bid to rally all 213 town and parish councils to join a revolt against Cornwall Council. [unsuccessfully]

The gathering came in response to the infamous “Chacewater Letter” which branded the unitary authority an “emerging dictatorship”.

The letter, in July, criticised Cornwall Council’s lack of communication, its savings plans, planning policy, arms lengths organisations and highly paid officers.

At the highly charged meeting on Tuesday, fellow parish councillors agreed and declared change at Cornwall Council must happen.

More militant members called to draft in the local government ombudsman, for the formation of an alliance of parish councils and even for protests at the doors of County Hall.

Truro City councillor Armorel Carlyon, who chaired the meeting despite her own council not endorsing the criticism, told those gathered she could see the “democratically elected members being airbrushed out of the picture” by non-elected council officers.

Read more at http://www.westernmorningnews.co.uk/Grassroots-rebellion-arrogant-leadership-Devon/story-23044099-detail/story.html

When posted: https://eastdevonwatch.org/2014/10/05/the-peasants-of-devon-are-revolting/