By Bev Haigh-Jones

Waving the Cornish (St Piran) flag – from one of the London marches

Despite the recent festive season, it has been another busy month as far as newsworthy items are concerned. I will attempt to keep my notes brief and provide links to the most relevant articles for those who wish to gain further information.

  • Beginning with a subject that is of great importance to Cornwall, and one which we have also mentioned in our Campaigns article, we want to draw everyone’s attention to the proposed plan for a revised Cornwall Devolution Plan. It is a “Level 3” deal, meaning it would require a directly elected mayor. Once elected, on a “first past the post” basis, the inaugural mayor would be in post for five years, and subsequent ones for four years, regardless of their performance during that time. There would, of course, be a cost associated with appointing a mayor and so far, the government has only agreed to offer funding for this, (£750k) until 2024/25. After this point it would be subject to renegotiation. Investment funding, which is conditional on a mayor being appointed, has been set at £360m over thirty years, payable at a rate of £12m per annum. We leave you to judge what £12m might be worth in thirty years! There are far more issues associated with this plan and as it is still possible to respond to the public consultation until 17 February, we would urge everyone to scrutinise the details and make their opinions known.
  • Remaining on matters related to funding in Cornwall, the latest round of “levelling up” funding was announced by the government recently. Of the four bids submitted by Cornwall Council only one was approved – £50m for the Mid Cornwall Metro Scheme, linking Falmouth, Truro, St Austell and Newquay. Even the Mayor of Falmouth, Councillor Steve Eva, considers it to be a total waste of money, and how many projects of this nature are ever completed on time, or in budget? There was little in the way of praise in the analysis of the latest funding published by the Guardian either, with their conclusion being that wealthier Tory constituencies benefited disproportionately.
  • There have been a number of stories recently regarding the amounts that ministers and MPs earn from their extra-curricular activities. Sky News decided to look into this further and produced a very interesting website where you can check each individual MP to see what they have received, including from donations. Why not check how your MP compares?
  • Staying on the theme of wealth, Oxfam recently produced a little quiz. Why not try it out? The results may surprise you – or then again, maybe not! One little breath of fresh air did arrive though in Davos. Some of the wealthiest business people, who obviously have a better grasp of the state of society than some of our politicians, stated that they should be paying higher taxes. Over two hundred of the world’s millionaires and billionaires supported this sentiment.
  • An upsetting media report over recent days has been the revelation that immigrant children are apparently being abducted from our streets by what amounts to modern slavery gangs. This would be appalling in a third world country, but to hear that the UK’s Home Office are not putting adequate measures in place to protect these vulnerable children is truly disgraceful!
  • There are new reports relating to the problems in the NHS on a daily basis, with numerous notable people voicing their views and concerns. Recently it was the turn of Lord Robert Winston speaking to Sky’s Beth Rigby in this video and stating that “ministers have lost control of the NHS”. Perhaps one of the most worrying statements, though, was the announcement by Sajid Javid that he believes that people should now be paying £20 to see a GP and £66 to visit an A&E department. Is the end of our “free to all” National Health Service closer than we feared?
  • I doubt that anyone can have missed the recent reporting on the latest government scandals, that of the appointment of Richard Sharp as Chairman of the BBC and the ongoing saga of Nadim Zahawi’s tax affairs. With regard to Richard Sharp, the suggestion is that he was recommended by Boris Johnson after helping the former PM to secure a substantial loan. All parties deny any wrongdoing. In Zahawi’s case, however, although he is also denying wrongdoing, stating that it was an innocent error that led to him paying HMRC close to £5m in back taxes and penalties, there does appear to be a great deal more to it. Dan Neidle of, who has been investigating since the middle of last year, has produced a comprehensive overview of the affair. *STOP PRESS – As of 29 February, Mr Zahawi has been removed from office following an official enquiry, despite his earlier protestations of innocence.
  • As we know, many farmers were hoodwinked into voting for Brexit with the promises of better trade deals, reduced competition and financial benefits. Sadly, none of these have come to fruition and as with other industries in the UK, the farming community is suffering as a result of us leaving the EU. According to figures leaked to The Guardian, only 224 farmers received payments under the SFI scheme last year, putting the livelihoods of many in serious jeopardy.
  • Perhaps one of the most peculiar contracts entered into by the government recently is the one with RE:ACT, a disaster response charity established by the former head of Britain’s armed forces. You might be forgiven for thinking that they have contracted them to provide aid to some war-torn country like Ukraine, but no – the £200k contract is to provide food and water to lorry drivers stuck in queues waiting to board ferries at Dover. However, the humanitarian aid only kicks in after the drivers have been in the queues for more than two days, so it is to be hoped that they start their journeys carrying adequate provisions.

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