Friday, 18 March 2011

Parish power

I had some late meetings in London last night principally to meet a group of business people who were backing my new proposal to curtail sharp practices by the banks by rebalancing the law in favour of enterprise and requiring banks to get a possession order before being able to enforce their security. I was worried I might miss the sleeper train but got there just in time.

It’s a busy programme today. I kick off at Camborne Town Council offices where the Mayor, John Beare and the Clerk, Amanda McClure talk me through some of the issues affecting Camborne at the moment and, in particular, the problem with some stupid laws introduced under the last government which create a new level of bureaucracy around basic things like temporary road closures for civic parades and events like Trevithick Day. Such laws are the sort of rubbish that people expect us to scrap and so I was keen to find out more.

I am running late, but set off for Lanner Parish Council who are in the process of putting together their own Parish Plan which is at an advanced stage. In Cornwall, now that we have a unitary authority, it is essential that we strengthen parish and town councils. Localism means stripping power away from national government and giving it to local authorities but it also means stripping power away from Cornwall Council and giving it to parish councils and community groups.

I have a few spare minutes to do an interview with Tamsin Melville from Radio Cornwall in the foyer of Lanner Village Hall. She is doing a news piece on the AV referendum. I am a very firm opponent of this crazy system which would mean some people get more votes than others and so I explained why we should stick with the principle of one person one vote.

Next up is Carharrack Parish Council at Mills Hall. They hold fortnightly lunches for older people in the village and the surrounding areas and so the volunteers are hard at work cooking today’s lunch. Carharrack has had to put up with the United Downs landfill longer than anyone expected but one side effect is that there is a very vibrant community spirit and lots of active people who care about the village and are willing to campaign for it.

I am now back on time, so much so that I manage to grab a sausage roll from the Portreath Bakery at Lanner on the way back to Pool School. Barnardos have teamed up with the Eden Project to launch a great initiative called the Aspiration Bus which is at the school today. It is a sort of careers advice service but with the emphasis on getting young people to realise that if they are tenacious and determined and have a passion, they can achieve things that they might not yet think possible.

Today is also red nose day and the staff at Pool School, led by Mrs Hill, are also laying on a cabaret performance for the children. It’s also a non uniform day so everyone is letting their hair down a bit. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to go along and watch but just about managed to resist attempts by my old friend Dave Buzza and a teacher at the school to co-opt me on the Village People act they were doing!

Next it’s down the road to Duchy College to speak to their agriculture students about CAP reform, TB, supermarkets, the state of the dairy industry and animal welfare standards. I have known Phil Pengelly, the lecturer who organised the event, for 25 years since the days when we were in Young Farmers together. Also there were some of the agricultural engineers.

I have managed to make up quite a bit of time and so am able to clear some phone calls before heading down to Hayle to discuss the contentious issue of the Hayle Harbour regeneration plans and the ambition of making a reality of the Pioneerium community cinema project championed by Bob Amos and others.

Next, it’s back up to Redruth to the Penventon Hotel. Earlier today I did an interview with Radio Cornwall about AV. I am helping the campaign nationally because we need to defend our democracy and defend the principle of one person one vote. But to succeed we need to get everyone who cares to play their part and get the message out there. So this evening, along with Sarah Newton, I am addressing Cornish members and supporters to explain the importance of this debate and get the local campaign going.

I am starting to flag now and also running a few minutes behind schedule...but that was probably no surprise to the Praze Young Farmers Club holding their weekly meeting at Leedstown Village Hall because, when I was a member, timing was never my strong point. We had a very good discussion lasting well over an hour about a whole range of issues from parliament, the work of an MP to the DEFRA Select Committee, CAP reform, fuel prices and many more issues. I am a huge fan of the Young Farmers movement. It is where I learnt to do public speaking.

It was gone 9.30 when I went back to the restaurant at Trevaskis. Although they had basically finished and were trying to clean everything up, as always, they were very good and agreed to do just one last meal!

Tomorrow’s diary looks interesting. As well as having a dozen surgery appointments, we are also holding our first campaign day against AV in Camborne and the Hayle branch have a coffee morning.