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Plummer resigns from Independent Group of Councillors.

posted Aug 9, 2010, 2:31 PM by Richard Cliffe

Cllr Neil Plummer has resigned from the Independent group of Councillors on Cornwall Council and decided to join Mebyon Kernow.   In an email to Cllr Neil Burden (Leader of  Independent  Councillors) dated 3 Aug 10 he said he was resigning after 22 yrs as an independent.  He explained he wanted to vote independently but felt he was being watched on every aspect of his voting record and suffered repercussions as a result (of his voting decision) on the Davidstow and Penzance IOS Ferry planning submissions.  He went on to express his concern about the way the public were treated “just for trying to express their democratic rights and views freely and were criticized for doing so".


Editor's Comment.


Cllr Neil Plummer, Chair of Strategic Planning Committee, is one of the first political casualties from the Penzance Harbour controversy.  As Chairman of the Strategic Planning Committee for both strategic planning meetings (14 Dec 09 and 8 Mar 10) considering the Penzance end of the Isles of Scilly Ferry Link Project, he had one of the hottest and most uncomfortable positions in Cornwall Council after Cllr Graeme Hicks (transport portfolio holder and advocate for the project). 


Cllr. Plummer was heavily lobbied by objectors in the run up to the first meeting in Dec 09.  Andrew George MP pressed him in an email sent on 8 Dec09 to vote against the project.  In the run up to the Dec 09 meeting he chaired a meeting in the Acorn Theatre where the ‘the public’ could address councillors about their concerns over the project.  It was well intentioned but turned in to one of the most shameful public events I have ever witnessed with various people ranging from the lucid to the lunatic taking turns to browbeat and insult elected representatives from all over Cornwall to vote down this important strategic project.  Cllr Plummer did his best to manage the unmanageable.  It was not surprising that the meeting itself on 14 Dec became difficult to manage and reportedly degenerated from a strategic decision making process to something much more local and personal.  The decision against the project on 14 Dec 09 however acted like a lightening bolt – it starkly illuminated the risk of no ferry operating from Penzance at all in the long term as Option A was the last, and one of the least ambitious, of 14 options explored over the last 7 years. 

The Council decided to send the plans back to the Strategic Planning Committee for a second attempt at approval.  This was inevitably not well received by the Committee and reflected badly on the Chairman.  Despite annoyance, the Committee members, with a lot of evidence of public support and some legal guidance regarding the scope of their duties, reversed their decision and voted 14 to 7 in favour of the project on 8 Mar 10.  A very large percentage of the residents of West Cornwall breathed a huge sigh of relief (and probably the whole population of the Isles of Scilly)Cllr Plummer voted against the project on both occasions.


Cllr Plummer expressed concern in his  email about being watched on every aspect of his voting record and suffering repercussions on some of his decisions.  This is the lot of all elected representatives because they are representing the community that elected them and not themselves.  In his capacity as Chair of the Strategic Planning Committee he was a representative of the whole of Cornwall.  Many supporters of the project felt that he did not take this on board as Chairman and allowed a narrower personal agenda to rule his decisions.  Cllr Plummer pleads the cause of the public “who were just trying to express their democratic rights and view”.  He is not referring to people in Penzance concerned about how their right to be heard was being monopolized by FofPH claiming to represent them.  He is claiming objectors were hard done by.  Given the mis-representation of the project by FofPH which continues to this day, his allegation has little substance.  If you intentionally mis-represent a project to sell your case and then threaten to boycott businesses you have not managed been deceive then you will, as a group, lose credibility and any moral high ground you hope to occupy.  One thing that is not in doubt in the Penzance Harbour controversy is that the minority voice has been well heard.  The minority voice could still prevail given the expert direction it receives.   If the project fails, Cllr Plummer will be one of those politicians who will be labelled as responsible.  Having been well intentioned will not be an adequate excuse.


Richard Cliffe,
Aug 9, 2010, 2:53 PM