La Treizième Étoile: 04/09/11 - 11/09/11 Blog Archives
News from the European Union with a focus on the South West UK and Gibraltar region and its MEPs
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Cornwall Council rules that second-home owners should lose their voting rights

Saturday, 10 September 2011
In an extraordinary move, Councillors in Cornwall are set to withhold voting rights for local, national and European elections from persons who have homes in the region that they use solely as their second home.

Around one in 20 homes across Cornwall is a second home, and some politicians in the region are worried that second-home owners who try to vote in the county rather than where they live permanently could can swing parliamentary and council elections. Yesterday, in a decision made without debate (CC/566) the council has made a strict interpretation of the law that now means no one will be able to enrol on their electoral register unless they can prove the county is their main home.

Under Cornwall's new "type B review", all electoral roll applications will be checked against a register of people who are receiving a second homes council tax discount. An application from a second-home owner could then be vetoed by officials if it was felt they only spend holidays in Cornwall.

The move follows the authority writing to thousands of second-home owners warning they are breaking the law if they vote twice. The "nudge" proved successful as almost 1,000 people volunteered to come off the electoral roll.

It is believed Cornwall is the first county to take such action and other places with many second homes are said to be watching what happens before deciding whether to follow suit. Devon and Dorset in particular are home to a large number of second-home owners.

The Conservative-led council described it as a "significant" move. Alex Folkes, the deputy leader of the Liberal Democrat group on the council, said: "By making it harder for second-home owners to register to vote, we will be upholding the law that limits voting rights to people who actually live in an area."

"We'll see how this works. Will people be willing to sacrifice their council tax discount in order to retain the right to vote? I doubt it."

Richard Williams, Cornwall Council's head of electoral services, said: "Councillors in Cornwall feel strongly that electors should only vote when and where they are entitled to and that second-home owners already have a chance to vote in the area of their main residence. Cornwall has a high number of second homes and members of the council's electoral review panel have been working closely with elections staff to identify ways of tightening up the existing system."

The move would also remove voting rights for second-home owners in relation to participating in European elections, the next of which is scheduled for 2014.

Van Rompuy confirms intention to seek second term as European Council President

Wednesday, 7 September 2011
Herman Van Rompuy (Photo: Novinite)
Herman Van Rompuy, the former Belgian Prime Minister chosen by European leaders to become the EU’s first President of the European Council back in December 2010, has said he will seek a second two-and-a-half-year term in the role when his current mandate expires in May 2012.

His post, chairing the regular summit meetings of the 27 European leaders, was created when the Lisbon Treaty finally came into force and it was widely anticipated that he would seek a second term. Now, in an interview on Belgian radio VRT he confirmed his intentions, saying: “if I dare to dream about a second term, it is because the work is not yet done. I must not do it for my own glory.

While other names have been linked with this position (inc. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Tony Blair…) it is expected Mr Van Rompuy, an economist and keen haiku writer, will be given the nod by his fellow leaders to remain until January 2015. Since the EU is in dire need of stability and leadership at the top during this current moment of crisis, perhaps Mr Van Rompuy’s continuation wouldn’t be such a bad thing after all.

Colman hails big victory as UKIP members overwhelmingly reject PEP proposal

Monday, 5 September 2011
The results of UKIP's pan-European party ballot have been announced and Trevor Colman has scooped a massive victory as more than two thirds of the party membership agreed with him that UKIP should not become a pan-European political party.

Of the 7,696 total number of valid votes cast (turnout 49.2%), only 2535 (32.9%) were in favour, compared to 5161 (67.1%) in opposition.

Reacting to the result, Mr Colman, leader of the 'No' campaign, said: "I have been asked to comment on the significance of Tuesday's ballot count where UKIP membership roundly rejected involvement in a Pan European party by more than two to one."

"The result indicates how far the Party has moved from the grassroots and is a timely reminder that further continued entanglement in EU structures will not be tolerated and rightly so."

Fellow MEP Stuart Agnew, leader of the 'Yes' campaign, accepted the result, saying: "I would like to congratulate Trevor Colman and his team on an emphatic outcome. As a team player I would never want to go against the wishes of the membership, and will abide by the result, as I pledged during the campaign".

Meanwhile, party leader Nigel Farage reminded members that "in the light of this result we must hope that the Duff Report does not pass in the European Parliament this autumn. If it does, we have just disqualified ourselves from 50% of the ballot papers to be issued. That makes winning rather difficult."


In a move to save energy and citizens' money: it's lights out for the 60W light bulb

Sunday, 4 September 2011
As of Thursday (1st September), the 60-watt light bulb, left, can no longer be produced nor marketed in the European Union. For some bizarre and unenlightened reason, this has caused upset.

Following the demise of the 100W light bulbs in 2009, 60W bulbs are to be removed from European supermarket shelves in order to encourage greater use of energy-saving alternatives.

This has prompted leading eurosceptic media to declare an absolute outrage since once stocks run out, householders “will have to rely on low-energy Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs) instead”. Energy saving bulbs, while they do cost more at the outset, they save money in the long-term as they use a lower wattage and so consume less electricity. The main objection it seems is they take longer to get to full brightness. Mon dieu.

There are even reports of prices being hiked as consumers rush to “panic-buy” before they are gone for good. South West MEP Giles Chichester, who is the Conservatives’ energy spokesman in the European Parliament, has accused manufacturers this week of "exploiting a market opportunity" by raising the price of 60-watt bulbs. (According to the Telegraph, the price of traditional 60-watt bulbs has doubled since the EU announced its ban in 2008. One manufacturer which charged 16p in 2008 now charges 33p, and at Sainsbury's the price per bulb has gone up from 70p to £1.)

Incandescent light bulbs are being phased out by the European Union in a bid to cut energy consumption by 20 per cent by the year 2020. It is claimed that at current rates, member states will only achieve a reduction of 10 per cent and so these rules are being pressed ahead with urgency.

Gunther Oettinger, the European Energy Commissioner, has admitted that old-fashioned light bulbs will be missed but were a necessary sacrifice. “They have been part of our daily life for such a long time that it seems odd that they will disappear […] Europe can simply not afford to waste energy. It was for these reasons that heads of states back in 2007 set themselves an ambitions energy efficiency target," he said.

South West MEP Julie Girling is concerned more about the safety aspect. In a letter published in the Western Morning News, she writes: “What bothers me about all of this is not the loss of light bulbs themselves but, the requirement for 100% compliance with the EU and concerns around the safety of the new bulbs. There are many stories of individuals across the UK who are adversely affected by the new lights – suffering from migraines and other illness. Be assured, I will question the European Commission about the safety of these bulbs and report back to you with their response.

Liberal Democrat MEP Graham Watson on the other hand welcomes the next phase of the ban on incandescent light bulbs citing evidence that it will cut almost 5 million tonnes of CO2 and save the average household £55 per year.

"Europe-wide savings produced by this ban will negate the need for the equivalent of almost six Hinkley B nuclear power stations; plus all the toxic waste and de-commissioning costs that come with them," he said.

"Increasing energy efficiency is crucial to cutting CO2 emissions and protecting the environment. But as with the feed-in tariff for households to install solar panels on their roofs, protecting the environment often goes hand in hand with making drastic savings on energy bills."

He also issued a reminder: "energy saving light bulbs contain mercury, and need to be disposed of properly. Many retailers will do this for free, and I strongly urge people to take them up on the offer."

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