Penzance Question Time: What would your legacy be?
"What would you like to leave as your legacy when your time comes?"
It was a challenging question from the audience, posed to our panel of five at the end of the inaugural Penzance Question Time event at The Ritz last night.
It concluded a lively debate in the old bingo hall where the lack of democracy in decisions made by Cornwall Council was returned to time and time again.
Ritz chair Mike Sagar Fenton "played out a personal fantasy" taking the role of David Dimbleby, and navigating his way through a wide range of questions submitted from the audience.
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Thankfully, his style was rather more polite and laid-back than that of his BBC counterpart, choosing not to interrupt his guests as they debated the issues at hand.
I was in good company on the panel, appearing alongside St Ives MP Andrew George, Newlyn Methodist Minister Julyan Drew, Penzance town councillor David Nebesnuick and Mounts Bay Academy vice principal Les Hall.
The debate opened with a question on local democracy and the decision to part-privatise council services, after which a show of hands from the audience demonstrated not one person was in favour of the shared services project or the way it had been decided upon by Cornwall Council.
St Ives MP Andrew George described the council as "dysfunctional and undemocratic", adding that he felt the authority had "retreated behind the walls of its own Kremlin", while Mr Sagar Fenton spoke of "this terrible gulf that seems to have opened up between ourselves and our own government in Truro".
Penzance town and Cornwall councillor John Moreland raised the question of Penzance Harbour, asking whether the panel felt the authority had deliberately scuppered the town council's proposals for the future of the harbour, while Charlie Cartwright asked whether the town council and Penzance Chamber of Commerce were right to support the destruction of the heliport for a supermarket.
Both were questions that everyone knew from the start would be raised and while they generated a series of animated responses from the panel, the audience appeared as though they were almost tired of a subject that has divided the town for so long.
Student Chris Drew's question on whether the abolition of GCSEs would disadvantage current students attracted a much livelier response from the audience – again none of whom in a show of hands were in favour of Michael Gove's proposed changes.
MBA vice principal Mr Hall said he felt the changes were a return to the first elitist exam system introduced in 1936. "I hope that the pressure that is being put on the Government to change things, by every single person who works in the education system, pays off because I don't think anybody agrees with it."
And what were those legacies?
Mr Nebesnuick spoke of lowering parking charges in the town, while Mr Hall said he wanted to feel he had boosted young people's confidence and potential.
Mr George said he wanted to see empathy taught in schools and hoped to leave behind greater devolution for Cornwall.
My ambition was to leave a thriving community newspaper in a strong and healthy community on which The Cornishman had had a positive effect.
"I've no intention of going anywhere," quipped Mr Drew, adding that, as Chaplain of the Penlee RNLI station, he'd seen how men were thrown overboard when they retired. "But I would like to see a caring community where people look out for each other."