It's the first of April 1974, all over the nation, it’s time for a brand new start.
Town councils, rural districts, even some counties, have long been enamoured of bold schemes. Penzance Town Council has been no exception, and since expanding 30 years ago to include under its aegis Newlyn, Ludgvan and even Mousehole (though not Marazion, which held out against the onslaught), the “enlarged borough” has been very partial to sweeping away anything out-moded (though not in Newlyn, which also held out against the onslaught). But today the ancient incorporated borough, with its charter signed by James I, has itself been swept away.
Today, the new magistrates – who will meet only in Penzance but incorporate the St Ives and West Penwith benches – have sat for the first time and announced “the first words of a new chapter in the legal history of West Cornwall”. Mr Graham Calderwood, speaking for the solicitors, has predicted that it will be a “long time” before the wheels of judicial administration grind round again, consigning this new body in its turn to the realm of bygones, commemorated by a mere plaque.
The new Penwith District Council hasn’t had time to do very much yet, but already there are a few straws in the wind. Their request for a spot of help with housing all its new staff has been turned down flat by West Penwith Rural Council, whose very continuance presents a bit of an untidiness. The new Chief Executive of Penwith has scurried up to London to express alarm at the number of rate rebates he might have to concede, and enjoyed a “full and frank discussion” with John Silkin. Trouble brewing in Paradise? Penzance Mayor David Pooley seems to suspect as much. in his farewell speech in the Union Hotel Assembly Room on Friday, he spoke of the need for “dignity in debate and courtesy in controversy” – characteristics which, it must be said, have not always been evident in press reports of Town Council proceedings over the previous century.
And at least the ill-advised blunders that have – for example – moved Scunthorpe into Yorkshire, created the vast conurbation of Avon that nobody can quite place, and deleted the ancient county of Rutland, are up-country aberrations. As yet there is no plan for Cornwall Unitary Council. Let alone Devonwall.
Cornishman 3rd April 1974 pages 1 and 3