ON Monday morning, I stood on Looe beach to watch dozens of brave souls mark the New Year with a swim in the sea. 

Cold-water swimming has many health benefits, but the rivers and seas around Cornwall are badly polluted with sewage and agricultural run-off, especially during the winter.

The government could solve these problems by forcing water companies to upgrade their pipes and storage tanks, funding farmers to adopt more sustainable practices, and using the Environment Agency to crack down on illegal pollution. Instead, the Conservatives have made it easier to build new homes near polluted rivers, cut funding to most farmers, and left the Environment Agency with too few staff to take any meaningful action against law-breakers.

But it’s not just the sea-swimmers who are struggling to keep their heads above water.

The cost of living has continued to rise, with energy prices increasing by another five per cent on January 1, leaving many families wondering how they will survive the year ahead. Insulation and home-grown renewable energy are obviously the route to lower bills.

Enough new wind and solar was installed in China in the past year to produce more electricity than the UK’s entire national grid (including all our coal, gas and nuclear power stations), but the number of new wind contracts signed by the UK government was zero! Instead the Conservatives have signed new licences to drill for fossil fuels in the North Sea.

The costs of rent and mortgages have both increased drastically in the past year as the government’s poor management of the economy has forced the Bank of England to continue increasing interest rates. This has hit Cornish residents particularly hard as 25,000 holiday homes push up the cost of housing. 

And, of course public services have felt the squeeze too, with Council Tax and parking charges rising whilst services are cut, and Cornwall experiencing the worst ambulance delays in the whole country. Even the Tamar Tolls are set to increase by another 15 per cent this year.

The good news is that change is possible! The Liberal Democrats have positive solutions to all of the above. Investing wisely in tackling the causes of problems is far cheaper than throwing money at the symptoms. I have set out a five-point plan to take back control of the holiday home situation (most of which the Conservatives actually agree with in principle but have failed to put into practice). And best of all, 2024 is the year when you don’t just get to read about it, but can actually vote for it!

Colin Martin – Cornwall councillor for Lostwithiel, Lanreath, Luxulyan, Lanlivery, St Winnow, St Veep, Braddock and Boconnoc