By Mike Jarvis
CORNWALL'S Liberal Democrats launched their election campaign today with a clear message – we'll get the basics right.
Current Lib Dem councillors and those who will fight for seats at the local elections on May 2 turned out in force in Bodmin for the party's election drive.
They also welcomed the national party's president, Tim Farron MP, who came to give the team his support – just seven weeks before the county goes to the polls.
Mr Farron spoke openly about his party's pledge, welfare reforms, the economy, press regulation and the current happenings at County Hall, Truro.
He said his party would run Cornwall Council "more intelligently and more efficiently" than the current Conservative-independent led coalition.
"We don't take anything for granted here," he said.
"The reason we've done so well here in the past is because we haven't taken people for granted.
"Although we've been in opposition [in Cornwall] it was the Lib Dems who made sure the council tax didn't go up – which is impressive.
"Peoples' most obvious relationship with the council is the bill that lands on their doormat and in tough times we understand the importance of keeping it low."
He said he wanted to see his party tackle the big issues locally – such car parking charges and make sure rubbish is collected.
He continued: "It's very easy, when in opposition, to make promises – but despite being in opposition we've already made things happen [council tax freeze].
"The focus on recycling is a big issue for us – not only is it good for the environmental but also for saving money – every little bit more we can recycle means the council pays less in landfill tax. So, it's about the intelligent running of the authority."
He said he was unconcerned about Lib Dem Cornwall councillors who had quit the party recently, as Conservative members had also left their group. He said he has a "very tight and hardworking team" in Cornwall.
The Lib Dem president's visit came as his coalition partner George Osborne was delivering his budget in the House of Commons.
Mr Farron said he "didn't want to see any big headlines in the papers tomorrow" and that what was needed now was "quiet competence, not flamboyance".
"The economy that we inherited, whether you blame Labour or the banks - it doesn't really matter, it was a mess. Anyone who thinks there can be large growth now is living in cloud cuckoo land – it's going to be a long tough few years."
As Lib Dems and Conservatives work together in Westminster many of the key battles for seats on May 2 will be fought between the two parties.
So how does he separate local and national politics?
"I disagree with the Tories at least as vociferously if not more so than I did three years ago," he admitted.
"There's a big difference between agreeing to work with someone and agreeing with them."
On the local elections, he said: "I don't want to make any predictions as to how we'll do but I certainly expect us to go forward. I am positive that across the Duchy we will make gains."
Jeremy Rowe, leader of the Liberal Democrats on Cornwall Council, said his party's pledge was clear.
"We will get the basics right – we will make repairs to roads, we will make sure your rubbish is collected – it's about getting that message across to the people."