Cornwall’s Parliamentary seats are really ultra marginal

The news is awash with stories of not one party will win an over all majority in this years General Election and from that, the guessing game of who will jump into bed with each other and form a government. As someone who has stood in three elections, I can tell you don’t really know how well you have done until they start the count. Then it all becomes clearer.

Saying that, I have been looking at the vote numbers from the 2010 General Election for the six Parliamentary seats in Cornwall. These six Parliamentary seats all are what you call ultra-marginal. In other words at least three candidates has the chance of winning the seat. I knew the numbers were tight, but I did not realise quite how tight they are.

I will start with the Parliamentary seat I reside in, St Ives.

St. Ives

In 2010 this seat was won by Andrew George for the Lib Dems. Andrew won the seat by 1719 votes, a winning margin of 3.7%. (LD hold). Looking at the 2005* election voting percentages, the Lib Dems had 51.8%, Labour 12.5%, Con 27.3% UKIP 4.3%.Previous elections – 1992 Con, 1997/2001/2005/2010 LD.

Camborne and Redruth

In 2010 this seat was won by George Eustice for the Cons. George won this seat by 66 votes, one of, if not the narrowest – in the Country – of margins by 0.2% (Con gain). Looking at the 2005 election voting percentages, the Lib Dems had 35.8%, Labour 28.8%, Con 25.6% UKIP 4.8%. Previous election winners – 1992 Con, 1997/2001 Lab, 2005 LD and 2010 Con.

Truro and Falmouth

In 2010 this seat was won by Sarah Newton for the Cons by 435 votes, a margin of 0.9% (Con gain). The 2005 election voting percentages, the Lib Dems had 41%, Labour 19%, Con 31.7% UKIP 5.8%. Previous election winners 1992/1997/2001/2005 LD, 2005 Con.

St. Austell and Newquay

In 2010 this seat was won by Stephen Gilbert for the Lib Dems by 1312 votes, a margin of 2.8% (LD hold). The 2005 election voting percentages, the Lib Dems had 47.3%, Labour 13.8%, Con 34.8% UKIP 4.1%. Previous election winners 1992/1997/2001/2005/2010 LD

North Cornwall

In 2010 this seat was won by Dan Rogerson for the Lib Dems by 2981 votes, a winning margin of 6.4% (LD hold). The 2005 election voting percentages, the Lib Dems had 42.3%, Labour 12.5%, Con 35.4% UKIP 5.8%. Previous election winners 1992/1997/2001/2005/2010 LD

South East Cornwall

In 2010 this seat was won by Sheryll Murray for the Cons by 3220 votes, a winning margin of 6.5% (Con gain). The 2005 election voting percentages, the Lib Dems had 46.8%, Labour 10.5%, Con 35% UKIP 5.1%. Previous election winners 1992 Con, 1997/2001/2005 LD, 2010 Con.

As you can see by the winning margin of between 0.2% and 6.5% these seats are really too close to call. However, looking at the 2005 percentages, there was a huge change in percentages towards the Cons. That of course doesn’t mean this will be replicated at this years election, but it does show Cornwall is a real battle ground for the political parties and could have a direct impact on which party forms the next government. furthermore, it is really going to be interesting to see how the Greens, MK and UKIP have an impact on the election in Cornwall.

The point of this blog post not only to show how close this election is in Cornwall, but to encourage people to take 15 minutes and wander down to the polling station on the 7th May and cast your vote. It is not too much to ask that you, as citizens, spare the 15 minutes to cast your vote at this election. After all you only are asked to do this every five years for a General Election. Furthermore, you have 15 hours in which to vote, as the Polling Stations are open for voting from 7am till 10pm.

I have often heard people say what’s the point in voting or my vote won’t really matter. Well, in Cornwall, in this election, your vote can really matter and if you use it, you can really choose who you think is best to represent you in Parliament.

And if by some chance you have not registered to vote, you still have time, as you can register to vote till the 20th of April! There really is no excuse not to vote.

 

(*using 2010 electoral boundaries. Data from Cornwall Council and Democratic Audit)

90 Percent of Cornwall’s reception aged children get their first choice of school for September

Those parents who have applied for a school place for reception age children across Cornwall will today receive details of which school their child is due to attend in September. For the majority this will be good news.

I am pleased to say that the majority of children in Cornwall have been allocated a place at their first preference school. I would like to publicly like to thank the members of the Council’s admissions team who have worked extremely hard to process almost 6,000 applications over the past few weeks.

The Council received 5782 applications for new reception school places for pupils in Cornwall to start school in September 2015. Of those, 5242 (90.7 %) have been offered a place at their first preference school.

Of the 540 pupils who were not allocated their first preference school, 272 pupils have been allocated their second preference school and 53 pupils their third preference school. These figures show that 96.3% of children have been allocated one of their three preferences.

The 215 pupils (3.7%) who have not been allocated a place at either their first, second or third preference school, but have at the nearest school to their home address with room.

All reception age pupils who applied for a school place in Cornwall have been allocated a place.

So how does this compare with previous years? The fact is this years figures are slightly lower (3.1%) compared to 2014 New Reception admissions, when 94% of children were allocated a place in their first preference school, with 97.9% being allocated one of their three preferences. Then 106 (2.1%) children did not get a place in their first preference school. In 2013, 93.1% of children were allocated a place in their first preference school, with 97.5% being allocated one of their three preferences.

It is no secret and many will be aware that there has been increasing pressure on reception age school places in a number of areas across Cornwall, as the number of children requiring a school place continues to grow. Cornwall is not alone as this picture is mirrored nationally. The areas currently experiencing the greatest pressures are St Austell, Camborne, Pool and Redruth, St Agnes, St Teath and Camelford, Truro, Launceston and Newquay.

As result of this increasing pressure there has been an increase in the number of schools which are full for new reception admissions in September 2015. Cornwall has 235 primary schools, of which 227 have reception classes (with the remaining 8 junior schools). Of these 112 are currently full, compared with 93 schools in 2014 and 53 in 2013.

To meet the increasing demand for school places in primary schools, the Council have commissioned expansion programmes at sixteen schools across Cornwall to ensure that children can be accommodated in New Reception and other primary classes in time for the start of the academic year in September 2015. Work is currently under-way in most of these schools with additional works due to be carried out during the summer term and summer holiday period.

We are also preparing for future growth in a number of areas and are tendering for schemes to be carried out to provide further additional school places in Cornwall over the next two years.

These expansions to school are carried out by Government funding by means of Targeted Basic Needs (TBN) and Basic Needs (BN). The Council is in a fortunate position this time after the disappointment of getting less money for TBN, earmarked to get £18m, but only got £7.8m. However, the Council did get a better than expected settlement for BN.

Future Government funding post 2017 – whoever that will be post 7th May – will need to be enough to make sure we have adequate spaces for our children to attend school in years to come. If it is not, as to quote a well known film: “Houston, we have a problem.”

 

Sithney Common Hill Roadwork’s – New Update

I have just been informed that Cornwall Council and CORMAC are aiming to temporarily reopen both lanes of the A394 at Sithney Common Hill in time for Flora Day on Friday 8 May. Following agreement with the landowner, CORMAC crews will carry out temporary stabilisation works on the eastbound lane from Monday 20 April.

A lane closure was put in place after a section of retaining wall supporting the road collapsed making it unsafe to carry traffic in both directions. While the works taking place next week aim to reopen the road on a temporary basis, CORMAC will have to re-establish the lane closure should unexpected deterioration of the road occur.

Work will start on the permanent repairs in earnest from Monday 11 May, during which time the eastbound lane will be closed once again. We apologise for the inconvenience caused, but every effort will be made to fully reopen the road as soon as possible.

I am grateful to all concerned who understood the issue have acted to try to alleviate the problem. Previous blog on this subject HERE

Cornwall’s Candidates who are standing in the 2015 General Election

We are on the steady march to the 2015 General Election Polling Day on the 7th May. The pundits say it will be close, and we could have no overall winner. This election is one of the first that is not a battle between Blue and Red; as this election really does include the other parties who could act as the Kingmaker, and could really decide who will be our next Prime Minister. I mean who really thought the Con’s and Lib Dems would get into bed with each other before the last election in 2010!

In Cornwall, the six seats up for grabs are what you call marginal. As at the last General Election the winning margin was as little as 64 votes to just under 3000. So for Cornwall it really is all to play for. That brings me onto who is standing in Cornwall. Well, the Statement as to Persons Nominated and Notice of Poll has been released, and it is as follows:

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And remember, use your vote, as in Cornwall it counts. If you haven’t yet registered to vote, you have till the 20th April to do so. Please vote.

 

 

Temporary Traffic Lights, Newham Farm, Sithney Common Hill – Update

Anyone who has travelled on the Helston to Penzance road would have seen the temporary lights just down from Sithney Common Hill, near Newham Farm. I have been asked – even though it is not within my Division – what is going on and I blogged about it previously: Sithney Common Hill Temporary Lights. However, with the Easter Holidays upon us, there are considerable traffic delays due to the lights. Furthermore, Flora Day is fast approaching and this road is well used, especially as the Porthleven Road is closed.

With this in mind, I have asked for an update on when the work will start and if at all possible, to see if the lights could be removed for Flora Day. Sadly, this cannot happen, as explained in the following email:

“The lane closure along the A394 at Sithney Common Hill was established as a result of a collapse of the section of highway retaining wall. Further cracking of the carriageway exists from the collapsed area down the hill to Newham Lane. Unfortunately, due to the fact that the road is unsupported, the traffic management cannot be removed until the wall has been strengthened.

Since the collapse CORMAC have carried out site investigation and designed the strengthening solution, which involves the construction of an embankment in front of the existing wall. Unfortunately we are unable to rebuild the wall along the existing line as the ground behind would need to be battered back to construct a new wall which would encroach into the opposite carriageway which would require the road to be closed, which is obviously not an option. Additionally there are fibre optic cables immediately behind the wall.

We are currently awaiting the outcome of negotiations between Cornwall Council and the landowner of the farm fields below the wall, to purchase and gain temporary easement of land to construct the proposed embankment. It is hoped that negotiations will be finalised soon enabling construction to commence by the end of April. The works will take approximately 4 months to complete and the traffic management will remain in place for the duration of the works.”

It is not good news, but at least you have an update on the situation.

Porthleven Duck race has a record turn out

The annual Porthleven Duck race – now in its third year –  took place on the Bank Holiday weekend. This event is organised by the Porthleven Community Group – whose aim is to bring the community together to have fun. It is a worthy aim and one the group achieve. Every year the race rises money for a charity and this year was no different, as the group decided to raise money for the Porthleven Skate Park project.

This years event saw a record number of ducks take to the water. This saw the creation of a new race for adults. It was great to see so many proud adult happily displaying their home-made ducks.  I really do not know if the children or adults where the loudest cheering and egging on their duck as they made their way down the river in Porthleven.

Huge thanks go to the community group for this event. Special thanks as ever go to Tim who ‘like a duck to water’ bravely entered the water to act as race official and lend help to some ducks that got caught in the banks, or who had trouble staying afloat….

As is now the tradition, the Mayor (this year the Deputy Mayor) gets their own duck made by the community group

The Mayoral Duck for the Deputy Major, Cllr Powell

The Mayoral Duck for the Deputy Major, Cllr Powell

Ducklaunch

Tim gets ready to launch the children’s ducks

 

My sons duck, HBM

My sons duck, HBM

DuckMe

Me and my duck, Pinkie

 

Duckchild

Some of the entries into the children’s duck race

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Why I support the Case for Cornwall and will #standupforcornwall

Cornwall Council has taken a large step to ask Westminster and the civil service to give the Council for more powers that will enable the Council to make our own decision for the benefit of Cornwall’s residents; not by those who do not understand, or even do not want to understand what the residents of Cornwall need.

Cornwall is faced with four fundamental challenges: our population is changing and growing; our economy is still underperforming in some areas; our geography and settlement pattern places strain on the public purse; and the cost of living is increasing inequality. It is one reason having a clear strategy is so important, and the Case for Cornwall supports the aims of the strategy.

standupforcornwall2

The case is simple, give the local authority more decision-making powers, and the ability to set its own rate of taxes, including business and council tax. This does not mean taxes will automatically rise, but if residents wanted enhanced services or new services, then they will have to be paid for. I know people have said to me they would not mind paying a little more if it guaranteed services. I know I would. This document is about have the decision-making powers in Cornwall, not London or heaven save us, some sort of regional administration body.

The Case for Cornwall is not perfect, but it is a collective step forward in asking for more decision-making powers for Cornwall. it is a document that will adapt, but has strong anchor points that will give a steady platform to work from. It has been politically backed in Cornwall – though at varying degrees – by the Full Council at Cornwall Council.

So what are we asking for? The proposals set out in the Case for Cornwall document include:

Public transport and connectivity –Enable Cornwall to provide a fully integrated and more effective rural public transport network including additional powers to decentralise bus regulation.  Allow Cornwall to create a Better Roads Fund funded by the localisation of 2p in every litre from existing fuel duty by retaining a fraction of fuel duty to maintain Cornwall’s roads.  If we retained this 2p, it raise £7.5 million a year that would be used to maintain our rural roads. You may not know this, but Cornwall Council maintains and repairs over 7000 km of road network excluding the A30 and A38 which are maintained by the Highways Agency.

Housing – devolution of powers and land holdings from the Homes and Communities Agency, working with the Government to identify ways of managing the number of second homes and retaining Stamp Duty to build affordable housing.  If Cornwall was allowed to retain an element of Stamp Duty to reinvest in building more affordable housing. However, we would need to secure a ten-year funding commitment to establish an ambitious affordable and social housing programme, financed in part by retaining a proportion of the increasing amount of Stamp Duty generated from escalating house prices in Cornwall

Health and social care – working with the Government to integrate health and social care. Our plans would commit to working with Cornwall’s health and social care community to achieve health and social care integration. If the Government can do it for Manchester, then why not Cornwall?

Energy - Energy: greater control over the development of electrical grid. Grid capacity is currently a significant constraint to further decentralised energy generation in Cornwall. We want the Government to provide us with the ability to control grid investment in Cornwall. We must also unlock the potential for geothermal energy. Cornwall provides the opportunity to be a national pilot for development of the UK’s deep geothermal industry. Co-investment from Government would realise the opportunity to access the significant renewable energy that is under our very feet, contributing to the national renewables targets. For instance, two geothermal companies already have planning permission for two sites in Cornwall; both are ready to begin drilling if sufficient funding can be secured.

How will this benefit local residents and businesses? The  following are just some of the benefits the residents of Cornwall could have if given greater powers:

  • Better public transport services and links
  • Better road maintenance
  • Better health from warmer homes
  • More affordable houses for local people
  • More jobs and job opportunities
  • Better education, social and business connections through superfast broadband / rural internet
  • Better health and social care
  • Emergency services working more closely together
  • Better flood resilience

As I said early, this is just the first steps for greater decision-making powers that are made in Cornwall for the benefit of Cornwall.  These , but not exclusively may include:

Piloting the first rural earn back model in Cornwall. We want to work with the Government to develop a mechanism for Cornwall to retain an element of the uplift in tax yields and reduction in welfare payments arising from a significant level of public sector investment in Cornwall’s infrastructure. The reward mechanism would provide an added incentive to grow and sustain Cornwall’s economy, contributing to the overall prosperity of the UK through increased tax revenue and greater spending power. The ‘earnback’ would also be a direct incentive to reduce worklessness in Cornwall, with the associated reductions in the cost to Government of welfare benefits.

Enable Cornwall to pilot greater freedoms and control over council tax. We want the freedom to work with our local communities to establish an appropriate level of council tax without the imposition of a costly referendum which simply further diverts funding from service delivery – our town and parish councils need the same. We also want the ability to develop localised council tax rules which enable us to target discounts to the most vulnerable, rather than blanket discounts which bear no connection to people’s ability to pay.

Allow Cornwall to retain and re-invest a quarter of all VAT generated by our tourism industry. Cornwall is the UK’s favourite holiday region, winning the British Travel Awards for six years in a row, with an estimated 4.4 million staying visitors staying an average of 26 million nights annually. Given the importance of the sector to the UK economy and particular Cornwall’s economy, there is a strong argument for Cornwall to retain a quarter of the existing VAT payable to reinvest in the ‘tourism product’. Parallels can be drawn with the Government’s recent agreement to allow Manchester and Cambridgeshire to retain all their business rates.

Transfer English Heritage powers and resources to enable us to have greater local control over our heritage assets. Cornwall Council is responsible for the appropriate care of the largest collection of designated sites and structures in the direct ownership of any local authority. Approximately 5% of Cornwall is a World Heritage Site. We want to explore opportunities to increase local powers and resources to address anomalies in defining heritage significance, streamline planning processes and maximise opportunities to integrate heritage into social and economic regeneration.

Enable a programme of housing delivery through revitalised use of Urban Development Corporation powers. Cornwall faces a growing demand for affordable homes to rent, substantially fuelled by high property prices and low wage levels. Over 50% of the current private rented stock fails to meet decent homes standards, despite strong regulatory action and £103m of public subsidy through housing benefit payments. We want to intervene and develop a new model of housing delivery that provides homes with high standards of design, layout, livability and low energy costs.

standup4cornwall The Case for Cornwall is an ambitious plan, but it a plan worth fighting for. However, Cornwall Council cannot do it alone, as it needs the people of Cornwall to support. You can show this support by pledging their support by joining the #standupforcornwall campaign on social media by following us on Twitter @CaseforCornwall using #standupforcornwall  or on the Case for Cornwall Facebook page .

Furthermore, details of the Case for Cornwall are available on the Council’s website – www.cornwall.gov.uk/standup  where members of the public can pledge their support.  Copies of the Case for Cornwall document will also be available in libraries and one stop shops where people can also pledge their support.

Let’s together #standupforcornwall and support the #case4cornwall that will allow for greater decision making powers for Cornwall in Cornwall.

If you want to support, why not do a #standupforcornwall selfie and get this trending on social media!

I will #standupforcornwall

I will #standupforcornwall

 

Supporting the education of children of Armed Forces personnel in Cornwall.

Cornwall Council via the Children’s Learning and Achievement department, has launched a new programme for improving outcomes for children from service families in the early years and schools within Cornwall. The programme will involve statutory, private, voluntary and independent providers of services for children and will ensure that it adheres to the Armed Forces Community Covenant.

It will support the following principles including recognising the unique nature of service in the Armed Forces; ensuring there is no disadvantage in accessing public services, including in this context education and early years provision; and to allow special treatment where justified (for example where there may be a bereavement etc.).

Looking at the national picture it is not known the total number of school age service children. However, in 2006 an estimate of numbers was given to the House of Commons Defence Committee of between 90,000 – 186,000 children*. In Cornwall we have a clearer picture on the number of service children with a total of 2,072 children for the academic year of 2013/14. This is between 2.4 -3% of the total school population. This can be further broken-down to Early Years (reception) 157, Primary 1177 and Secondary 738.

The programme will develop early childhood and education services that are of high quality, accessible to all children, including service children and effective in improving outcomes for children. It will also prioritise the training and development of teams and individuals. This is in order that they understand and know how to support children where there may be an impact on children’s well-being or achievement due to the issues of mobility and deployment that are experienced by service personnel and their families.

The impact of the programme will be to improve the outcomes for children and their families through high quality services which focus on ensuring that children of service personal are known, and are able to access educational provision, are ready for school and learning, achieve well and enjoy good health and well-being. Furthermore service families are supported in order to manage the effects of mobility and deployment.

This programme covers all children as defined by the eligibility criteria for pupil premium, but will also recognise the needs of children who have been affected by related matters, but who many not meeting the pupil premium criteria in full. These include, children of a parent who was killed in action within the previous six years, children of divorced service personnel where the service parents does not have custody and children who has been a veteran for no-more than six years.

Initially this programme will centre on provision in Helston, Newquay and Torpoint where the majority of service children live.

I am hugely supportive of this programme, both a the Portfolio Holder for Children and Young People, but who was also a child from a service family, and having served myself in the Senior Service. I know first-hand the difficulties of schooling as a child of an Armed Forces family who went to at least nine different schools due to my father being posted both around this country and abroad; also as a former member of the Senior Service who witnessed first-hand the difficulties families face when one, or in some cases, both parents are deployed and moving to and from different units.

*Unsung Heroes: developing a better understanding of the emotional support needs of Service Families.

Cornwall Council is congratulated for the success of take-up of two year-olds funding

Cornwall Council has received a letter from Sam Gyimah MP who is Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Childcare and Education congratulating the Council on the success of take-up for early learning for two year-olds.

For February 2015 Cornwall reported a take-up of the entitlement to early learning for two year-olds at 78%, or 1823 children. The South West region take-up average is 70%, placing Cornwall 3rd out 16th. Within our statistical neighbours the take-up average was 73%, placing Cornwall 4th out of 11th. If you look at the national take-up average (62%) you can see how well Cornwall is doing as it is placed 14th out of 152 local authorities.

Furthermore, there is also an economic benefit to Cornwall not only with the grant payments going in to Cornwall’s economy but the number of businesses and charitable settings involved – over 500 now and all the knock on impact on employment.

Those behind the success should be congratulated on the hard-work to get the take-up of early learning for two year-olds one of the best in the county.

early learning two year-olds1

 

 

 

 

Cornwall Council are supporting Child Sexual Exploitation Awareness Day – will you?

With the issue of child sexual exploitation (CSE) becoming increasingly high-profile following some disturbing cases in the national media over the past twelve months. As part of raising awareness of CSE,  Cornwall Council is supporting today’s (18th March) National Child Sexual Exploitation Awareness Day.  As Lead Member for Children’s Service I fully support this awareness day, but really we should be raising awareness of CSE 365 days a year, As TOGETHER, we can work to inform, educate and prevent this form of child sexual abuse within the UK.

The aim of the day is to help raise awareness of the issue and potential dangers, encouraging everyone to think, spot and speak out against abuse and adopt a zero tolerance to adults developing inappropriate relationships with children or children developing inappropriate relationships with other children.

There are a number of myths about child sexual exploitation – but the stark truth is that it is present across Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly and affects boys and young men as well as girls and young women.  Sexual exploitation takes many forms, from a seemingly ‘consensual’ relationship, where sexual acts are given for affection, accommodation, alcohol, drugs, money or gifts, through to the prostitution or trafficking of children across the counties, town or streets for the purpose of sexual activity . It can occur without physical contact, when children are groomed to post indecent sexual images of themselves on the internet. Any young person can become a victim of sexual exploitation and many young people, who are being exploited, frequently do not recognise they are being abused.

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Our children should expect to lead their lives free of abuse, exploitation and neglect and we must do all that we can to meet their expectations.  Sexual exploitation of our children damages their self-esteem; harms them emotionally  and interferes with their life-long ambitions. 

What is child sexual exploitation? Everybody has the right to be safe no matter who they are or what their circumstances.  We are all responsible for the safety of children and young people we must ensure that we are doing all we can to protect the most vulnerable members of our society.

Child sexual exploitation (CSE) is child abuse involving children and young people receiving something, such as attention, affection, gifts, alcohol, drugs or accommodation, as a result of them being coerced into performing sexual activities, or having others perform sexual acts on them.  It can occur without physical contact, when children are groomed to post indecent sexual images of themselves on the internet.  Any young person can become a victim of sexual exploitation and many young people, who are being exploited, frequently do not recognise they are being abused.   It affects boys and young men as well as girls and young women.

What can you do to today? Please help to raise awareness of this important issue by sharing this information with your colleagues, friends and families. If we all know what to do, and we all work together, we can make a real difference.

#helpinghands

#helpinghands

Furthermore, If you use social media, write a personal pledge on your hands to show support for our Helping Hands campaign. Post your photo on social media with the hashtag #HelpingHands to help us raise awareness of CSE.

If you would like to find out more information about child sexual exploitation including information for parents and carers and the myths surrounding this subject please visit the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Safeguarding Children Board website.

 

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