Today, Councillors of Cornwall Council set a four-year budget. It is a difficult budget and no-one would like to have to set this budget. This budget will result in reductions of services and job losses. However, were the Council can, we have protected services to the most vulnerable and highways.  I like many other people in local government never got into this game to have to do these horrible cuts.

Since the formation of Cornwall Council, the Council has had endless budget reductions. Of course, the Council cannot just blame someone else. It had to look at itself to make sure services are as streamlined as possible. I believe the Council has done this. You only got to look at the number of staff reductions and service harmonisation to realise the Council has (and continues) to make sure services are delivered in the best possible way. However, even with the Council examining itself, these latest reductions are firmly due to the draconian cuts to funding imposed by the Government.

During the six-hour debate with four amendments to the budget, Councillors gave their views on the merits of the budget and how their political party knows best. Once you take out the political posturing, Members raised the point why the cuts have had to happen. I also do not believe utopia will be found post the General Election in 2015. It has been made clear by various political parties there will not be a sudden rush of ‘new’ money post this election. From my experience, it is never new money, it is recycled money and something somewhere else has to stop to pay for the ‘new’ money.

The Cabinet and now today the Council have set a budget that will hopefully give some stability to deliver the services people require. This budget will not be easy to deliver, and it will be down to the dedication of the staff to deliver. They will be asked to deliver this budget with fewer resources.  I wish we did not have to set a budget like this, but there is little choice. As you cannot lose one-third of your budget and still be able to deliver the same level of service. The delivery of service is made more difficult because they is also an increased demand on those services.

At the end of the emotive debate, Councillors voted in favour of the budget by 69 for, 21 against and 19 abstention.

At the recent Extraordinary Cabinet, the Local Plan  or to give it its full title The Cornwall Local Plan – Strategic Policies (formerly known as the Core Strategy), which will guide planning for the next 15 years in Cornwall was debated and approved by the Cabinet. This plan has been a long time coming due to the complexities surrounding a planning document of this nature. It has not been an easy ride, as many people have a view on the actual number of housing required in the next 15 years. However, without a plan, it would be difficult to have a say where developer should build and have some sort of balance on the numbers of housing that can be built.

The full range of suggested housing targets is from 29,000 to 74,500. These suggested figures is in part from 44 representations on housing numbers from three rounds of consultation since 2011. The final figure which has been agreed on is 47,500, and this is the number which will be submitted as part of the plan. The 47,500 is not all new builds as it takes into consideration housing that already has been given  planning permission. The actual figure of ‘new’ builds will be 18,662. How these new builds will be split is on the image at the bottom of the page.

I have often heard this Local Plan will ‘concrete’ over Cornwall. However, this is far from true, as currently roughly 1% of Cornwall has development and if all the planned dwellings are built, this percentage will raise to 1.5%. That is hardly a concreting over Cornwall.

I also welcome the approval of this plan as without the approval, those town and parishes who are in the process of formulating their neighbourhood plan could not progress with out the Local Plan. These neighborhood plans are key to town and parishes deciding what happens to their communities for the next 15 years.

Now the Cabinet has approved the plan, it will be the turn of the full membership of the Council to give the final seal of approval in December before it then goes through the formal process of the inspectors etc before hopefully being adopted. With no Local Plan, Cornwall would find itself in a difficult position and open to unrestircted development.

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Newquay Airport has recently secured another airline to fly to and from the airport. It is great news that Aer Lingus (Regional) will begin a new service to Dublin from May 2015 operating up to five-times weekly.  The new service brings a new Airline brand and destination to the Airport and signifies the dawn of a new commercial relationship with Aer Lingus.  Aer Lingus Regional, operated by Stobart Air, is targeting 20,000 passengers in the first year.

Passengers will depart Newquay Cornwall Airport arriving in Dublin. Initially, there will be four flights per week – Monday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday – increasing to five flights per week – Monday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday – in the peak summer months, from 27 June to 5 September 2015.

This is indeed excellent news and builds on the success of securing flights to and from London Gatwick and the much-needed Passenger Service Obligation.

 

 

Cornwall Council has released a further statement in reference to Alex Folkes it is as follows:

The Council has an overriding responsibility to safeguard the welfare of children and young people in Cornwall.  After receiving the initial information raising serious child protection concerns relating to Councillor Folkes on 16 October, we launched an immediate investigation into the circumstances.  As part of the investigation we were given information by the police which was assessed by the Local Authority’s Designated Officer (LADO) as part of the Council’s formal safeguarding process.  Based on the information supplied by the police at this stage, the LADO process concluded that Councillor Folkes represented a ‘serious and enduring risk to children.’  This decision was later confirmed by additional information supplied by the police. This led to the Director for Education, Health and Social Care writing to schools and children’s settings in the Launceston area.

We took legal advice on all aspects of this matter in order to make certain that the process was conducted fairly and properly and in the interests of ensuring the maximum safety of children in Cornwall.  We are confident that the investigation, which was aided by the police, has been dealt with appropriately and all proportional steps have been taken to ensure children in Cornwall are protected to the maximum possible degree.

The Council also took legal advice on when it could share details of the evidence which had been provided to the LADO with Councillor Folkes and provided him with the information as soon as it was legally able to do so.

An internal investigation is currently underway into the way the matter was dealt with in 2009.

On Tuesday night, the Children In Care Education Support Service celebrated the success of our Children in Care for the 2013-2014 academic year . The celebration event was kindly hosted by the two universities at Tremough Campus, Penryn with the campus’ Student Ambassadors helping the event run smoothly. The event had a pirate theme and everyone was encouraged to dress up as pirates. Like last year, and before the presentations took place, the excellent Swamp Circus entertained everyone with sea-shanties, tricks and stunts.

In total, 333 children were awarded certificates.  Although not all the children could attended they will still receive their certificates in the post. The age range for the certificates is year 1 to year 13. The certificates are awarded for any achievement: good school attendance, good progress in learning, attitudes to learning and each other, resilience in trying times. Being brave and trying new things, outdoor pursuits, creative arts etc.

I had the honour to present the certificates to the children, along with Tim (the virtual head teacher of the school) who read out the reasons for the award. I was very proud of the achievement of all the children. As were all who gathered to celebrate their success. Standing on the stage, you can see many of the audience reach for something to wipe their eyes with as Tim read out the achievements of the children and young people.

It was also great to see so many people connected with Children in Care attend the event. This included social workers, the voluntary sector, the Chair and Vice-chair of the Children’s PAC, the Head of Learning and Achievement, the Head of Children’s Social Care who all got into the spirit of the event by dressing as pirates! My sincere thanks go to the staff in the Children in Care Education Support Service who make this celebration such a special event. Furthermore, they make pretty good pirates too!

Swamp Circus entertain the crowd

Swamp Circus entertain the crowd

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A motley crew of pirates

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Lead Member for Pirates??

I spend Monday morning with a group of students (aged 15 to 17 years old) from Newquay’s Treviglas School discussing democracy and why voting is important. This discussion was part of Bite the Ballot’s campaign to get young people involved in democracy.

Bite the Ballot, is a not-for-profit organisation that empowers young people to speak up, act, and make their votes and opinions count. For four years, Bite The Ballot (BTB) has been running interactive democracy workshops with young people up and down the country, demonstrating the power they hold as individuals and as a collective voice. BTB aims to inspire young people to be counted and make informed decisions at the ballot box, encouraging them to #TakePower and become the champions that will change the face of British politics.

In the 2010 elections, over 75% of people aged 65+ voted. This group received free bus travel, free TV license, free prescriptions, winter fuel allowance to name but a few. Compare this to only 44% of young people voted. They had EMA taken away, tuition frees tripled and youth services are under huge pressures and reductions. Is this related? Yes, it is. If young people were more engaged and had the ability to vote, then maybe the services young people value would be on a more even footing.

During the visit, there was a series of group activities. This first one was deciding where you would spend a ‘government budget’ of £100. The choices were education, health, defence, welfare and benefits, housing and environment, transport, public order and safety, culture and sport and international aid.

It wouldn’t surprise you to see education and health coming out on top. Defence came seconded to bottom and that did not really surprise me. However, international aid came bottom, and when I asked why, the student group said we should make sure our services are sorted first. It was very interesting to hear their logic on the other areas too. The students really had good points to make.

I am very keen to support Bite the Ballot’s campaign to encourage young people to get involved and make sure their voice is heard. Winston Churchill once said “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.” We should also remember those who gave their lives to ensure that we are free to vote as we wish, it is important that we take on that responsibility and encourage others to make sure their voice is heard.

Young people can register to vote from the age of 16. My view is if you can register to vote at 16, then you should be able to vote at 16. The Scottish Referendum has shown how well the 16/17 old vote works, and I hope the Government brings in legislation to lower the voting age.

IMG_4616.JPGTo find out more about BTB online presence go to HERE

BTB also wants to hear from schools, colleges, youth clubs or universities who are interested in getting BTB to come along and run a session on “The Basics”. If you are interested, email BTB at cornwall@bitetheballot.co.uk and help us in the fight to create a better democracy.

Registering to vote has never been easier. All you need is your address and your National Insurance number and go to HERE

Devon and Cornwall Police are working with Cornwall Council in a joint initiative to increase the use of Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras in Cornwall. The reason for this is to help meet the aims of both organisations in a period of budgetary pressures. The plan is to extend the existing camera network with another 27 cameras in locations across the county. These cameras will be fully funded by Devon & Cornwall Police

Before the increased expansion of ANPR cameras, Devon & Cornwall Police are holding a series of roadshows combining police ANPR vehicles and police motorcycles to demonstrate the system with representatives from both themselves and Cornwall Council’s Transport and Technology team.

Dates and venues for the roadshows are:

Monday 24 November 10.00 – 16.00 Lemon Quay, Truro
Tuesday 25 November 10.00 – 14.00 Asda, St Austell
Wednesday 26 November 10.00 – 14.00 Sainsbury’s, Newquay
Thursday 27 November 10.00 – 14.00 Morrison’s, Bodmin
Friday 28 November 10.00 – 14.00 Tesco, Callington

It is a shame there are no demonstrations West of Truro. As I am sure citizens West of Truro would be interested in seeing how this technology works. Though, you might say the demonstrations are not taking place in the West because the ANPR cameras are being installed East of Truro…..