Cornwall Council’s AGM

In what may seem as late news, but Cornwall Council held its AGM on Tuesday. Amongst the business at the AGM, a vote was held on who will be the chairman and vice-chairman of the council for the following civic year. Furthermore, the position of the Leader of the Council was voted on.

The new Chairman of Cornwall Council is Cllr Ann Kerridge after Cllr John Wood’s two-year term of office came to an end. Ann has been for the last two years been the Vice-Chairman. The vice-chairman is Cllr Mary May. This is the first time in the history of the authority and its predecessor Cornwall County Council that two woman have held the post simultaneously. It is good to see this happening.

Before I move on, I want to pay tribute to the former chairman, John Wood. In his two-year term John has made this office his own and has represented the office with to the highest degree. He has during his term raised the profile of not only the chairman’s office, but also the good work of the Council.

The Leader of Cornwall Council, John Pollard, was returned to office with support from all parties. In fact from where I sit I only saw one councillor abstain, with the rest supporting John in his re-election. This is high praise indeed. There is also a new Deputy Leader of Cornwall Council with Adam Paynter taking over the reins from Jeremy Rowe.

The subject of the CEO leaving Cornwall Council also came up with Andrew Kerr explaining why he leaving. His answer to those questions included, as a Scotsman, Edinburgh is his capital city and it is his dream to be its CEO. Andrew also explained his parents are elderly and being in Scotland, he would be only 20 minutes away; and his family are there too.

Of course, Andrew has not technically resigned, as he has given his intentions to resign. He will formally resign once he has received and signed the contracts with Edinburgh City Council. This seems logical as you do not quit one job unless you are 100% you have the other. Furthermore, just for clarity, Andrew will not receive any pay off because he has resigned.

Also tabled at the meeting was the process to hire another CEO. Sadly this is not a quick process, but I am hopeful Cornwall Council will be able to choose from a large number of candidates. For the process and details on how this will work can be found HERE.

I guess time will tell if we get any applications! Want the job?

Campaign to bring mainline gas to Porthleven

For some reason when gas was originally installed in Helston two centuries ago, Porthleven was missed. I have heard many tales as to why, but no doubt the true reason has been lost. However over 20 years ago there was a plan to bring mainline gas to Porthleven.  This did not happen, and therefore, Porthleven has been at a disadvantage since then.

Mainline gas is one of the cheaper forms of energy, but as Porthleven does not have access to this form of energy, therefore, residents have to rely on other forms of heating and energy products. In the 21st Century this is not good enough.

Huge credit should go to a local resident, Penny Davies who has started a petition to bring mainline gas to Porthleven. I am fully supportive of this, and have as the local member asked Cornwall Council for its support in bringing mainline gas to Porthleven. I have also asked Porthleven Town Council to place this subject on its monthly agenda so they can lend their support too.

I will also be writing to the gas company asking for the full costs for bring gas to Porthleven, but also more importantly, the cost to individual households who want to get connected.

The facts are 23%* of households in Porthleven are in fuel poverty, which is one of the largest in Cornwall. If we can bring mainline gas to Porthleven we might help address the fuel poverty in Porthleven. 19% of households are currently estimated as being in fuel poverty in Cornwall, compared to an England average of 16%**.

A household is said to be fuel poor if it needs to spend more than 10 per cent of its income on fuel to maintain an adequate standard of warmth. This is usually defined as 21 degrees for the main living room and 18 degrees for other occupied rooms.

To bring mainline gas to Porthleven will come down to the gas company funding the work needed to bring the infrastructure to Porthleven. I am told the nearest – will confirm –  infrastructure is just over a mile away from Porthleven. Furthermore, residents, including both private and social housing will need to sign up for connection. For this to happen the costs will need to be reasonable for people to sign up.

The link to the Petition can be found HERE. So please sign and share. Only one person per household to sign

Again, well done to Penny.

*‘old’ pre-census LSOAs. ** Cornwall Council 17th July 2012 Fuel Poverty briefing

Cornwall Council, its reserves and why it needs them

When it comes to setting a budget the issue of reserves comes up. It is used as a political football between the political groups at Cornwall Council and even the PM entered the foray by saying Cornwall Council is sitting on £200m worth of reserves, yet is cutting services.

A face value, it does seem an awful lot of money sitting in the bank. However, face value is not the full story as I will explain.

Cornwall Council currently spend over £1bn each year delivering services for people in Cornwall.  The range of services provided by the Council is staggering and includes: caring for vulnerable adults and children, maintaining Cornwall’s schools, repairing our roads, providing fire and rescue services and supporting the local economy to create jobs.

The Council receives funding for these activities through a mixture of government grants, business rates, council tax and, where appropriate, from fees and charges.

It is no secret that Cornwall Council has since 2010 faced considerable financial challenges as a result of Government’s programme of austerity. From to 2010 to 2013 the Council has to save a staggering £170m. This was painful, but then the Government hit the Council (and other LA’s throughout the land) a further £196m worth of cuts. This is on top of increased demand.

The Council has, and rightly so set aside money in reserves.  Reserves are an essential part of good financial management, enabling the Council to cope with unforeseen circumstances and spread the cost of paying our bills.

Around £40m of our reserves are actually held on behalf of partners and schools, which means the Council is not allowed to use them.  Others are “earmarked” for specific purposes.  These include paying for future building projects, such as new schools or roads, settling outstanding insurance claims or meeting redundancy costs for any further restructuring of the authority.

These are all costs the Council knows we will need to meet in the future and setting money aside now means we will not need to find it all at once when we need to pay it.  This is particularly the case with our Private Finance Initiatives (PFI), where the Council puts money away to fund the long-term costs of maintaining and refurbishing our PFI schools and fire stations. We currently hold £118m in earmarked reserves, £74m of which is for PFI.

This means we hold just £41m of un-allocated money within our General Fund reserve – less than 5% of our annual spend.  These are the only usable reserves which the Council can call on in a sudden and unforeseen emergency such as flooding. Of course, all the money we hold in reserves originally came from you, the taxpayer and it is important that we maintain the right level of reserves: too little and we will not be able to manage financial shocks and sustained financial challenges; too much and we will fail to make best use of our resources in the delivery of key services.

How much a Council should hold in reserves, there is no set formula for deciding what level of reserves is appropriate. Councillors are responsible for ensuring we have a sensible level of reserves.  It is clear that there are still some tough times ahead, but because of the money we have set aside in reserves, the Council is well positioned to face the financial challenges.

I hope this makes sense?

Andrew Kerr CEO of Cornwall Council set to leave

The big news of the week is Andrew Kerr, CEO of Cornwall Council has submitted completely out-of-the-blue his resignation from Cornwall. From the details I have, he is set to become the CEO of Edinburgh Council.As to the reasons why he is leaving, your guess is as good as mine….Andrew Kerr

The Leader of Cornwall Council has sent a message to all Councillors informing them:

“Today I have been informed by the Chief Executive Andrew Kerr that he will be leaving the authority to take up a new role as the Chief Executive of Edinburgh City Council.

I wish Andrew well in his new role and would like to thank him for what he has done for Cornwall.  He leaves behind a strong and committed team of officers and Members who will work together to take the Council and Cornwall forward.

Andrew Kerr will be issuing the following statement to staff :  “This was a difficult decision to make as I have thoroughly enjoyed my time in Cornwall but it is the right move for me at this time.  I am very proud of what the Council has achieved over the past 18 months and am confident that both the Council and Cornwall are in a strong position to move forward”.

I will now be working with Members and the leadership team to make the necessary arrangements for the transition.”

 

 

Porthleven’s Mayor and Deputy Major re-elected

At the Porthleven Town Council AGM, the current Mayor, Councillor Daniel Williams and Deputy Mayor, Councillor Barbara Powell were unanimously re-elected for the following civic year.

I would like to offer my congratulations to both, who have for the past year been a great ambassadors for Porthleven in carrying our their duties.

The Mayor and Deputy Major of Porthleven for the civic year

The Mayor and Deputy Major of Porthleven for the civic year

 

 

BT Cornwall deal makes it into Private Eye

Is it fame, or infamy, but the latest concerns surrounding the BT Cornwall joint-venture deal has made it into Private Eye….

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School Admission and the appeal process

Each Cabinet Member takes in it turns to write an article for the West Briton group of papers. This month it is my turn, and I decided to write about school admissions.

As a parent, I know how nerve-wracking the process of applying for a reception place for your child can be. However, it is the long wait from submitting the application to hearing the decision that really has you biting your nails. Luckily, in the vast majority of cases in Cornwall, the Council gives parents and children one of their preferred three choices.

This year we received 5,782 applications for new reception places for September.  Of these 5242 or 90.7 % have been offered a place at their first preference school, with 96.3% of children allocated am place at one of their three preferred schools.

Whilst it is obviously good news for the 5242 families which have been given their first choice, there are others that will be disappointed that they did not get their first, second or event third choice. I completely understand their feelings which is why I wanted to explain the appeals process as part of this article.

School Admission Appeals Panels are established to hear appeals from parents and guardians relating to a decision made by either Cornwall Council, or the Governing Body of academy or voluntary aided schools, to refuse a place for a child at a local authority maintained or academy primary and secondary schools in Cornwall.

These Panels operate completely independently of Cornwall Council and are an impartial and informal forum for parents and the admission authority/academy concerned to present their respective cases and be confident that they are given a fair hearing.

All Appeal Panels must consist of lay members and people who have experience in education.  Lay members are people without personal experience in the management of any school or the provision of education in any school (except as a school governor or in another voluntary capacity). Currently we have 15 members who are experienced in education and 16 lay members.

It is important to say Panel members must not have any connection with either the Council or the school/academy which is the subject of the appeal to avoid concerns being raised over an individual’s ability to act impartially.In some areas schools are full or near capacity which is why we cannot always ensure parents have their first choices.

As the Portfolio Holder I want to get to a position where 100% of parents in Cornwall receive one of their first three choices. To help achieve this we are looking at where we need to put extra places either by adding another classroom on to the school, or building a completely new school. We are able to do this because last year the Council was awarded £32m to help fund new places. This will not be enough, as we will have to use educational part of Section 106’s to make sure we have enough school places.

I do want to thank staff in the admissions team, Democratic Services and members of the appeals panel for all the work they do in trying to give parents their preferred choices. I have seen first-hand how hard they work to achieve this.

If a parent would like any advice on the appeal process they are encouraged to contact the Appeals Team within Democratic Services (01872) 322376.

 

420,985 people have registered to vote in Cornwall for the General Election

When you walk into the Polling Station on May 7th to cast your vote, or have already submitted your vote via the postal vote, have you ever wondered the function behind the election?

Let’s start with the Returning Officer. For a Parliamentary Election in a county constituency, such as Cornwall, the Returning Officer is the High Sherriff.  The High Sherriff can carry out two duties if they wish. To take receipt of the Parliamentary Writ upon delivery by Royal Mail and to declare the result of the election.  All other duties are performed by the Acting Returning Officer who is the Returning Officer for the local authority.

In Cornwall the Acting Returning Officer is Andrew Kerr, the Council’s Chief Executive.  The High Sheriff is Anthony Fortescue.  Andrew Kerr will declare the three constituency results at Carn Brea.  Mr Fortescue will declare the South East Cornwall Constituency result and may possibly declare the North Cornwall & St Austell & Newquay result.

420, 985 people have registered to vote in Cornwall.  Cornwall Council has received 74, 016 applications for postal votes.

The breakdown for the individual constituencies is:

  • St Ives – Electorate: 65,570 ; Postal Votes: 13793 (21% of votes)
  • Camborne and Redruth – Electorate: 66,944;  Postal Votes: 11494 (17.17% of votes)
  • Truro and Falmouth – Electorate: 73,601 ; Postal Votes: 11062 (15.03% of votes)
  • South East Cornwall – Electorate: 71,071;  Postal Votes: 13907 (19.57% of votes)
  • North Cornwall – Electorate: 67,192 ; Postal Votes: 11787 (17.54% of votes)
  • St Austell and Newquay – Electorate: 76,607;  Postal Votes:  11973 (15.63% of votes)

There are 455 polling stations in Cornwall, with one ballot box per constituency.  The Council has recruited around 1,200 Presiding Officers and Polling Clerks to run these 455 polling stations in Cornwall. In addition to this, the Electoral Service recruited around 750 Count Assistants and 20 Postal Voting Assistants.

Pretty impressive eh?

One day to go till the Polls open and it is just too close to call

Tomorrow the country goes to the Polls to elect candidates to become their MP for the next five-years. From this, and depending if one party has the outright majority, or failing that, the largest number of MP’s, that party should get the chance to form the next Government.

Just about all Polls predict the 2015 General Elections is just too close to call. This national picture is reflected in Cornwall with the six seats all having small majorities. The following predictions could change, but are correct as of the blog post publication.

The National Voting Prediction

The National Voting Prediction

The clever people over at 38 Degrees have put together the latest predictions data from election forecast that ‘predicts’ using your postcode which party is likely to win in that area. To check your postcode, click HERE.

As you can see from the pictures below, four of the seats in Cornwall are too close to call. The remaining two, if the predictions are right, will be ‘held’ by the Conservative.

Of course,  like all predictions we will only know who has secured victory on Friday morning apart from St. Ives who will likely declare Friday afternoon due to the Isle of Scilly vote not reaching the mainland till Friday morning.

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There is £4.3 Billion Public Spend in Cornwall

There are often comparisons on sector spend in Cornwall, compared with the South West and national picture. Sometimes it seems like a competition of who spends the most. Truth be told, they are all important.

For this blog I will be concentrating on the public sector spend in Cornwall. The title of the blog has already given it away, as in total public spend is £4.3 billion. This is a staggering amount, but as recent funding cuts have shown, have reduced, especially for Cornwall Council’s budget.

The £4.3 billion* is split between many organisation as I will explain.

The biggest slice of this spend is with the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) and their part of the pot is £1,549m. This is further broken-down:

  • State Pensions – £882m
  • Housing Benefit – £192m
  • Disability Living Allowance – £133m
  • JSA – £25m
  • Other – £316

Cornwall Council is the next biggest at £1,119m. Again like the DWP, this can be broken-down as:

  • Education, Health and Social Care – £548m
  • Communities and Organisational Development – £307m
  • Economy, Enterprise and Environment £169m
  • Other Corporate – £90m

Next, as you might have guessed is Health. Their total spend is £956m. This is broken-down as:

  • Kernow Clinical Commissioning – £711m
  • NHS England Specialist Healthcare and Primary Care – £245m

The Police, which includes the Police Commissioner – £290m

There is a group that I will call Other Agencies and this spends £190m and consists of:

  • Skills Fund Agency – £44m
  • Culture, Media and Sport – £21m
  • DEFRA – £75m
  • Highways Agency (responsible for A30 and A38) – £15m
  • Ministry of Justice – £36m

There is also:

  • Tamar Bridge and Torpoint Ferry – £9m
  • HRA – £40m
  • Town and Parish (precepts) £15m
  • Academy Schools £152m

There are couple of points I am going to make on these figures. They are different points, but all have an impact on public spend.

The first is on the aims of Cornwall Council to have more say in how money is spent in Cornwall. This is why the Case for Cornwall which asks for more powers in Cornwall has been put forward to the Civil Service. Of course, in some of the Case for Cornwall’s asks, there will be areas that can not be handed to another authority, others could, but will not for one reason or another. I guess the success of the Case for Cornwall will depend on the willingness of who will govern us post 7th May.

The other point is on the current agenda for greater integration for Health and Social Care including pooled budgets. Though the latter needs some real culture and legislation change if this was to happen, but it could happen. If this did happen, the spend in this area would be over £1.1 billion – this figure also includes Children’s Services. If there was better or indeed full integration, then there could be better service provision as it would require less bureaucracy of setting up, running and commissioning services.

 

*some figures are based on estimates

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