Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children in Cornwall

I am sure you are aware there has been a lot of media interest concerning Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children. Following the announcement over the weekend that the Government is placing 70 Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children at a hostel in North Devon we have been asked about the situation in Cornwall.

Here at Cornwall Council, we are supporting the humanitarian policy to provide support for Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children and is part of the South West Councils’ scheme, which has been set up to co-ordinate this work in the region.

We are currently best placed to support children aged 16-17 years and have already welcomed a small number of children to Cornwall under the scheme.  We have set up a multi-agency steering group, including representatives from health, education, the police and the voluntary and community sector, to ensure a co-ordinated response to meet the needs and risks of these young people.  

We are doing what we can to ensure that the scheme is implemented in such a way that we can meet the needs of these children and to keep them safe.  The safety and wellbeing of any child or young person, especially if they are vulnerable, is our utmost priority and we need a sound assessment of their needs and risks before accepting transfer.

We do have reservations about the way the scheme is being implemented by the Government  and concerns that this could create an unsustainable pressure on diminishing local authority budgets. The current funding arrangements do not cover the full costs and the Government’s commitment to funding is only clear until April 2017. The shortfall in the Government funding is being met within the Council’s existing budget.

We have initially agreed to provide support for up to 10 children and young people aged 16 to 17 years up to April 2017 and are continuing to talk to the Home Office about the level of resources and financial support we need to deliver this, as well as arrangements for welcoming further children and young people in future years.

We were not consulted about the Government’s decision to place 70 young people with a private provider in the hostel in Great Torrington and are currently seeking more information about these arrangements and the implications for Cornwall.

The children who come to Cornwall will be placed either with foster carers or with supported lodgings providers, depending on their age and individual needs.  We have invited expressions of interest from existing foster carers and supported lodgings providers, as well as from members of the public in joining one of our placement schemes.  If you are interested in helping, please contact our fostering recruitment team by phone: 01872 323638 or email: fostering@cornwall.gov.uk



We must resist selective education and Grammar Schools in Cornwall

One of the many frustrations I have with this current Government is their constant tinkering, or should I say wholesale change to the education system. It goes without saying we all want the very best education system. Which for me is an inclusive comprehensive system.

Since the mid-1970’s Cornwall has had no form of selection in its schools. Cornwall has a proud tradition of a ‘family of schools.’ For example when the then Labour Government introduced a form of selection in 2000 which enabled schools to select 10% of their population, Cornwall’s schools rejected that notion of selection.

Yet the Governments Green paper titled Schools that work for everyone again changes the education system to a more selective system. It is rather ironic the very title of the Green hardly endorses the theme of schools working for everyone. As a selection system is not working for everyone.

The main points in the Green paper are:

  • Expecting independent schools to support existing state schools, open new state schools or offer funded places to children whose families can’t afford to pay fees;
  • Asking universities to commit to sponsoring or setting up new schools in exchange for the ability to charge higher fees;
  • Allowing existing selective schools to expand and new selective schools to open, while making sure they support non-selective schools;
  • Allowing new faith free schools to select up to 100% of pupils based on their faith, while making sure they include pupils from different backgrounds.

The deadline for submissions to the Government consultation is 12th December 2016.

A fundamental point in changing any system is there is clear evidence this change will be for a positive, and actually improves a system.  Yet, this Green paper is without clear evidence of improvement and is more about political dogma, than improving the educational system.

Research shows that children from deprived backgrounds are much less likely to attend (existing) grammar schools than better-off children. Only about 3% of pupils at grammar schools are eligible for Free School Meals (FSM). A recent article by Sam Freeman highlights research from OECD which found that not only are the selective systems socially segregated, they are also less effective than inclusive ones. Furthermore, all the top educational systems in the world, which includes Korea, Finland and Canada are comprehensive.

The outgoing Chief Inspector of Ofsted, Sir Michael Wilshaw is critical of the plan to return to the Grammar School system. In his recent speech at the London Councils education summit in central London, Sir Michael makes some very valid points.

“If grammar schools are the great answer, why aren’t there more of them in London?

If they are such a good thing for poor children, then why are poor children here in the capital doing so much better than their counterparts in those parts of the country that operate selection?

I appreciate that many grammar schools do a fine job in equipping their students with an excellent education. But we all know that their record of admitting children from non-middle-class backgrounds is pretty woeful.”

He went on:

“The notion that the poor stand to benefit from the return of grammar schools strikes me as quite palpable tosh and nonsense – and is very clearly refuted by the London experience.”


“Let’s not delude ourselves. ‘A grammar school in every town’, as some are calling for, would also mean 3 secondary moderns in every town – a consequence rarely mentioned.

That is why I am in no doubt that a return to selection would be a profoundly retrograde step that would actually lead to overall standards sliding back, not improving.”

Whilst I support Sir Michael’s viewpoint on selective education, I believe a lot of London’s success is because of their generous funding arrangements as I have highlighted HERE. If Cornwall was given the same level of funding as London, then we would be able to do so much more.

I do not think the Government has thought about rurality in its social engineering plans for schools – otherwise known as Schools that work for everyone. For Cornwall with its distinct geographic layout we have a diverse pattern of school provision from smaller schools of less than 30 pupils to larger urban towns of more than 1500 pupils. If this Green paper is implemented, it adds an additional complexity to the introduction of any selective provision. Furthermore, which the Green paper fails to address is the significant pressure on the Home to School transport budget.

If this the selective system is implemented, there is a grave danger of a ‘bidding war’ between schools for the most able students. This is not how an education system works. Children and young people are not a commodity who can be brought by the highest bidder.

I am against the principle of selective education not only as the Lead Member for Children’s Service at Cornwall Council and Councillor, but as a parent too. I am very pleased that the Cornwall Association of Secondary Heads (CASH) in Cornwall remain committed to the comprehensive principles that we have in Cornwall.

If the Government really wants to help schools, it has to look into fairer funding. Yet sadly, like pumping over £500m into the free school provision, it is likely to put more money into the selective system, which could be better spent on all schools.

I will also highlight the issue of fairer funding for schools, the Government has let this slip right from 2017 to 2018 (and likely to slip again) and the word fairer has been removed in the policy looking at school funding.

This issue will be discussed at the Young People’s Advisory Committee on Friday and will be debated by the full council in reference to the Motion against Grammar Schools I have seconded.

Derek Thomas MP for West Cornwall visits Porthleven Town Council

Last Thursday, the Member of Parliament for West Cornwall, Derek Thomas visited the members of Porthleven Town Council. Since I have been on the town council, this is the first time a MP has visited a town council meeting. The aim of the meeting was to meet the town councillors, and to see what help they need in achieving the council’s priority and any ‘wants’ it may have.

Derek Thomas, MP for West Cornwall in talks with Porthleven Town Council

Derek Thomas, MP for West Cornwall in talks with Porthleven Town Council

During the discussion, councillors raised the issue about telecommunications and how Porthleven has been plagued with intermittent services; mostly from one provider. In responding to this, Derek said he would personally take it up with the provider.

An aim of Porthleven Town Council is to look at creating a footpath between the town itself and Penrose. This had been looked at previously, but an agreement could not be found between all landowners. Back then, there was also a pot of money for new footpaths, which was used to add a few paths in and around Penrose. The Council asked Derek to see what Government pots of money were available for such projects.

Support was also asked for the regeneration of the Bickford-Smith Institute by the working party in its fundraising ambitions and any funding bids. The more support the Council has in any funding applications, the more chance it has.

A final point I raised is in reference to community policing. This is not about having a go at front-line officers, but the way information to Town and Parish Council’s has stopped. In the past a police officer or PCSO would attend a meeting to give a report on the last month, and for those present (both councillors and the public) were able to put a series of questions to the Police. However, now Council’s are told to go to the Police website. This website has some great information, but sadly, and this is the flaw, it is at least two-months out of date. This is not only a concern of Porthleven Town Council, but other Town and Parish Councils too. Derek said he would take this up with senior officers.

I am pleased Derek turned up, and hopefully those issues raised the town council will be taken forward.

Porthleven new skate park at week four of the build

On Tuesday I met Maverick the company who are building Porthleven’s new £125k skate park to go through a few contractual checkpoints as part of the build. The building of the skate park is estimated to take ten weeks. The good news is we are already at the four-week mark and the park is really starting to take shape.

It is hard to image what something is like via a picture or diagram, but let me tell you, having been close up to the park, it is going to be one, if not the best skate park in Cornwall.

From today and for the next few weeks, the concrete will start to be laid.

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Porthleven CIC offers its mini bus for hire

Porthleven CIC has now completed all of the projects it set out to achieve as part of the grant award of £99,950 from the Coastal Community Fund. These projects were: Up-lighting the Bickford-Smith Institute in partnership with the Porthleven Lights Committee; a new 72 space car park named Withy Field in partnership with Coodes Estate and Porthleven Football Club; a website; Marquee Hire business and the Porthleven Town Trail with smart app. All this was achieved on time and under budget.

As part of the Marquee Hire business, the CIC needed a towing vehicle. Our grant funders allowed the CIC to purchase a nine-seater mini bus with support from the South Kerrier Alliance CIC. This mini bus will not only tow the marquee equipment, but also carry the installation team to the various jobs. However, rather than just the mini bus sitting idle when not being used by the CIC; we want to allow community organisations and groups to have access to a cheap form of transport.sideview1

Porthleven CIC understands community organisations and a multitude of different groups have difficulty with transport, or find hiring a mini bus an expensive option. This is why we as a CIC want to help those groups and organisations. Therefore, Porthleven CIC are pleased to announce the mini bus will be available to hire for a small fee of £50 per two days.  This offer is open to all groups and organisation, not just those in Porthleven.

If you are interested in hiring this vehicle please email enquiries@porthlevencic.co.uk


Aiming Higher and making sure disabled children’s voice is heard

This week I attended and opened the annual Aiming Higher Conference in Wadebridge. It was great to see so many parents, carers and professionals making the time to attend. Over the years this conference has provided parents and professionals with an opportunity to come together and discuss how we will improve services for disabled children, young people and their families.

Sadly, over the last few years, our discussions have been over-shadowed by the scale of government cuts to public services. To put it in perspective, this is a cut of £45m since 2011 or one-third of the budget cut to the Children’s Services budget at Cornwall Council. This is why it is all the more important to find solutions together.

Genuine partnership working can be difficult to achieve because it requires mutual respect and trust as well as a solution-focused approach to the challenges and problems we are facing. I believe that we are fortunate in Cornwall that there has been a strong tradition of co-production to innovate service design and delivery. Comments from parents at last year’s conference said that they wanted to work in partnership, not just at the margin but to be fully engaged in some of the more difficult areas of service design. The conference is also a time for reflecting and celebrating what has been jointly achieved through partnership working between parents and professionals.

There are some examples of what has worked well and we need to listen to what does not work well. We also need to welcome the national recognition for Cornwall on how improvements can be made through co-production – even in the most challenging context of cuts to local government children’s services.

It is very important to look to the future, and to spend time asking ourselves; what services will be needed for disabled children, young people and their families in Cornwall over the next 5 or 10 years?

I put several questions to those in attendance. These were:

  • Do we have a shared understanding of the need?
  • Do we have an agreed set of outcomes we want to achieve for disabled children in Cornwall?
  • Do we agree what works and what does not work, and;
  • How are we going to balance an increase in demand, with further cuts in funding and an increase in individual expectations?

One thing for sure is we are going to have to do things differently. We will have to explore together those areas that will need to change. And most importantly, we will have to discuss how we can continue to work together to make the best use of limited resources.

This is why the experience, views and ideas from parents and Carters will help shape services for Disabled Children in Cornwall. We must together, truly aim higher for disabled children in Cornwall.

Part of the conference were heard from various keynote speakers. It was good to hear from Amanda Harvey from the Council of Disabled Children giving the national context.

We also heard from an inspirational young speaker called Molly Watt. Molly is registered visually impaired and deaf. She explained the difficulties in her educational journey and how she overcame them. From these experiences she set up her own company, The Molly Watt Trust to help raise awareness of Ushers Syndrome. Molly advises how government and companies make their services more accessible. Please have a look at her website HERE. She had a standing ovation from the audience on completion of her talk.

It is also not often you go to a conference and are handed a plastic water-proof cape. This meant I was going to get wet. However, I was more than willing to get wet and was honoured to be part of the Get Out There Act play (GOT Act). This play highlighted the journey of the group from where it started to where it is now. I have blogged about this fantastic group before. You can see their great work HERE. It was a great performance with a important message, made the audience laugh.





Government set to cap at least seven of Cornwall’s Town and Parish councils Precepts from 2017

I have received news today that from a technical guidance issued by the Government it is minded – which basically means it is going to do it – to cap town at least seven town councils in Cornwall from 2017. With a further threat of all Town and Parish Council precepts if there is a too large of a rise in the precept.

Since 2012/13 the Government has applied a core Council Tax referendum principle of 2% on major authorities, such as Cornwall Council. If an authority wished to increase its Council Tax above that level (excluding the Adult Social Care precept that was introduced in 2016/17) it would be required to carry out a referendum of its residents. A referendum of this sort would cost in excess of £750k to hold. So the likelihood of holding one is slim.

In the past these referendum principles have not been applicable to local Town and Parish Councils, although the Government has always indicated that it would keep this under review.

Nationally, the increase in the average Band D Council Tax levels set by Town and Parish Councils in 2016/17 was 6.1%, which was markedly higher than in previous years. One of the reasons for this increase is  these Town and Parish Councils have taken on more services and responsibilities like in Cornwall due to the staggering cuts to local government funding. In Cornwall the increase in these precepts is around half of the national average. As follows

2011/12 2012/13 2013/14 2014/15 2015/16 2016/17
Parishes 2.3% 3.9% 5.2% 4.3% 3.3% 6.1%

Due to the larger increases in Town and Parish precepts, the Government has now indicated that it is minded to apply the referendum principles to ‘higher spending’ Town and Parish Councils in 2017/18.

A higher spending council is defined in the consultation paper as one whose Band D charge in 2016/17 was higher than £75.46 (equivalent to the Band D charge for the lowest charging District Council) and which had a precept in 2016/17 of more than £500,000.

Such parishes would face the same referendum principles as shire districts; increases of less than 2%, or up to and including £5 on the Band D charge (whichever is higher).

However, to make things more complicated (as anything to do with tax and the Govt is), the Government has also said that it wants to ensure that parishes continue to have the flexibility to be able to take on responsibilities from other tiers of local government.

Therefore a degree  of complexity has been added to the proposal; in that the referendum principles would not apply where there has been a transfer of responsibilities and where the following three conditions are satisfied:

  1. The parish council and a principal council covering the area of the parish council have each resolved that a particular function carried out by the principal council in relation to the parish council’s area in the financial year 2016-17 is to be carried out instead by the parish council in the financial year 2017-18;
  2. The parish council and the principal council have agreed the reasonable cost of the exercise of that particular function in the parish council’s area by the parish council in the financial year 2017-18;
  3. That the agreed cost, if collected by way of the parish council precept, would take the parish council over the threshold of a 2% or £5 increase on the previous year.

Using the 2016/17 precept information, eight of the Town Councils in Cornwall would be affected by the above proposal. These are: Bodmin, Bude-Stratton, Camborne, Falmouth, Newquay, Penzance, Saltash and Truro. As far as I can tell, Helston with a precept of £303,691 would be excluded from the cap, and therefore, Porthleven would be excluded too.

Importantly however, it should also be noted that the final two paragraphs of the consultation paper state:

A large proportion of parishes are modest in size – for example, around 4,000 parishes have precepts of £25 or less. However, the Government is aware that increases in these precepts continue to concern local tax payers and is therefore prepared to consider extending referendums to all parishes.

Which basically means you raise the precept too much, and we will cap you.

The consequences of capping are huge. As Town and Parish Council have been taking on services  for Cornwall Council to safeguard them rather than see them close. I know local council’s have not always like taking on services, but they have taken a more pragmatic approach rather than losing a service. Like in Porthleven; where the town council now owns and runs the public toilets and all green spaces (which it does not already own).

Of course, the Government is saying it is consulting, but from my experience of the Governments consulting it should be interpreted at a ‘heads-up’ we are about to do this. This heads-up consultation lasts till the 28th October 2016 – just over three-weeks away.

Tell Cornwall Council what you think about your household rubbish and recycling collections

What do you think of the household rubbish and recycling collection? For the majority of people putting out our rubbish at the allotted date is hassle free and works like magic as you put it out and it disappears.

If you did not know, Cornwall Council works with Biffa Environmental Municipal Services (was Cory, but they were aquired Biffa) by to provide rubbish and recycling collections, street and beach cleaning services across Cornwall.


As I said, whilst most have a hassle free service, Cornwall Council would still like to know what you think about the services you receive. The Council therefore would appreciate it if you would complete the short survey (which should take about 10 minutes).

Your responses will help Biffa evaluate and if needs be improve the services they provide here in Cornwall. Plus help Cornwall Council take those views into account on the next waste collection contract.

Porthleven’s Pram and Raft Race makes a big splash

Porthleven’s now combined Pram and Raft Race (now called the Ram Race) took place on Sunday in rather pleasant October weather conditions. This year’s theme was Port-Heaven.

The route for this race is from Out of the Blue, and a dash to the harbour and down the slipway into the water. A mad paddle – some more successful than others – out past the gap. Then returning up the slipway and a last dash to the Ship Inn. It is purely coincidental that this race starts and finishes at licensed premises….

Whilst this event is a lot of fun, it is also used to raise a little bit of money for local organisations. This year over £230 was raised. Thanks must go to Suzie Williams of Four Crows who organises this event, all the race marshals (Karen Richards, Sibby Barnes, Julia Scofield and Abbey Hines) and Jeremy Richards who used his fishing boat as water safety. And of course all those who took part in the event.

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Porthleven residents to get extra support to help with recycling

I hope most people we know That Porthleven and many areas of Helston were selected to take part in the trial mixed plastic kerbside recycling collection scheme which collects plastic pots tubs and trays in addition to the collection of plastic bottles. In total around 46,000 properties are taking part in the trail in Cornwall.dot-and-lisa-photo

I have been sent a letter explaining Cornwall Council wants Porthleven to help more people to recycle. The letter is as follows:

In order to encourage as many people as possible to take part in the kerbside collection service, and to help them use the service properly, we are employing some temporary ‘recycling advisers’.

Our new recycling advisers are Dot Peryer and Lisa Spooner. They will be working in Porthleven on Monday 26 September. They will be visiting people in their homes to find out about their recycling habits, and explaining what they can and can’t recycle. They will also be offering extra recycling equipment for those that need it.

They will be carrying Cornwall Council ID and will be working with us for about a month, so should able to complete all door to door visits in Porthleven and move onto other towns.

If there is no one at home the advisors will put a “while you were out” card through the door giving basic information and asking residents to contact the team either by emailing the refuse and recycling inbox or calling the contact centre.

We chose Porthleven as we are doing recycling participation surveys in the area and also have accurate information about the amount of recycling that is being collected. This means that we will be able to measure the impact of this method of communication and, if it works, hopefully expand it in the future.

For more information about the Recycling Advisors contact Esther O’Bearagh on 01872 324948 or email eobearagh@cornwall.gov.uk

Let’s show Porthleven can be one of the best recycling areas in Cornwall!!

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