The 3.14 Tax

I have been rather quiet on the subject of the pasty tax, or in other areas of the country the pie tax, as at first, I did not understand what was being proposed. As it seemed from reading the various media report, blogs and Facebook comments this tax was going to be implemented. However, this is not strictly the case.

What is correct is the HMRC is looking to simplify various aspects of the VAT system which has not largely changed since its introduction in 1973. The HMRC is carrying out a consultation between 21st March and 2nd May 2012. This does not just include the provision of hot food, but other areas too. Click HERE for the consultation document.

If any of the proposals in the consultation document is accepted, then these will become law in October 2012. Meanwhile, the HMRC wants to hear from people on these proposals and in the consultation document has said it is willing to meet and listen to people’s view that may be effected by the changes to the VAT system.

At Tuesday’s full council meeting of Cornwall Council the Portfolio Holder for Economy was asked a question on the ‘pasty tax.’ He gave a few details on this subject which gave the impression it is not all doom and gloom. I am grateful to Chris Ridgers for providing me with further information after I sent him an email asking for more details.

Cllr Ridgers has also said to me after a brief meeting with to discussing this issue that Cornwall Council will be making a robust response to the consultation on the impact this tax will have on the Cornish economy. Furthermore, Cornwall Council is working closely with the Cornish Pasty Association to make sure the right message is being sent to the HMRC. Both the initiatives I welcome, as working together will give Cornwall a stronger voice against these proposals.

For instance, The Cornish Pasty Association have quoted that its members produce 106 million pasties per year which generates sales approaching £65m. Based on Cornwall’s GDP of £7 billion, Cornish Pasty Association pasty turnover is close to 1% of Cornwall’s GDP.

It was also interesting to note Cornwall’s largest pasty producer, whose pasties are not generally sold ‘hot’ have stated that the tax change is immaterial to their business. If this is true, then pasty makers and businesses might have nothing to fear from these changes.

What I think is important is any definition on what is hot is sorted quickly because it states in the consultation food over ambient temperature of the room will need VAT applied. That might sound simple, but bakeries and the like are not renowned for being cold places. It would be far better if guidance is given by HMRC that includes the temperature of the food which makes it hot. Because saying ambient room temperature will lead to all sorts of confusion if these proposals are carried out.

Maybe the same rules governing food safety which gives clear guidance that temperature over 63c are deemed ‘hot.’ So if these same guidelines are used than most pasties would be non-vatable because most pasties are left to cool before serving. However those pasties/pies/sausage rolls that are placed in a hot-box either to comply with food safety rules or to keep hot are currently subject to VAT.

My advice is to send in your views to the HMRC during the consultation (address in the consultation document) process because the humble pasty shop might have got caught inadvertently in the cross-fire between the HMRC and certain big businesses.

Only then after people have taken the time to write in and make the case something might actually happen that will not harm the Cornish national dish.

 

Changes to Rubbish Collections

A quick reminder to make sure you don’t put your bins out for a Monday (2nd April) collection, because it won’t be collected. The reason is Porthleven and those who live within the electoral division of Helston South (Bulwark, etc) will be having their general rubbish collected on a Wednesday starting on the 4th April.

Recycling waste will also be collected on a Wednesday in a two-week cycle and will start on the 11th April. It is hoped the new recycling containers will be delivered very soon, but if they are not, just continue to use the containers you already have.

Garden Waste will also be collected on Wednesday, starting on the 4th, but you will need to buy a new container and subscription for this to be collected.

There was some confusion with Cornwall Council’s website postcode checker telling one date on the recycling and the letter that’s been posted to residents telling another date. This has now been sorted with the Cornwall Council website now displaying the right information.

Also, the scheduled collection of recyclable waste will still take place on Friday the 30th March.

Stadium Row Rubbles On

The Stadium for Cornwall debate, or should I say row, seems no closer to be solved. There is a lot of back-bench unhappiness over the possibility of tax-payers money being used in any aspect of the project.

Also, the lack of, or the perceived lack of transparency in the business case and finance surrounding this project. Will taxpayer’s money be used either to build it, or the infrastructure around it is another question that has not been answered in a clear way.

This frustration resulted in a motion being put forward by a group of Conservative Councillors, after a slight amendment is as follows:

“This Council supports the development of a Stadium for Cornwall as a private sector led project and recommends to Cabinet that if the Council receives a request for financial support, whether direct or indirect, including by way of guarantees or provision of infrastructure, that in the perceived lack of transparency surrounding the subject that the principle of providing such support be debated by Full Council before any decision be made by Cabinet”

I am supportive of a Stadium for Cornwall, as I really think if done right, it will be an asset to Cornwall. However, that does not mean a blank cheque should be handed over by Cornwall Council.

I really believe the best way forward is to disclose how much and who will be putting money into this project. This way the public will be able to understand and make an informed decision on this project.  But, before the public is told, all Cornwall Councillors should be informed to the true costs and who will be funding the various aspects of the project; as so far this has been lacking.

The vote for the motion was overwhelmingly carried.

Prayers Are Back On The Agenda At Cornwall Council

It has been a turbulent few months for the subject of prayers being part of the formal agenda at council meetings. The High Court ruled against prayers being included in an agenda under the Local Government Act 1972. Then, The Localism Act trumped that ruling by allowing council’s if they wish to have prayers included on the council agenda.

This point of should prayers be or not part of the agenda for the full meeting of Cornwall Council. Over 29 Councillors spoke during this debate, with the majority of those speakers supportive of prayer’s being part of the council agenda.

I have blogged before about being apathetic towards religion and can see both sides viewpoint. The one point I disagreed with in the original motion was prayers should be only Christian. I feel if we should have prayers they should be fully inclusive of the people we represent. I therefore, put in an amendment seconded by John Pollard and is as follows (option 3 in the agenda):

“Commence a practice of saying prayers of different religions on a rotational basis as part of the formal agenda for Council meetings.”

I felt this was a sensible solution to allow other faiths to have the ability if they wanted to be able to take part in prayers. My motion was narrowly defeated, and the vote was carried for Christian (only) prayers to be part of the formal agenda.

This resolution will no doubt have an impact on many other local authorities throughout England and Wales. As many will now follow Cornwall Council’s lead and re-introduce prayers post the High Court Bideford judgement.

It will be interesting to see if any legal challenge will come post the decision at todays Cornwall Council meeting.

Prayers Back On The Agenda

Tuesdays meeting of the full membership of Cornwall Council has included on the agenda a recommendation to bring back the practice of having prayers said at the start of a council meeting, or continue the current practice post the Bideford Council High Court case. That recommendation is as follows:

(1) That it be determined whether or not to revert to the practice of holding prayers during Full Council meetings following consideration of the options set out at paragraph 3.8 of this report; and

(2) If Members decide to include prayers as part of the formal Council agenda of future meetings, it be agreed that both elected Members and officers be free to remain but not to participate in or to leave the Council Chamber for the duration of the agenda item on prayers.

Now you might be wondering way the council is discussing this after all the High Court has given judgement (subject to any appeal). The simple reason is since February 18th The Localism Act became law. This piece of legislation gives councils the power to do this under Section 1 of the Localism Act, provides in general terms, a local authority has the power to do anything an individual may do. This considerably broadens the power of Council beyond the powers contained in the 1972 Act which were the subject of the Bideford judgment.

My view is if, and I suspect there will be some resistance to prayers being part of council business, I would like to see prayers from different faiths. After all, not everyone at the council, or in Cornwall is a Anglican. However, nothing is ever simple, especially at Cornwall Council.

 

Talk To Me Young People Event

Last night I was invited along with some of my fellow Cornwall Councillors from the Helston and Lizard area to talk and more importantly listen to 14-16 year olds. Also in attendance were the Police and members of Helston Town Council. This event was hosted by Cornwall Council’s Youth Service. After a brief introduction it was down to business.

Each Councillor was given a subject to cover, and mine was ‘Futures and Opportunities.’ A rather open topic. Some of the other topics were education, employment, health, public transport, and social life. The young people then in a sort of ‘speed-dating’ style came to each table and talked about various issues. I must have talked to at least 30 young people during this process.

When I asked a question on do you see your future in Cornwall or out of it nearly all the young people replied “out of it.” I asked why, and the answer was the same, “better opportunities out of Cornwall.” I then asked them for reasons they saw their futures out Cornwall. These came firmly along the lines of poor wages, bad public transport, high house prices and lack of employment prospects.

Most of the 14-16 years old wanted to work to earn a little bit of money, but they said employers do not want to take them on because they have no experience, and when they do, they pay such a low wage (some said slave wage) it would not even cover the bus-fare to get to work. Buses got a lot of criticism on poor service, high fare prices and the general unreliability of trying to catch a bus that was on time, or turning up.

The event was not just to raise issues, but how these issues could be solved. No magic want can be waved, but all the Councillors present who took part in the event said more must be done, and Cornwall Council should be applying the pressure to companies and organisations to help solve some of these issues. For instance, concessionary fares for under 18’s, open Cornwall Council owned building in the evening for community groups to use, and helping young people find employment. These are just a few of subjects and topics that the council can and should help with.

I fear these young people are being damaged before they get into adulthood because of lack of opportunities at this stage of their life’s. After all, these young people are our future, and if they all see their futures out Cornwall that will be detrimental to Cornwall itself.

Furthermore, most said Cornwall would be a great place to retire to, and they would do so.  We must do more to stop the brain-drain of our young people and turning Cornwall into God’s waiting room.

 

 

The SAS Need You!

I have received a plea from Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) for help in winning a sack of money from the European Outdoor Conservation Association that will help deliver the following project:

To expand, develop and  train Surfers Against Sewage’s network of community Coastal Protection Activists who volunteer in coastal regions through grass root actions such as beach cleans, educational talks and environmental campaigns targeting marine litter, climate change, toxic chemicals, sewage effluent and wave protection. At least 30 beach cleans will be held.

This is a great project, but to be able to deliver it, SAS need your vote in a four-way competition with other European entries. Currently, SAS are just 130 votes ahead of the nearest competition and with the voting closing Thursday midnight anyone could win! Let’s make sure it is Surfers Against Sewage’s project.

So if you can please vote, but also pass on this message to all your friends, work colleges and family for them to vote.

The link to vote can be found HERE

Helston’s 18 Minutes of the Olympic Torch

Details have been released of the route and timings for the Cornwall leg of the Olympic Torch as it travels the UK. It is good to see the relaxation of much of the secrecy surrounding the route. For Helston, the citizens of the town and the surrounding area will have the ‘pleasure’ of seeing the torch for a whole 18 minutes. The route the torch will follow will be:

Arrival Helston 10:07 am; 10:10 Helston Penzance Rd; 10:14 Monument Rd; 10:15 Coinagehall Street; 10:18 Godolphin Rd; 10:25 Helston – Falmouth Rd

The torch then arrives in Falmouth at 10:53. I suppose Helston should be grateful for being included in the route because it is 18 more minutes than Camborne or Redruth will receive. This is Cornwall has posted the whole route and the timings HERE

 

 

 

Numbers of School Children in Cornwall

Statistics are not everyone’s cup of tea; so those who hate them look away now. The following statistics are on the numbers of children currently attending school within Cornwall. Also included in the figures are the number of children who are receiving free school meal, ethnicity and the number of children from service families. These has been collated as part of the Single Issue Panel looking into children’s readiness for school that I am a member of.

The total number of children between the in both primary school and secondary school is: 69,293

Primary School: 37644
Secondary: Age 11-15: 28471 – Ages 16-19: 3178 – Total 31,649

In receipt of free school meals: Primary: 5328 (14.15% of pupils); Secondary 3431 (10.84%)

Black and Ethnic Minority: Primary: 1922 (5.1%); Secondary: 1323 (4.2%)

Children from service families: Primary 1026 (2.7%); Secondary: 753 (2.4%)

Gypsy: Primary 85 (0.2%); Secondary 59 (0,2%)

A more detailed breakdown on the statistics can be found HERE.

A Leak – Food for Thought

Ever had an itch that you just can’t reach? The itch I am talking about is the ‘leak’ of a pink paper containing financial information (click here to read) on an option for the Stadium for Cornwall; and the following hostile message from the Leader of Cornwall Council basically accusing a Councillor of leaking it. My reply to that message took issue with this accusation because he was laying blame on members without a shred of evidence of who did actually leaked it. I mean, how do you really know it was indeed a Councillor who leaked it?

This itch continued but when I was again reading the pink papers something jumped out which made me recheck the information on Graham Smith’s blog. The picture of the page with sensitive information had all the financial information on one page. When in fact the documentation which the E&E Committee and those present at the meeting had this information on TWO pages. Yes that’s right, two pages.

So, what does that mean? Well for a starter this page is different to the committee papers, but I will also thrown in a couple of theories:

1. The leaked paper was a draft document which was not available to back-bench members
2. These were cabinet papers
3. These papers were fakes

I will let all those Miss Marples and Mr Holmes’ out that to draw your own conclusions and to ponder over the weekend. However, this leak smells as fishy as a fishmongers apron.

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