Regional Pay is not Fair Pay for Cornwall

One of the current ‘good ideas’ to come out of the coalition Government is regional pay. Like the proposals for VAT on pasties, regional pay will have a very negative impact on the economy, and workforce of Cornwall.

Cornwall is already suffering from a poor average wage compared to other regions and the UK as a whole. I have always known the average wage in Cornwall was poor compared to other regions, but I am somewhat shocked how bad the difference is.

For example, the average full-time earning for residents (people who live in, but not work in Cornwall) is £21,993. This is much lower against the average wage in the South West – £24,640; England and Wales – £26,185; UK – £26,095. The other figure for full-time workplace (people who work and live in Cornwall) is: Cornwall – £21,258 and for the South West – £24,236; England and Wales – £26,166; UK – £26,079.

As you can see, Cornwall’s full-time worker and resident is very underpaid compared to the national average. Even in the South West region, Cornwall workers are paid on average £2,500 less. However, this is only full-time workers. The figures are more startling if you include part-time workers; which is a large part of Cornwall’s workforce.

The average wage for workers, both full and part-time in Cornwall is £17,201. This is a huge drop from just full-time workers and is 19% less than the average UK worker. It also represents the real wage in Cornwall. Of course, the South West, England and the UK will also see a drop if you include both full and part-time workers. For the South West, this is £19,609; England £21,650; UK £21,326.

This can also be broken down further on the Parliamentary Boundaries, and shows even within the borders of Cornwall there is a difference in what you will be paid. Looking at workplace earnings, Truro and Falmouth has the highest levels due to the density and range of jobs in Truro (health, local government, professional business services), followed by Camborne and Redruth. Higher resident earnings reflect the impact on the earnings total of those people who commute to other areas. This is most noticeable in South East Cornwall due to proximity to Plymouth, However for South East Cornwall’s pay for those living and working in those areas are seeing the worst pay-scales. These figures are:

St. Ives: Workplace – £15,626/Resident – £16,217

Camborne and Redruth: Workplace – £19,029/Resident – £18,250

North Cornwall: Workplace – £16,039/Resident – £16,700

South East Cornwall: Workplace – £13,940/Resident – £17,588

St Austell and Newquay: Workplace – £17,237/Resident – £17,170

Truro and Falmouth: Workplace – £19,611/Resident – £19,624

It is bad enough for Cornwall to be paid far less than parts of the UK, but even within the borders of Cornwall the wage-scales are vastly different. It is shocking to see these differences, and for my own area in the St. Ives constituency is the second worst-paid area. This must change, but if the Government gets its way, we could see many people being paid far less than they currently are.

If you then add house prices for Cornwall compared to other areas, it really is disheartening. For example the average house price (April 2012) for:

Cornwall – £184,311
South West – £174,261
England/Wales – £160,417

It is bad enough for Cornwall workers to be paid 19% less, but they will pay on average 13% more for a house! God help us if the stupid proposal for regional pay is brought in.

Should More Buildings In Porthleven Be Given Greater Protection?

In planning the actual architectural merit of a building often comes to personal choice. In Porthleven, buildings in the past have often been deemed to have no architectural merit during a planning application. Then because these buildings have no official protection, they are often knocked down, and replaced with new buildings.

This changes the historic and characteristics of an area. And in most cases in Porthleven not for the best. More protection can be given to a building is by some sort of official listing. This to most of us is known as a Listed Building, and comes in various levels. As follows:

  • Grade I buildings are of exceptional interest, sometimes considered to be internationally important; only 2.5% of listed buildings are Grade I
  • Grade II* buildings are particularly important buildings of more than special interest; 5.5% of listed buildings are Grade II*
  • Grade II buildings are nationally important and of special interest; 92% of all listed buildings are in this class and it is the most likely grade of listing for a home owner.

Of course just because a building is listed it does not mean nothing can change, or replaced. However, a listed building will have more protection under the law. Under planning rules, it is not a criminal offence to make changes to a non-listed building. It is though a criminal offence to make changes to a listed building without planning consent. This is generally called Listed Building Consent.

A problem is which buildings should be listed? As I said before, the importance and look of a building is often interpreted differently. Also, you would think some building would be listed but are not; it may surprise you that New County Hall is listed as Grade II. For the record I think it is an ugly building.

The guidance on what should or not be listed is; all buildings built before 1700 which survive in anything like their original condition are listed, as are most of those built between 1700 and 1840. The criteria become tighter with time, so that post-1945 buildings have to be exceptionally important to be listed. A building has normally to be over 30 years old to be eligible for listing. More information can be found here via English Heritage.

It might surprise you, but there are 63 items/buildings in the Porthleven area, that are listed (note this also includes Penrose Estate, Methleigh and Antron Farm). Some obvious buildings are not listed, especially as they are historically important to Porthleven. Here is the list of buildings in the immediate are of Porthleven which are Grade II and Grade II*

  • Chapel- keeper’s house immediately west of Methodist Church – 1883
  • Memorial lamp to King George V -1911
  • Torleven Farmhouse
  • Methodist Chapel, Peverell Rd – 1863 rebuilding of earlier chapel; enlarged 1876.
  • Torleven Farmhouse (Wellington Rd) -1818
  • The Ship Inn 1800-1810
  • Ring O’Bright Water, Loe Bar Rd
  • Bay View Terrace,  Nos 1-18 – 1902-1905
  • Strawtop, Loe Bar Rd
  • Wesley Chapel and attached schoolroom, Church Row – 1840
  • Former smithy, now part of The Ship Inn
  • China Clay store – 1893
  • The Old Custom House – 1840
  • Warehouse occupied by Salt Cellar -1816
  • Mount Cottage, Holman’s Place
  • Red telephone box, Harbour Head
  • Lime Kiln -1816
  • Warehouse occupied by Porthleven Harbour and Dock Co Ltd -1814
  • 12 Chapel Terrace
  • Harbour Inn
  • Harbour walls including east & west wharfs, inner jetties and main pier
  • The Bickford Smith Institute
Grade II*
  • Methodist Church and forecourt wall, railings and gateway

The question is: should more buildings in Porthleven be given greater protection and listed? If so which ones? A further question is: would listing a building be fair on the currently owner? After all the owner could be maintaining that building in its traditional form, so they could argue that it is an unnecessary and financial burden on them. However, this building could be sold, and the next owner does not feel the same way.

Anyone can put forward a building, archaeological site, park, garden, battlefield or wreck site for designation. Equally, anyone can apply for the amendment or de-designation of an existing heritage asset.

Now the last question is should an individual, the town council, or Cornwall Council via some sort of consultation apply for any additions, or amendments to the listed building list? It would be great to hear any view you have on this subject even if you don’t live in Porthleven because the principle is the same to other areas.

To find out which buildings in your area are lists (or not) click HERE

 

Devon and Cornwall Police Commissioner Candidates: Any Cornish Ones?

On November 15th,  much of the UK will be going to the polls to vote for a Police Commissioner. Up to this point I have not given this subject a lot of though, but after seeing a display at a conference, I thought I should. So, what will the Police Commissioner (sorry, but every time I see Police Commissioner I think of Batman) do, and be responsible for?

At the Home Office website it explains simply the roles and responsibilities. In essence, the role will provide stronger and more transparent accountability of the police, PCCs will be elected by the public to hold chief constables and the force to account; effectively making the police answerable to the communities they serve (if you believe that).

So, who has thrown their names into the bag for this role? The Labour Party, have been quick of the mark and have already selected their candidate Nicky Williams, a Councillor from Plymouth. The Liberal Democrats have yet to confirm any candidates, even though a party member from Devon is ‘thinking’ of standing, but as an Independent. As for any other standalone Independent it is hard to tell if there will be many. This is party due to the cost to stand as a candidate. The initial deposit is £5,000, and then on top of that is the election costs. These won’t be cheap either.

For the Conservatives, they have at least five to choose from. This should be whittled down in the coming months by means of open primaries in Exeter, Plymouth, and West Cornwall. This list includes: Suzie Colley, Paul Biddle MBE, Alison Hernandez who are all from Devon. These are two candidates from Cornwall, these are former Royal Navy man Tony Hogg, and Cornwall Council’s one and only Lance Kennedy (though the rumour is he has not been selected in the run-off).

Out of all the ‘thinking’ or declared candidates only two live in Cornwall. It might be an interesting dilemma for the Cornish to find any interest in voting for a candidate who has no real connection or understanding of Cornwall. Could the remaining two parties who have yet to select a candidate, take the steps to select a Cornish based candidate to give them that edge? The Cornish connection is important to many in Cornwall. Then again. Devon does have nearly double the population of Cornwall and those in Devon might not feel happy with having a Commissioner who is from, or even based in Cornwall.

No doubt whoever is standing, we will be seeing the election campaign ramp-up in the coming months with the prize of political control of a police force. This is what scares me the most from the whole concept of an elected Police Commissioner. I have never thought politics and police mix well.

New Sticker to Show Customers Food Hygiene Standards in Food Outlets

Most people at some stage will wonder how good the food hygiene standards are in a restaurant, take away, or some other type of food establishment. Without asking to have a look around the kitchen you take it on trust, that the food prepared will not make you ill.

Now, you will be able to instantly find out because Cornwall Council in association with the Food Standards Agency to see the level of food hygiene at the premises.

For any premises that is awarded a mark of five, it will be good news. However, if it is lower, will this harm a business because people might take a rating of three or four as place to avoid. I guess time will tell on how the industry reacts to this new scheme.

Here is the Link to Cornwall Council’s blurb on the subject

The new sticker:

Will Cornwall Council Face More Cuts in 2014?

Today, I was attending a planning conference with many of my fellow Cornwall Councillors. This was post a ‘Peer Review’ on how Cornwall Council carries out the planning process. Basically a Peer Review is Councillors and officers from other authorities visit another authority to monitor and report on how certain functions are carried out by an authority.

You might now think I am about to talk about this review, but I am not. This is because it would be too early to discuss this because all the information, views and ideas from this conference needs to be collated, and then if necessary implemented.

The subject in which I will be talking about it the honestly from Kevin Lavery CEO of Cornwall Council. Backbenchers often complain about the lack of information coming out of the Cabinet and the fourth-floor. Today, Kevin Lavery shared his concerns on future cuts that all local authorities could face from Central Government in 2014.

I have heard rumours of this, but no one had said to me that this was of real concern. It turns out that Cornwall Council could expect up to 35% in cuts from the grant is receives from Central Government. For the 2012/13 period Cornwall receives around £264.71 million in grants from government. This is broken down further as: Formula Grant – £206.477 million and £58,594 million from a core government grant. On top of this £646.856 million is mostly from Council Tax.

This percentage if true is a staggering amount of money for Cornwall Council to lose. It will be extremely hard for this to be implemented because Cornwall Council has already had to face some pretty hard-cuts. There might be some mitigation against this because the current Government is going to allow local authorities to keep up to 50% of the NDR (Business Rates) collected. Currently all this money goes to the Government, who give a percentage back. Cornwall is lucky, as it roughly receives the same amount back as it collects. However, if Cornwall Council can only keep 50%, then is will see another reduction in funding from the Government.

Cornwall Council might have just weathered one financial storm, but it looks to be sailing head-on into a financial Hurricane.

 

Porthleven Waves: The Perfect Picture; or a Watery Death?

For the last few weeks, Porthleven has seen some really great waves. More astonishing is these waves have not happened in winter, but in summer. I like many people enjoy watching waves and awe at the sheer power of the sea. Even though I enjoy watching the waves, I do so with huge respect for the sea. In the past too many people have been lost to the seas off Porthleven. A few of these whilst watching the waves.

Friday saw more of these huge waves hit the coast of Porthleven. Like many others I stood there watching as each wave crashed upon the sea defences. What surprised and shocked me, is people where standing in places that I would only ever think about standing on with the tide out, and the sea calm.

These people must have left their brains somewhere else, or how else can you explain the sheer stupidity of their actions. They are not only putting their lives in danger, but also those of the Coastguards, RNLI and Royal Navy personnel who will attempt in almost any condition to save you.

Please, please think, or else the sea will kill you if you do not respect it.

Waves hitting Porthleven

Very stupid people watching waves at Porthleven

A fool watching the waves

The perfect picture, or a watery death?

 

Cornwall Council is not alone in investing in tobacco

Nearly a year ago I blogged about Cornwall Council’s investment via its pension fund in tobacco companies. This moral dilemma of is it right for a council to invest in tobacco is a difficult one. On one hand the council is often a lead in a campaign of healthy lifestyles and should lead by example, but it also has a duty to make sure people’s pensions are invested for the best.

Today, on the BBC website they are running a story on how much other council’s are investing in tobacco companies. These council’s have been highlighted because they are also the lead in Stop smoking campaigns. It will seem too many that these council are being preaching double standards. As on one hand they are saying, stop smoking, but still investing many millions into tobacco. Of course investing in tobacco is a profitable business as I blogged about  HERE .

My last figures showed Cornwall Council is investing just under £25 million in tobacco companies. However, that is only two percent of the total investment in the pension fund, but £25 million is still a large chunk of money. In the BBC report various east of England council’s have disclosed via the FOI Act their total investment. This amount to over £167 million with many investing the same amounts as Cornwall Council.

The largest investor in tobacco is Hertfordshire who invest roughly £44.6m. This works out as £40,270 per person. Cornwall’s population is roughly half that of Hertfordshire. Cambridgeshire who invest a similar amount (£25.3m) and is similar in size (600,400) in population as Cornwall invests £41.7k per head. For Cornwall, this investment would equal £45,45k per person.

The question is should a council invest in something that is harmful to health? Is the reasoning of a best return for any investment justification for investing?

Martin Dockrell, director of research and policy at Ash, has said in the BBC report:

“From 2013, local councils will have a responsibility for leading local efforts to reduce the burden of death and disease from smoking, yet many of them are the largest tobacco shareholders in the area.

Furthermore, if a council has some somewhat ethical investment policy, there could still be a loop-hole to still invest in tobacco. As according to Mr. Dockrell:

Ethical investment rules mean fund managers are permitted to say they will only “invest in tobacco when they can prove that there is no other investment that can match the value”.

I believe if a council is a lead in healthy lifestyles and health campaigns it should not be investing in products like tobacco. Sadly though, I doubt this will change because of the returns from investing in tobacco.

The Cost of a Burial in Cornwall

The cost of a burial is a subject no one likes to talk about, but no matter how uncomfortable the subject is, it still needs to be discussed. Like many services Cornwall Council inherited from the previous District Council, the cost of a burial varied from district to district.  A new policy was meant to be introduced in April. However, it was met with such outcry and to his credit, the Portfolio Holder pulled it to re-look at the concerns which were raised.

This rethink has now taken place after talking to Cornwall’s 112 funeral directors and memorial masons asking for their views on the fees. Also consulted were funeral directors, and two representatives from the industry were invited to a meeting of the Bereavement Services Advisory Group to share their concerns.

Out of these consultations and meetings, the policy has been amended. Of course, with any harmonisation some areas will see a rise in the cost of a funeral. It has often been said that a one-size-fits-all attitude does not work. However, on this subject, I believe it is right course of action. As it should not matter were you live in Cornwall, you should pay the same price if you live in Bude, or Penzance.

These are the costs post the implementation of this policy.

  • The purchase cost of the Exclusive Right of Burial (ERB) fee will be £500 (reduced from £750).
  • The ERB period will be 50 years (an increase from the originally proposed 30 years). At the end of the 50 years, the ERB can be extended in ten-year terms up to a maximum of 100 years. The fee for this will be a fifth of the ERB fee charged at the time.
  • The purchase cost of the ERB for a traditional grave will be the same as for a Lawn grave (£500 instead of £900).
  • Children’s funerals will be free up to and including 16 years of age. Where an adult size grave was required for a child’s burial either because of the size or the child or because subsequently the family wanted to bury an adult in the grave there will still be no charge. Subsequent adult burials would be charged at the appropriate full adult fee.
  • The increased fee for the hand digging of traditional graves will only be charged when it proves impossible for the grave to be dug by machinery. This will inevitably occur once the majority of a traditional area is already buried in when re-opening of graves are necessary as machinery cannot be used when surrounding graves have kerbs installed.
  • Following consultation with the contractors a reduction in the digging fee for cremation plots was obtained and this fee was reduced from £350 to £250.

The Portfolio Holder, Steve Double said in a briefing to Councillors

I hope Members will understand that we need to reflect the cost of the service, which includes digging and maintaining the plot. Given these figures, it is not fair that people living in some areas of Cornwall pay more than double that of others.  Unfortunately this is a legacy from the pre unitary authority days – in 2009 Cornwall Council inherited four very different sets of fees, depending on the subsidy from the district council concerned.  Now all residents will pay the same for services whether they live in west, mid or east Cornwall.

In the briefing notes it was mentioned that Cornwall Council continues to subsidise the maintenance and repair of 24 operational cemeteries, ten closed cemeteries, (cemeteries where there might be room for interments in existing graves or cremated remains plots but there are no full grave spaces left) and over 50 closed Church of England churchyards.

Cornwall Council’s Democratic Services Finalist in the MJ Awards

Awards might not be everyone’s cup of tea, and at times it seems there is an award for opening a door. But one set of awards is worthy of mentioning because the finalist of this award are in many parts the forgotten heroes of any authority. I know every gog in local government is important, I just think this department is often overlooked for any type of recognition, or pat on the back.

The department in question is Democratic Services and this department is one of the finalist in the MJ Awards. I can almost hear people saying ‘and they do what?’  I described them when I was asked to a video on the service, the engine of Cornwall Council and more than posh admin. Every council has a democratic service, but in smaller authorities like town and parish council’s they are more commonly known as a town or parish clerk.

At Cornwall Council this group of people has to deal with 123 members all with different needs and complaints. This is not an easy job to do, especially if you throw in politics. However, every man-jack-of-them carries out this duty in a neutral and efficient manner. They do not just do this, but help set agenda’s, make sure reports are correct, and generally get all the information from the whole council to the Councillors (these are just some of their functions). Without them, it would be chaos. I know they sure make my life a lot easier, and I am thankful they are they with some great support.

To make the final is a worthy achievement, to win it would be the icing on the cake. Cornwall Council faces strong competition from other authorities. These include: Brighton & Hove City Council, Enfield Council, Kirkless Council and South Cambridgeshire District Council. Not to take away the achievement  from the other short-listed finalist, but Cornwall Council will I hope win.  Here is the link to the award criteria.

Cornwall Council is also a finalist  in another category: Delivering Better Outcomes – Link.  The announcement who has won any of the awards will be made on the 21st June 2012.

Good luck!

 

 

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