The Last Days of the Mo

Yes it is that time, and after a month of growing the ‘tache for Movember, here is the final specimen (don’t look if you are faint-hearted).  It was good to see so many men take part this year; as it was like being transported back to the 1970’s with so many moustaches on show. More so at the various council buildings I have been to in the last month. There are really some fantastic (yes RW including yours) attempts!

You can still (please) donate by clicking HERE. The Cornwall Council Misfits which includes Scott Mann and Richard Fedorowicz has so far raised £307. Which is fantastic news and I hope we will increase this if some more very kind people donate in the next few days. Thank you to all who have donated to this worthy cause.

Now for the scary pictures!

The last day of the Mo




Census 2011: Age Groups Living in Cornwall

The ONS has released more data from the 2011 Census. This latest batch of information is on the population numbers per Local Authority. As with anything published by the ONS, it goes into great detail. However I will cover just the breakdown on the age groups in Cornwall.

The number of permanent residents in Cornwall as per the 2011 Census is 532,273. Of which are:

  • Under 19 – 115,211 (21%)
  • 20-29: 57,730 (10.8%)
  • 30-39: 56,978 (10.7%)
  • 40-49: 75,106 (14.1%)
  • 50-59: 74,396 (13.9%)
  • 60-70: 77,835 (14.6%)
  • Over 70: 80,014 (15%.6)
  • 90 or over: 5,510 (1.03%)

It is interesting to see that near 50% (49.5%) of Cornwall’s population is of working age, with the remaining 50% either at 30% (29.2%) at state pensionable age*, or under 19.

For the Cornwall Council electoral Division of Porthleven and Helston South the number of residents is 4,024 (0.75% of Cornwall’s population) and the age breakdown is:

  • Under 19: 926
  • 20-29: 361
  • 30-39: 434
  • 40-49: 598
  • 50-59: 499
  • 60-70: 585
  • Over 70: 624

For the other Helston Divisions:

Helston North:

  • Under 19: 1,611
  • 20-29: 678
  • 30-39: 857
  • 40-49: 910
  • 50-59: 619
  • 60-70: 556
  • Over 70: 582

 Total 5,813 (1.09%)

Helston Central:

  • Under 19: 953
  • 20-29: 539
  • 30-39: 489
  • 40-49: 610
  • 50-59: 532
  • 60-70: 558
  • Over 70: 719
Total 4,400 (0.82%)

* Yes I know not everyone at 60 retires

Electoral Commission do the numbers on Police Commissioner Elections

Those clever people at the Electoral Commission have crunched the numbers behind the recent Police Commissioner Elections. It makes very sad reading because of the number of valid votes is lower than first thought.

The actual Ballot box turnout (which includes votes rejected at the count) was 15.1%. This is the total number of valid votes plus rejected votes at the count. This was 5,491,038 actual votes. Now if you take out the rejected votes, the percentage falls to 14.7%. This means the number of valid votes was 5,335,143.

The total number of rejected* votes was 155,895 or 2.8% of votes. That is a lot of rejected votes in an election and give weight to those ballot papers that were spoilt on purpose. Like the 6,000 odd in Cornwall.

Let’s hope the Government learns the lessons from this Election, as it was very poorly supported not just by the public, but by Government resources too.

*Ballots can be rejected at the count for the following reasons: want of an official mark; voting for more than one candidate as to the first preference vote; writing or mark by which the voter could be identified; unmarked as to the first preference vote and void for uncertainty (as to the first preference vote).

JV or nothing: well, apart from the dozen other options

In the past, Councillors have been told there is no alternative to the thick JV, or as it is more known to the layman “outsourcing”. However, on Monday, a briefing was held on at least a dozen alternatives to handing over so many council service to a private company.

The options can be broken down into three types; public sector, strategic partnership and outsourcing. Though, the last two options are to a point the same, just varying levels of what is handed over to a private ‘partner’. It is interesting to note, there is an option in the thick JV of Libraries and One Stop Shops not being included, and staff being on secondment rather than, as is currently proposed, being transferred to BT.

The in-house option(s) fall into the following categories: a new wholly owned public company, Cornwall public sector shared services and a employee mutual. As part of the briefings, three Heads of Services (HoS), IT, Shared Services and Procurement gave their views on the in-house options and the amount of money that could be saved.

All three HoS said saving could happen with the in-house option. For IT, the savings over three years would amount to half of the target savings of 20%. Councillors were told this would include some job losses (roughly 10%), but these would be non-compulsory and would be achieved by natural ways like retirement etc.

Those services that are covered within shared services (OSS, call centre, Libraries etc) have identified 10% savings for the 2013/14 period for an in-house option. This equates to roughly £600,000. The HoS did say if more savings are required, difficult choices would have to be made, especially as 90% of this services cost are staff.

In procurement, again savings could be made, but it would also need investment to make sure those savings can be realised. This investment would also be a requirement for shared services and IT and this money would have to come from capital reserves.

At face value I reckon at least if not more (with more work) 50% of target savings could be made with the in-house options. If more work was done, I am sure more could be found without a drop in service to the public, or wholesale job losses. Surely that is better for staff and the public to have council controlled services, rather than relying on a contract between a private company and the council to make sure that service agreement is delivered?

However, even with the most robust contracts, there is always a very clever lawyer who finds the loophole which in most cases benefits the private sector, rather than a Government or council. History is full of public/private sector deals that have gone wrong, and it is the private company that comes out of it smelling of roses. Furthermore, from my investigations, I reckon as least 70% of shared services deals have failed to some point. Will Cornwall be lucky and be in the 30% success rate? Is that risk worth taking with tax payers money?

The feeling today that there still is not enough information, and I believe another briefing will take place before the December 11th meeting where this subject will be decided once and for all.

Cornwall Council given £1.56 Million to help recycle

The Government has awarded Cornwall Council £1.56 million that will enable the council to collected mixed plastics as part of the kerb-side recycling collection. This is great news, as from April (estimated start date) 2013 all plastics apart from Tetra packs can now be recycled.

It is estimated implementation of this will result in an extra 9000 tonnes of recycling collected. Furthermore, it not only that kerb-side that will see an improvement, as the HWRC (dumps) will be able to take more items that can be better recycled.

Sadly Tetra packs will not be included, as it is not cost-effective to do so, especially as those packs have to be shipped to Sweden to be recycled!

When is a job not a job?

When is a job not a job? That might seem a strange question, however it is an important one when it comes to the actual number of jobs that have been ‘guaranteed’ as part of the support services proposals. Previously, those supporters of outsourcing have made a song and dance on the many extra jobs that will be created if the JV goes through. Worryingly, it now turns out that 181 of these so-called new jobs have actually come from those jobs that have come from redeployment.

This point was picked up by the Single Issue Panel and top marks should go to the panel for spotting this. I am told these jobs will now not be part of the guaranteed jobs. This is good news, but you cannot help but think it was all part of the plan in the first place. Furthermore, are there any other jobs coming from redeployment, or relocation that have been counted as new jobs that have yet been exposed? It really makes you wonder.

Another discrepancy is the amount of money that is included as part procurement. The council say it is £200 million, but BT have figures of £360 million. This point was sort of clarified today, with the man brought in to help the council in this deal saying BT would accept the council’s figure, but the figure could only go so low, or else the deal would not be worth entering into. Which sort of proves the point of the procurement side of the deal is the real target of BT.

These points and others were raised at Fridays SIP meeting. On Monday, Councillors will be briefed on the alternative plans, which is a little strange, as you would think the SIP would have had chance to compare in detail these alternatives against the BT offer. Then again, it was highlighted at the SIP meeting that the in-house JV (alternative to outsourcing) the savings could in fact be much better than first thought.

The Single Issue Panel Releases its Third Report on the Support Services Proposals

The Single Issue Panel (SIP) has just published its third and probably final report before the entire Council decides to either issue the Invite to Tender (IiT) and outsource many council functions and departments to a private company, or to say no once and for all.

Congratulations should go to Dave Biggs, the panel’s Chairman, and the rest of the panel for their hard work in putting this report together. As expected, the report gives a honest appraisal of the deal as best it good. Even though a great deal of information was not made available to the panel as part process.

A fundamental flaw to the process and I believe has hindered the SIP’s work is the lack of detailed business case on how the actual savings this deal would bring. The report highlights this (page 18) because the SIP has only been able to make observations on some of the figures.

Another flaw, is the lack of detail on alternative models which the full council wanted looking at. The SIP has not seen these alternatives apart from an early estimate of an in-house option. I firmly believe the SIP should have been able to scrutinise these alternative methods and compare them with the bid from BT. This could have been done, but certain sections of the Council have instead pushed for the council to decide in December, and not in the first few months of new year. Like I and many of my fellow Councillors want.

Friday’s meeting of the SIP is going to be interesting as the panel members might have to decide with the evidence provided if they support the BT deal, or it should not be progressed.

Complaint or problem that needs reporting to Cornwall Council?

Missed rubbish collection; neighbours Leylandii too high; has a pot hole suddenly appeared in your street? Ever been frustrated by trying to contact, or find the right forms to make a complaint to the Council? The solution is at hand as Cornwall Council have put all the forms in one online area for you to report what ever issue you have.

This can be done either by clicking on the LINK to Cornwall Council’s website. Or if you use Facebook, you can find the Report it page via the council’s Facebook page, or click on this LINK, which takes you straight to the page.

I very much welcome this, as it is often hard to find which form you need to report something

Great News for Car Parking Charges

You might have to pinch yourself, but something strange happened at Cornwall Council’s Cabinet meeting today. After a lengthy debate, the majority of Cabinet Councillors voted and supported the Parking Panel’s recommendations to freeze car parking charges for 2013/14. Just to repeat in case you might have misread, freeze car parking charges.

This will no doubt be welcomed by the public and traders. It is the first time in the authorities history, that car parking charges have been frozen. Credit should be given to those Cabinet members who took the brave and bold decision to go against the recommendations of an 3.2% increase across the board and go for the zero increase. However, not all Cabinet members voted in favour, as four voted for the increase.

The Parking Panel has long argued that just adding a figure on to a budget predictions is not the most sensible way to go in raising revenue. As that budget target has yet to have been reached, and is predicted for a shortfall of £1.6m for the year 2012/13. This freeze will allow a better picture of how car parking is working (or not working) in areas. This has been hard to do before, as year each year a percentage has been added, which has made it difficult to monitor how well the service is functioning.

I also welcome Bert Biscoe, the Portfolio Holder which car parking comes under, has tasked the panel answer the question of is car parking revenue a business or service. The panel has wanted to get to grips with this question, but has been thwarted until now.

So congratulations to the Cabinet for approving a zero rise in car parking charges for next year.

The End of Second Home Council Tax Discount in Cornwall

Cornwall Council’s Cabinet is set to introduce large-scale changes (if fully approved) to certain areas of Council Tax discount. It is recommended to stop the second home discount, currently set at 10%; change the discount on an empty property, and introduce a premium charge for those dwelling that have been left vacant for long periods.

I am sure the first change of ending the second home discount will be welcomed. It is a bone of contention with permanent residents that this discount is still available.  It used to be up to 50%, but this was changed a few years ago to 10%. Now from 2013, there will be no discount. With the removal of this discount, Cornwall Council will receive an extra £1.6 million in Council Tax revenue. I very much welcome this change, though, I have one small concern. This concern is how does the council keep a simple track on the number of second homes in an area? The discount was a good way of knowing this. With the removal of the discount, it will be a lot harder to track the number of second homes in an area.

Another big change is on the Council Tax discount for an empty dwelling. It is proposed that if the dwelling is undergoing major repair/renovation, the owner will get a Council Tax discount of 50% for the first year only. They will then have to pay the full amount. This is a change from an exemption for one year, and then the full amount. If a house if not undergoing repairs, and is just empty, a discount of 100% will be given for the first month only, thereafter the full council tax will be applied.

With so many long-term empty dwellings in Cornwall, the council is set to introduce a levy, or premium for those dwelling that are left long-term empty. This will be an extra 50% change. So if a dwelling is vacant for over 2 years, the owner will be required to pay 150% of the Council Tax. It is hoped this will encourage owners of these long-term empty dwellings to bring them back into use.

I believe the council is taking the right steps in these proposals and I hope the Cabinet will adopt them this Wednesday. These changes will be in effect from 2013/14 tax year. The full report is HERE. The meeting is webcast from 10am via the Cornwall Council website.

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