2012, when we became proud to be British

As 2012 draws to a close, and we look to start 2013 after the Mayan end-of-the-world prophecy non-event, I will if I can without boring you, look back on 2012. Not just from a council prospective, but as a nation, too. Let’s start off with Cornwall Council and my role within that organisation.

Looking back on the 229 blog posts I have written over the last 12 months, it is hard to know where to start without just repeated all the previous posts, but there have been many important and far-reaching events will impact on 2013 as well. The obvious one is the JV, and how back-bench Councillors took back (if they ever had) control of the council in a feat many would have said was impossible, or could not be done. This has resulted in a council that is more cooperative between the different faction, and the Cabinet, the once bane of many, is now very aware that they are not immune to their actions. The JV is not the dead-duck it should be, but the casualty of not taking the whole elected membership along with the proposals has cost one Leader and now a CEO. That is surely a lesson for all councils to heed.

You may not believe this, but Cornwall Council is seen by many other councils as a leader in Social Media. Again like in 2011, the staff and Councillors have shown how Social Media can be used to engage with the public. Often this hard-work goes unnoticed as something just appears, or there is a tweak, but there is a lot of clever stuff happening, and more is set for 2013. I am certainly impressed, and look forward to more during the following year.

It has not all gone the Councils way, as the implementation of the new waste contract was a large black mark against the council’s reputation. Again lesson have to be learnt, because if a council cannot do the basics right, then it does not bear thinking about on more complex issues.  The Incinerator issue still rumbles on, and is looking likely to be an issue for the next council to deal with. Again the council reputation has, and is still taking a battering on this issue. I hope it is resolved one way or another and soon.

As for other issues, who would have thought prayers would have been an issue, not just at Cornwall Council, but in all councils. Thankfully, it resolved itself, but could have been a lot worse; however we did spend far too much time on this issue. Sadly, Cornwall is still without a County stadium, it deserves one, and I hope something can be achieved in 2013.

For Britain we hosted the Olympics. I have to admit, I was negative to the whole concept and the sheer expense of it all. I also failed to see the importance of the Olympic Torch and its impact on Cornwall’s communities. Seeing the plane land at RNAS Culdrose and the many thousands of people lining the streets in Helston together as a whole community was a sight to behold. It was simply magic, and I am glad I made the effort to be there witnessing a great event.

As for the Olympics themselves, I was addicted to it. The opening ceremony of ‘Good Evening Mr Bond’ right up to the closing ceremony was totally amazing. The whole nation got right behind it, even though the country was (and still is) in a difficult economic situation. In fact the nation as a whole became proud to be British again and showed the world just how quirky and resilient we as a nation are. I believe Britain has struggled with itself in the post-empire world, and many nations looked upon us with pity, as we were struggling to find ourselves in the world. The Olympics have changed that, and it is a great feeling to be British and proud. As it showed we can still pull off something despite the odds.

And then there was the Queens Jubilee Celebration. It was great to see so many communities organising and holding events despite the awful weather. Like the Olympics a bit of jingoistic celebrations of  flag waving brought cheer to the country. I know not everyone is a fan of the Royals, but even some of the die-hard republicans I know could not help but join in with some of the community events being held. Like the Olympics, it was a pause from the negativity and economic hardship.

As for 2013, it is going to be a tough year financially for the council. The less than favourable settlement from Central Government of the formula grant is going to hurt. We are also in an election year. I will be standing, and I hope I am successful. But in the meantime, there is still a job to do and January will be all about budgets and the Council Tax for 2013/14.

As for my readers, thank you, keep reading and commenting. Taking the time to read what I write is really appreciated and I hope it continues in 2013. So this is my last post for 2012 and I will see you on the other-side.

Happy New Year, and spare a thought for those who are in foreign lands serving their Country. Many are my former colleagues and friends.

Kevin Lavery is the new CEO for Wellington Council

In an article the Mayor of Wellington City Council has confirmed Kevin Lavery will be the new CEO of the city council.

Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown has confirmed the appointment of Kevin Lavery as the new Chief Executive of Wellington City Council. She adds that Dr Lavery found the rugged coastline of Wellington attractive – “and with a Doctorate in Urban and Regional Studies he is also relishing the challenges of running a council in a cosmopolitan capital city”.

Dr Lavery has been appointed for five years with an annual salary
package of $400,000.

Cornwall Council has now confirmed this to Councillors and staff by a message from Kevin Lavery:

“this was a very difficult decision to make as I have thoroughly enjoyed my time as the Chief Executive of Cornwall Council and am sorry to be leaving the authority and Cornwall.

“When I was appointed in November 2008, the new unitary Council was facing a number of challenges. I said then that I wanted to build a distinctive Council that reflected Cornwall’s proud heritage and culture. A Council that was delivering high quality services and great value for money and which was meeting the needs of local residents.

“Four years later I am proud to say that, despite the additional challenges created by the financial situation, we are well on the way to achieving this aim and I am confident that we have the right foundations in place to create a bright future for the Council and for Cornwall.

“I will be taking up my new role at the end of March and over the next few weeks will be working with Members and the leadership team to make the necessary arrangements for the transition.

So that’s that then

RCHT pulls out of Cornwall Councils JV?

What with the story of Kevin Lavery seeking his fortune in the antipodes, the weather and the lead up to the festive holidays, an announcement from RCHT on the Joint Venture could have gone unnoticed. The RCHT has been sitting on its hands (and I do not blame them) whilst Cornwall Council and its Councillors finished off its coup d’etat and then decide which option it feels is right to enter into.

Now in a letter, the RCHT has made a decision:

RCHT letter

RCHT letter

The leads on to the question of what happens now for the council and the other partners? I am hearing calls from various corners for the whole deal to be scraped because the option the council decided on (6e) is in fact very different from the original tender document. So it could be said the whole process should be re-tendered.

Now lets wait for the reaction from Cornwall Council’s pro-jv gang

Kevin Lavery: should I stay, or should I go?

Well it is now official, Kevin Lavery has been offered the job as CEO of Wellington City Council in New Zealand. Though as yet, he has not accepted that position. So that clears up the point of whether the story being true. In a statement from Cornwall Council the CEO say’s:

“I have enjoyed my time as the Chief Executive of Cornwall Council and will be sorry to leave the authority and Cornwall” he said. “I now need to consider the terms of the offer very carefully and discuss this with my family before making a final decision”.

“I will be spending the next few days considering this offer and hope to make an announcement early next week.

So what now? That is a difficult question to answer for a few reasons. The first one is if he goes, how much time would he have (or need) to serve out before he is released from his contract as the new job starts in March 2013. There are calls for him to serve out his full notice period and no golden goodbyes. Though for the latter, I would think there would be none, as he is leaving on his terms.

However, if he does not take the job how what then? Well for me, and I am sorry to say this, but I think his position is now untenable due to him seeking employment elsewhere and that being public.  Having the most senior council officer actively seeking employment elsewhere is not good for the stability of the council. Having confidence in the CEO is a must, but more so when 2013 is likely to be a difficult period what with the harsh grant cuts from central Government. If that officer is looking elsewhere, how can we be sure we are not going to be left in the lurch if that perfect job comes along?

At least with the upcoming Christmas period people have time to reflect on what to do next. For the council it needs to decide if it wants to be replaced the CEO, as under new rules a council does not have to have one, or it could share one. After all the Isles of Scilly could soon have a vacant position as well.

I will say, Kevin is a good officer, I might not have always agreed with some of his views, like outsourcing, but he has managed to turn seven authorities into one. That is no mean feat, and that should be recognised.

 

Is Cornwall Council’s CEO Kevin Lavery Leaving?

The internet is great, it really makes the world smaller, as just look at the startling news from New Zealand via the Dominion Post. In the article, it says Kevin Lavery is taking up the role of Wellington City Council. You might think it is a different Kevin, but it also lists in the article Cornwall Council (yes there is another Cornwall Council in Canada).

Now if this is true (which I believe it is) who knew at Cornwall Council and when were Councillors going to be told? I expect a few email/phone calls will be received in the next few hours/days. I for one will be looking forward to the answers.

The other question that needs answering is why is he leaving? Is it because he did not get the full-JV? or something else, like the leadership change? Maybe the council will look at point 24 from Mr Pickles’ (not) helpful guide

Update: Looks like the press office at Cornwall Council did not know either, as they are trying to clarify if this is actually true from the man himself.

50 ways to save money written for a five year old

If it was not bad enough having to deal with the proposed cut in funding from Government, the department which local government comes under has published a condescending document which tells councils how to save money. It is titled 50 ways to save money.  However it is missing one vital point, and could have saved time and money on the other 49 to produce. That simple one is do not waste our money in producing  (point 35) such an insulting document.

I would say all local authorities are working out ways to save money while keeping services going. They do not need documents like this to tell them how. It is like telling an English literary Don how to read a book. From Cornwall Council’s point, it has looked at and implemented, or is looking at least 49 of the 50 points. They only point the council has not looked at as far as I am aware is, points 24, scraping the CEO.

I am sure MAGA will not be pleased to see point 34: stop translating documents into foreign languages: only publish documents in English. Though the DCLG could take a leaf out of its own book with point 35: reduce the number of publications and media monitoring.

Anyway, have a read and see if you can come up with any other points you think should be included. I will sent them to the DCLG for the publications second edition!

Councillor Achievement Award 2013 – Do you know someone?

cllr-awards-banner_original

I have decided to post these details not as a shameless plug,  but to highlight this award as most people will have no idea these awards actually exist. These awards not only cover those Councillors who are elected to District and County positions, but the often unsung heroes of local government, Town and Parish Councillors.

So know of anyone that should be nominated look at the categories and if you can spare five minutes and feel someone is worthy, please submit an application. You have until January 18th.

“The C’llr Achievement Awards are the only national ceremony which celebrates the contributions of councillors from across the political spectrum. Now in their fourth year, the Awards promise to be even bigger and better than before. The Rt Hon Eric Pickles MP, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, has been confirmed as the keynote speaker at the 2013 Awards Ceremony.

So if you know an outstanding councillor who has made a positive impact to their community, we want to hear from you! This year the following 11 awards will be up for grabs at the 2013 ceremony:

Of particular interest is the Bruce-Lockhart Member Scholarship supported by Kent, Essex, and East Sussex councils. The winner of this Award will be presented with a £10,000 bursary to fund a project that will help advance local government within the UK”.

To make a nomination, please complete our nomination form or the Bruce Lockhart Scholarship application formFor more information on the Awards and the application process, please go to our website: http://www.lgiu.org.uk/cllrawards/

Mr Pickles is the pot calling the kettle black

The recent decision by Cornwall Council’s Cabinet to introduce a policy for those in receipt of the Council Tax benefit, or as it is known under its new name Localised Council Tax Support,  might (final decision in Jan) find themselves being required to pay 30% of the Council Tax, as the maximum support given will be 70%.

This has not gone down well with people who are very worried on how to find this extra money. It does seem rather strange that the Cabinet is hitting those more in need. However, I will not be going into detail on the Cabinets recommendations, as I will get the chance to have my say and more importantly, vote in January when the full council will vote on this, and the budget in full.

What I will be talking about is the hypocrisy of the Secretary of State for Local Government, the Rt Hon Mr Pickles MP, who criticises councils in the Western Morning News that have or are thinking of going down this path.

For councils like Cornwall Council, the devolution of this function comes with a 12.5% reduction in budget. That is £6 million that Cornwall Council has to find.   If it was not for his Government, and the off-loading of this down to local councils, with less money, councils would not have to make these difficult decisions.

You cannot have it both ways Mr Pickles as at least give councils fair funding when you hand down functions to Local Authorities. Though for Cornwall Council to have greater sympathy, it also needs to hand down a fair budget with the services it is off-loading to town and parish councils. I am not seeing a lot of this actually happening.

I also blogged about this back in July and October.

 

Tourism and its impact on Cornwall’s Economy

To most people, they see the benefits of tourism. It contributes to a large part of Cornwall’s economy, as without it, things would be dire indeed. But just what is the impact with or without tourism; how much money does tourism help contribute to the Cornish economy?

On the job front, the tourism industry employs 25% of all employment in Cornwall. That is 60,921 jobs; which is made up of 45,017 FTE jobs and 15,904 non-FTE jobs. In comparison with our closest neighbours, the FTE jobs are: Devon 12% – 46,4532; Dorset 12% – 29,800 and Somerset 9% – 23,444.

This data is further broken down by the former District Council as:

  • Kerrier – FTE  jobs: 4,294 – actual 5,891 – 15% of all employment
  • Caradon – FTE jobs: 4,833 – actual 6,827 -20% of all employment
  • Carrick – FTE jobs: 5,426 – actual 7,433 – 14% of all employment
  • North Cornwall – FTE jobs: 7,782 – actual 10,917 – 29% of all employment
  • Penwith – FTE jobs – 5,898 – actual 8,133 – 31% of all employment
  • Restormel – FTE jobs 8,674 – actual 11,951 – 23% of all employment

With what is the actual amount of money that is put into the Cornish economy? Well it is not a small amount; as the total amount is £1,855,422,000.

This is made up from domestic £1,212,999,000 and overseas £129,990,000 on accommodation type; day trips – £468,336,000; friends and relatives – £35,724,000 and second home/holiday accommodation £8,373,000. This makes the £1.8 billion.

This spend can be broken down further by the amount spent by purpose: holiday tourist is £1,126,447,000; business £34,809,000 and visits to friends and families £43,500,000. For Overseas it is: holiday £90,145,000; business £19,863,000 and visits to friends and family £10,553,000.

Second homes and boats make a contribution, too. For boats it is £4,934,000 and second homes, it is £4,439,000. The spend on second homes includes maintenance, and replacement of furniture and fixtures. For boats, it covers berthing charging, servicing and maintenance.

For the South West region as a whole, the spend is:

  • Accommodation – £1,646,962,000 (18%)
  • Shopping – £2,339,775,000 (26%)
  • Food and Drink – £2,847,358,000 (31%)
  • Attractions £984,184,000 (11%)
  • Travel – £1,284,980,000 (14%)

This makes a total of £9,103,257,000. That is a huge amount of money from tourism.

However, there is a danger with Cornwall and the South West relying too much on tourism. As if there is a massive change, from either domestic and overseas competition, or the poor weather that has inflicted itself on us for the past few years. As a shift in people visiting would leave a very big hole in the Cornish and regions economy.

So what is the answer? More industry? If so, how do we as a county attract industrial businesses down? As from my experience sitting on Strategic Planning we receive few of this application type. It is either housing developments, supermarkets or renewable energy type applications. Not many jobs from renewable energy is there?

Furthermore, there has been this chicken and egg scenario of do you build houses to attract the business, or business first than housing? A balance of both would be right, but that is not happening. It has been made worse by recent changes to planning policy and the reliance on having to have a Local Plan. As without one, developers are using this against the council by submitting plans and claiming lack of Local Plan and/or no five-year land supply.

It is going to be interesting to see what 2013 brings

Tourism data has been taken from Visit Cornwall’s report – Value of Tourism 2011

Cornwall Council has (not) got Talent – Children in Need 2012

The annual lets look even more silly than normal took place on Tuesday in guise of Cornwall Council has (NOT) Talent competition that helps raise a little money for the worth cause of  Children in Need. This was going to take place on November 15th, but it was rescheduled due to clashing with the Police Commissioner Election.

As normal, Councillors and Democratic Services put in an act. This is the fourth year we have, and last year (and quite rightly so) we won, yes really we won! This year, as it was close to Christmas, we decided to do a ‘School Nativity’.  Yes, I know you are probably thinkings please do not put up any pictures, as I cannot afford that much therapy.

The stage was set, and it was Lights, Camera and Action!

Councillor and Democratic Services do the Nativity for Children in Need

Councillor and Democratic Services do the Nativity for Children in Need

The deputy leader of MK threads the boards

The deputy leader of MK, Cllr Andrew Long threads the boards as The Donkey

The leaders of Cornwall Council's Lib Dems, MK and Indi Group show off their acting skills

The leaders of Cornwall Council’s Lib Dems, MK and Indi Group show off their acting skills as the three wise men
left to right: Cllrs John Wood, Dick Cole and Jeremy Rowe

 

Mary (Cllr Duffin) and Joseph

Mary (Cllr Duffin) and Joseph

The cast look on in amazement on my dancing!

The cast look on in amazement at my dancing!

And lastly, me as Gabriel the Narrator!

Me as Gabriel the Narrator

Me as Gabriel the Narrator

 

I have to say well done to all the people who took part that could sing or tell jokes. It was great to see so many people enter into the spirit of things giving up their own time to either take part or watch. I do have other pictures, but I am going going to publish them as they are more use as bargaining chips and ransoms!

Finally, I am please to say no animals or Councillors were harmed in this or any other performance.

If you are brave and want reminding, here are previous years: 2011  and 2010 and 2009

 

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