The Government’s Spending Review: Education

In the second blog post on the Government’s Spending Review, I thought I would cover the educational elements of the review. I do have to point out must of the detail has not been released, and will only know of the impact of the headlines when these details are made public in the next month or so.

The Department for Education (DfE) ‘central children’s services budget’ will be protected at over £300m per year ‘to help drive up social care workforce standards to improve support for vulnerable children’.

An increase of £1bn in funding per year by 2019-20 to support the extension of free childcare places for 2, 3 and 4 year-olds will be made available.

Free childcare for working parents of 3-4 year olds will be doubled from 15 to 30 hours per week from September 2017. This is restricted to families with an upper income limit of £100,000 and a minimum weekly income level per parent equivalent to 16 hours.

As for capital funding for new school places in primary and secondary schools, the Government has said in the Spending Review, £23bn will be made available over the period to support the creation of 600,000 school places, the opening of 500 new free schools, and the rebuilding and refurbishing over 500 schools. In Cornwall, we are providing new school places in our recently approved strategy, but this only takes up to the 2017/18 period. I really hope some of the £23bn will come to Cornwall.

Furthermore, capital funding of at least £50m will be made available to create additional places in nurseries.

In the Spending Review, it highlights its aim in addressing essential maintenance needs. This point is interesting, as to date, the Government has not addressed this area. for example Cornwall looking at least a £90m maintance backlog, but only having £5m/£6m to try to tackle the backlog.

Over £300m a year will be made available to increase the average hourly rate paid to childcare providers. Universal Infant School Meal funding is also set to stay.

The Government said they will protect the core schools budget in real terms enabling the per-pupil rate for the Dedicated Schools Grant to be protected in cash terms and the pupil premium will be maintained at current rates. Thought the latter does not take into consideration of inflation.

A worry is the announcement that the Education Services Grant will be reduced by around £600m, including phasing out the additional funding schools receive through the grant.

It is no surprise to see the Government re-affirm it aims of having no local authority schools and the removal – as yet unknown – statutory duties on local authorities in relation to schools. For the first-time there has been a clear message to Sixth Form Colleges who will be able to become academies, allowing them to recover their non-business VAT costs. No doubt in the first phase it will be to encourage, but in reality, they will have no choice but to convert.

The current national base rate per student for 16 to 19 year olds in school sixth forms, sixth form colleges and further education colleges will be protected in cash terms for the Spending Review period. Yet, this is after funding cuts in this sector have already been implemented, like for Sixth Forms where they saw a reduction in funding of £800 per pupil.

A new funding system for schools will be introduced from 2017-18. A detailed consultation on the specifics of the proposed new system will be published in early 2016. It is about time the Government addressed this, as I have highlighted on this blog before the huge differences in funding between local authorities.  This new national funding formula will include elements for schools, high needs and early years.



The Government’s Spending Review: the detail behind the spin for the social care precept and business rates

On Wednesday, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, gave the Government’s Spend Review for the next four years (2016-17 to 2019-20 ). It had four objectives: to develop an integrated health and care system, spread economic growth through a devolution revolution, address social failures in order to extend opportunity, and protect national security.

There were many parts to the review and not all apparent in the headlines and spin. Those in Local Government circles were very worried that the axe would again fall on them. The last few years have been brutal for this sector, with services reducing or stopping all together due to the cuts in funding. So there was a lot of nervousness on the impact of the review for services Cornwall Council provides. In this blog post, I will cover the social care precept, funding and business rates.

The Chancellor said there would be a new Social Care ‘precept’ which allows Councils responsible for Adult Social Care to increase Council Tax by a further 2% above the current (2%) referendum threshold. If this was implemented for Cornwall this would generate additional revenue of around £4.7m per annum and would add £25.88 per year to the Band D charge (on top of the already proposed £25.49 increase at 1.97%).

My issue with this new precept is social care is not only about adults! Social care also includes lots of children related services. So why didn’t the Chancellor just say social care, and then allows Council’s to decide how to spend this money. I can tell you children’s services are under huge pressure with reduced budget and increased demand. Furthermore, if you do not address issues early on in a childs live, the reality is it will cost you far far more as they get older.

The skeptic in me things the Government has again thrown a hospital pass to local authorities by giving this new precept powers, whilst at the same time reduce grant funding to local authorities. So when a service is at breaking point, the Government can say ‘but we gave local authorities the powers to fund these services’ but knowing really they cut the original funding. Sneaky ‘persons of disputed parenthood.’

Which brings me on to local government spending. The Chancellor confirmed that the Revenue Support Grant (RSG) will be phased out entirely by 2019-20. There will  be a consultation ‘shortly’ on changes to the local government finance system to ‘rebalance support including to those authorities with social care responsibilities’. Currently, the Council receives £174.25m as part of its RSG

This consultation will ‘pave the way’ for the implementation of 100% business rate retention’ and will assess the main income streams available to local government, including council tax and business rates. In addition it will consider the necessary responsibility transfers to maintain fiscal neutrality. In more simpler words, we in local government are going to get less.

Cornwall Council receives as part of its current budget £82.3m in business rate receipts. So if the government wants to local authorities to have fiscal neutrality with the removal of the RSG and Cornwall Council keeping 100% of the business rates, we need to make sure the actual amounts add up because I cannot see where the £88,55m is going to come from if Cornwall Council is going to remain at the same levels of funding.

Local authorities can also lower business rates, but they cannot raise them over a certain threshold unless there is a directly elected mayor. I believe this to be 2%.

I also have to laugh at the comment in the spending review on Councils will be ‘encouraged’ to draw on their reserves to manage change. How that will be put in place is uncertain. But reserves are already being used, and if you spend all your reserves, you have nothing left if something goes wrong.

So far, I cannot see many positives for Cornwall Council in this spending review. Post to come will be on the other aspects of the Spending Review.

Cornwall Council votes to approve motion to lower the voting age to 16

Today was the day when after months of work, the full membership of Cornwall Council got to vote on the merits of lowering the voting age to 16. It has been a bumpy ride for this, with the PAC Committee not endorsing the motion when it came to them to debate. However, as this motion was to the full membership, as they have the final say.

I have been a long-time supporter of lowering the voting age from the present 18 years old. It seemed crazy that I was able to serve my Country and actually go into a war zone before I could vote.

In 2014 there were 12,846 young people aged 16 and 17 years old in Cornwall. Nationally, there are 1.5 million 16 and 17 year olds.

Lately, there has been a lot of debate nationally about lowering the voting age, including the House of Lords who have recently voted in favour of lowering the age in time for the European Referendum vote.

The Electoral Commission conducted a review of the voting age with a period of public consultation over the summer of 2003. The review reflected growing calls from a wide range of organisations to consider lowering the voting age in order to promote participation in democracy and to address the issue of disengagement particularly amongst the young. There was a lot of support to lower the age, but the Commission decided to keep the status

The Institute for Public Policy Research who in 2013 said that compelling young people to vote would help kick-start voting as a habit of a life-time. Though I do acknowledge that by allowing a lowering voting age will not solve the poor turn outs at elections.

More recently the independence vote in Scotland reaffirmed the need for change when a temporary extension of the franchise in Scotland allowing 16 and 17 year olds to vote in the referendum. 80% of eligible 16/17 years old turned out to vote.


The facts are 16 and 17 year olds can raise families, pay tax and get married but are not allowed a vote. What does that say about our electoral system in the UK? By lowering the voting age would also send a clear message and take a significant step forward in recognizing the important role in society these young people play.

My motion is as:

“Cornwall Council should lobby the Government to lower the voting age for all elections to 16 in time for the Cornwall Council Unitary Elections in 2017; or at least for Cornwall to be a pilot authority.”

During the debate member after member stood up to agree with the principle of lowering the voting age. In fact only a few stood up to say this was not a good idea.

I am grateful to all Members who stood up and supported the motion. A few I will mention include Cllrs Jade Farrington (LD) who also seconded the motion, Hanna Toms (Labour), James Mustoe (Con) Dick Cole (MK), the Chair of the PAC, Pat Rogerson, and vice-chair, Sally Hawken. It shows this subject has cross-party support here at Cornwall Council.

The Members of Youth Parliament also did their part in getting this  motion passed by gathering the views of young people. I was able to read some of them out at the debate. A few of the comments I received were as follows:

Lucie: “I think that we should be allowed to vote because it would make politicians listen to us, because they’ll want our vote.”

Abe: “I support votes at 16 because I would like to have an impact on my future.”

Evie: “16 year olds are forced to make incredibly important decisions about their own futures, voting is also an important thing that will affect their futures, so why shouldn’t they be able to vote.”

Annabelle: ” This general elections, I was not alone in being unable to have my voice heard die to my age. Despite the fact that I pay adult fares to get to work, and have to pay adult fares for attractions such as the cinema.”

Officers in the 11 plus service, like Mel, Colin and Penni also deserve praise for their work in this area.

Any debate rests on a vote, and I was rather nervous of this getting passed. However, the vote was resounding majority in favour, with only (I counted) five against. With this motion now passed, a plan will be worked up, giving as much evidence as we can, and from that sent to the Government who I hope will move from their entrenched position of not lowering the voting age.

For me, I am very happy this motion has been passed. It is something I have passionately believed in for a long-time.

Cornwall Council appoints Kate Kennally as new CEO

Since Andrew Kerr took the highroad and left Cornwall Council for Edinburgh City Council, the Council has been seeking to replace him via a recruitment process. That recruitment process has now been completed.

KateFrom a shortlist of four, Kate Kennally, who is currently the Director People at Barnett Council, has been appointed as Cornwall Council’s new CEO.

Her current role at Barnett has the responsibility for commissioning a wide portfolio of services including public health, children and adult services and community services such as leisure and libraries.

Her start date has yet to be confirmed because of working her notice at Barnet, but I expect Kate to take up post in the new year.

Congratulations to Kate on your appointment, and welcome to Cornwall Council.

Get out There group does X-Factor

On Saturday, I was invited to Get out There’s X-Factor event that took place at Chacewater Village Hall. I can tell you this event was far more fun than the other X-Factor on ITV. I was even made a judge, luckily it was not Simon Cowell.

Get Out There (GOT) is a Sense service based in Cornwall for young people with little or no sight. Many of the young people in the group have additional needs such as epilepsy, diabetes, autism, hearing impairments, communication difficulties and limited mobility.

The ethos of the group is that these young people have as much right to have fun and adventure as other teenagers.

During the evening we saw around 15 acts from comedy to singing. Some of the acts had performed before at other GOT X-Factor events, but others overcame ‘stage-fright’ and performed in front of over 50 people who attended the event.

With any competition, there was a winner, but all the act were awarded a medal for taking part. As I said previously, it was a great evening and far, far better than the other X-Factor on ITV.

Curry and a chat with Voice4Us

On Monday night I have the great privilege to be invited to one of Voice4us Come Dine with Me events at the House in St. Austell. For those who do not know, Voice4Us helps to support:

  • The right of a looked after child to be heard and involved in decisions through 1:1 support and independent visitors;
  • Supporting the transition from Care to independent living, with follow on services providing skills, knowledge and access to 1:1 advice. Including access to supported lodgings, help getting a job and on the Job Training

The aim of the event was to ask me – as have others who have been invited – a series of questions on my role. I also had the change of asked the young people of their experiences of the care system and if they had any pressing concerns.


The discussions took place over a lovely curry dinner cooked by the young people. The young people involved in hosting me were really interested in how the Council spends its money, why is not more spent in the children service areas, better Relationship, Sexual Education, and transport.



Thank you to the young people who hosted me, and to Voice4Us who continue to fight for the Looked after Child to be heard.


Cornwall’s Local Plan housing number set to be 52,500

The saga that is the Cornwall Local Plan (2010 – 2030) continues to rumble on. The Local Plan is it is suspended after the Planning Inspector at a public Examination said in his recommendations that the current housing numbers was too low. This was after months of debate on the numbers, with numbers ranging from 16,000 to 50,000. Prior to the Examination, the Council by a vote at full council settled on 47,000 homes between 2010 and 2030.

If the Council wants a Local Plan to be approved it cannot ignore the inspector, and therefore his direction was for the Local Plan housing numbers to be increased by 10%. This is further broken-down by 7% to take into account second homes, and 3% what is called churn, ie, those for sale, in probate and not in occupation. The figure the Council is looking like settling on is 52,500.

Now before people jump up and say where are you going to put 52,500 or where is the need for this number, I will explain this is not for another 52,500 houses in Cornwall. This number takes into account the 36,500 that have either been built, or have planning permission to be built since 2010. That means the Local Plan will require a further 16,000 to be built between 2010 and 2030. It is important to highlight this true number of new planning permission being approved, and not the overall target number.

At yesterday’s the Planning Policy Meeting, the committee agreed with reservations, the number of 52,500. There is angst amongst the committee members that this figure is a minimum, and not a maximum. However, when setting a minimum, you at least have a chance of refusing anything over this number if your Local Plan number is robust and backed up with evidence.

Arguing about settling on a lower figure is pointless after the Inspector has given clear guidance on what he expects to be a target. If the Council did set a lower target, then our plan would not be adopted. This would mean we could not prove a five-year land supply and therefore, any development would be approved as the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) is clear with a Local Plan having to have a five-year land supply.

On the point of 7% for holiday homes/lets, this is not meaning 7% will be built for holiday homes/lets. This percentage is to take into account those home that have been built or will be built during the lifetime of the plan will not all end up as full-time occupation homes. Therefore, the inspector has said Cornwall’s plan must take this into account in the Local Plan. I do not like it, but this was a direction from the inspector, which imposible to ignore.

How will those numbers will be shared around Cornwall?  It is easier to give you the LINK to the actual numbers at page 42. However, for Helston, and the wider Community Network Area (CNA) which Porthleven rests in, the numbers are:


  • 900 (old number), 1,200 (new number)
  • Completed or existing commitments since 2010 – 445
  • Remaining requirement for the plan between 2010 and 2030 – 755 (417 old target)

CNA area

  • 1,100 (requirement)
  • Completed or existing commitments since 2010 – 831
  • Remaining requirements 269

In Porthleven’s case, and working on a pro-rata distribution – as worked out by planning officers – would see a requirement for 81 additional dwellings in Porthleven. This is worked out from a target of 196, but with 113 already being built since 2010. The 113 includes the housing numbers from Trivisker and Shrubberies. The work on where, how and when these 81 homes will be delivered is something the Porthleven Neighbourhood Plan is working on.

The Local Plan is not only about housing numbers, but also includes economic growth and jobs. In the plan, there is a provision of 38,000 FTE jobs and employment space for 700,000m2. Like the housing numbers, these numbers take into account 10,000 FTE and 425,000m2.

On the subject of the percentage of affordable housing contained within the plan, I am disappointed with the percentage changes for Porthleven and Helston. I have always worked on both settlements having at minimum of 40% ratio of affordable. However, these figures have been reduced to 30% for Porthleven, and 25% for Helston. The reason is because the inspector said it could not be evidenced.

If you are looking at other neighbouring LA’s  their figures in either adopted or plans going through the inspections all have percentage figures of around 25%, a few have percentages as low at 10%.  So if you want your plan accepted with a higher affordable housing ratio, you will not unless you have robust evidence.

Though this is further complicated with the Government formula on what type of affordable a house is. As different types can mean different percentages of affordable.

Affordable housing (take the point on what is affordable) is needed in both settlement. Yet this new revised percentage number actually harms the aims of having more affordable houses. I do take the point, and it is worth highlighting when wanting higher affordable figure is no Section 106 for infrastructure like roads, open space contribution, and educational contribution can be sought. So you must have a balance on the right ratio of affordability, or else create another problem.

Many will not like certain aspects of the Local Plan, including me, but the Government has been crystal clear that if a local authority does not have a Local Plan, the Government will impose one on the LA and the figure they come up with is the one you are stuck with. I can tell you the figure will not be lower than the one currently (grudgingly) accepted by the Council.

From the PAC recommendation, the next stage will be for the Cabinet to give its backing, and finally, it goes to full council on the 15th December to make the final decision.


Adult Community Health Service in Cornwall to be run by a consortium of health care providers

Since the announcement that Peninsula Community Health (PCH) no longer wished to have the contract for Adult Community Health Services in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly – which includes the Helston Community Hospital  – there was a concern this service would be ‘privatised’. The rules state in contracts like this, there has to be an open tender, so other private healthcare providers were able to tender for the contract.

The Kernow Clinical Commissioning Group who are responsible for commissioning this service has today announced that a local NHS consortium comprising Cornwall Partnership Foundation Trust, Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust and Kernow Health Community Interest Company is NHS Kernow’s preferred provider to deliver the contract from 1 April 2016.

In a statement, the KCCG say:

This consortium brings together a wealth of expertise and knowledge encompassing the full range of health services from GPs to hospital care. It will offer multi-disciplinary care through teams of professionals, working across traditional organisational boundaries. They will use this to enable the people of Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly to live the lives they want to live, to the best of their ability.

I welcome this, and just because the name changes above the door, the services will have come to appreciate from this service will continue . People should continue to use services in the same way and talk to their GP about their health needs in the first instance.

Cornwall Council and CPFT launch Early Help Hub

A new Early Help Hub which provides a single point of contact for information, advice and guidance about Early Help services for children and young people and their families in Cornwall, as well as access to a range of universal and Early Help services, was officially launched at New County Hall, Truro on Thursday, 5th November.

Early Help services include help provided both in early childhood and early in the development of a problem.  The services are available to children and young people of all ages from pre-birth up to the age of 18, and up to the age of 25 where young people have special educational needs or disability. The development of this exciting new service is part of the Case for Cornwall.

The Early Help Hub is all about working together to provide: the right response, at the right time, by the right services.

Our vision is for all children and young people in Cornwall to be healthy and safe and to have opportunities to achieve and to improve themselves.

In March 2014 we at Cornwall Council formally launched Cornwall’s first multi-agency Early Help Strategy. This new Early Help Hub is a key part of this strategy.

We all know that identifying problems early and doing something about them is the best way of preventing those problems becoming a crisis. Even at this time of severe budget cuts, we are trying to move resources into Early Help. Integration will help to protect and improve those services.

Integration is not easy; it is sensitive and complex, so much so that many give up. Not here in Cornwall – we know this is the right thing to do and it is what parents, carers and children want.

In Cornwall we face many challenges. The triple whammy of increasing need due to ongoing austerity – reducing budgets due to government cuts – raised expectations. Integration is the only way we are going to face down these challenges

The new Hub, which has been developed jointly by Cornwall Council and Cornwall Partnership NHS Foundation Trust (CPFT), is part of a wider programme, now under the Deal for Cornwall, to integrate children’s community health and social care services in Cornwall. This new approach is what parents and carers say they want so that they can tell their story once and get the right services at the right time.

Huge credit must go to CPFT for taking such a bold step in the interests of children and families and joining the Council in delivering this new service, much-needed service. I must also pay tribute to staff from both organisations who have worked hard in putting this new service together.

The Early Help Hub is a fantastic start, but it’s only the beginning of much larger integration.

Here is the link to the film from today’s launch:



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