BT Cornwall verses Cornwall Council Judgement goes in favour of the Council

Since the 1st December, BT Cornwall (BTC) and Cornwall Council have been locked in a legal battle in the High Court over the BT contract. The reason is because the Council believes it has the right to terminate the agreement for breaches in that contract by BTC. Of course, BTC disagrees with this.

To recap, BTC filed an application with the High Court in order to seek an injunction on 12 August 2015, preventing the Council from terminating the agreement. This resulted in a hearing which took place on 12 August 2015 in the High Court (Commercial Courts). The outcome was that the Court agreed to the request to have an expedited trial set for December.

As for the reasons why, please read the previous blog post HERE.

Anyone who has been reading this blog, will know I have written a lot (all blog posts HERE) about this subject. Reading back through them reminds me how the Council was in open warfare against the Cabinet. There were petitions;  the Portfolio Holder for Finance, Jim Currie resigning and the no-confidence motion which saw the disposing of the Leader of Cornwall Council. It was a bloody and costly war that saw the BT-light deal being signed on the 27th March 2012. I finished off that post with the line of: ‘Lets hope the Council does not regret this day’.

Today, the Judge gave his judgement after hearing the evidence from both sides. I am very pleased the judgement was in favour of the Council. This judgment which confirms our argument that BT Cornwall had been in material breach of the contract due to their failure to carry out services to the required contractual standards and, therefore, that the Council was justified in reaching the decision to terminate the contract.

The ruling also means that the Council will be seeking payment of its costs from BT Cornwall in connection with this legal action.  From this, the Council intends to hold discussions with BT Cornwall to agree the level of damages the Council will receive. This could run into the millions.

I would also like to say well done to the Council’s legal team who took on the might of an international corporation – and won.

Has the Council regretted that day? I have thought about this and it would be easy to say ‘I told you so’ but that would serve no purpose. However, it is clear the principle of outsourcing great swathes of public sector to commercial companies who have little, if any, understanding of the public sector is flawed.

I feel the reason why so many council’s took the outsourcing route is because they thought it was an easy way of saving money. The commercial companies were quick to whisper sweet nothings into any local government ear promising to solve their funding problems. The truth be told, local governments, are better at knowing how to save money. They do this without thinking of how it will affect the profit margin. Local government do not think about profit margins, but how changes will affect the service user.

Following this legal ruling the Council intends to provide notice of termination of the contract before Christmas, but there will be no immediate change in the arrangements as termination will not take effect until January. The process of transferring staff and services from BT Cornwall to the Council and our Public Sector Partners will begin in January and will be completed as quickly and smoothly as possible. This will involve approximately 250 members of staff.

The following services will transfer back to the authority: HR Transactional Services including Payroll, HR Employment Support, First Point Helpdesk, Financial Processing, ICT, Despatch, Printing and Telecare. My thoughts are with the staff who will yet again be affected with this judgement.

I will now wait till the judgement is released to give a further viewpoint……

 

Cornwall has officially offered resettlement places to Syrian refugees

The Leader of Cornwall Council, John Pollard, has today confirmed that Cornwall has now officially offered resettlement to Syrian families travelling to the UK under the Government’s Syrian Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme.

As part of a five-year resettlement programme, an initial two or three families could be resettled in Cornwall as early as March.

There is a multi-agency partnership which is supported by the Home Office, has been working together to prepare for Syrian refugee families being resettled in Cornwall. The partnership consists of Cornwall Council – including housing, education, adults, children’s, and localism services, Cornwall Housing, NHS Kernow, Job Centre Plus, Inclusion Cornwall, Devon and Cornwall Police, CSW Group Limited and community and faith representatives.

The refugees who will be resettled in the UK through the Government scheme will be given a full medical check-up and security vetting before they arrive in the country. They will be flown directly from countries neighbouring Syria to England and those families that come to Cornwall will be met by representatives of the Cornwall Refugee Partnership and taken to their new homes.

It is important to protect their privacy therefore, the partnership will not be in a position to provide any details about Syrian families resettled in Cornwall. The Council has confirmed they will be housed in temporary private sector housing.

For more information on Cornwall’s response to the refugee crisis, including how you can help, visit www.cornwall.gov.uk/syrianrefugees

Changes to the Corporate Directors of Cornwall Council

We all know (I hope) that Cornwall Council has appointed a new CEO, Kate Kennally. Kate will take up her new role on January 11th after leaving Barnet Council. This has not been the only change implemented as there have been other changes to the Cornwall Council Corporate Directors.

The first is Michael Critch taking early retirement. Michael has been the Corporate Director for Economy, Enterprise and Environment. I would like to wish Michael all the best on his next adventure whatever that may be.

Following the retirement of Michael, Paul Masters (was the Corporate Director for Communities and Organisational Development) will take over as the Interim Corporate Director for Economy, Enterprise and Environment. Trevor Doughty, the Corporate Director for Education, Health and Social Care remains in his current position. And is the Head of Paid Services (basically the CEO) until Kate takes up her role.

That leaves one position left to fill. This is for the Corporate Director for Communities and Organisational Development. A Selection Panel was formed to appoint an interim Corporate Director for this position, and from that panel meeting, they have appointed Cath Robinson as the Interim Director.

Cath, is currently the Head of Business, Planning and Development, and has extensive experience of working in local government. She joined the former Cornwall County Council on a youth training scheme straight from school.  She brings a wide understanding of the issues and opportunities facing Cornwall and the services provided by the Council. Cath will take up her new role with immediate effect. This appointment has been made for a period of up to 12 months and is subject to review by the new Chief Executive.

I really welcome Cath’s appointment to this role. She has consistently proved her worth as the 151 Officer (in charge of all the cash), and will do a sterling job as one of the Corporate Directors.

DfE confirms detailed feasibility study for the rebuild for Helston College will take place early in 2016.

In a spot of good news for Helston College is that the DfE has today confirmed that they will begin the detailed feasibility study for Helston Community College for the Priority School Building Programme which the college was accepted for. This study will take place between Jan-16 and Mar-16. The reason the study is needed is to assess and help determine the most appropriate investment solution for the school. Helston

Once this has been completed, we will hopefully have a clear idea on what will be built. This could be either a whole school rebuild (that would be ace), or replacement buildings for C, D and E Blocks.

The good news after months of silence we now have something to aim for.

Merry Christmas DfE….

Previous blog on the subject can be found HERE

Cornwall’s rubbish and recycling collections over the Christmas period

We are at that time again, when those areas which have their rubbish, recycling and green waste collected over the Christmas period are often confused if a collection will take place. Fear not, as this blog post will explain what will be happening.

The first bit of information is there will be no rubbish, clinical waste, recycling or garden waste collections on Christmas Day. Rubbish and clinical waste will be collected on the scheduled collection day the following week.

If your garden waste or recycling collection is due on Christmas Day, it will be collected on Saturday 2 January.

The table below shows how collections are affected, to view your households full collection calendar go to www.cornwall.gov.uk/recycling and click on ‘find your collection day’.

Date Rubbish/Clinical Recycling/Garden
Christmas Day

Friday 25 December

No collection

Next collection on Friday  1 January.

No collection

Next collection on Saturday 2 January .

This is the only collection day that is affected over Christmas, all other collections will remain unchanged.

The Household Waste and Recycling Centres will be closed on Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day. Just in case you were thinking of taking your rubbish there.

Free Christmas tree Collection

The Council will collect real Christmas trees in the weeks starting 11 January and 18 January.  Put your tree out on your normal rubbish collection day on the alternate week to your recycling collection. The trees will be collected for free and then shredded and composted. You can also take your tree to the Household Waste and Recycling Centres.

Christmas cards

There are various charity collections for Christmas cards.  You can also put them in your cardboard bag as part of your household recycling collection.

Envelopes

Envelopes can go in your household recycling collection.  White envelopes should go into the paper bag, coloured or brown envelopes should go with the cardboard.

Wrapping paper

We can take wrapping paper that isn’t coated with foil or plastic.  Please put all non-shiny wrapping paper in bag for paper, and remove any sticky tape, string or ribbons.

Cardboard

Over Christmas there are a lot of extra cardboard boxes. Flatten the boxes and put them in the cardboard recycling bag.

If the boxes are too big, flat pack them, tie them in a bundle and put them out next to your recycling. If you have very large amounts of cardboard, you can either take it to your local Household Waste and Recycling Centres or put it out for the kerbside collection over a couple of weeks.

Tin Foil

Put scrunched up tin foil into the sack for plastic bottles and cans.

Chocolate and biscuit tins

You can put chocolate and biscuit tins out for recycling in the sack for plastic bottles and tins. We can only accept metal sweet and biscuit tins. We can’t take the plastic tubs. (Unless you’re in the pots, tubs and trays trial).

Additional recycling

If you have more kerbside recycling then usual, please put it out in carrier bags.  Glass bottles and jars must be put in a rigid box.

Simple enough?

Merry Christmas!

Changes to Cornwall’s Local Plan overwhelmingly approved

Sometimes it feels like we are going round and round on the Local Plan merry-go-round, stopping now and again for small and large changes to the plan. Today, at the meeting of full council, councillors debated the changes to the plan as directed by the Planning Inspector.

Many will not like the changes to the plan, or like the plan at all. However, without a plan, Cornwall is at more risk because it cannot prove there is adequate housing number for five-years. Furthermore, if the Council cannot agree a plan, the Government will impose on the Council in 2017. If that happened, the Council would have limited say on the housing numbers.

For those who have not read the plan, or the changes, HERE is the link to the documentation.

Many councillor spoke during the debate, mostly repeating what has been said before. For those who may have missed the Local Plan debate, HERE are previous blogs on the subject. I raise the subject on the Government needs to make sure funding for school expansions in light of new housing follows. Sadly, this does not always happen.

There was an amendment put forward by Dick Cole, for the removal of the housing allocation for the Eco-town. This totals 1200 dwellings. However, the flaw to this plan was other areas in Cornwall, mostly St. Austell’s Community Network Area would have to find the shortfall of 1200. It is no surprise this amendment was lost, with only four councillors voting in favour.

As for the main vote, this was carried by all but two councillors who voted against, and one who abstained.

The next stage of the plan’s journey will be subject to a public consultation lasting for six-weeks starting in January. From this, the plan will be re-submitted to the Planning Inspector for him to hopefully approve.

Rachel Baker, Porthleven’s Royal British Legion Poppy Apeal Organiser

Last week, Porthleven Town Council awarded one of its town plaques to Rachel Baker. The reason for the award was to recognise the work by Rachel in rasing money for the Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal.

Rachel has been the local organiser for the Poppy Appeal since 2010. In that time, Porthleven has raised £35,750. A staggering amount for a population of under 4000. This year’s Poppy Appeal raised just over £2800.

It does not just stop there. As Rachel has done a lot of research on those mens names who are on the War Memorial from the Great War, Second World War, and Aden. From this research, Rachel has compiled a small book. It brings to life the story behind the names who are carved onto the War Memorial.

Well done Rachel, you throughly deserve the award of the town plaque.

Rachel being awarded the town plaque by the Mayor.

Rachel being awarded the town plaque by the Mayor.

79% of Cornwall’s Primary School Children working at expected levels in 2015

Today, the Department of Education (DfE) released the Primary School league tables for 2015. Cornwall is just one percent under the national average of 80% with 79% of children reaching target of level 4 or above in all of reading, writing and mathematics. compared to 78 per cent in 2014.

It is good to see an increase in the number of pupils reaching the expected standard in reading, writing and maths which shows that schools in Cornwall, due to the hard work and commitment of Head-teachers, staff and governors, and parents and carers. are heading in the right direction.

Since 2010 there has been a steady increase in the performance in reading, with 90% of pupils now working at the expected level. There has been a similar improvement in the performance in writing and maths over the same period, with 86% of pupils now working at the expected level in both these subjects.

The performance tables published today show that there are just 11 primary schools in Cornwall that did not meet the key floor standard, with a number of these schools having much smaller than average size cohorts.

If you look at the Ofsted judgements, 88% of primary schools in Cornwall are judged as “good or outstanding” (compared to 85% nationally), with the percentage of pupils attending good or outstanding primary schools rising to 89.1% (compared to 84.7% nationally).

One thing is for sure, the Council and Head-teachers are committed to becoming one of the highest performing authorities in the country and, through the Cornwall Raising Aspirations and Achievement Strategy.

We are doing this by working with schools, parents and businesses to raise standards even further and ensure that all children in Cornwall have access to the highest quality education opportunities.

More information can be found HERE

Newquay Airport offers flights to Leeds and more flights to Dublin

Newquay Airport has in the last few months announced new and expanded routes. The recent announcement include flights to Spain and Germany, and Flybe to operate bigger jet engined aircraft to and from the airport.

I believe the increase of interest in Newquay Airport is two-fold, the first is the Government’s commitment to the London route with the PSO. The second is the decision by the Cabinet to remove the ADF.

In the Spending Review, the Government has committed to another PSO route to and from Leeds. The new route is scheduled to operate five days per week through until the end of October and then three days per week through the winter to the end of March.

Furthermore, the Dublin route which was announced in November 2014 is set to expand in 2016 and will operate daily and year round from March.

One senior-wag at the Council joked that if more airlines operate from the airport, we might need a second set of marshalling wands to cope with all the aircraft.

Seriously though, well done to all the people involved in making the airport attractive to airline operators. It is starting to pay off.

 

Cornwall Council shortlisted for council of the year award by the Local Government Chronicle

Cornwall Council has been shortlisted for the Local Government Chronicle (LGC) Council of the Year award.

Cornwall Council is one of five councils which has been short listed for the award.  The other four councils are Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council, Leeds City Council, Norwich City Council and Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council.Cornwall Council

Before anyone jumps up and says is this a joke, it is not. In fact this is an excellent achievement by the Council who in difficult financial circumstances, continue to deliver services for the benefit of Cornwall.

Yes, the Council does not always get everything right (and I have been one of its critics or I would say holding it to account), but no organisation does. We can always do better, and we do try.

However, the number of services the Council delivers is staggering, and I as one of the Cornwall Councillors is proud of the work the Council does over all.

This short-listing is a significant achievement which reflects the hard work and commitment of officers, Members, and our partners over the past twelve months.

For me, this award is really for the staff, who have continued to work hard for the authority and the people it serves. Staff often do huge overtime, yet they are not paid for this extra work. They do it because they believe in the work the Council does. Huge numbers of staff have had to re-apply for their jobs. This is because of the difficult financial pressure the Council faces with its reduced budget, but increased demand. Despite this turmoil and challenging times, staff have continued to deliver.

Thank you Cornwall Council staff (past and present).

From this short-listing, a team of judges will now visit the Council early in February to talk to Members and officers, with a final presentation being made to the full judging panel on the afternoon of the LGC awards ceremony taking place in London on 16 March. The winner will then be announced during the evening ceremony.

The LGC has also recognised the leadership of its Leader, Cllr John Pollard. John has been named as one of the most influential people in local government. John Pollard is placed 24th in the Local Government Chronicle’s LGC 100 list for 2016.

The list, which includes national and regional politicians, government ministers, civil servants and think tank representatives, looks ahead to who the panel of judges believe will exercise most influence in 2016. Judges are instructed to consider who will have the greatest influence, rather than who they would like to see holding power.  Candidates are assessed on the strength of their leadership, the breadth and depth of their influence, and the extent to which there is evidence their work is leading to change elsewhere.

John Pollard is the only person from a southern council to make the top 25 on the list, with the judges highlighting his role in successfully negotiating the country’s first non-metropolitan devolution deal for Cornwall.

Well done John.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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