Cornwall Council’s charity quiz raises money for two causes

On Thursday, the annual Cornwall Council charity quiz took place. This quiz has now been running for seven years. Teams from though-out the Council take part to help raise money for good causes, but to test their knowledge again other department for bragging rights, and to avoid the wooden spoon.

The quiz master is the Council’s Monitoring Officer, Richard Williams who sets the fiendishly difficult and damn-right obscure questions. The music round is an assault on the musical senses. The quiz team names are part of the event, and there are some great play on words.

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The Cabinet office quiz team

Over two hours team did battle in the various rounds. The contest was close, and it all came down to the last round with a winner take all series of questions. Five teams were in the running for the bragging rights, which the Cabinet team were ones of those.

Whilst, the event was great fun, the important aim of the quiz was to raise money for two great causes. This years charities were: Kernow Young Carers and Macmillan’s Hospice Care. From the event £1500 was raised. This money will be now shared between the two great causes.

Thanks must go to the organisers and helpers of the quiz in make this a successful event.

The Laurance Reed’s appreciation society, and in total amazement to the actual team itself, took quizzing honours and won the quiz.

Members of the - shocked - winning team

Members of the – shocked – winning team

The Quiz cup

The Quiz cup

 

Cornwall Fire and Rescue Service warn of fraudulent calls by persons claiming they are from the Fire Service

Fraudsters will stoop to any level to trick the public into handing over their financial details. The latest one is fraudsters pretending they are from the Fire Service. Cornwall’s Fire and Rescue Service is urging the public to be vigilant as these fraudsters are asking the community to advertise businesses through a Fire magazine or offering to come and conduct an audit on premises.

In both instances these are not calls made by the Fire Service in Cornwall or any other County Fire Service. These organisations do not solicit support for third-party advertisements in any of their publications.

Cornwall Fire and Rescue Service do carry out free home fire safety checks and you will always be contacted prior to arrange details of the appointment. A member of the Service will arrive in uniform and will have identity badges. If you are in any doubt at all please do not let anyone into your home and call the Service on 0300 1234 232 to confirm identity.

Cornwall Fire and Rescue are currently working with other departments of Cornwall Council, including Trading Standards to address this. The simple message is; do not allow anyone into your home/business without prior appointment and identification. Never provide any personal details to unknown callers.

If you do receive any of these types of calls please contact the Service on 0300 1234 232 or fire@cornwall.gov.uk.

Brexit – should we stay in the European Union or go?

Before you read on, this is not an endorsement, recommendation or anything else but my thoughts and requirements for the forthcoming referendum on our future in the European Union. If you are not interested then I will spare you now from reading on.

The countdown to the EU referendum has begun. On the 23rd we will be asked: ‘Should the United Kingdon remain a member of the European Union’On the ballot form, you will need to tick one of two answers: ‘Remain a member of the European Union’ or ‘Leave the European Union’. Once the votes have been counter we will know if we belong in the Europe Union, set out on the course for leaving.

The first thing I will say whether we stay or go, the EU needs to be reformed. The current monster that is the EU is not accountable and it is definitely not democratic. Ask yourself without refering to a search engine who are your MEP’s? I bet you will be hard pressed to actually name your MEP’s. And yes we have more than one in the South West.

I have wanted a referendum on in/out for many years. This referendum has been a long time coming and in my view could have been asked years ago. Yet previous Governments were too scared to ask the question for fear of the answer. Even the current Government probably did not think this referendum would happen; as they were not expecting to actually win the General Election outright.

In fact the ideal time for a referendum would have been when John Major signed the Maastricht Treaty in 1992. Yet the public was not given a say unlike other European citizens. The Danish took two attempts to be convinced, and surprisingly, the French narrowly passed this treaty.

My aim for the referendum will be to finally decide once and for all to either accept the EU for its good and bad points, or do something about it and leave. We really cannot continue to have this halfway house of standing in both camps.

Since the announcement was made, the referendum debate has been centering of who is in the in or out camp. Instead of looking at the merits of belonging in or out of the EU, the ‘debate’ has been along the lines on the personalities in each camp. I have to say who really cares. I am really not interested in hearing about the continuation of a rivalry started at Eton between a senior boy and his fag.

No doubt it will get worse when the A to Z list of celebs start to endorse the different camps. Seeing Farage and Galloway sharing a stage brought home the reality this vote could turn in to a circus. This vote is too important to be decided on personalities. If it is, then God – or any other deity – help us. We are lost. We might as well get Simon Cowell to run some sort of X-factor/Talent show to decide our future…

I will be straight; I am truly in the undecided camp. I like Europe; I have lived there, visited most of the EU member states and was even born in West Germany. Yet I really struggle withs the current monster that is the EU and is a far cry from the noble aims of the European Economic Community formed in 1957. The EU needs to be reformed. Plain and simple.

However, before I vote, I want to understand all the positives and negatives for both leaving and staying. For that to happen, each side in this argument will need to rise above the fear factor, mud-slinging and cheap shots to give a clear, thought-out reasoning to their cases. I an affraid to say, this has yet to happen…

I have already heard some of the arguments of being in the EU have prevented war in Europe. Eh… What about the Balkans. There was a brutal war there. I have the campaign medal. And Leaving the EU would be the end of the world and the U.K would end up in some post-apocalyptic wilderness. The world is not flat and if we sail off on our own we will not fall off the edge.

I want to move past the cheap shot of immigration and being fearful of ‘Johnny Foreigner.’ There are an estimated 2.2 million Brits living in Europe, with near half living in Iberia. Immigration works both ways.

I also want to move on from, or better, ignore Cameron’s deal and his ‘Munich agreement’ which I believe is nothing more than a sop to stop Cameron actively campaigning against leaving. His comment of I don’t love Brussels (actually a lovely city), I love Britain was cringe-worthy.

What I want to hear about is the economic, social and environmental reasons to remain or leave the EU based on fact. After all we joined the EEC in 1973 for economic reasons. If we vote to leave, it has to be in the best interests of the U.K. and not for some jingoistic reason.

Whilst the referendum is a national issue, I want to know how leaving could affect Cornwall with it grant funding from Europe. I am no fan of Gove, but it did resonate with me in his words of saying we pay so much in, get some back, but told how we should spend it.

If by chance the referendum returns a vote of wanting to leave as the result are just too close to call, do you really think the other European member states will allow us to leave?

Even with a ‘yes to leave’ vote the negotiations to leave will take up to two years. In that time Germany as the largest contributor will do everything to keep us in. This means in their desperation, we might actually get the reform the EU so desperately needs, but as yet is unwilling.

If we go, who else will follow us out of the door? Do you really think Germany wants to be left as the main contributor to the EU budget? Its own nationals might start to start question about the merits about staying in the EU.

From this we might very well end up with what I call the Irish question. Keep asking until you get the answer you want as was the case of Ireland joining the single currency.

There is a lot to play for in the coming few months. However, I beg the campaigners of each camp, keep to the facts, help us understand, as from this allow us to vote with a clear understanding of what are voting for. As whatever the outcome of the vote, will have far reaching consequences on all our lives.

 

 

 

 

Sanctuary Housing will not be granted permission to change a public residential car park into a private one.

Following on from my previous blog about the application by Sanctuary Housing to apply for a Stopping-up Order for the car park in Albion Rd which would turn the car park from a public car park to a private one, I can officially confirm that Cornwall Council will not be taking forward this application to the magistrate courts. Therefore, this car park will remain accessible to all residents.

I would like to thank the residents of the area, the town council and my fellow two Cornwall Councillors for the Helston area, Judith Haycock and Phil Martin for lodging their objections to this proposal. A real team effort.

This is the second time Sanctuary Housing has attempted to change this car park into a private one. I hope with this second refusal, Sanctuary Housing will get the message this change of use is not wanted.

Post Office will go ahead with changes to Porthleven Post Office despite public objections.

It is with regret I have to write this blog post about our Post Office in Porthleven. As you know, without prior knowledge, the powers-that-be at the Post Office decided to change our Post Office in Porthleven.

The simple fact is the Post Office has not consulted with the public over the changes. It has done a communication. This basically means they sent a few letters and put posters up in the affected shop. However from this, over 70 residents and businesses wrote to the Post Office expressing concern about the changes.

Did the Post Office listen and at least put on hold the final decision until a proper consultation could take place? In simple words, no they did not. The Post Office is carrying on with its original plan with a few small tweaks.

It should not be a surprise, as the Post Office sent new opening time leaflets to the Post Office in Porthleven before the final decision was made. The Post Office has apologised for this ‘error’. However, it shows no matter what the public, or the operators of Porthleven Post Office have said, the Post Office had no intention of changing its mind.

I remained concerned that the changes will not be positive for Porthleven. More importantly, the changes are not good for the operators of the Post Office, Paul and Sharon. The impact of losing the sub-postmaster pay is a blow to Paul and Sharon. When the Post Office head of External Relations visited Porthleven, he said the changes would result in an uplift of 6% in trade.

I really cannot see how this would happen, but more importantly, this 6% does not offset the loss of the sub-postmaster’s pay. I also asked for proof of this magical figure of 6%. As yet, this has not been forthcoming. A small consultation to Paul and Sharon is the Post Office will pay a year’s sub-postermaster’s salary as part of the transition.

For many the Post Office in Porthleven is treated as a bank in Porthleven. These changes will impact on how businesses do their banking in Porthleven. The new Local Plus operation prohibits paying in more than £1000 in cash without a fortress facility. Many businesses in Porthleven pay more than this and therefore, these changes could potentially impact on businesses.

When I challenged this the response I received by letter is that: ‘(the) Postmaster will speak to business banking customers about any alternatives available for larger deposits’. I am not sure what this actually means. Is the alternative meaning bank elsewhere?

Many objections talked about additional queuing and the level of security. The Post Office responded by saying the new counter will have a separate till for the Post Office functions. However, this really does not solve the issue, more so if you must have two staff on at the same time, but without the income to fund this. Nothing about the security concerns.

I would like to thank all those who took the time to respond to the ‘communication’.

The Porthleven Post Office is set to close on the 10th March and reopen on the 14th March. Paul and Sharon need our support, and therefore, please where possible support them in this difficult time.

We are Cornwall Council – a short film

Cornwall Council has produced a short film that is being used locally and nationally to showcase some of the good work the Council carries out. The film also sets out the Council’s aims for the future, including partnership working with both private and public sector organisations. .

 

 

 

Cornwall Council sets its budget and Council Tax for 2016/17

Today, Cornwall Council has set its budget and Council Tax for the 2016/17 period. This function has to be carried out yearly. This budget, like previous years is going to be painful due to the Governments cuts to the Council’s grant.

The recent Government’s Spending Review in a last-minute and unplanned for move, took a further £6m away from the Council’s grant. This is on top of the previous cuts. In a rapid rethink, the Government realised the slight-of-hand settlement by moving funding from rural to urban authority was going to impact on many rural authorities, including many Tory shire-lands. So they changed it. I would say this was good news for Cornwall, but even with the last-minute bribes changes, Cornwall is still £1.4m worse off than previously planned.

Councilmeeting

Your Council Tax is made up of three elements. Cornwall Council, Devon and Cornwall Police and Crime Commissioner and town and parish council’s.

The Council Tax charge for a Band D property in 2015/16 was £1,293.92. This is set to rise in the 2016/17 period to £1,345.29. This is a 3.97% increase; or a rise of £51.37 per year, £4.20 per month. However, 2% of the 3.97% rise has to be spent on Adult Social Care.

I do take issue with the Government’s plan to allow council’s to precept 2% for Adult Social Care. The truth be told is the Government should fund this. It should not be down to local postcode taxation to raise the much-needed funding for this sector. Furthermore, Children’s Services also is part of social care, yet in the current rules, all the social care precept has to be sent on Adult Social Care.

The Police part of the precept is currently set at £169.47 per year. This will rise by 1.99% to £177.84 for 2016/17. In pounds, shillings and pence, this is a rise £8.37 per year, or 69p per month.

The third part of the Council Tax bill is the town and parish councils. Each town and parish council sets its own level of precept. However, the average rise in this precept is 17.93% from £86.18 to £101.63.

For Porthleven, the town council’s precept including the other two elements is:

PorthlevenCTsettlement

Yes, the town council precept will rise by £1.30 per year. The £60.90 pays for many things in Porthleven, including the two toilets, grass cutting, maintenance of certain areas including the play parks and many other services.

For Helston Town Council, the precept is currently £303,690 per year. This will rise by 10.8% to £336,580 for the period of 2016/17. This means the town council element of the Council Tax in a Band D property in 2015/16 from £91.87 to £100.69, rise 9.6%. A £8.82 rise, or 73p per month.

Whilst this Cornwall Council budget is going to be hard-hitting, there is some good news for the Children’s Services budget. In the budget period till 2019/20, there was around £9m in un-allocated savings that was yet to be found in the service area. With the approval of the budget today, these un-allocated savings will now not have to be found. Phew. As if these savings were required, it would have far-reaching and devastating impact on Children’s Services in Cornwall.

In a comedy moment of the day, the amendment to the main budget put forward by councillors Bob Edgerton and Lisa Dolley was resoundingly defeated with only Bob voting in favour of the amendment. His seconder had left the room during the vote…

The overall vote for the budget was in 67 favour, 13 against and 21 abstaining.

Those 67 who voted in favour of the budget, did this so with regret and difficulty because of the over all impact of the cuts. However, a budget must be set.

More routes to and from Newquay Airport and no ADF.

Newquay Airport is in the news again for positive reasons with the Aviation Minister, Robert Goodwill recently visiting the airport to see for himself the significant growth which has been taking place at Cornwall Airport Newquay and the Aerohub Enterprise Zone over the past six months.

As reported in previous blog posts, the Cabinet voted in favour to remove the £5 Airport Development Fee (ADF). The good news is the ADF will be removed from 27 March as part of a package of measures to help encourage new airlines to fly from Cornwall.NQAirport

This encouragement has started to work, with new regional and international routes to and from Cornwall Airport Newquay for the Summer 2016 season will include Aberdeen, Doncaster, Sheffield, Liverpool and Glasgow (Flybe); Alicante and Frankfurt Hahn (Ryanair) as well as an increased schedule to Dublin (Aer Lingus ).

These routes are in addition to the existing routes offered by the Airport which include year-round flights to Manchester and London Gatwick with Flybe and daily direct flights between Newquay and the Isles of Scilly with Skybus. Other existing routes include Birmingham, London Stansted, Belfast, Edinburgh, Newcastle (Flybe) and Dusseldorf (Eurowings).

Flybe's Embraer E195 aircraft soon to be operating from Newquay Airport

Flybe’s Embraer E195 aircraft soon to be operating from Newquay Airport

Flybe announced last year that it was switching from the existing turbo prop aircraft to the larger 118-seat Embraer jet aircraft on its three times a day London Gatwick route. These new jet aircraft type are due to come into service on Sunday, 27 March. The larger jet will provide an additional 40,000 departing seats from Newquay over a 12 month. These aircraft will also reduce the transit times by 10 minutes each way.

Critics against the airport will highlight this facility still receives around £2.5m in subsidy from Cornwall Council. This subsidy has reduced over the years, and will further reduce as the airport grows.

The airport is also one of the Governments short-listed sites for the UK’s space port. If the airport becomes the space port, more airlines will want to operate to and from this airport.

 

Do you qualify for free central heating in your home?

The question is do you qualify for free central heating? You could qualify if you are a home owner, landlord or private tenant. However, to qualify, you need to meet all three of following points:

  1. Recipient who is in or at risk of being in “fuel poverty” residing in property “G” rated;
  2. A domestic premises (dwelling) which is not currently using gas as the primary heating fuel;
  3. Where a central heating system would be installed for the first time

Looking at data for Porthleven, 10% of households have no central heating. For Cornwall, this is 7.2% of households. So there is need in Porthleven. Furthermore, 195 (15.9%) of households in Porthleven are in fuel poverty.  For Helston, it is 535 (10.3%). The England average is 10.4%

The scheme is part of a Public Health led, £2.3m Central Heating Programme, funded by DECC (Department of Energy and Climate Change). Sadly this initial offer is limited to 70 successful applications.  Anyone Social Housing is part of bid already underway and would not qualify under this specific scheme.

For those wondering what a rating of ‘G’ means, here is a explanation of the ‘G’ rating. Your home is likely to be least energy-efficient because for example, expensive to heat, none or little insulation, or inefficient heating such as night storage heaters or plug-in heaters.

To find out more and apply, call Bev at Inclusion Cornwall – 01872 355008, bwilson@cornwall.gov.uk

cental heating fund

 

 

Government confirms final Local Government Finance Settlement 2016/17

The Government has now confirmed its final Local Government finance settlement for 2016/17 with some minor changes to the provisional settlement. In the provisional settlement, Cornwall Council lost a further £6m in funding with some slight-of-hand moving of rural funding into urban areas. Details HERE.

In what could be seen as the Government realising its error, it has increase the pot of money to the Rural Services Delivery Grant (RSG) by £91m over the periods of 2016/17 and 2017/18. For Cornwall Council this equates to a one-off increase in funding of £2.945m in 2016/17 and £1.460m in 2017/18. Allocations for 2018/19 and 2019/20 remain as per the provisional settlement.

Whilst I welcome this slight change of heart, it still means Cornwall Council is still down roughly £1.4m from the previous budget.

financegraph

Furthermore, the New Home Bonus nationally has seen an increase to the final New Homes Bonus allocations increasing the total amount to £1.462bn. This has resulted in a small reduction to the returned New Homes Bonus adjustment grant to a number of authorities.

The bad news is Cornwall Council’s overall NHB allocation reduces by £0.011m in both 2016/17 and 2017/18 and £0.007m in both 2018/19 and 2019/20 compared to the provisional settlement allocations.

Most of the other changes in the final settlement impact on District Council’s apart from the Government will consult on allowing well-performing planning departments to increase their fees in line with inflation at the most, providing that revenue reduces the cross subsidy that the planning function currently gets from Council Tax payers.

 

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