Boundary Commission for England visits Cornwall Council to set out the terms of the electoral review

Today, the Head of the Boundary Commission for England (BC) visited Cornwall Council to explain in person, the reason for the boundary review for Cornwall Council’s electoral divisions, and the process of that review. With all being well, the new divisional boundaries will be come into effect in 2021.

The Boundary Commission base their decisions on the number of electors in a division and not the total population. This means it is vital that all those who are eligible to vote, need to register to vote. Or else a new boundary could be set on flawed numbers.

The reason for the review is two-fold. The first is as part of the devolution deal, we said we would do a review. The second is because a third of Cornwall Council’s electoral divisions have an electoral variance of greater than 10%. In numbers this is 37 out of 122 electoral divisions (30%) There are also three divisions with variances above 30%. This would trigger a review under the BC rules.

Number of Electoral divisions > 10% 37 % Electoral divisions > 10%
Number of Electoral divisions> 20% 8 % Electoral divisions > 20%
Number of Electoral divisions > 30% 2 % Electoral divisions > 30%
Number of Electoral divisions > 40% 1 % Electoral divisions > 40%

Even though there is no English average for the number of residents a councilor represents, there are large differences in Cornwall. The greatest is Redruth North with 4,557 electors a variance of 33.6% over Cornwall’s average. The lowest, Liskeard North with 1372 electors, 59.8% less than the average.

The electoral divisions with the largest variances are:

Liskeard North 1,372 1 -59.80%
Looe East 2,639 1 -22.70%
Crowan and Wendron 4,367 1 29.00%
Altarnun 2,601 1 -23.10%
Penryn East and Mylor 4,096 1 20.00%
Redruth North 4,557 1 33.60%
St. Minver and St. Endellion 2,418 1 -29.10%

Porthleven and Helston West:

Porthleven and Helston West 3,375 1 -1.1%

Helston North and South:

Helston North 3,652 1 7.0%
Helston South 4,003 1 18.3%

When you look at the reasoning why there is a necessity to have the review, I fully support it. According to the BC, they would like to see variances as close to zero, but understand this is not feasible. The more you move away from the zero figure, the stronger the justification has to be. Getting your all boundaries under 10% would be acceptable to the BC.

For me it is not about the numbers of elected councillors, but fair representation. However, Cornwall has had over the years a reduction on its elected representatives – which I will cover in other blog post.

The electoral review will have two distinct parts:

  • Council size – before the Boundary Commission re-draws division boundaries, the Commission will come to a view on the total number of councillors to be elected to the council in future. We will come to a conclusion on council size after hearing the council’s (and/or councillors’) views during the preliminary phase.
  • Division boundaries – the Boundary Commission will re-draw division boundaries so that they meet our statutory criteria.

The first part of the review will determine the total number of councillors to be elected to the council in the future. The Boundary Commission calls this ‘council size’. They will not consider ward boundaries until this phase has been completed.

The Commission will make its judgment on council size by considering three broad areas:

  • It will look at the governance arrangements of the council and how it takes decisions across the broad range of its responsibilities.
  • The Commission will look at the council’s scrutiny functions relating to its own decision making and the council’s responsibilities to outside bodies.
  • The Commission will also consider the representational role of councillors in the local community and how they engage with people, conduct casework and represent the council on local partner organisations.

The Commission will draw up new electoral arrangements that provide the best balance of our statutory criteria. The criteria include three main elements:

  • Delivering electoral equality for local voters – this means ensuring that each councillor represents roughly the same number of voters so that the value of your vote is the same regardless of where you live in the local authority area.
  • Interests and identities of local communities – this means establishing electoral arrangements which, as far as possible, avoid splitting local ties and where boundaries are easily identifiable.
  • Effective and convenient local government – this means ensuring that the wards can be represented effectively by their elected representative(s) and that the new electoral arrangements as a whole, including both the council size decision and wading arrangements, allow the local authority to conduct its business effectively.

Will parishes be affected? Put simply, no. As the Boundary Commission have no powers to alter the external boundaries of local parishes. However, if the recommendations propose to divide parishes between divisions, the BC will alter the electoral arrangements of that parish to create parish wards. They can also make changes to the years in which parish council elections take place so that they do so in the same years as district elections in their associated divisions.

The Council has started its review and will have to make its draft submission by 14th October 2016, its second draft submission by 16th December 2016 and the final submission by 3rd March 2017.

The BC will carry out two phases of public consultation when they will invite the public to present your proposals for new division boundaries. Stage One – public consultation on new ward boundaries, 16 May 2017 – 31 July 2017 and Draft recommendations – public consultation 24 October 2017 – 19 December 2017.

The first phase will be our Stage One consultation which will ask for proposals on new division boundaries. The BC will use responses to that consultation to draw up draft recommendations for new boundaries across your area and then they will hold a second phase of consultation on those proposals during which time you will be able to comment on them and propose alternatives.

Once all the stages have passed the new boundaries are approved by what is called Negative Resolution Procedure. Basically this means many copies are placed in key locations of Parliament, and if no MP or Lord objects, it is automatically approved on the 41st.

One the new boundaries have been approved, these new divisions will be set for at least 10 to 15 years. Therefore, it is vital this is done right, as the Cornwall Council divisions have not stayed the same since 2009, when Cornwall Council came into being.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The annual Porthleven Duck Race 2016

On a wet and windy Saturday afternoon, the annual Porthleven Duck Race, now in its fourth year, took place. The ducks came in all shapes, sizes and colours. This race is organised by Porthleven Community Group.

Two races took place, the children’s and the hotly contested adults race. Prizes were given for the best looking duck, the top four placed ducks and a judges special award. One thing was for sure, fun was had by all who took part.   

Well done to everyone who turned up and took part.    
    
    
    
    
    
 

Cornwall Council, Black Leaves of Envy and finding a solution.

There has been a massive amount media on the issue of a young up and coming band practicing their music in their garage. I have been tagged into many comments asking what I can do – hence this blog. The local Cornwall Councillor, John Keeling has from this offered funding so the band can use the community centre in Praa Sands. Speaking with John this morning, he is talking to the residents about this.

I want, as does the Council, and all concerned, wants to enable young people to follow their interests, whatever that maybe. And we all need to work together to find a solution on this.

Cornwall Council has issued a further statement on this subject, clarifying the position. I hope this will dispel the myths. I have been asked to publicise this statement.

The Council’s Community Protection team is currently investigating the complaint and we are working with everyone involved to offer advice and try and find a solution. The law regarding statutory noise nuisance is based on what is reasonable and it may be that certain activities such as the regular playing of loud music are not appropriate in a residential area.

The Council is legally required to investigate once it has received a complaint about noise. In this case we have received a number of complaints about the level of noise. We have not, however, told the band to stop playing or told them they must keep sound levels below 40 decibels. We have not prescribed a set noise level but have advised that the sound levels are currently too high.  We have offered to work with them to look at ways of reducing the noise levels by installing some sound proofing into the garage to address the problem or possibly compromise by looking at playing only at certain times. We have spoken to the owner of the property on three occasions so far and are arranging to visit them to try and identify a solution.

We are certainly not trying to stop the band from practising but we have to take into consideration the views of all parties.

 

Election for a new Police and Crime Commissioner will take place on 5th May 2016

Before the EU Referendum, voters in England will have the ability to elect their areas Police and Crime Commissioner. This election will take place on Thursday 5 May 2016.

The Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) oversees the running of local police forces, including appointing the Chief Constable, setting the local budget and deciding what the priorities should be for the police in their area. At the last election, the Tory candidate, Tony Hogg won the seat with Labour coming second and the Lib Dems coming third.

We in this PPC area will have the opportunity to elect a completely new commissioner, as Tony Hogg is not seeking re-election.

Sadly, the turnout both nationally and locally was poor, with a disappointing 15.1% of those eligible in Cornwall, Devon and Isles of Scilly bothered to vote.

For Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, there will be 1.3 million electors potentially taking part in this election which covers 12 different local authorities ranging from 1,800 electors on the Isles of Scilly to 430,000 in Cornwall. These elections are being led by Exeter City Council, with John Street, the Police Area Returning Officer for Devon and Cornwall.

In Cornwall 408,397 people have currently registered to vote, with around 73,000 registering for a postal vote.  In 2012 63,678 people actually voted of whom 29,315 used a postal vote.

Only people who are registered can take part in this election, so I am urging people living in Devon and Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly to make sure they are registered to vote, so they don’t miss out on having their say on polling day.

You can register to vote quickly and easily online at www.gov.uk/register-to-vote. You will need your date of birth and national insurance number.

There will be almost 1400 polling stations open on the day between 7am and 10pm, so there will not be one very far away from your home which will allow you to cast your vote. Over 200,000 postal votes will be issued across the whole area.

This election uses the Supplementary voting system. Voters choose one of the candidates as their first choice and another as their second.  If no candidate gains 50%+1 of the vote at the initial stage of voting, the top two candidates are identified.  The second preference votes for the top two candidates, from those candidates which have been eliminated at the first stage of voting, are added to the first stage results, and then a result declared for the candidate with the highest number of votes cast.

Make your vote count, and take part.

Appeal for Shepherd Huts in Porthleven dismissed by Planning Inspector

The Planning Inspector has dismissed two appeals made by Saracen House Estates Ltd (Harbour and Dock) in reference to placing several shepherds’ huts between Beacon Rd and Mount Pleasant Rd:

  • Ref PA15/03264; the proposed is siting of four shepherds huts for holiday use, formation of car parking spaces, widening of access (including removal of part of existing stone-hedge), together with associated works, and;
  • Ref PA15/06091, the development proposed is siting of two shepherds huts for holiday use, formation of car parking spaces, widening of access (including removal of part of existing stone-hedge) together with associated works.

In the refusal of the appeal, the inspector applied significant weight to the AONB Management Plan which is due to its fairly up-to-date adopted status in protecting the setting of the AONB, including that of the Conversation Area. And, the Cornwall Design Guide (the Design Guide) which is also a fairly recently adopted document to which significant weight can therefore be applied in respect of its role in, amongst other things, supporting development that relates to, respects, and sits well in its local context.

A typical shepherd hut design.

A typical shepherd hut design.

The appeal site is one such area of key open space in Porthleven, identified as such in the (Porthleven) Conservation Area Appraisal and Management Strategy to which the inspector have applied significant weight, again due to its fairly recent endorsement by Cornwall Council, following a consultation process.

In summing up, the inspector found that the settings of the listed harbour walls and the boundary stone would be preserved. However, this does not lessen the harm that the inspector otherwise found would be caused in respect of the character and appearance of the Conversation Area and the setting of the Ship Inn.

Looking at the bigger picture, there needs to be consistency in appeals. As if you used the same decision for refusing this appeal, then the large building on Frankie’s Allotment that was given planning permission at a appeal last year, should never have been given permission because of its impact to the ‘green wedge’ in this area.

With the inspectors decision, it stops any further application for shepherd huts in this area.

 

 

Children and adults making their ducks in readiness for Porthleven’s annual Duck Race

The annual Porthleven Duck Race, now in its fourth year, will take place on Saturday 26th at 3pm. The location of this event is  near the bridge on the Moors. This event is organised by The Porthleven Community Group.

Leading up to the race, the community group organise a ‘duck making event’ prior to the event. This year’s theme was using recycling materials. As ever, there was a good turn out and both adults and children were keen to make their ducks in readiness for the race.

Those who were not able to make the duck making event, can still make a duck for Saturday’s race. So you still have time.

The Chancellors Budget, and its impact on Cornwall

The dust has settled on the Chancellors Budget announcements on Wednesday. As always, there are a lot of headlines and little detail when it is announced. We know Local Government was not directly targeted this time around, which is welcomed.

We also know Cornwall got a few things from the Budget which I blogged about HERE. The Hall for Cornwall also received £2m in the announcements. But what else was in that Budget?

Small businesses have been given a welcoming hand with the Government intending to permanently double the Small Business Rate Relief from 50% to 100% the threshold will also be raised to £15,000. Those businesses with a rateable value of £12,000 (around 600,000 nationally) will pay no business rates from April 2017. There will be a tapered relief on properties with a rateable value between £12,000 and £15,000.

The Government will also increase the threshold for the standard business rates multiplier to a rateable value of £51,000 (currently £18,000). And from 2020 the annual business rates uprating will switch from RPI to the lower CPI.

Whilst very good news for those small businesses, all of these measures will have the impact of reducing local authority funding as we move towards the 100% Business Rate Retention system. The Government has ‘indicated’ that it will compensate for losses as a result of changes announced in the budget, although the detail of that promise is yet to be determined. This does worry me, as with the reduction of our core grant from government, the business rates were set to replace that grant.

Those in the lower wage spectrum, the personal tax allowance will rise to £11,000 from he current £10,600 in April 2016. It will be increased further to £11,500 in April 2017. The higher rate threshold will increase from £42,385 to £43,000 this year and then to £45,000 in April 2017.

The main rate of Corporation tax will be cut to from 20% to 17% in April 2020. Commercial property stamp duty will be reformed from midnight Wednesday in the same way that residential stamp duty was previously changed.

We will pay more for our insurances with a rise – from 1st October 2016 – of 0.5%, from 9.5% to 10%, with the additional proceeds being diverted to flood relief programmes. This tax was already increased last year, from 6% to 9.5%. Flood defence spending will be increased by £700m as a result of this measure.

Those owning a car will not face a hike in fuel prices as the expected rise in fuel duty will be frozen,

Those liking a tipple or two duty on beer, cider and whisky will be frozen. Sadly, wine and other alcohol will see duties rise in line with inflation from 21st March 2016. Smokers will pay more duty on tobacco and has been increased from 6pm Wednesday.

The government is setting out how £50m from the Pothole Action Fund will be allocated across England in 2016-17. It said this allow local authorities to fill nearly a million potholes. £8m is being allocated to the South West. The South West is a big geographical area, so I expect Cornwall’s share will be a few hundred thousand, rather than millions.

A package of £115m will support those who are homeless and to reduce rough sleeping. This will pay for 2,000 places to live for those who need to move from emergency hostels and refuges, along with other homelessness prevention schemes.

The government will launch the Starter Homes Land Fund prospectus today. This prospectus invites Local Authorities to access the £1.2bn of funding to remediate brownfield land to deliver Starter Homes.

The budget also announced £19m funding for community-led housing schemes in areas most impacted by holiday homes, using Stamp Duty Land Tax revenue raised from the higher rates for purchases of additional properties.

From April 2017, 4,000 Armed Forces veterans will be able to keep payments from their war pensions rather than using them to pay for social care.

And there you have it, a simple (I hope) interpretation of the Budget. Thanks to the finance people for looking into the detail to make sure there were no hidden surprises!

I have left out a few items, like the Sugar Tax for another blog.

 

 

 

 

Cornwall’s Devolution Deal boosted by Chancellor’s Budget announcements

standupforcornwall2

In the budget today Chancellor George Osborne made two announcements which will boost the delivery of Cornwall’s Devolution Deal.

As part of today’s Budget, it has been announced that Cornwall will receive a transport capital allocation of £26.1m for each of the next five years to plan the programme of infrastructure investment required to support the move to a One Public Transport System for Cornwall in December 2018.  The One Public Transport System will help deliver an integrated public transport system with smart ticketing and fares and timetables for combined travel between bus, rail and ferry services.

This will see the integration of routes, timetabling and ticketing for all local bus, ferry and rail services under one identifiable brand which, combined with infrastructure improvements, will provide a consistent level of service based on the needs of the customers.  By significantly improving the service to both existing passengers and non-users we will improve the appeal of public transport, drive up patronage on bus and rail and bring about an upturn in revenue to make the network as a whole more financially viable in the future.

Under the deal, Cornwall Council will also have new bus franchising powers which will enable the Council to specify what services we want to have and when they will run.

Furthermore, the Council are working with the Department for Transport, Network Rail and Great Western Railway on the planned improvements to the rail network.  These include an upgraded sleeper service, enhanced signalling which will allow a new half hourly service on the mainline and improved rolling stock.  The aim is to combine the improvements to rail and bus services to achieve One Public Transport System for Cornwall in December 2018.

As part of the Cornwall Devolution Deal, a priority for Cornwall Council and the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership is to develop and grow the marine energy sector in Cornwall and today the government has agreed to provide a £15 million funding package to drive work to develop a Hayle, Falmouth and Tolvaddon MarineHub Enterprise Zone.

The Wave Hub, the world’s largest wave energy testing facility, will also be transferred to Cornwall Council to develop the facility as part of this low-carbon MarineHub Enterprise Zone. The package of support includes additional investment, the Enterprise Zone and transfer of ownership of Wave Hub to Cornwall Council to further develop this key asset.

For those who do not know anything about the Wave Hub, it is a wave energy testing facility off the coast of Hayle, in Cornwall.  It was constructed in 2010 to support the testing of wave energy technologies by providing an offshore electricity connection to the national grid, thus enabling developers to test their technology and export power in offshore conditions.

The Cornwall Marine Renewables Enterprise Zone, called MarineHub, part of the Cornwall Devolution Deal and the first low-carbon enterprise zone in England.

MarineHub will include the new Marine Renewables Business Park at Hayle, plus two adjoining sites; two sites within Falmouth Docks and land at Tolvaddon Energy Park that is already consented for industrial and office development. It will add to the region’s existing marine energy assets which include the Wave Hub offshore energy test site 10 miles from Hayle, the FabTest nursery test site in Falmouth Bay, and extensive research and supply chain capabilities.

MarineHub will be managed by the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership, which also manages the Aerohub Enterprise Zone at Cornwall Airport Newquay and Goonhilly Satellite Earth Station.

Good news, makes a change from funding cuts….

Further information on the Cornwall Devolution Deal http://www.cornwall.gov.uk/devolution

Information on Enterprise zones http://www.cornwall.gov.uk/business/economic-development/enterprise-zones/

 

The beginning of the end for maintained schools as all will be academies by 2022

The government will be announcing as part of the Chancellors Budget Statement that all schools in England will be academies by 2022. I have to say this is not new news, as the Government has been very clear with its direction of travel for schools for sometime.

However, until today’s announcement, whilst the government may have wished for all schools to become academies, it did not have the legislative powers to do this. Until now schools either converted by their own choice, or were forced to because of poor Ofsted inspections.

For Cornwall, there has not been this mass-conversation seen in other areas of England. The percentages of all pupils in academy schools going back to February 2014 (using the Jan 2013 school census headcount) was 42%, or in actual numbers 29,377. In March 2016 (using the Jan 2014 school census headcount) this had risen to 55% or 39,041 pupils. Not a massive rise in conversations really.

If you look at it in more detail – using the same dates as in the previous paragraph – in 2014, 74 schools were academies. In March 2016, there are now 124. Not even half of our schools (273 schools in total) are academies.

For secondary schools, which there are 32 in total, 16 were academy schools in 2014, and now it is 18. (17,423 pupils in 2014, 18,335 in 2016. A rise of 8% in total numbers).

For primary schools, again using the same periods, in 2014 there were 57 schools that were academies. Now there are 105. An almost doubling of conversions. Breaking this down further, in 2014 11,843 pupils or 31% were in academies, by 2016, it was 20,602, or 51%.

Now the government wants to force those who saw no merit in converting to become an academy school. Though as always with the Government, the devil will be in the detail on how this will be managed. And as normal, the government makes the grand announcement and then sometime later, we get the detail.

We in the LEA (Local Education Authority – basically the Council) know our powers over schools have been slowly removed since the 1990’s. These powers are set to be reduced further to maybe one or two responsibilities. Again, the government has announced this, but gave no further details on which powers will remain with the LEA. My educated guess the areas will be left will be school transport, school admissions and SEN provision.

It might seem strange, but at present the LEA remains responsible for educational standards in all schools, but has no powers over improvements on the academy schools. We think tomorrow’s expected ‘white paper’ will spell out the changes to the LA’s responsibilities.

I am also worried one government department will have direct responsiblity for so many schools. They will now be responsible for so many functions for all the schools in England. I know the government have created the Regional Schools Commissioners, but still, all this responsibility rests with the DfE. Which I feel is a rather remote government department to the rest of the world.

Previously, the government said all schools to convert by 2020, but now they are saying 2022. Two reasons for this is because there is insufficient capacity for the DfE to handle this mass-conversion, and secondly, because the government wants schools to be in academy chains, at present there are not enough, and many of those chains are not what I would politely say, in a fit state.

Furthermore, if you read between the lines and look at the announcement a few weeks ago on school funding, this review of the funding formula has slipped right from 2017 to 2020. I can bet any school who will now be forced to convert will have a conversation about funding.

However, for me, we should be really concentrating on what actually happens in a school with the most important issue is the young people’s educational journey and how they can achieve their full potential. It should not be how a school is administratively governed.

Today starts the final days of the LEA’s involvement in schools. Ironically, it was a Tory government in 1902, which started the LA’s involvement in schools. Now it will be this government that will virtually end the LEA’s role in education by 2022.

Public views sought on the five-year health and social care plan for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.

Cornwall’s residents are being invited to play a part in creating a new five-year health and social care plan for Cornwall that covers both adults and children. This plan is due to go to the Government later in the year. The goal of the new strategy for health and adults & children’s social care is to improve the health and wellbeing of Cornwall’s residents and provide seamless services.

socialcare

Therefore, to achieve this, a series of community events have been arranged from Bude to the Isles of Scilly to survey local communities. Tonight’s meeting will be held at New County Hall in Truro. This meeting will also be webcast via HERE.

From these public meetings NHS Kernow, Cornwall Council and Cornwall’s key health providers are seeking the health and social care priorities of Cornwall’s residents as well as their ideas on how potential savings could be made to help under pressure budgets go further.

It is really important as many people of all ages take part in this consultation as there the way Health and Social Care nationally and in Cornwall will change. Integration is the buss-word, but in reality, this is about improving services for both adults and children that see all organisations working closer together for the benefit of the community.

Also part of the consultation is a public survey which can be completed online HERE. This survey will run until March 25th.

The location and timings of the meetings are:

Date Drop in community event

12 noon to 6pm

Q&A Public Meeting

6.30pm to 8pm

Tuesday

8 March

Queen’s Hotel, Penzance Penzance St John’s Hall.
Wednesday

9 March

Park House Centre, Bude Park House Centre, Bude
Thursday

10 March

Shire House Suite, Bodmin. (12 noon to 5pm) Cornwall Council, Chy Trevail, Bodmin.
Tuesday

15 March

St Austell Library New County Hall, Truro

(webcast)

Wednesday

16 March

Newquay Sports Centre Newquay Sports Centre
Thursday

17 March

Eliot House Hotel, Liskeard Eliot House Hotel, Liskeard
Tuesday

22 March

Falmouth Community Network Panel meeting. (7-9pm) Falmouth Town Council, The Moor Falmouth.
Wednesday 23 March Truro One Stop Shop, Carrick House, Pydar Street. St Austell One Stop Shop, St Austell.
Thursday

24 March

Heartlands, Tin Room, Pool Cornwall College Lecture Theatre, Pool

There will also be two community events on the Isles of Scilly on March 22nd in the Isles of Scilly Council Chamber.

 

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