Proposed Changes to Dog Control Orders (Dogs on Beaches) in Cornwall 

The Government has introduced new legislation to control dogs in public spaces. With that in mind, Cornwall Council has decided to apply the new legislation on beaches in Cornwall.

The Council is proposing to change the existing Dog Control Orders (DCOs) currently in place to Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO). These DCO’s control dogs on designated beaches in Cornwall.
Fear not, the Council proposes to incorporate the same conditions, times, dates and durations, that are currently in place, in the new PSPO – meaning dogs would be allowed on designated beaches at the same times as they are allowed now.

Cornwall Council helping the Bumble Bee

According to research, the Bee has been in decline for several years.  Pollinators are vital to the environment, for human health and to the economy, yet, in recent decades, the UK has seen losses affecting over 80% of our butterfly species, crashes in honey bee colonies and the extinction of two bumble bee species. 80% of plant species in Europe are insect pollinated, including crops and wild plants. Therefore, the value of pollinators cannot be ignored because they play a very important part in our ecosystem; more important than most people will know.

The decline of the Bee and other pollinators is due to various external influences. These causes include disease, climate change, loss of habitat and the use of insecticides such as neonicotinoids (‘neonics’). Neonicotinoid use has been linked in a range of studies to adverse ecological effects, including honey-bee colony collapse disorder.

In looking at how we as Councillors can help the Bee and other pollinators, a group of Councillor put forward a motion for certain things to happen. From a series of work a report was compiled on what could be done to help the Bee.

One of the main aspects of this work has is how Cornwall Council can look into how it uses such chemicals not only on a roads and hedges, but in other areas like in our playing and agriculture. The another main point is helping the Bee with pollinators.

A final decision on how Cornwall Council can help the Bee and other pollinators was subject to a debate at the meeting of the full council. That approved recommendation is as follows:

  1. A letter be drafted to express that ‘This Council calls upon the Government to fund extensive research into the hazards of glyphosate and neonicotinoids on human health and the environment’;
  1. In a proactive effort to reverse the destruction of the bees and pollinators and to protect human health, Cornwall Council ceases the use of neonicotinoids and ceases the use of glyphosate, as funding becomes available for alternative treatments, on all public access land (to include office, depot, housing surroundings, highways, street scene and natural environment assets) that it owns or manages or is managed by its arm’s length companies, with the exception of use for the control of Schedule 9 plants under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, such as Japanese Knotweed, or where it is used to reduce material risks to asset integrity.  Cornwall Council to review the impacts of this in 2018;
  1. Work be undertaken with the Farms Panel and the Housing and Environment and Planning Policy Advisory Committees towards achieving a reduction in usage of neonicotinoids and glyphosates on County Farms through a detailed and ongoing review of good practice and evidence, engaging with the farming sector and its representatives.
  1. Cornwall Council ceases the use of neonicotinoids and glyphosate on land developed for capital projects, with the exception of use in the control of Schedule 9 plants under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, such as Japanese Knotweed, or where it is used to reduce material risks to asset integrity;
  1. Cornwall Council prepares and implements a Pollinators Action Plan;

I believe this is a start, but as was pointed out at the meeting, anyone can go into supplier and purchase one of these chemicals and spay with abandonment.

There also needs to be a greater understanding of the impact on the farming industry. An unintended consequences of banning/restricting certain chemicals, could effect farming.

The Council report can be found HERE

Government’s plans for Early Years funding is bad news for Cornwall

Here we go again, on one hand the Government says it wants to increase free childcare hours from 15 to 30, but the reality of this is their current plan puts Cornwall’s Early Years provision in a worse position than it is because of the Government’s new funding formula plans for this sector.abc

The Government is introducing a new national formula for funding its 30 year childcare offer and is due to formally confirm the proposed funding rate for Cornwall at the end of December.  While both the Council and providers support the principle of a national formula, the suggested rates for Cornwall would see a 1% increase in funding per child – an additional 4 pence per hour – significantly below the national average increase of 5.7% – and making Cornwall the third worst funded local authority in the country!

Cornwall is one of the worst funded authorities for Early Years, Higher and Basic Needs. So when there is a funding review, being near the bottom of the pile you think it will improve. Yet for Cornwall the review which the Government is currently undertaking has the potential to put us in a worse position, yes worse….

This is very, very bad news for parents, children and early years’ providers in Cornwall. As one of the Early Innovator councils chosen to help pilot the new 30 hour childcare offer, we have been working closely with providers from across the private, voluntary, independent and maintained sectors over the past 12 months to draw up plans for the introduction of the new provision in September 2017.

The Government has to rethink its plans on the Government to significantly increase the rate of funding it is proposing to allocate to Cornwall to provide additional childcare hours to prevent the risk of large numbers of early years providers going out of business.

In Cornwall we have a committed, high performing early years’ sector in Cornwall, with around 92% of our settings rated as “Good” or “Outstanding” by Ofsted.  There are around 11,000 three and four-year olds in Cornwall and we know from talking to parents that almost three-quarters of those currently using childcare would like the additional 15 hours.  More than half of parents also say that the new provision will allow them to increase the hours they work or to change their jobs which will help to drive our economy.

However, the very clear message from providers is that the rates being proposed for Cornwall by the Government are so low they will not meet minimum staff costs.  Many are saying that not only does this mean they will be unable to provide the additional 15 hours offer, they would not be sustainable at all and would close.

The Council already allocates over 99% of the funding it receives to providers and so there is no additional funding which can be used to meet any shortfall in funding from the Government. It will have to come from within existing budgets, which in turn could lead to further service cuts.

Currently, the Government gives Cornwall’s providers £3.86 per hour per child, but the true cost in reality is around is at least £5 and that is the minimum estimated amount to cover costs. Providers in trying to balance the books, charge extra per hour for the additional 15 hours, but this will go when the additional 15 hours is introduced. I also fail to understand the headline national figure under the funding formula review is £4.88, yet Cornwall gets over a pound less.

Many early years providers in Cornwall have already been struggling to meet their costs, and in January the Council introduced an 18 pence per hour increase in the money we pay as a short-term emergency measure because of the lack of government funding. This was only intended as a stop-gap measure pending the outcome of the consultation, however, and there is no money to continue with the payment after March.

As I said the 18p is a temporary measure and will go from March 2017, which in turn means with the poultry 4p increase suggested by the Government, will actually see less money for providers. If the Government does not increase the rate currently proposed for Cornwall, over 90% of our 500 early years providers will see cuts in their funding of between £1,640 to £5,594 a year.

Cornwall’s nursery schools, which are used as centres of excellence and training, seeing an average grant reduction of £157,000 a year.  These cuts will have a serious impact on what has been a vibrant and hard-working sector in Cornwall and could see many settings close.

Unintended consequences of the minimum wage increases this year by approximately 7.5% an hour, yet, high quality nurseries remain sustainable with a  2.74% decrease in funding per child per hour.

The important thing to me, the Council and providers is that we want to build on the success of our early years programme, not see cuts in provision for children and parents in Cornwall.

Therefore I am calling on the Government to guarantee a minimum level of funding through the Area Cost Adjustment which reflects our specific needs. Government, you need to rethink your plans…..

In lobbying, we have written to the Minister and Cornwall’s six MPs. I wonder if that will do any good…

Cornwall Council formally opposes the Government’s plan for Grammar Schools

Some months back, I seconded a motion to oppose the Government’s plan to expand and re-introduce Grammar Schools. At first, this motion could not be debated at Full Council because there needed to be further work carried out. That work has now been undertaken, and it is now back for a decision by the full membership of Cornwall Council.

We have a comprehensive schools system in Cornwall; it is a family of schools. When schools in Cornwall had the ability of having some form of selection when the Academies Bill became law, schools rejected it because head teachers believed in a comprehensive system.

Our education system should not be selective. Where if you do not pass an exam you are excluded from a form of education. Having an exam based entry you reinforce the notion of you are some of failure and you are not good enough if you do not pass an entrance test. Is really what we want to teach our children?

The Government’s Green Paper on Grammar Schools has so many flaws to it. For example, schools are encouraged and are working in partnership with each other to share that good practice. That will stop because there will be open competition between the Grammar Schools and the rest. The Grammar Schools trying to cream off all the top students. There are just too many flaws to the plan, it gives you the notion that this plan was not really thought through before being published.

Grammar School will not increase standards in schools. The outgoing head of Ofsted has said it will not increase standards. Even in the Govian world of education, Grammar Schools were not part of his plan; or in the mind of the previous Education Secretary, Nikki Morgan.

Every child deserves the very best education, a comprehensive system aims to do that where all abilities are catered for. I am therefore very pleased the motion for Cornwall Council to oppose the Government’s plan for Grammar Schools was massively supported by Councillors from across all parties. Only about four Councillors opposed the motion and these were not from one party either.

 

Cornwall’s school reception place applications must be submitted by 15th January 2017

If you are a parent/carers with children who were born between 1st September 2012 and 31 August 2013 and you are intending to send your child to school in September 2017; you will need to submit an application for a school reception place. The closing date to apply for a reception class place is 15th January 2017. If your application is late you might not get the choice of school you wanted.

The School Admissions Team works hard to reduce the number of late applications as far as possible. Applications submitted after the deadline mean that the chance of parents/carers securing a place at one of their preferred schools is reduced, with a subsequent effect on the total number of appeals for school places which is a concern for schools and distressing for families.

In Cornwall we have a good track record of parents and carers getting one of their choice of schools. However, it is made more difficult when application forms are submitted late, or are incomplete.

Furthermore, there is a common myth that naming only one school and thinking ‘if I only put one, I am sure to get that.’ That is not the case – all preferences are treated equally so it is better to tell the Admissions Team which schools you would prefer so that you can be considered for them before they fill up. The team do their very best to give you your first choice, however, this is not always possible if all three boxes are not filled in. This makes the admission team’s job harder; which in turn, can lead to disappointment.

Parents/carers can get support from the Family Information Service who can help with identifying preferred schools, completing the application, understanding the process or other aspects of starting school, or help parent/carers whose first language isn’t English. They can be contacted on 0800 587 8191. The website is HERE. Cornwall Council will also be getting the information leaflets and posters out to key partners such as One Stop Shops, nurseries and early years settings, newspapers and radio stations.

Parents/carers can access information and the online application system HERE. A paper application form can be provided by the School Admissions Team on request. Please remember, you must submit your application by 15th January 2017.

Five Cornwall Councillors raise £2612 for Kernow Young Carers

Five Cornwall Councillors, The Chairman of Cornwall Council, Ann Kerridge, Jim McKenna, Sally Hawken, Pat Rogerson and myself stepped forward to help raise money for a very worthwhile cause that is Kernow Young Carers. We did this by being ‘arrested’ and sent to jail. Once in jail, we all had to raise at least £250 to be released.

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The five Councillors on their arrest

The second part to the fun-raiser was Jim and myself being put in stocks, and for at least a £1 donation people got to throw wet sponges at us.

Amazingly, due to people’s generously, the total raised just on each of our Just Giving pages was a whopping £2,148.25. Wow! Added to this, there was a number of cash donations who added a further £276.49 to the total. And then finally, £188 was raised via the stocks event.

Adding it all together, the five of us raised £2612.74 (and counting). This is fantastic as the initial target was £1250.

A huge thanks goes to everyone who donated and to those who helped make this event possible.

 

Jim and I sharing the stocks

Jim and I sharing the stocks

I was dared to eat a few of these for a donation...

I was dared to eat a few of these for a donation…

And yes I did eat a few……

Pride in Porthleven paints Wellington Rd bus stop

On Saturday morning, a group of volunteers gathered to spruce up the Wellington Rd bus stop. In a few hours, the bus shelter has been transformed into something bright and clean.

Thanks to Porthleven Town Council for the paint and equipment; Helston and Lizard Works and residents of Porthleven who helped.

Thank you Mark, Andrea, Lesley, John, Jackie and Antony.

 



And to remind you of the bus stop before PIP cleaned it up

Help! Release me from Jail; or better still throw a wet sponge at me to raise money for Kernow Young Carers

As I said in a previous blog, I am helping to raise money for the very worthwhile organisation that is Kernow Young Carers. The will be two elements to this fund-raiser. The first, I am being taken to jail today, Friday from 12 noon, after being ‘arrested’ by the Cornwall Fire and Rescue Service.

After my release (or people paying more money to keep me in – which is a distinct possibility) from jail, I along with my Cabinet colleague Jim McKenna will be put in stocks. We will be then subjected to an onslaught of wet sponges being thrown at us. For at least £1 you get three sponges to be thrown at me or Jim. I am told there is already a queue forming to partake. This event will start at 2pm and is set to last 1 hour…..

If you can, please, please donate what every you can to Kernow Young Carers. You can do so either giving cash tomorrow at County Hall or by my just giving page via HERE

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A new Community Forum launched for Helston.

A new forum for Helston has been launched called the Helston Community Forum. The aim is to bring closer together the residents of Helston and those who have an interest in the town, whether it is a specific issues, good news story or a general talking point.  The forum will enable individuals and groups to highlight issues, advertise events and float ideas.

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The forum can be found HERE.

If you belong to a charity or community group, you will be able to promote your worthy cause and update people on your latest projects. By using the forum, you might reach a far greater audience than you currently do.

The people behind the idea are Cllr Dave Potter. He was ability supported by Cllr John Martin; and by a development team comprising Rosie from Helston Museum, Rachel from the Town Council and a number of Helston residents.  Other members of the community provided strategic technical advice in the early stages. I was asked to be an early tester of the site.

I think this forum is a great idea, as Helston does not have one focal point, as Helston tends to be a community within its own estate border. This is not a bad thing, but it would be good if Helston has a central focal point. Maybe this is the answer?

Well done to all who made this happen.

Celebrating the success of our Children in Care 2016

Every year, the team from Cornwall Council’s Virtual School puts on an event to celebrate the success of our Children in Care. I have the great honour of presenting certificates to many young people.

The Head of the Virtual School and me

These certificates are awarded for a multitude of reason like doing well at in schools and/or some other achievement like sport. It is a great event and very humbling when you understand some of the backstories of these young people and how they are dealing with them; yet still doing their very best at school with the support of the team from the Virtual School. 

Every year a fancy dress theme is chosen. This year’s theme was super heroes. It was brilliant to see so many young people dress-up. However, it is not just the young people who partake in dressing up, but the entire team too. 

Thanks must go to the Penryn Uni campus and their student ambassadors who help make this event so special.

I will finish with my huge thanks to the entire team of the Virtual School for all the work they do. They are heros, just like the young people they support. 

The Team

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