Dog ban set to change for Porthleven Beach

A few months ago, I asked residents about amending the current dog beach ban for Porthleven Beach. As highlighted HERE. I put forward a series of changes which were also supported by Porthleven Town Council.

I am pleased to say Cornwall Council have agreed to this request for a change and will be officially changed from the current ban period and timings. The ban will now start on the 1st May and end on the 30th September. The hours of the ban have also changed and will be between 9am and 6pm. The previous ban period and timings were from Easter Day till the 1st October and from 7am to 7pm.

There is no changes to the beach East of Blue Buoy Steps with access for dogs all year round.

One Stop Shop and Jobcentre office to be located into Helston Library

There has been a lot of speculation on the future of libraries, One Stop Shops in Cornwall. For Helston and the surrounding area, these vital services have been located at two different locations in Helston.

To add into the mix, the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP or Jobcentre) have been looking at its long-term commitment in Helston and had recently announced various offices that were under review  – which included Helston.

Myself and my fellow local Cornwall Councillors have argued all three of these services are vital, and it would be a huge blow to Helston, Porthleven and the surrounding area if they could no-longer access these services.

After various meetings with officers about the future of these services, I am pleased to say in a message from two portfolio holders which cover the council services and localisum, they have confirmed the long-term future of the Library, One Stop Shop services and Jobcentre by moving the latter two into the Library. As follows:

“In Helston the Jobcentre will be sharing premises with the library.  This will preserve access to the Jobcentre and ensure the library has a flexible space that will allow it to deliver a modern service.  It will also mean we are able to extend the library’s opening hours.  The Information Service that is currently delivered from Isaac House will be moving to Helston Library too, making it easier for people to access more services in one place.”

This is excellent news and I am pleased the views of local Cornwall Councillors have been taken into account and we have protected three vital services in Helston. My understanding is the Registration Services, which offers Weddings will remain at Isaac House. Issac House is not owned by Cornwall Council and is owned privately.

Public Toilets and how they are liable for Business Rates

It might seem daft, but public toilets are liable for business rates (officially called Non-domestic Rates NDR), even though they are not something I would call a businesses, more of a service. Cornwall Council has previously lobbied Central Government over the unfair burden of charging business rates on public toilets. No matter if they are run by a Town and Parish Council, a community group, or Cornwall Council.

The good news is the Government has tweaked the legislation and will give local council’s the powers to award discretionary relief from April 2018 under the Local Government Finance Bill. I welcome this.

However, there is a sting in tail. On one hand the Government allows Cornwall Council not to levy this charge, but it will be the local authority who have to pick up funding shortfall in funding.

Applying these powers to the public toilets that are the responsibility of Town and Parish Councils in Cornwall would create a £156,000 funding shortfall for the Council.  If the powers were applied to all public toilets in Cornwall, the shortfall would increase to around £250,000. That’s a lot of money to lose.  I believe the Government should compensate local authorities for any such funding shortfall. It has done previously with other business rate relief measures.

In the past, Cornwall Council collected business rates  and sent them to the Government, who in turn gave the Council a percentage back. Then, we collected and kept part of the NDR with the rest going to the Government. Now the Council keeps all, but gets no grant from the Government.

 

Helston Town Council to close the Porthleven Road for Flora Day after it reconsiders its decision

Back in September 2016, Helston Town Council decided not to apply for a Road Closure for the Porthleven Road during Flora Day 2017. I was very concerned this was an error and would put the public at risk as my previous blog highlights.

Several months on and at last weeks Helston Town Council meeting I congratulated the Mayor, and the Councillors for agreeing to reconsider their previous decision. In reaffirming my concerns, I wrote another letter to the town council. My second letter is as follows:

“Further to my letter dated the 7th September 2016 which expressed how I was very disappointed that Helston Town Council had decided not to apply for a Road Closure for the Porthleven Road on Flora Day 2017; I am pleased this issue is being discussed again by the Town Council.

My view on this issue is exactly the same as it was beforehand. This road must be closed on the grounds of public safety due to the sheer number of people attending Flora Day and the Fair. Without a Road Closure it will put the public in danger from vehicle movements

Furthermore, not closing the Porthleven Road will lead to serious congestion due the amount of traffic trying to navigate the area both near the Fairground Car Park and at the junction to Furry Way. This will in turn increase the risk for the public.

There is a minimal cost to having a Road Closure, as the cost of applying for one can be absorbed into the other application for the event.

The viewpoint of Cornwall Council should pay for this because it receives around £1400 in payment from the Fair is not possible. As you know this income is used to maintain the car park and keeps it free. Without the income, it makes my role more difficult in arguing against making it a fee paying car park.

I have asked the Fair operators for a contribution to help with the minimal costs for operating a Road Closure but as yet, I have not had a formal response to this request.

This closure has proven to work in the past, and I strongly believe it should continue. I urge you as public servants to reconsider your previous decision and apply for a Road Closure for Flora Day 2017.”

In the months between my two letters , I have been talking to the Fair operators, Anderton & Rowland to see if they would help out financially. I am pleased to say they agreed to my request for £500 to help with the small costs of a Road Closure. All credit to Anderton & Rowland for this, as they understood the importance of this Road Closure (their response came just after I sent my letter).

I am very pleased to say, Helston Town Council  at last nights during one of their committee meetings, they have reconsidered their original decision and will now go-ahead and apply for a Road Closure for the Porthleven Road for Flora Day 2017.

Whilst I disagreed with their original decision, credit to the town council for now applying for this Road Closure. Thank you.

 

Planned increase to car parking charging delayed for further discussion

parking signThe planned increases to charging in Cornwall Council car parks will not go ahead as planned.  In understanding the concern, the Leader has said in a letter to various members that:

“we recognise that the time-frame given to the Parking Service and town representatives between the approval of the budget in November and the deadline for the new Order at the end of January allowed little time for dialogue”. 

The Leader followed on by saying

we have therefore agreed to delay the implementation of the proposed schedule to allow further discussion to take place” (abridged version).

This is good news, and I thank the Leader for stepping in and trying to find a way forward. However, it is not clear how long this period of discussion will be. Myself and Porthleven Town Council wrote and highlighted how harmful the increased could be locally, especially the introduction of the after 4pm charging. In this period of ‘discussion’ I will again raise the issue.

However, what surprised me is car parking charges is such an emotive issue, few took the time to actually officially complain about it. As from the consultation, there were only 17 (me being one of them) individual responses from Cornwall Councillors, 15 from town and parish councils (Porthleven TC included), six from business groups, and 78 from the public. Though, credit to the 47 Councillor who signed a letter to the Leader and CEO expressing their concerns on the proposed charges.

My previous blog on the proposals can be found HERE

£536k punt on bidding for European City of Culture is like betting on a three-legged donkey at the Grand National

ECOCToday, at Cornwall Council’s packed Cabinet agenda was an item named European Capital of Culture.This was a request for £536k to be assigned to a bid for Capital Culture of the year in 2023. Basically, this money would be used to work up a bid in a competitive process in a winner takes all prize. There really is no prize for second place apart from being a few hundred-thousand lighter in the bank balance.

The deadline for submission is nine-months away which leaves little real-time for a comprehensive winning bid. Whereas the others in the competition like Dundee have had over a year to date be working on their bid. In fact, the average ECOC bid takes two to three years (as highlighted the ECOC application guidance) and Cornwall will have less than 9 months from start to finish. Not good odds to wager over £536k on. The report also highlights:

“Bidding for ECoC is complex and requires a significant budget. Financial support will be required to support the bidding process. Based on intelligence from other bids and an officer assessment of the resource required to deliver a credible bid by October 2017 it is calculated that a budget of approximately £536,000 will be required. This will be spent on cultural activity which will be linked to a large-scale community mobilisation effort, PR and marketing, a creative director and bid team. This is considered a modest budget for a bid to be ECoC”.

In an ideal world, this sort of thing might be rather nice, but I put this on the nice-to-do list, rather than being strategically important to do. I say this because the Council for the last several years has been cutting and reducing services you and I receive because of the budgetary pressures the Council face from the cuts in funding and increased demand for services. But despite these pressures, a cool £536k can be found for working up this bid, or what is in reality, one massive punt. My view is we should be concentrating on our core business, rather than chasing ego-badges like this.

However, if the £536k is not bad enough, then wait for this. If the bid is actually successful, then the Council will be required to contribute to at least £10m to make the whole project work. Yes £10m, probably more. With all the pressures we are already we are facing, this money would have to be found from existing budgets, or borrowed. As there is nothing in the current four-year budget plan.

For me, this £10m (and the £536k) could be spent far better on the most vulnerable, where it would have far greater and long-term positive benefits, or protecting libraries and other key service that are under pressure rather than a grand title of ‘Culture Capital’.

The programme title is European Capital of Culture, yet for some reason this is being sold as a Truro-Cornwall bid. My belief it is being sold as a Truro-Cornwall bid is to appease those who think funding is Truro-centric. If it was to be Cornwall wide, then the cost of putting this on would spiral. I heard from a member of the City Council that Truro City Council knew nothing of this bid up to a few days ago. Not a great start really is it?

In the report, it claims “It is reasonable to assume that the economic
impact of winning the competition could be circa £100m over the course of the year”. Yet who benefits from this? The tax payer doesn’t, as the only way the Council could recoup its costs if it received income from business rates from newly created businesses as a direct result of the successful bid.

In trying to convince the Cabinet today, there was a two page list of people saying how wonderful this would be. Yet, these people from well-known organisation have not committed any cash to this. We can all say how wonderful something is if you are not paying for it.

I was the lone voice in the Cabinet today. I could not support this bid as it is flawed from the very start and has next very little chance of winning. This bid is a waste of £536k and I believe this money could be spent on more vital service areas.

I voted against this. And I am glad I did.

New goal posts with nets for The Moors playing field

Every year, each Cornwall Councillor gets a small pot of funding to help local groups and organisations with funding. In the past, I have paid over the last year or so for new life-jackets for Porthleven Gig Club, Porthleven Village Show, Porthleven School PTA and the Porthleven Food Festival to name a few.

Since the removal old goal posts on the Moors (because they were at the end of their life) there has been a strong request from both parents and young people to have these replaced.

Goal posts that are designed for play-parks are not cheap, but I am very pleased to say yesterday I placed an order for two goal posts both with nets for the Moors playing field. These goal posts will be paid for out of my community fund.

The new goal posts for the Moors playing field

The new goal posts for the Moors playing field

Further good news is the delivery of these goal posts should be within two-weeks and installation soon after. Porthleven Town Council should also be thanked because they will be funding the installation costs (concrete) and the future maintenance of the goal posts.

Helston’s Youth Cafe Seeks Volunteers!

The Community Interest Company that runs the venture are now recruiting for new volunteers for their busy evening sessions on either Tuesdays or Fridays.

Helston is home to the unique youth café, named by the young people as ‘The Furry Youth Café’ This cafe sits above Warrens in Meneage Street, hence the rabbit logo on the swing sign.

As the Chairman of the Furry Youth Café CIC as well as the other directors we are keen to hear from local people who can spare a few hours a month to help support the sessions. The key ingredient is a willingness to help and support young people, you don’t have to have an interest in catering, you may have other skills or you may be experienced in volunteering and just want to give something back to help the youth of the town, we would love to hear from you whatever your background and expertise.

My fellow director and former town Mayor, Cllr Mike Thomas hopes the people of Helston and the surrounding area get behind this and come forward, as you really will make a difference.

Volunteers alongside trained youth workers and we hope you will get something out of the experience too.  The town is fairly unique in having this amazing facility and we are looking forward to hearing from you.”

Training will be provided including safeguarding, introduction to youth work, and other useful aspects of engaging with young people…. we hope to attract a real mix of new volunteers to help the café have a really good season.

Make your volunteering really count – to find out more, please contact me,  Charlotte Caldwell on Tel: 07741 304606.

We all want fairer funding in Cornwall’s Schools

I have been contacted by parents and teachers about information being put in the public domain about school funding in Cornwall. I, as has Cornwall Council, have long campaigned for fairer funding in schools in Cornwall. However, some of the information released by a Union is rather flawed. This has resulted in misinformation being shared.

I am also not often in agreement with the DfE on its funding formula but I share the concerns of the Department for Education over the accuracy of the figures produced by the unions’ calculator.

In the case of Cornwall the figures appear to be based on an assumption of 65,092 pupils in our schools. According to the Autumn census (the most recent figures available), there are currently 70,263 school aged pupils on role in schools in Cornwall (including those in sixth form but excluding those in nursery and colleges.

The level of inaccuracy in the pupil figures used by the unions means that the figures for any cuts in funding are also inaccurate.  We know that education in Cornwall has historically been underfunded by successive Governments but using inaccurate figures in this way does little to support the unions’ case for additional funding and creates concern among schools, teachers, parents and pupils.

The Council has robustly responded to the consultation on the proposed new national funding formula and remain hopeful that, if introduced by the Government, it could mean millions of pounds of extra funding for schools in Cornwall. However, as we said previously, we need to look closely at the detail to see how the formula could impact on individual schools in Cornwall.  The difference in funding allocation will affect schools in different ways, and not all schools will see an increase in their funding.

I am not disagreeing with the sentiment of Cornwall being underfunded and how that must change. However, if you are going to raise the issue, you have to get your data facts right. Therefore, Cornwall Council felt it necessary to issue statement to clarify the situation and in turn stop unnecessary angst with teacher and parents.

 

 

Children from St. Wenn and Mylor Bridge primary schools launch Rocket Cars as part of the Bloodhound programme

 

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The Children from St. Wenn and Mylor Bridge primary schools with teachers and the course Rocketeers.

Following on from my ‘who doesn’t want to build a Rocket Car’ post, part of the second day of the course had was about running the classes and the racing with children involved. No better way of learning than having real children to teach what we had learned the previous day.

Two primary schools came, St. Wenn and Mylor Bridge. In total there were 20 children eager to design and launch their Rocket Car. It was amazing to see how engaged these children were to learn about aerodynamics, how rockets worked and how a better shape can make a car go faster. It was so much fun, I think they actually forgot they were learning something!

After they had designed, cut and shaped their Rocket Cars it was time to launch them. You could not help by smile where you heard squeals of delight as each Rocket Car shot off down the 50m track.

For me, it was an amazing couple of days. Best of all is I qualified and now can help run some of the race events planned in Cornwall which will result in one primary and one secondary going to the national finals.

Huge thanks to the Bloodhound Team trainers, who were brilliant. Thanks also go to Cornwall Aviation Heritage Centre who were our hosts and were brilliant too. 

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