Change of plan for roadworks on the A394 near Newham Farm, Helston

I have learnt in life, the best laid plans often change at the last-minute. In a previous post: Road to be closed for one night I described a solution that would remove the lights whilst the repairs to the carriageway carried on. This will now not happen.

The reason this plan will not happen is for a good reason. This good reason is because excellent progress has been made on the strengthening works on the Newham wall and Cormac are currently way ahead of programme. Cormac have informed the local councillors that with a concerted effort over the next 2 weeks, utilising additional shift patterns, Cormac can complete the initial phase of the works which will result in being 4-5 weeks ahead of where the work was expected to be. This would mean that all traffic management on the carriageway could be removed at this time.


The scale of the works to repair the A394 near Newham Farm, Helston

In the previous blog post you will recall that following the site meeting held earlier in June an agreement was reached which involved placing steel barriers along the edge of the carriageway and removing the traffic controls over this coming weekend. It was also proposed to remove the road studs and centre line and move this further across the carriageway to even up the lane widths whilst the steel barriers were in place.

The combined cost of bringing the barriers to site, installing them (bolted into the carriageway) maintaining their presence and subsequently dismantling and removing them is in the region of over £20k. In light of the above programme acceleration and costs involved Cormac have reconsidered the previously agreed approach.

The bad news it is now proposed to retain the traffic control for two more weeks allowing the strengthening works to be completed. The controlled length where the traffic lights operate can however be reduced which will increase vehicle flows.

I appreciate this contradicts the previous plan, however, consider that the cost savings may outweigh the slight extension of time where traffic may be delayed. The restrictions will be lifted in two weeks’ time and well before the commencement of the peak school summer holiday and RNAS Culdrose Air Day. I understand people will be disappointed, but the work is near completion and the lights will be gone soon.

There is saying – don’t shoot the messenger…

The Case for Cornwall and bold plans for integrating health

The Case for Cornwall is an ambitious plan with many aspects to it. Some will say too ambitious, but I believe it is best to ask for as much as you which will have a positive affect on residents, rather than some sort of half-hearted ask. It is not just an ask for Cornwall Council, but for all the health organisation in Cornwall.

One of the areas for the Case for Cornwall is on Health integration across the spectrum. It is not an easy ask, as there is eight different health organisations in Cornwall who deliver these health services. Those who deliver health services believe integration is to the best way forward. Out of these eight, three commission services in Cornwall. These are Cornwall Council, NHS England and NHS Kernow.

However, wanting to deliver integrated health service is easier said than done. A few reasons for this is because all the eight different providers all have different legal, governance, data capture systems and financial structures. So trying to overcome these is difficult without changes to legislation. There are also cultural differences between the organisations which will also need to be addressed.

These asks are:

  1. Support in developing a devolved ring-fenced place-based health & social care budget with a minimum five-year settlement;
  2. Local ownership and control of assets. (Please see the ‘property’ theme in the Case for Cornwall document for detail related to this ask);
  3. Delegated authority for commissioning of primary care GP Services with the opportunity to explore future delegation of other services important in our community model, e.g. pharmacy, optometry and dental services; and
  4. Government to consider a review of the funding allocation formula for Cornwall to ensure it matches the actual needs profile of our population.

The Case or Cornwall would also like to work with Central Government to explore two opportunities for greater local influence:

  • To influence design of a single framework for measuring the impact that health and social care services have on the health and well-being of a local population (‘a single outcomes framework’)
  • To influence how multiple regulators might develop a coordinated approach to a place in order to enable efficient and effective collaboration.

Of course if the government agrees to these plans, this integration will not happen overnight, or even in a year or two. As if the government agrees, these ambitious plans will take five-years to implement.

To support this the Council is also seeking transformation funding which is addressed below in the section on Managing the transformation. £2m per annum over the five-year period will provide vital programme delivery resource whilst maintaining business as usual.

Why are we asking for this? There are many reason, but a few are:

Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly have a total population of 545,335 (as of 2014). The population of Cornwall contains more residents over the age of 75 than the average for England with rates in the upper quartile of all local authorities across England and Wales.

The number of those aged 75+ is set to grow significantly and very quickly with a 32% increase by 2024. It is the group most at risk of multiple long-term conditions. If there is no change to current practice, numbers in the 75+ age group will exceed our capacity across health and social care to provide care for them. Family and friends providing care are also growing older.

We have some of the most disadvantaged neighbourhoods in the country. In Cornwall, one in ten live in the 20% most deprived areas in England. These areas are home to 53,000 people. 15,100 children (under 16) live in poverty, 22.8% households are in fuel poverty and more than 30,000 people are on health related benefits. People in our disadvantaged communities are at higher risk of living with at least one debilitating condition and for more of their lives. Of those claiming Employment Support Allowance and incapacity benefits 46% report a mental health problem as their primary diagnosis

Children under 19 living in poverty in Cornwall stands at 17.6% and is ranked 8 out of 20 of south-west region councils. Poverty matters and has a major impact on the health and wellbeing of our population both in the short and long-term. (I will be doing a separate blog post on children in poverty)

Cornwall experiences low wages and seasonal employment. Cornwall has the second weakest economy in the country – earnings were 19% below the national average in 2011. Cornwall also has unique challenges.

Most businesses are small, around 14% of the working age population is self-employed compared to a national average of 9% and the skills profile in Cornwall continues to be weak despite improvements

A Cost of Living analysis for Cornwall shows that there are a number of higher costs for the average household in Cornwall compared to the national average or to other parts of the UK – this includes water & sewerage charges, costs of energy & transport fuels & mortgages. Costs of living in Cornwall are set in the context of lower than average annual earnings & higher than average house prices.

All these and more, have an effect on health, and this is why having an integrated health system in Cornwall will result in better provision, and less money being spent on different organisational structures.

Is the plan bold, yes. Is the detail finalised, no. But one thing is for sure, this is the right thing to do. You can read more about the plan HERE.

These plan will be discussed at the next Cabinet meeting on the 8th July. The meeting starts at 10am and is webcast.

A394 near Newham Farm, Helston is to be closed for one night

In the last few months there has been concerns expressed about the length of time it has taken and the traffic congestion due to the road repairs on the A394 near Newham Farm, Helston. In a previous blog post I explained the sheer scale of the works required to repair this carriageway.

With the summer holiday season approaching and a massive increase of traffic on the roads Cornwall Council, Cormac and the local Cornwall councillors want to avoid large-scale congestion due to only one lane open on the A394. To avoid this, work will be undertaken to open both lanes on the 5/6th July.

The work require will result in this road being closed for a short period between 5th July at 7pm to 6th July 7am hours. This has to be done to allow certain safety features to be installed to allow both lanes to be open.

So from 7am on the 6th July, both lanes of the A394, near Newham Farm will be open.

Issuing Fixed Penalty Notices for unauthorised absence in Cornwall’s Schools.

Since the Government change the legislation surrounding unauthorised absence during term time there has been a lot of stories in the media from local and national radio, to printed media on the subject of Fixed Penalty Notices (FPN). Therefore, I felt it was important to explain fact from fiction. Without making this blog post long, and repeating something please read ‘Unauthorised absence during the school term’ to refresh yourselves.

In another blog post on ‘The number of fines from unauthorised absence in Cornwall’s schools’ I give details on the actual number of Fixed Penalty Notices issued by Cornwall Council on behalf of  the Headteacher. To clarify, the decision on whether to grant leave of absence in term-time is always made by the Headteacher of each school. Head Teachers only grant leave of absence in term time if the reason is exceptional, with the individual Headteacher responsible for deciding what is considered to be exceptional.

If a pupil is absent during term-time without this being granted by the Head Teacher, then the school can request the Local Authority to consider issuing a Penalty Notice. Cornwall has a protocol for the issuing of Penalty Notices, agreed with schools, and is only issued under specific circumstances.

However, long-term truancy is a different matter and will not be covered via the FPN system. In cases like this, Education Welfare Officers  will get involved by work closely with schools, parents and pupils to try to sort out attendance issues. This may involve arranging home and school visits to discuss the situation. They will try to find out the reasons why the child is not attending school and take steps to try to get the child back into school.  This includes offering support or sign-posting to other agencies. Failing this, the Council will have to address truancy through the court system. This though is the last resort when all other options have been exhausted.

Has the introduction of the legislation worked? The answer to that depends on how it has affected you. For those in the tourism industry would say this change has had a devastating impact on their trade. The flip side of the coin is teachers say attendance has got better. As for parents, they may say holidays are unaffordable due to the massive hikes in prices during the school holidays.

There has been suggestions school holidays could be staggered. This sounds easy on paper, but trying to do this on a national scale is an almost impossible job, especially as academy schools have the right to set their own term and holiday periods. This makes it very difficult for Local Authorities to set fixed term times because schools can ignore it and so their own thing. For Blogs on this subject click School Term Times.

For those interested, more details on the policy can be found HERE



Launch of a children’s Oral Health Programme which will start to tackle tooth decay in Cornwall

Just over a year ago, I witnessed first-hand a number of dental procedures being carried out during a visit to PCH Dental and RCHT which could have been prevented by improved oral health (blog on the visit HERE).

When you see children as young a seven having teeth pulled out because of decay, it certainly highlights a problem that I felt as the Portfolio Holder for Children and Young People, something really had to change to address dental hygiene in Cornwall

The shocking statistic is an estimated 99% of cases of teeth extraction is due to poor diet and dental hygiene and considered preventable. It gets worse, with around 25% of five-year olds in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly are found to have tooth decay. This is 99% preventable.

In 2011/2012, 830 young people under the age of 18 years in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly had teeth extracted under general anaesthetic – with an average of three teeth per child.

From my visit, I arranged a meeting with various Health and Public Health partners to see how we could address the problem. The short version of the process is organisations came together, contributed with funding and started a pilot programme to start to address this issue.

The pilot programme took place over a three-month period from April 2015 and was run at St Meriadocs Infant School. The pilot proved to be a great success. Dental Therapists from PCH Dental worked with the school to give oral health education to around 100 children aged three to five years including introducing a supervised ‘tooth-brushing club’ for nursery children and applying fluoride varnish to the teeth of children in the reception classes.

With the success of the pilot, I am very pleased to say the Council has commissioned PCH Dental to deliver this programme. This next phase will target areas where children are at higher risk of poor oral health. One of the aims of this programme is to reduce this inequality.

The official launch of the Oral Health Programme took place at St Meriadocs Infant school. Children from this school were asked to come up with a logo for the programme, with the winner announced at the event.

The many entries from the children

The many entries from the children

It was great to see so many fantasitc entries, and it was very hard to pick a winner. However, a winner was duly picked and there was prizes for second and third places too. In fact, all the children who entered in the competition got a goodie bag (healthy one).

The top three entries. 1st, 2nd, 3rd left to right

The top three entries. 1st, 2nd, 3rd left to right

The Oral Health Programme will deliver tooth brushing clubs in 27 nurseries; oral health education programmes and tooth brushing demonstrations in 20 children’s centres and fluoride varnishing programme in 20 schools.

Highlighting the importance of keeping teeth and gums healthy at an early age will not only help reduce the need for teeth extraction as a result of decay in children, but also into adulthood.

The first two phases of this programme to raise awareness of the importance of good dental care from an early age have been very successful and I look forward to working in partnership with PCH Dental and Public Health to deliver this next phase. From this phase, I want the programme to be available county-wide in the near-future.

Thanks again to all who took the time to listen to me and help solve this issue. I could not have done this without you.


Vodaphone set to upgrade its telecommunication mast at Porthleven

For residents of Porthleven who are on the Vodaphone mobile network, they have been raising the issue of network problems, with the loss or no signal. This has been frustrating for many people.

Mobiles can only work with a network of base stations in place where people want to use their mobile phones or other wireless devices. Without base stations, the mobile phones and other devices we rely on simply won’t work.

The agents for the company have contacted me as part of the planning process to inform me of the upgrading of the mast, which is at Treza Farm, Porthleven. In my reply, I have supported the upgrade. However, the consultation is more of informing you of the work, as infrastructure upgrades like this come under permitted developement.

The technical network requirement is to provide 3G / 4G coverage for this locality and area. This will result in the removal of the existing 17m Telefonica only mast housing 1 antenna and 1x 0.6m dish and its replacement with a 17.5m mast housing 6 antennas, 1 x 0.3m and 1 x 0.6m dish for the shared use of Telefonica and Vodafone.

With this upgrade, I am hopeful the reliability of the network will improve. Though, as yet, I do not have a start date for the work.



The children of Porthleven School write an open letter about clearing up dog poo

There is a small working group made up from representatives from the town council and the community who are looking at how to tackle the issue of people not picking up their dog’s poo. It is totally unacceptable our play areas and pavements are blighted by dog poo; caused by owners failing to pick it up.

The working group has asked the children of Porthleven School to help in this campaign. The children of the school, supported by the teaching staff, have written an open letter that explains how they see this issue.

The letter is as follows:

“Dear Porthleven,

The children of Porthleven School are writing this open letter as we would like to ask people in the village to make sure they clean up after their dogs. It is something that the children think is a growing problem, where they have noticed it all around our village. During the last week the School Council, which is run by pupils, have been holding meetings with the children in each class, along with the teachers, to talk about the issue about the dog mess in Porthleven. When we talked to the children here are some of their comments,

“There is lots of poo around the park, especially around the goal and it has stopped my mum letting me play there.”

“My mummy found 20 large pieces of dog poo in one field and was really cross. She picked up every single piece of poop.”

“I am really scared for my dog because the rain makes it go in the stream and all the germs might make her very ill when she drinks from it.”

“The posters don’t work. I watched somebody scoop up the mess and put the bag in a hedge.”

“There are not enough bins and they are never cleaned.”

“There are more flies with the mess and they go all over you.”

“My dog was really poorly from eating it and got a parasite in its tummy.”

“I went for a walk and there was poo on the beach, in the lane and by the swings – it was everywhere!”

This is just a few of the comments we have collected.

The pupils are really concerned that if they get it on their shoes, they could spread into school on the floor where they might sit.

We have been investigating and know that dog poo has 23 million bacteria on just one gram. This makes it stink and is unpleasant, but most importantly, it can make us really poorly. It also has toxins in that could make us blind. It is bad for our environment and gets into the water and se

We want to change this by making people more aware of the issues. If there are more bins, people might use them? Why do people just leave it on the floor? We have seen signs saying about fines for people who don’t clear up the mess but are they enforced?

Thank you for the time in reading our concerns and we really would like you to address this problem as soon as possible.

Yours Sincerely

Porthleven School Council”

This letter say’s it all really. Well done to all the children who gave their views. Thanks should also go to the staff at the school who are supporting the children to get this message across.

Please pick up your dog’s poo. And when you do pick it up, do not just leave the bag, or throw it somewhere, dispose of it correctly. It is not only the red dog bins that can take dog poo, all bins in Porthleven can be used to deposit dog poo.

The details behind bringing mainline gas to Porthleven

The role of a Councillor is to help residents with not only any problems they have, but also to help them to achieve something they feel is important. This is the case with Penny, who along with others, feels Porthleven should have access to mainline gas. Since Penny came to me, I have been looking into how to solve this issue.

It is one of histories oversights that Porthleven has no gas, I really do not understand why gas was never installed in Porthleven. I know Porthleven was a lot smaller 80/100 odd years ago, but that still does not make it right.

Looking at the wider picture, Porthleven is not alone in its lack of connection to mainline gas as:

  • 51.6% of households in Cornwall are without mainline gas (48.4% with)*;
  • Without mainline gas in the South West region 31.1; England 21.2%.

More startling look at the number of households with no central heating*:

  • Households with no central heating in Cornwall – 7.2%;
  • Households in the Isles of Scilly with no central heating – 26.3%;
  • Households in the South West region with no central heating – 3.6%;
  • Households in England with no central heating – 2.7%;
  • Porthleven households with no central heating 10% (takes into account Sithney – LSOA) Porthleven West – 66 households (12%); Porthleven North and Sithney 61 households (11%) and Porthleven East 44 households (7%).

The good news is Wales and West – who are responsible for putting in gas infrastructure in Cornwall – would be happy to put mainline gas into Porthleven. This is great, at least that is a start. However, the no-so good news is the cost of putting in mainline gas and its associated costs.

This cost could be over £2.5m to bring mainline gas to Porthleven. A huge amount in anyone’s book. I asked Wales and West – who have been very helpful – could this be part of their capital infrastructure plans. The answer was simple – no. Though the company did explain the process and what would be needed for such a large project to move forward. Before this idea gets to the concept stage, Wales and West would need:

  • To take this forward Wales and West (WW) require 524 homes to sign up and willing to pay the service and connection charge. Those signing-up would be written to confirming they are willing to sign-up and then asked to pay (NB – this money would be refunded if the projects fails to go ahead);
  • This connection and service charge (subject to final estimate) totals £2910 – Service is £1,205/connection £1,705;
  • Connection and service charge would be applicable until the penetration; reached 1,310 homes. ie. the number of dwelling connected;
  • Post 1310, the charge would be £1,705;
  • Nearest mainline gas connection is 16,000m away. Basically near the boating lake. The pipeline would then have to be installed along Porthleven Road.
  • Possible grant funding for those on certain benefits. Even with a grant the cost will still be £514 +Vat (under 10m) but if there are large gardens it will about to £1,200 + VAT (based on a single connection)
  • Grant possible through Integrated Energy Services. Details to be confirmed
  • Once 524 have signed up, and who will be required to pay up front, the  detailed costing will be worked up including timeframes
  • Project timeline for implementation could be at least 2 years, installation to properties could take longer.

Porthleven has currently 1850 dwellings. This is made up of:

  • Coastline Housing – 170;
  • DCH Housing – 90;
  • Second Home/Holiday Lets** – at least 232 (blogs on second homes HERE);
  • Private ownership/rent – 1,358

If there was the required 524 households willing to sign up and part with the cash (if scheme does not go forward this money is reimbursed) it would need to co-operation of the housing associations, and a number of second homes/holiday lets.

In moving this project forward, I have been speaking to both Coastline and DCH. Both have been positive about the plan. Coastline has said:

“Coastline Housing is supportive to the principle of bringing mainline gas to Porthleven.  As stated in the Corporate Plan 2014-17 Coastline Housing recognises the substantial increases in heating and is undertaking an ambitious plan to significantly reduce costs for customers.  We are primarily focussed on improved insulation and an increased SAP rating but the additional affordability challenges presented in “off gas” areas is well understood so we have been working with Cornwall Council,  Glow Cornwall and utility companies to identify opportunities to extend the existing gas main network.”


DCH have yet to give a firm response because they have taken my request to their various boards to discuss this. However, in the conversation I have had, they seem positive about the project.

Even if we got to the stage of the required numbers to sign up, this does not take into consideration of upgrading a households heating system. This could cost between £5,000 and £8,000***.

This means a household could be expected to pay as much as £10,000 to have mainline gas.

Of course when looking into the feasibility of this project, I had a look at funding. Cornwall Council have been very helpful in looking around to see if there is a pot of funding that could be used for this project. This included both national and European funding. Sadly as yet, there is nothing available.

This brings me onto two other issues. The first one is on the current thinking about energy funding. From the looks of things, both the funding for European and Government is heading towards renewable, including ground-source heating and solar. This is where the funding pots are, not sadly in mainline gas.

The second issue is on the confusing world of State Aid. This is where there are rules on what can or cannot be funded. I have a guidance book that is half and inch thick on State Aid, and believe me, it is not an easy read. In the simplest terms, it is very hard to give funding to privately owned properties. So for both gas and renewables it could be hard to justify funding to non-housing association dwellings.

In gathering support for the project, I asked for this idea to go on to Porthleven Town Council agenda, allowing this to be discussed at their monthly meeting. This meeting has taken place, and the good news is the town council is supportive of the aims of bringing mainline gas to Porthleven. However, it was not just gas they supported, but they wanted to look at all forms of alternative energy, including renewables. This is a sensible way forward, as by looking at other forms of energy, there might be the funding required for something that has so far eluded me.

I am sorry this blog post is so long, I am trying to explain how a simple and great idea is not that easy to carry out.


*ONS Census 20th Jan 2013; ** As of 29/11/12 second homes and 27/11/12 for holiday lets when I last did the research. *** estimate cost from Coastline.

Meeting Cormac about the A 394 roadworks near Newham Farm, Helston

On Wednesday, I along with my fellow Cornwall Councillors for Helston, Judith Haycock and Phil Martin, and the Cornwall Councillor for Breage, John Keeling met with senior officers from Cormac to discuss the repair work along the road near Newham Farm.

From the pictures below you can see the scale of the work required to repair this stretch of road. It is hard to understand the scale from the roadside, but being on site, you really get a perspective of how massive the project is.


Looking right to left, the scale of the work


Looking left to right, the other part of the scheme


The cost of the repair will be in the region of £450,000 and includes the use of over 4,000 tonnes of stone (Six C stone for those technical) that will form a 1 in 2 bank supporting the road and wall.

All the Councillors raised the issue of the impact this repair is having on the traffic and how this needs to be sorted before the main holiday season when this area sees a massive increase of traffic.

The senior officers from Cormac fully understood this, and assured the Councillors they are going as quickly as they can. They also have come up to with a solution that will remove the traffic lights.

The plan is – subject to final approval – to close this road (A 394) on the night of Sunday 6th July to allow essential work to be carried out including installing barriers. Once this is completed, the traffic lights will be removed resulting in both carriageways being able to be used, abet with a reduced speed limit to 30 mph.

Of course the area will be monitored to make sure the carriageway is still safe and there is no additional damage from this plan. The reason this can be done is the strengthening work in the most critical areas would have been completed.

I have also asked during the A394’s closure for parking on Fore Street in Porthleven to be temporary suspended due to the increased traffic.


temporay supports, buffering up the wall.


Councillors and senior Cormac officers meeting on site

I am grateful to Cormac for meeting us on the site, this has allowed us to understand the scale of the work.

Bookstart Week and hanging with my mate, Bookstart Bear

National Bookstart Week runs from 8th till the 14th June and is an annual celebration of Book Trust’s flagship reading programme, Bookstart. It aims to reinforce to families the importance of getting in to the habit of reading every day – even if it’s just for ten minutes!

This year’s theme, Jungle Adventures, is based on Giles Andreae’s beloved picture book Rumble in the Jungle, which will be given away to more than 450,000 families in the UK.

The Bookstart programme is run by Booktrust, an independent national charity that encourages people of all ages and cultures to engage with books. This is done with support provided though a unique public/private partnership, that includes funding from the DfE, generous publisher support and the local authority to provide free Bookstart packs to babies and toddlers. This is where Cornwall Council comes in supporting this fantastic programme.

During the last ten years, Cornwall has delivered 100,000 Bookstart packs making the county in the top 5% nationally. This equates to 350,000 free books worth around £1.4m given to children to help inspire a love of reading. It doesn’t stop there either, as well as providing free books, Bookstart facilitates a range of fun activities through Bookstart Bear Club. This club is run in various community spaces with staff offering fun interactive activities including stories and rhymes.

During Bookstart week, Bookstart Bear has visited Saltash Library and Lostwithiel Library. Bookstart will also be visiting Redruth Library on Friday 12th June from 11am and Helston Library on Saturday 13th June from 11am -12 noon.

I had the pleasure of visiting my old friend, Bookstart at one of the events. It was clear to see from both parents and the children gathered how much they appreciate the service, and why the financial support from the children’s directorate is worth every penny


Seeing my old friend again

Saltash Bookstart (2)

book start 1

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