420,985 people have registered to vote in Cornwall for the General Election

When you walk into the Polling Station on May 7th to cast your vote, or have already submitted your vote via the postal vote, have you ever wondered the function behind the election?

Let’s start with the Returning Officer. For a Parliamentary Election in a county constituency, such as Cornwall, the Returning Officer is the High Sherriff.  The High Sherriff can carry out two duties if they wish. To take receipt of the Parliamentary Writ upon delivery by Royal Mail and to declare the result of the election.  All other duties are performed by the Acting Returning Officer who is the Returning Officer for the local authority.

In Cornwall the Acting Returning Officer is Andrew Kerr, the Council’s Chief Executive.  The High Sheriff is Anthony Fortescue.  Andrew Kerr will declare the three constituency results at Carn Brea.  Mr Fortescue will declare the South East Cornwall Constituency result and may possibly declare the North Cornwall & St Austell & Newquay result.

420, 985 people have registered to vote in Cornwall.  Cornwall Council has received 74, 016 applications for postal votes.

The breakdown for the individual constituencies is:

  • St Ives – Electorate: 65,570 ; Postal Votes: 13793 (21% of votes)
  • Camborne and Redruth – Electorate: 66,944;  Postal Votes: 11494 (17.17% of votes)
  • Truro and Falmouth – Electorate: 73,601 ; Postal Votes: 11062 (15.03% of votes)
  • South East Cornwall – Electorate: 71,071;  Postal Votes: 13907 (19.57% of votes)
  • North Cornwall – Electorate: 67,192 ; Postal Votes: 11787 (17.54% of votes)
  • St Austell and Newquay – Electorate: 76,607;  Postal Votes:  11973 (15.63% of votes)

There are 455 polling stations in Cornwall, with one ballot box per constituency.  The Council has recruited around 1,200 Presiding Officers and Polling Clerks to run these 455 polling stations in Cornwall. In addition to this, the Electoral Service recruited around 750 Count Assistants and 20 Postal Voting Assistants.

Pretty impressive eh?

One day to go till the Polls open and it is just too close to call

Tomorrow the country goes to the Polls to elect candidates to become their MP for the next five-years. From this, and depending if one party has the outright majority, or failing that, the largest number of MP’s, that party should get the chance to form the next Government.

Just about all Polls predict the 2015 General Elections is just too close to call. This national picture is reflected in Cornwall with the six seats all having small majorities. The following predictions could change, but are correct as of the blog post publication.

The National Voting Prediction

The National Voting Prediction

The clever people over at 38 Degrees have put together the latest predictions data from election forecast that ‘predicts’ using your postcode which party is likely to win in that area. To check your postcode, click HERE.

As you can see from the pictures below, four of the seats in Cornwall are too close to call. The remaining two, if the predictions are right, will be ‘held’ by the Conservative.

Of course,  like all predictions we will only know who has secured victory on Friday morning apart from St. Ives who will likely declare Friday afternoon due to the Isle of Scilly vote not reaching the mainland till Friday morning.


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There is £4.3 Billion Public Spend in Cornwall

There are often comparisons on sector spend in Cornwall, compared with the South West and national picture. Sometimes it seems like a competition of who spends the most. Truth be told, they are all important.

For this blog I will be concentrating on the public sector spend in Cornwall. The title of the blog has already given it away, as in total public spend is £4.3 billion. This is a staggering amount, but as recent funding cuts have shown, have reduced, especially for Cornwall Council’s budget.

The £4.3 billion* is split between many organisation as I will explain.

The biggest slice of this spend is with the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) and their part of the pot is £1,549m. This is further broken-down:

  • State Pensions – £882m
  • Housing Benefit – £192m
  • Disability Living Allowance – £133m
  • JSA – £25m
  • Other – £316

Cornwall Council is the next biggest at £1,119m. Again like the DWP, this can be broken-down as:

  • Education, Health and Social Care – £548m
  • Communities and Organisational Development – £307m
  • Economy, Enterprise and Environment £169m
  • Other Corporate – £90m

Next, as you might have guessed is Health. Their total spend is £956m. This is broken-down as:

  • Kernow Clinical Commissioning – £711m
  • NHS England Specialist Healthcare and Primary Care – £245m

The Police, which includes the Police Commissioner – £290m

There is a group that I will call Other Agencies and this spends £190m and consists of:

  • Skills Fund Agency – £44m
  • Culture, Media and Sport – £21m
  • DEFRA – £75m
  • Highways Agency (responsible for A30 and A38) – £15m
  • Ministry of Justice – £36m

There is also:

  • Tamar Bridge and Torpoint Ferry – £9m
  • HRA – £40m
  • Town and Parish (precepts) £15m
  • Academy Schools £152m

There are couple of points I am going to make on these figures. They are different points, but all have an impact on public spend.

The first is on the aims of Cornwall Council to have more say in how money is spent in Cornwall. This is why the Case for Cornwall which asks for more powers in Cornwall has been put forward to the Civil Service. Of course, in some of the Case for Cornwall’s asks, there will be areas that can not be handed to another authority, others could, but will not for one reason or another. I guess the success of the Case for Cornwall will depend on the willingness of who will govern us post 7th May.

The other point is on the current agenda for greater integration for Health and Social Care including pooled budgets. Though the latter needs some real culture and legislation change if this was to happen, but it could happen. If this did happen, the spend in this area would be over £1.1 billion – this figure also includes Children’s Services. If there was better or indeed full integration, then there could be better service provision as it would require less bureaucracy of setting up, running and commissioning services.


*some figures are based on estimates

Helping organisation with my The Councillor’s Community Chest

Each year every Cornwall Councillor has a small pot off money to help local organisations with small grants. This grant can either be for individual projects or just for matched-funded.

Last year my pot of money helped these organisations and projects:

Applicant Project Amount
The Mike Edwards Fund Defibrillator £400
Helston Business Improvement Partnership Helston Christmas Town Centre Events £250
Porthleven Food & Music Festival Porthleven Food & Music Festival £500
Porthleven Town Council Preacher Steps Safety £277.16
Porthleven & Sithney Guisseny Twinning Assoc Breton Twinning Visit £300
Porthleven Community Group Skate Park Project £467.84
Total £2195

This fund has now been replenished and there is a total amount of £2000 available. This can be applied for between £100 and £1,000. Project costs of up to £500 are 100% fundable, but projects over £500 you can only apply for a maximum of 75% of the total project costs. The closing date for applications is Feb 2016.

Grants are not normally offered retrospectively to fill unexpected funding gaps i.e. the project should not begin before a community chest application has been approved. Repeat funding for supporting established public events and newsletters is permitted but the provision of funding does not indicate that future funding will be given Furthermore, grants are intended to support specific project costs only and not to be used for an organisation’s running costs.

The grant can be used for most things, but the grant cannot be used for include; retrospective funding to fill funding gaps not identified before project commencement; salary or routine administration costs; Political activities, lobbying or campaigning; Exclusively religious activities (although faith groups may receive funding for community development or self-help activities. In this case the application must show that the project will bring wider community benefit and that the primary purpose of the activity is not religious). Projects which in the assessment of Cornwall Council show actual or potential unlawful discrimination within the terms of the Equality Act 2010; Statutory activities/requirements; hospitality (catering and refreshment costs) and applications from individual commercial organisations.

So if your project has a connection to my electorial division please fell free to get in touch. Remember every Cornwall Councillor has this pot of funding.


BT Cornwall is not working for Cornwall Council as it should

Today, at Cornwall Council ‘s full member meeting, a question was asked of the Portfolio Holder Adam Paynter, whose responsibilities includes the BT Cornwall (BTC) deal on how well the deal was going. As many readers will know, I led the charge against the wholesale privatisation of many Cornwall Council services.

The answer to the question was damning. In fact it gives real credibility to those who fought against the privatisation of so many Council services, as even the watered down version of the deal is not working for Cornwall Council.

To refresh readers minds, my notes from way back on the deal, say the BT deal will:

  • Savings of 20% by end of year two. This is further broken-down by 10% in year one; 11% in year two, and 18% from months 24 to the end of year 10.
  • 197 new guaranteed FTE jobs by end of year four with 111 coming in the first two years
  • 313 new jobs through ‘reasonable endeavours by the end of year 5 – 240 in the first two years.
  • Gain-share of 30% profit from trading telehealth/telecare
  • 10% min of profit of guaranteed for any other business trading from Cornwall BT.
  • Trading investment in bidding for new work £1.9m

In Adam’s answer he listed the areas that were not working or have failed to meet the promises as his reply points out:

“In respect of operational delivery, Key Performance Indicators have not been met on a consistent basis and there is little evidence of service transformation.

Specifically, on the Windows 7 upgrade, this has been substantially delayed and there have been problems with implementation. The process has now largely been completed but the failure to upgrade the network is leading to capacity and performance issues.

On the financial side, BT Cornwall have met their contractual baseline savings in their entirety because those are deducted at source. However, there has been no gain share for the Council as BT Cornwall have failed to generate any trading opportunities .

In respect of guaranteed new jobs in Cornwall, BTC has only created 35, less than a third of its target for the first 2 years.

In summary, the contract has been far less successful than was anticipated when it was signed 2 years ago.

Officers are satisfied that the senior management of BT Global fully appreciate the serious concerns I and many Members have about the current situation and are putting significant effort into turning things round. However, there is a great deal to do to bring about the required improvement and to restore confidence. Progress will be robustly monitored and managed and a further report will be considered by the Resources PAC on 19 June. Last Friday, the Audit Committee also requested a report on the effectiveness of the BT contract delivery.”

This answer comes after a recent meeting of the Resources PAC and its damning report on the deal so far.  In the report the only positive is the savings in year one and two. These – thankfully – have been 100% achieved. However, many other areas have not.

BT Cornwall (BTC) made a contractual commitment to deliver a minimum of 197 additional jobs to Cornwall over the life of the contract with 111 of these being delivered in the first two years. Of these, only 35 have been delivered so far. There was also a commitment to try to deliver a further 240 jobs in the first two years and NONE of these have been delivered. In fact at the February meeting, there was little evidence of remediation plans or investment required to deliver on the jobs guarantee and commitment.

As part of the overview of performance against commitments and guarantees this comes out as 32% and 0% against the 100% target. This is just not good enough.

Taken from the recent PAC report, BTC have received nearly £25m in respect of services provided over the first two years of the contract, of which nearly £17m is the unitary charge.

Furthermore, there had been a delay in securing contract notations with suppliers which meant, as an interim measure, the Council had to pay suppliers and reclaim the monies from BTC!!

As part of their bid submission, BT estimated trading gain share to the Public Sector Partners of £17m over the 10 years of the Contract. To date, no gain share has been received from trading. It is recognised, however, that this is not a contractual commitment.

The full report can be found HERE and includes the Windows 7 upgrade who has been hugely frustrating for people. In fact Councillors have been so concerned with the implementation of this upgrade they have asked for an estimate of the time lost and financial cost to the Council caused by the overall delay and the operational downtime as a result of issues with upgrades.

From this, BTC have promised to sort all the issue and have changed their management structure to make sure this happens. However, my concerns are BTC have had two years to deliver this contract and have failed. There is only so many second-chances you can give. For me, if by summer BTC do not deliver their commitments, than I am afraid we must be in the area of looking to terminate the contract. I feel if this was a full private sector deal, the contract most likely have already been torn-up.

In fact, I am glad despite many call from other Councillors to actually increase the BTC deal, we did not. As if we did, then we could have been in a more perilous position than we currently are.

Let’s see if BTC can pull that rabbit out of the hat…..




Another fantastic Porthleven Food and Music Festival (2015)

The 7th Porthleven Food and Music Festival took place over the weekend of 22nd/24th; and what a festival it was! The event kicked off on Friday night with the international band, Hayseed-Dixie, supported by Flats and Sharps playing to a packed-out crowd in the main marquee.

Hayseed-Dixie, headline the festival

Hayseed-Dixie, headline the festival

The Saturday saw the familiar opening of the festival with the cook-off between Jude from Kota and Antony Worrell-Thompson. This was followed by many other chefs displaying their skills though-out the day.

It was not just food on offer though-out the festival, but many excellent bands played on the three music stages though-out the days and into the evenings. This was more so on the Sunday when from 12 midday till 10pm the main marquee hosted a whole medley of bands catering for just about all music tastes.

New to this years festival was the bridge over the harbour. This bridge was heavily used and I had many comments of ‘it would be great to have this bridge as a permanent fixture.’ Guarding the bridge was a ‘fisherman’ from The Fisherman’s Mission who were able to raise over £600 for the mission from donations from the bridge users

The brige over the harbour

The bridge over the harbour

The 'fisherman' guarding the bridge

The ‘fisherman’ guarding the bridge

There was even an auction helping to raise money for the new Porthleven Skate Park. This auction raised over £1,700 from the generously donated items from art work, food related items and entertainment tickets. Thank you to all those who donated items for this auction.

The event finished with a fantastic firework display that was a fitting finale of another succesful event.

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This event would not be the success it is without the volunteers who give their time over many months leading up to the event, but also during the event itself. This hard work is testament to the succesful event.

All the volunteers should have our sincere thanks for this hard-work. They are a credit to Porthleven and just shows what can be achieved when people come together for a common cause.  Believe it or not, but the food festival committee will only have a few months off before they start to get ready for 2016 festival.

Thank you and well done.

Mermaid spotted floating in Porthleven Harbour!

This weekend -April 24th – 26th – the annual Porthleven Food and Music Festival takes place. The festival is now in its 7th year and each year the festival gets bigger and better. In the build up to the official start on Saturday, saw a mermaid ‘visit’ and make her new home floating in Porthleven’s inner harbour. Merface IMG_5929This excellent addition to the event was created by students from Helston College who were on hand to see their creation take to the sea. It was great to see her float in her new home. Well done to the students for an excellent creation.

The Mermaid takes to the water!

The Mermaid takes to the water!

For more details on what happening at the food and music festival including the shuttle-bus service to help with parking, please click HERE and visit the event’s website

Cornwall Council is a Living Wage employer

Cornwall Council is now a Living Wage employer. This will mean just over 1800 Cornwall Council employees (not including casual or claims based workers) will now stand to benefit from the application of the Living Wage. These 1800 employees work in both schools and non-schools settings. Typical roles include administrative and clerical assistants, care assistants, caretakers, cleaners, clerk to Governors, finance assistants, receptionists, school secretaries, cooks, drivers and domestics.

The majority of lower paid employees are support workers in the schools environment, with about 1450 now receiving the Living Wage rate.  There are about 350 employees in non-schools settings who now also receive the Living Wage rate.( NB: apprentices do not receive the Living Wage as these are workers on training contracts).

As a result of the change the minimum salary in the Council’s pay structure from 1 April 2015 is £15,144 which is £7.85 per hour.

Only those grades and salary levels below the Living Wage in the Council’s pay structure have increased to the Living Wage full-time salary equivalent of £15,144. The Council has not increased the salaries of all staff to maintain salary differentials that existed on 31 March 2015. All directly employed Council staff paid less than £15,144 full-time equivalent on 31 March 2015 will be paid £15,144 with effect from 1 April 2015.

The Living Wage is being implemented by Cornwall Council for its directly employed Council employees, including local authority maintained schools.   The agreement to implement the Living Wage was part of a collective agreement reached between the trade unions and the Council which achieved net savings on the pay-bill by freezing local pay increases until 2017. The cost of implementing the Living Wage will be £1m, and this will be met in part by the pay-bill savings.

I support the implementation of the Living Wage at Cornwall Council as people talk of Cornwall being a low paid area, and from the data previous I have blogged about, Cornwall is one of the lowest paid areas of the UK. Now with the Council setting a strong example of being a Living Wage employer, I hope other public and private sector organisations will follow suit.



Together for Families programme has made a difference in Cornwall

Cornwall’s Together for Families partnership has been praised for its work in turning around the lives of almost 1,000 families with the most complex needs over the last three years. This is following the introduction of the Government’s Troubled Families programme in April 2012, Cornwall Council and its partners have worked hard to help 975 families to get back on track.

The aim of the three-year national “Troubled Families” programme, support local organisations which are working with families identified as having the most complex needs. Under the programme key workers from a range of services work with families to identify the support they need to address their problems and then help them to access a package of both mainstream and specialist support.

Though in Cornwall we did not like the negative title of ‘Troubled Families’ and have instead called it a more positive name of ‘Together for Families.

In Cornwall, the partnership includes Cornwall Council, Devon and Cornwall Police, Health commissioners, Probation, the Drug and Alcohol Action Team, Education Welfare, Youth Offending team, Careers South West and representatives of the voluntary and community sector (including Action for Children and Addaction). This partnership shows by organisations working together, we can make a positive difference to people’s lives.

The success of the programme in Cornwall means we have been able to work with local services to make the changes that are required to provide timely and efficient support for those families with the most complex needs. Working with the families directly enables the partner agencies to help overcome the difficulties the families face. The results of this programme shows that tackling the issues as a family unit helps achieve real positive outcomes.

Following Cornwall’s success in achieving positive outcomes for over 75% of eligible families, Cornwall will now progress to the second phase of the programme which runs from 2015 to 2020. The new programme will build on the achievements of the first phase, with the target of supporting an additional 4,050 families in Cornwall over the next five years (689 in 2015/16).

This will mean continuing to work with key partners in Police, Health, Education and Employment to identify and engage eligible families and working with communities and voluntary sector partners to get people into work, improve school attendance and attainment, reduce crime and antisocial behavior and tackle health issues including drug and alcohol dependency.

The second phase will continue to provide an opportunity for partner organisations to work closer together to support communities and families in Cornwall and to become better and smarter at how we deliver services. This will enable us to meet the needs of these families at the same time as saving money across the public sector. This is important as we have less money, but a greater demand on our service and we will need to engage with families by supporting them to address a range of complex issues at the same time as getting services to think and work differently with families.

I would like to congratulate all who have worked on this programme; as without their zeal, determination and willingness to do things differently, the programme in Cornwall would not be the success it is. Well done. We now move on to phase two, which in itself brings more challenges, but if we have the same determination to make people’s lives better as we did in phase one, then we will only help more people.

Further information on the Together for Families Programme, which is designed to deliver the national ‘Troubled Families’ Agenda, is available from http://www.cornwall.gov.uk/togetherforfamilies

Have your say on Porthleven’s Neighbourhood Plan Questionnaire

The mere mention of planning and building will be met with responses from the not in my backyard to the yes, let’s build. Getting the right balance between protecting the environment and sustainable development is a very difficult path to navigate. Cornwall Council tends to get the blame on most planning related issues, but the truth be told is it is the Government legislation that is to blame because this legislation is what we have use.

This is one reason Cornwall Council has been for that last few years putting together its own Local Plan. This plan will give a level of control over planning in Cornwall for the next 15 or so year. There can be a further level of more local control by having a Neighbourhood Plan. These types of plan allow town and parish council’s a greater say in where development should happen first. It is important to say they cannot stop development.PNP_Logo2-e1417625617588

Porthleven Town Council has decided that a Neighbourhood Plan would be in the best interest of Porthleven. From this support, a working group of representative from the Porthleven’s community, including landowners, has started work on Porthleven’s own Neighbourhood Plan.

The strapline for the plan is simple: OUR PLAN, OUR TOWN, OUR FUTURE

However, before any detail is put down towards Porthleven’s Neighbourhood Plan, the working groups wants to hear from the residents of Porthleven. The working group has gone about this by sending a questionnaire to every household in Porthleven. This questionnaire is available online too. So whilst there has been only have one copy sent to your house, there are other copies available both in hardcopy and online. It is very important that all residents have their say, which includes children and young people, who will need housing and facilities in the future.

The online survey can be found by clicking this LINK.

Huge credit should go to the volunteers who have made up the Neighbourhood Plan working party for there hard work to date. Therefore, I urge you to take the five-minutes and complete the questionnaire, as your answers will aid the working party come up with a plan that is supported by the residents of Porthleven. As for a plan to be adopted it needs to have a public referendum with at least 50% of those voting must be in favour of the Neighbourhood Plan. As if it is not supported, then there will be no Neighbourhood Plan, and from this, it could lead Porthleven to development taking place with no local input.

More details on Porthleven’s Neighbourhood Plan can be found via the website HERE


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