The European Elections will be soon upon us with the Polling day set for the 22nd May. This election comes around every five years and the last one coincided with the first Unitary Elections for Cornwall Council. The UK gets to elect 73 MEP’s out of a total of 751 a slight reduction of 15 MEP’s since the last election. These 751 MEP are drawn from the 28 Member States, and will represent a staggering 500 million people.

Last time round, the South West elected six MEP’s and these were: Giles Chichester (Conservative), Ashley Fox (Conservative), Julie Girling (Conservative), Trevor Colman (UKIP), William, Earl of Dartmouth  UKIP) and Graham Watson (Lib Dem). The turnout for the South West was 1,549,708 from an electorate of 3,998,479. A 38% turnout. Which is remarkably low considering the influence the European Parliament has.

So who is standing and who are they standing for? Well you are in luck, as like all Elections in the UK, a Statement or Parties and Individual Candidates has been produced.

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The South West Region comprises  Bristol, Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Gloucestershire, Somerset and Wiltshire. It also includes the British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar and is one of the nine UK Regions for the European Elections. Unlike National and Local Elections, which are carried out via the ‘first past the post’ method, the Euro elections are carried out (in the UK) by the D’hondt method.  If you want to know more, click on the previous link, but for those don’t want to, this method is proportional representation via a party list.

So who will take the honours for the South West?  The polls can all predict who might win, but that is up to those voting, and therefore why it is important to excercise your vote.  For the eagle eyed only two Candidates are from Cornwall and one of them is my friend and former Cornwall Councillor colleague, Jude Robinson. Good Luck Jude, though it is a shame you are so far down the party list. It is interesting to note too, the Olympic rower James Cracknell is standing for the Cons.

In fact out of the 48 Candidates, 11 of them have their registered address outside of the South West. Though to be fair, one lives in Gibraltar which is totally understandable considering Gib is part of the South West Region.

Saturday 19th April saw the annual Porthleven Duck Race return to the waters of Porthleven. This event now in its second year is organised by the Porthleven Community Group. The previous weekend the Porthleven Community Group also organised and supplied the materials for children (and adults) to make their ducks for the race. All this is done for free, with Coastline Housing, Porthleven Town Council and my councillor community fund supporting this group with small grants.

The event opened by the Mayor of Porthleven who was presented with his own duck for the race. It seems it is now ‘tradition’ for the Mayor to be presented his own duck for the race. Slightly different to last years race, a plastic duck race was also held in aid of the Porthleven Band who have supported the group. The Porthleven Community Group vice-chairman, Tim Pryke was again volunteered to enter the water to set the ducks off.

It was good to see children and adults having fun cheering their ducks as they made their way along the river in Porthleven. It doesn’t matter how old you are, there is still something fun watching an object you have made float down a watercourse.

Full credit must go to everyone involved in the Porthleven Community Group. This group grows in strength by organising events with the aim to have fun.

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The mayor of Porthleven with his duck

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The ducks are getting ready for the off!

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Tim gets ready to lauch the ducks

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And the ducks are off!

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The finish line

The Government has thrown a - small - lifeline to small ports in Cornwall and England with the announcement of £2m worth of funding to help ports make repairs to their storm damaged infrastructure. Cornwall Council, the Portfolio Holder for the Environment, Edwina Hannaford and me welcome this small, but important gesture to ports.

In the UK, there is over 1040 ports and with so many ports not everyone one of these would be in line for funding. The good news for Porthleven and other like places is this funding is aimed at those non-trading ports which have their main focus on fishing and leisure activity.  As with any grant application there is a criteria and the Government is using the EC TENS categorisation of ports to determine which UK ports are classified as small. They are three categorise A, B and C, with the Category C port authorities are eligible to apply [1].

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repairs being made to the harbour wall in Porthleven

So what is covered? Again the good news is the funding can be used for the repair to operational port infrastructure, superstructure or equipment incurred through storm damage. However the funding cannot be used for improvements. Nothing within these categories is to be excluded and each claim will be considered on its merits but priority will be given to repairs which contribute most to the continued safe running of the port or the economic viability of the port. The dates for storm damage starts with the St Jude’s storm of 27th October till the 31st March.

For more information on how to claim, you can click HERE and HERE

 [1] Category A includes ports with a total annual traffic volume of not less than 1.5 million tonnes of freight, or 200,000 passengers. Category B includes seaports with a total annual traffic volume of not less than 0.5 million tonnes of freight or between 100,000 and 199,999 passengers. Category C includes seaports that do not meet the criteria of categories A and B but are situated in island, peripheral or the outermost regions, interconnecting such regions by sea and/or connecting them with the central regions of the Community.

Today, parents and carers of reception age children across Cornwall will received details of which school their child is due to attend in September. The good news is the majority of children being allocated a place in their first preference school.  It is an understandably a fraught time until parents and carers know which school they have been allocated.

Cornwall Council  has received 5225 applications for new reception school places to start school in September 2014.  Of those 4910 (94 %) have been offered a place at their first preference school, with 315 pupils being allocated a place at either their second (169 pupils), third (40 pupils) preference school.  This means that 97.9% of children were allocated one of their three preferences.

I would  like to credit the School Admission Team for their hard work in processing the applications and getting the information out to parents and carers.

This is a similar picture to 2013 when 93.1% of children were allocated a place in their first preference school, with 97.5% being allocated one of their three preferences.  317 children did not get a place in their first preference school. In 2012 93.1% of pupils were allocated a place at their first preference school, with 97.4% being allocated a place in their second or third preference.  406 failed to get a place at their first preference school.

However there might be disappointment for the 106 pupils (2.1%), who were not allocated a place at either their first, second or third preference school, but at the nearest school to their home address with room for the 2014 intake.  All reception age pupils who applied for a school place in Cornwall have been allocated a place.

Based on the figures to date, there are 47 oversubscribed primary schools for new reception September 2014 admissions in Cornwall.  This is a similar number to the figure for the past two years, with 45 oversubscribed schools in 2013, and 49 oversubscribed schools in 2012.  There has, however, been an increase in the number of schools which are full for new reception admissions in September 2014; with 71 out of Cornwall’s 236 primary schools are full, compared with 60 schools in 2013.

The Council is actively working on addressing the issue of oversubscribed schools in Cornwall with two funding streams. These are the Target Basic Need which eight schools have been identified and expansion plans are currently being progressed. The other fund is Basic Needs, which the Council has been awarded £32m for the 2015-17 periods.

Despite much publicity, the Council’s admissions team have received 247 late applications for new reception places so far this year, with further late admissions expected in the next few weeks. The deadline for the second round of applications is 2 May. So those who have not applied might find it difficulty of getting their first three choices if their school is one of those 71. This compares with 447 late applications by the second round May deadline in 2013, and a total figure of 804 late applications by 31 August. There were 494 late applications by the second round May deadline in 2012, with a total of 767 late applications by 31 August. If the application was received after 16 January 2014 it will be a late application – these will be processed and letters will be sent out by 02 June.

Of course not all parents and carers will send their child to school and may opt to home educate. In Cornwall we have roughly 400 children who are home educated.

In the next few days, parents and carers who have applied will receive a letter on their allocation. For those who applied online, they would already have received an email confirming their allocation. These were sent out at 00:01 Wednesday 16th.  . If they have applied on-line they can log back onto their application using their password and it will show them the result. Everyone will receive a letter.

For those parents and carers who did not did not get their 1st/2nd/3rd preference school, then they will need to wait for their letter which will explain how the process works i.e. for appealing the decision/going on the waiting list. If parents wish to appeal the letter will specify whether they need to get the appropriate forms and details from the admissions team or from the school (Academies do their own appeals). 

If parents and carers wish their child to go on the waiting list for any school they have been refused they must return the waiting list form listing which schools they wish to go on, they can only go on the waiting list for a school that they have been refused and cannot add a new school to that waiting list. The waiting lists will become active after 02 May as all late applications have to go onto the waiting lists with the on-time refusals.  If any places have been given up at oversubscribed school the places will be allocated after that date. If school place is no longer required they need to inform us in writing (letter or email) with full details, full name, DOB, address and reason. That way those places can be reallocated.

Having lived in Porthleven since I was a teenager, I have always known of its great community spirit. The recent storms in Porthleven have again highlighted this spirit. The community spirit is not only about helping others, but the people of Porthleven like to have fun too either by taking part or organising events.

Porthleven has its RNLI day, the Porthleven Food and Music Festival (26th April). Both of these huge events are organised and run by the community. It is not only the big events, but many smaller ones too. These include the Porthleven Duck Race and Torchlight Procession organised by the Porthleven Community Group. Other events include The Raft Race, The Pram Race and new this year, the very successful Porthleven Lido Day. Porthleven has a few beer festivals too; these are run by the Atlantic Inn and the Ship Inn.

There is the Porthleven Light Committee, this band of volunteers work throughout the year raising money for the Christmas lights, but also other lighting projects. Porthleven has its own town band, who entertain visitors and residents with their fine musical talent. In truth there is always something going on in Porthleven.

A film has been made by Porthleven’s businesses and community to invite those who may not know about Porthleven and to remind those who visit Porthleven just how great a place this is to live and visit. You cannot help but smile as various businesses and residents giving a clear message of Porthleven is open for business and you should pay Porthleven a visit. This film just shows how communities can help themselves to make the place they live a better place. This film is just another example of  how communities  can pull together.

The film has been produced by Half-cut Cinema. Half-Cut Cinema is the brainchild of Danny and Amanda – two of Porthleven’s great community. The best way to describe Half-Cut Cinema is to paste their own message on their website.

Half-Cut Cinema is a community film-making and screening project based in Porthleven, West Cornwall and is run voluntarily by a small team of filmmakers. We aim to promote the joy of film making by encouraging everyone to make their own films and then submitting them to Half-Cut Cinema where we hold a regular event to screen the films in a fun, filmic evening of cinematic celebration

During the height of the storms and floods, the Prime Minister told the country and indeed the world, that money is no object to help communities recover from the unprecedented weather front Cornwall – and other areas – were subjected to.

Now the weather has abated, and we are in a more settled period of weather, the Council and other partners can fully assess the damage inflicted upon the communities. It is bleak, and the full costs are still unknown, but the costs is looking like topping £21m. For Cornwall Council this is made up of £4m revenue, and £17m in capital costs. This can be further broken down by:

  • Highways £5m: revenue £2m and £3m capital
  • Coastal Defence £15m: revenue £1.8m and capital £13.2m
  • Coast Paths/other £1m: £500k for both revenue and capital

    So, what ‘money is no object’ funding streams are available to the Council? In truth, very little. Yes, we have the Bellwin Scheme, but apart from the dates to claim have been extended, the criteria to claim has not changed. The scheme can only be used to:

  • only to prevent loss of life/damage to property
  • prevent suffering or severe inconvenience
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    Futhermore, the Council will have to pay the first £887k excess. The potential claim by the Council is still be assessed, but early indications are approx £2m eligible spend. So in pounds, shillings and pence will mean out of the £2m, the Bellwin Scheme will only pay out £1.23m.

    The critical point is that the criteria have not changed and therefore the majority of the estimated £21m worth of damage will remain unfunded by Central Government. So much for ‘money is no object.’ This means the repair bill will have to be found from elsewhere and/or from within the Council’s own budget.

    It gets worse, as the promised £130m EA money will have little impact in Cornwall. It is good news for Somerset, as they will get £10m. A further £30m will be for EA assests. Priority is based on assets in the EA asset database. Which for Cornwall is only one, the rock-armour off Newlyn. The £130m will also not cover Coastal Assets just flood (fluvial) defence. To put it bluntly, Cornwall will not be at the top of the funding, or actually get any help.

    Our roads in Cornwall have also been badly affected by the weather. Credit must go to Cormac who have worked to address the many issues. However, the Governments announcement of £140m for Highways will be allocated on a formula basis to all Local Authorities. And as yet, those allocations are unknown, though I am told should be known shortly.

    The Leader of the Council, John Pollard has written to the Prime Minister highlighting the concern and extra financial pressures the Council now faces. The Leader has also written to the Secretary of State for Farming, Food and Rural Affairs to again highlight the European Fisheries Fund’s storm damage gear replacement scheme as over bureaucratic, with claim forms running to 21 pages. Plus having to submit business cases and three quotes. However, the real kick in the teeth on this funding is you cannot purchase lost gear until you have receive a letter from the MMO saying you can purchase it. I highlighted this in a previous blog HERE

    The position Cornwall Council is difficult, it is looking at a huge bill of repair and recovery which it can little afford without changes and severe impact on the budget. It is all well and good for the Government to roll out a series of measures to help and think they have done their jobs, but those measures have to actually mean something, and more importantly have real funding attached to them.

    So my message to the Prime Minister and Government is help is needed in Cornwall to recover from the weather. Without help, things are going to get very difficult for Cornwall Council.

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    For the last few months I, the Cabinet and Cornwall Council has had to make some difficult decision around the disabled children’s residential short break centres. This has resulted in two centres – St Christopher’s and Lowenna Redwing – will be decommissioned this September. It was a very hard decision, but one that had to be made to help tackle the huge budgetary pressures; to make the remaining money go further, which will help more families. 

    From this difficult decision, Cornwall Council has invested a large amount of money into Doubletrees and Poppins disabled children’s residential short break centres. The total investment in the two centres was £240,000.  This year 146 young people are currently using the residential short break units.

    On Friday, I visited both centres. Firstly to Doubletrees and then to Poppins to help celebrate its re-opening.  For Doubletrees it is hard to do anything with the actual structure of a building as in Doubletrees’ case, but the work carried out inside is amazing from what was before. A lot of thought has gone into making Doubletrees a better place. Speaking to staff and families, they agree too.

    Inside Doubletrees post the investment

    Inside Doubletrees post the investment

    The work at Doubletrees the improvements include the refurbishment of the lounge area, the creation of a new play area to the back with a range of interactive play equipment and the refurbishment of bedrooms as well as redecoration and new furniture.

    Furthermore, new equipment, toys and communication aides have also been purchased for the other the settings to support the needs of the children who attend and to enable their stays to be fun and to better support their particular individual needs. So it is not only Doubletrees and Poppins who have seen investment.

    The new outside facilities at Doubletrees

    The new outside facilities at Doubletrees

    Being impressed with the work carried out at Doubletrees, I was simply amazed at the work that has been undertaken as Poppins. They changes are quite simply staggering.  Unlike Doubletrees who had the work carried out whilst open, apart from a two-week period, it was necessary to close Poppins for longer.. It is even more impressive when you take into account all the changes were carried out in seven-weeks.

    The extent of the work being carried out at Poppins

    The extent of the work being carried out at Poppins

    Improvements being carried out at Poppins

    The investment at Poppins - which currently provides services for children and young people who have a diagnosis of an Autistic Spectrum Condition - has been used to provide a fully accessible bedroom, wet room and to level the flooring in the lounge so that this is fully accessible and inclusive for young people with a range of needs.  There has also been improved access to the garden and sensory room.

    During my visits I also had the opportunity to spend time with staff from both centres. It is always good to spend time with staff, as you get to hear the passion they have for the service and how they want to make the service better. These centre staff are a credit to the service and Council and they should be rightly proud of their achievements.

    Parents, young people, and staff celebrate the re-opening of Poppins

    Parents, young people, and staff celebrate the re-opening of Poppins

    Talking with a parent and her son

    Talking with a parent and her son

    Enjoying the facilities on offer at Poppins

    Enjoying the facilities on offer at Poppins

    The short break services include day opportunities, activity days, family fun days, group/peer opportunities, youth opportunities, family based short break support and specific individual bespoke support packages, as well as the overnight residential short stay breaks are just some of the services Cornwall Council provides as part of £10.5 million on services to support children with special educational needs and disabilities.  

    I am pleased Cornwall Council remains one of the highest spending authorities in the country supporting this group. In total  585 disabled children and young people received short break services from the Council.

    The Poppins garden under construction

    The Poppins garden under construction