Two years ago and the question on should Scotland be an independent country hardly registered on most people’s thoughts. In fact, I believe the country as a whole nearly sleep-walked into a large void and great uncertainty. Thankfully, this did not happen, as the country as a whole suddenly woke up to the reality of  307 years of union could be over if something did not change. no thanks

 This referendum showed when the voter is engaged people will turnout and vote. This was shown by an amazing turnout of 85%. The last time a voter turnout was that high in a national vote was in the 1950 General Election when Clement Attlee became PM. The turnout then was 83.9%.  With all votes now in,  the margin of win for the No or Better Together campaign was larger than all the polls and pundits predicted; with the final vote split as follows:

  • No – 2,001,926
  • Yes – 1,617,989

In percentage terms this is 55% for No and 45% for the Yes. Even though the win is by a clear 10% and that might not seem much, but only four of the 32 local authority areas voted Yes. These were Glasgow – 53.49%; Dundee City – 57.35%; West Dumbartonshire – 53.96%; and North Lanarkshire – 51.07%.  The 28 authority areas who voted No included Orkney who rejected independence by 67.2% followed by Scottish Borders with 66.56%. However the clear winning margin of 10% is enough for one side to claim outright victory, there is a still a clear indication 45% of those who voted want change.

The decision by the voters of Scotland showed the  union’s status quo cannot continue. How this will change is anyone guess, and will be played out in the coming months with parties across the political spectrum  trying to out do each other on devolution pledges leading up to the General Election in 2015. The West Lothian question has to be answered. It is not right 59 MP’s can have a vote on purely English matters, when this privilege is not reciprocated in Scotland. How Wales and Northern Ireland fits in to the new union will have to be carefully considered too.

How this vote impacts on Cornwall is yet to be seen. Cornwall Council has long campaigned for more powers for the people of Cornwall. It has had some successes, but just how far will the Government go is the $64,000 question. The Government will also have to try to placate the non-Scottish MP’s who now will be rightly saying what about us after all the pledges to Scotland. As for the pledges to Scotland, they must be honoured, but all parties cannot and must not forget the other home nations

My view is devolved powers cannot have another level of bureaucracy or another level of Government in place. Powers should be given to the existing authorities. No doubt post the Scotland vote there will be calls for another tier of Government, but it is not one I currently subscribe to. I cannot see how another level of bureaucracy could be supported in these financially challenging times. People want services delivered and in a cost- effective manner.

I am a firm believer in less centralisation, but I also know there has to be a limit or a point where devolution is not cost-effective. It is okay asking for more powers, but if those powers cost more to deliver, then surely there has to be a stopped point on what is sensible devolution and what is nothing more than fanciful thinking.

Lastly and this has often been lost in the YES / NO election campaign is the voice of young people. I think this referendum has also shown 16/17-year-olds should be given the vote for all elections from now on. I hope this can be implemented quickly, though I doubt it will be for the General Election in 2015. Well done to Scotland for showing us the way on how to get young people involved in deciding their future.

The United Kingdom is still as one. And for this, I thank you Scotland and its people.

On the 1st October 2014, and after 87 years of having to display one, there will no longer be a legal requirement for any vehicle to display a tax disc. For those vehicles with Nil and Disabled tax discs who are currently entitled to free parking in Cornwall Council car parks a new process has been put in place so those who qualify can still continue to receive free parking..

The new process from the 1st October will require owners of vehicles of a Nill and Disabled tax disc  to contact the Council up to two weeks before expiry of their tax disk  giving details of the vehicle’s make and model and its registration number. The Parking Service will verify the details and add the information into its system as a vehicle exempt from enforcement in Cornwall Council car parks due to its Nil and Disabled status.  Provided a valid blue badge is displayed.  This will allow the continuation of free car parking in Cornwall Council owned car parks.

If a vehicle is not displaying a Nil and Disabled tax disc or has not been applied for exemptions as above, then the Enforcement Officers will not be aware of its status and will issue Penalty Charge Notices.  The vehicle must also display a valid blue badge to receive the exemption.

mail: parkingservices@cornwall.gov.uk  or write to the Council at: Parking Services, PO Box 664, TR1 9DH

 

On Saturday, I attended  the second Family Fun Day organised by Action for Children, Kernow Young Carers service at The Wadebridge Showground. The day was enjoyed by almost 150 children, young people, aged 3-18 and their families. I have to say the day was seen to be a huge success with plenty for everyone to do from cuddling a snake or holding a giant owl to face painting, a dance workshop, climbing wall and BBQ. As well as being staffed by members of the team from Action for Children, local volunteers from the service were also there to lend a hand.

During the event it was good to see two of Cornwall’s MP’s attend. Thanks to Dan Rogerson and Sarah Newton for taking the time to visit and see the good work by Action for Children and Kernow Young Carers.

The event would not have been the success without the support of  various organisations and performers.  Music was provided by Tom James, entertainment by Swamp Circus and Flava as well as stalls from Cornwall Food Foundation and the Wave Project as well as a range of arts and crafts activities, a climbing wall, skate ramp and bouncy castle.  Thanks should also go to Mark’s Arc and is animals. I saw many children and their families getting to hold some of Mark’s animal. The most popular was the python. snake

Particular thanks go to Wadebridge Rotary Club who provided the BBQ, food (free of charge) and the volunteers who worked hard all day to make sure everyone had drinks and food. The Flava Dance group provided both entertainment and a dance workshop which were hugely popular and to top it off, The Moorlanders Motor Cycle Club drove in on their motor bikes and presented a cheque to Action for Children for £1000.

Kernow Young Carers service is commissioned by Cornwall Council and NHS Kernow and is a service which is growing day by day as more children and young people are supported by the service. As well as the fun day, there are holiday activities, support in schools, local support groups and some one to one support for those who need it most.

If you would like to know more than please visit our website: www.kernowyoungcarers.org.uk

I had the great pleasure to recently visit Caradon Observatory; a little gem tucked away in the countryside near Upton Cross.  To be honest, I never knew it existed, but I am glad I do now, as the geek inside me really enjoyed the visit.

During the visit I was shown a picture taken by the observatory which showed a star cluster. I was blown away with the quality of the picture. However, I was completely stunned when I was told the imagine contained in the picture was actually 12 million years old and it took that long to reach earth for the picture to be taken. WOW.

The Caradon Observatory

The Caradon Observatory

During the visit, I got to view the sun through one of smaller telescopes. It may seem odd, as we see and feel the sun every day, but when you look at a telescope and see the sun in all its glory with sun spots and solar flares you really get a feeling how powerful the sun is.

During the visit I also learned more of the plan for Bodmin Moor to have the status as an International Dark Sky Park. This sounds like a worthy aim. The main benefit is the protection of the exceptional night sky. In addition if promoted right it could have a significant tourist and educational bonus. Other key areas in the UK are Exmoor; Dartmoor; Brecon Beacons; parts of Northumberland and parts of Scotland.

The plan for a Dark Sky Park

The plan for a Dark Sky Park

The Council is looking to submit an application next spring. More details on the project can be found via the Cornwall Council website HERE. Further details on the dark sky project are HERE. I found the visit very interesting and can see the benefits of the Dark Sky project in this area. In fact, I think we should be doing more to reduce unnecessary lighting in our towns and villages.

It is great news that a devolution project between Cornwall Council and Porthleven Town Council can now be announcement after the town council approved the deal last night. The deal between the two authorities, is for the playing field known officially as Horseshoe Playing Field, but also known locally as ‘top park’, along with the adjoining field and Shrubberies Hill car park will be transferred to Porthleven Town Council on a 99 year lease for one peppercorn (if demanded) per year.

As part of the devolution project I have been working on for sometime, I have negotiated with Cornwall Council a one-off grant of £25,000 to help replace the equipment. As anyone who has visited the park will see the current children’s play equipment it is in need of replacement.  This is really good news, as the town council gets to administer and safeguard the future of the area, but has a large grant to help replace the play equipment.

However, the £25,000 from Cornwall Council is not enough to build a new play park. So on top of this, and as part of the planning consent for the development of Shrubberies Hill, £10,000 of section 106 money will be added to the £25,000 from Cornwall Council. However, this is still a little short of the total amount needed for a new play park.  So as part of the recommendations I put to the town council (at the September meeting) to accept the transfer of assets, the town council has committed a further £5,000 to make this new park deliverable.

The proposed new play equipment at Horseshoe

The proposed new play equipment at Horseshoe

This play park will be build in a new area and has two elements, one for the younger children which will be fenced off, and another for older children. The ‘sand’ area is an idea, but it was deemed better to infill this, and place the benches and tables nearer the park. Included in the deal is new fencing.

The play equipment for older children

The play equipment for older children

 

I believe this is a great deal between Porthleven Town Council and Cornwall Council in how a devolution project can and should work. This is the second devolution project between Porthleven Town Council and Cornwall Council. The first one being the land between the Cricket Club and the Amenity Area. It sometimes takes time, and there is a lot of hard work for both parties, but it just proves something positive can be done if everyone is working for a common cause.

Well done Porthleven Town Council for being a proactive council. Well done Cornwall Council for helping a local community have more control over the assets in their area.

I have received some very good news today as DEFRA (administered by the Environment Agency) has previously awarded the Council £7.547m  to help repair the storm damage from last winter.  This money will be combined the Council’s own matched funding of £1.910m. This is goods news for Porthleven – which was badly affected by the storms – will receive some of this money. In total 67 sites will receive some storm damage funding.

Porthleven will receive £40k from this money to help address the flooding problems along Methleigh Bottoms. For the residents along this road there has been a worry every time there is bad weather will this area flood, and during the storms they were flooded, as they had been in previous years.

I am very pleased the Government has listen to the concerns I raised, along with residents and the Council and has awarded this money to address the problems along Methleigh Bottom. I would also like to praise my colleague Edwina Hannaford as the Portfolio Holder and the officers which pressured the Government for this money.

The good news is work should start on reducing if not completely stopping the flooding in this area very soon. I am just waiting for a schedule of works that will be undertaken. Once I have more details I will let people know

The Moors Flood1

Flooding on the Moors caused by the river along Methleigh Bottoms (2012)

The Moors Flood3

A common site during the bad weather with the road along Methleigh Bottoms closed due to the flooding

The Moors Flood2

Monday saw the start of a new school year. For those children in KS1 they will see the introduction of a free school meal (UIFSM) for all in that Key Stage. The reason for this is the Government believes that children having a meal at school is better for their learning and attainment; and anything that helps with a child’s education is surely a good thing?

For Cornwall, the project of UIFSM has not been plain sailing. In fact, implementing this project could have ended in disaster due to the lack of forethought on implementation by the Government. As local authorities and schools across the land pointed out many schools do not have adequate kitchen facilities, or even kitchens at all to implement this new Government policy. This resulted in the Government having to make available funding for new kitchens. However, the award of this funding did seemed without logic and based on pupil numbers rather than what facilities were needed. In Cornwall, excluding most academies who applied to the EFA directly, the Council was given £846k to deliver a project costed £1.4 million. A half a million shortfall in funding. This put the Council in a very difficult position of how to fund this shortfall and still deliver the programme by September 2014.

At first and to make sure the project could be delivered, money was taken from the schools maintenance money to fund this project. Of course the Council asked the Government for this shortfall, but were rebuffed and told to fund it out of existing budgets. Not really helpful when we are delivering their project.

The impact on the school maintenance fund and how that would have affected schools would have not been good. However, so no school was put at a disadvantage in their maintenance programme, the Schools Forum agreed to fund this shortfall out of the Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG). I am grateful to the School Forum for agreeing to fund this. This money is still school money and therefore could have been spent elsewhere, rather than finding a shortfall.

To make this project deliverable the Council undertook a large evolution of surveying kitchens, and from those surveys nearly half needed new facilities and updated facilities. In fact out of those 112 which needed work, 80% needed large-scale works with a couple of schools had to have completely new kitchens. There was an added pressure of most of the work could only be carried out over the summer holiday period.

It is to huge credit to the teams at Cornwall Council and Cormac who delivered all but three schools on time. The three schools who could not be treated on time will be still able to provide a packed lunch as a very temporary measure for a week or so.

Now the kitchens have been provided, the school are now able to provide those meals to the infants. It is up to the schools and the governing body if all infants receive a meal, or it is an opt-in option.

Furthermore, If the Government expands the free school meal programme into KS2, then I urge the Government to talk to schools and local authorities first to see what they need Rather than putting additional pressures on schools and local authorities to deliver in increasing budget pressures again caused by the stinging cuts to local government.