The week ending 1st November – School Meals, the Media and Degrees

This week has been one of media interviews amongst other things. In fact one old shipmate who I have not heard from in years sent me a message to say I am on the TV and radio more times than Ant and Dec. And this week it felt like it. However, the reason I was to talk about two main issues; taxis and their use by the council; and free school meals. I have covered the issue of taxis in a previous post.

Recently, the Government announced that from September 2014, all children under eight will be provided with a free school meal. As currently, only those children who meet a certain criteria are eligible for free school meals. The announcement by the Government is to be welcomed. However, as yet, there are no details on the funding. The Council has been told detail will be in the Governments Autumn Spending review, and until then, we know very little.

My concern on this ‘good idea’ is on the funding. Will the funding include costs for new equipment and staffing. I say this as not all of our schools have kitchens or those of suitable size to cope with the increased provision. Will the funding make allowance for extra staff too? I guess we will find out when the Government tells us!

Later in the week I have the pleasure to visit the SPACE project run by Action for Children. SPACE  provide activity schemes for disabled children and young people throughout Cornwall. These include schemes during the school holidays, on Saturdays and regular youth clubs. The aim of the project is to allow local disabled young people to socialise with each other in a secure and caring environment – making new friends and having lots of fun! I certainly had fun as I joined in the mornings activities, got to talk with the young people and staff. I certainly came away impressed with the programme.

Saturday I was invited by Cornwall College to the afternoon Graduation Ceremony held at Truro cathedral. This year the College put on three ceremonies; which is a testament to the College, its staff and the students for its Higher Education programme. It was great to see so many students being awarded their Degrees. It just shows the how the Higher Education programme in Cornwall is thriving.

Lastly, it was great to be tweeted by the United Nations for helping to celebrate UN Day. It is not often you get tweet by an international organisation saying thank you.



The week ending 25th October

I am going to try something a little different when blogging. I will be doing a round-up of the week of some of the things I have been doing that have not had an individual blog post. That way, you will get a better understanding of my role as Lead Member for Children and Young People, and as a local Councillor.

This week, the entire membership of Cornwall Council met. One of the biggest items on the agenda was on whether Cornwall Council’s Cabinet should work up a budget on a 6% Council Tax increase. It was an interesting debate, which had Members debate on whether to protect services, a bigger increase in Council Tax should be set. This issue is made more difficult, as the Government has set a cap of a maximum 2% rise in Council Tax before you have to hold a referendum.

After the debate, as is normal practice, a vote is called for. The result of that vote was 79 against, 33 for and 3 abstentions for a 6% Council Tax Budget. I do understand the merits of the original motion of a 6% rise, but even with a 6% rise, the council would still have to make £17m worth of additional cuts instead of a £23m with a 2%. Plus, the cost of a referendum £1m would have to be met. So if the referendum was lost, services would be required to find the costs from existing budgets.

Wednesday evening I attended the celebration even for 18 Cornish student who had been part of the Nuffield Trust programme run by Cornwall Learning. I had the honour of being asked to present certificates. I came away very excited to see so much talent being produced in our school system. I spoke to many of the students who had been part of the programme and talked about their projects. As for the projects which students had undertaken was on diabetes in pregnancy, a Cosmic Ray (yes really!) Displacement and many other clever and inspiring projects.

I got to visit Curnow Special School along with the Head of Service for Learning and Achievement. This is a fantastic facility, with dedicated staff who give a positive learning experience to children with complex needs. I got to meet many of the staff and students at this school and came away extremely happy with the facilities and methods at this school.