Chacewater Parish Council’s Letter to Cornwall Council

Chacewater Parish Council have sent a round-robin letter to all town and parish councils in Cornwall. In that letter (which you will read in a sec) the parish council makes allegations, which need to be clarified, and corrected. For me, it is not about the a parish or town council raising an issue with Cornwall Council, but the way they have gone about it. Especially as it contains inaccurate information.

So lets start with the letter and the response from John Pollard, Leader of Cornwall Council.

Dear ……… Parish Council,

 We are writing to you to seek support and comment on the performance of Cornwall Council. Ever since the district councils were amalgamated this Parish Council has seen a reduction in services and a blatant lack of communication and support from “One Cornwall”.

We are also very concerned with what appears to be a lack of cost savings that should have occurred when the amalgamation took place. In the business world if 6 so similarly aligned companies were merged one would expect to see savings of at least 33%, if not 66% in administration costs. Instead Cornwall Council saw fit to employ some really senior managers to oversee the whole business and pay exorbitant salaries to those new officers. Certainly some salaries far exceed the present Prime Minister!! From our perspective there have been no visible signs of savings being made. Most Parish Councils have suffered the indignity of public convenience closures in order to save money and yet every new house built in Cornwall will earn them at least an additional £1,000 in rates. The maths simply do not add up.

A second major issue for us is the planning decisions that have been taken without any regard for localism and local public concerns. Most planning applications we are asked to comment on come back with a reverse decision. Further, very large planning applications have been passed within the Truro area with little or no regard for public view and no regard to infrastructure issues such as road congestion, sewage disposal and hospital capacity. Royal Cornwall Hospital already lacks bed numbers with the ageing population growing and is also, quite rightly, flagging the issues of grid locked roads which are already causing severe access problems. Again these decisions appear to be made against the wishes of the local parish councils and therefore the general public who live in and around these communities. Wind and solar farms are springing up everywhere taking up valuable agricultural land and resources that are irreplaceable. Added to this the enforcement team are overstretched and very inefficient. Planning decisions should be free of politics, reflect the wishes of the communities and NOT be used as a carrot!

Our third area of concern is the use of Cormac for almost every engineering job undertaken within the county and the inefficient way that company appears to be run. How often do you see Cormac vehicles at rest? Should the Council put some if not all of these jobs out to competitive tender? That alone might lead to better hedge trimming and pot hole fixing regimes. I know that hedge trimming is performed by private contractor but Cornwall Council manage it, in our view, not very well.

The fourth issue we would like to discuss is the role of some of the Officers in the “Business Arm” of the Council which deals with concerns such as Newquay Airport as it seems these officers again attract significant salaries and perform more than one function within the Council which must, at times, surely incur a conflict of interest. In this area there should be more clarity as to where the public purse is being spent.

To conclude we feel that Cornwall Council is emerging as a dictatorship rather than a democratic governed body. We have no voice except that of our elected members, many of whom are becoming increasingly demoralised and weaker in terms of voting strength. The Strategic Planning Committee is badly out of balance as there are only two members who are able to represent the views of the Truro area with very little representation further west and so most decisions usually reflect a political position but are NOT true local votes unless, of course, one considers Bodmin local to Penzance. We cannot elect officers within the Council, they employ who they wish. We have no DEMOCRATIC recourse. Cornwall Council is rather like the very old children’s story “The Emperor’s New Clothes” and everyone is afraid to be the small boy.

We, as a Parish Council, wish to be that small boy but on our own we know we will not be listened to. Therefore we are sending you this letter to ascertain your views, thoughts and comments. If there is a positive response we would then like to hold a meeting of all those willing to be involved and endeavour to come up with a way that we can get a more democratic Council looking after the best interests of Cornwall , the county we love and are all proud to be part of.

If possible we would like a response by the end of July so that we can plan for a meeting in September. Please let us know if you prefer a weekday, weekend or evening meeting. We cannot leave this situation to continue for much longer as more damage is being sustained on a daily basis. If we SHOUT loud enough we might be heard!

And here is the response from the Leader:

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As you can read, the Leader has countered many of the points made by Chacewater Parish Council’s letter. However, this letter needn’t have been written if the parish council had talked to the Leader or the Deputy Leader of their concerns. That way, the right information could have been provided and would have addressed the issues contained in the letter. In fact, any town or parish council can talk to John and Jeremy as they both have been clear in willing to meet and listen to concerns.

I will add it is true town and parish council have been asked to take over public toilets, and will be asked to take over other services. This is due to the huge reduction in budgets and with a increased call on services. Like John has pointed out as over the last four-years, Cornwall Council has had to make saving of £170m and the Council will have to make further saving of £196m over the next four-years. That means services will change. We might not like it, but the Government has reduced the Council’s funding and furthermore, has imposed a cap on the amount of Council Tax an authority can set without having to hold an expensive referendum. So the Council has little option.

On the point of many officers having a salary more than the Prime Minister, this point is not true. Only one officer, the former CEO, Kevin Lavery was on anything like the Prime Minister. This salary was agreed before Cornwall Council was formed. Furthermore John has pointed out, the actual Council staff numbers have been heavily reduced. The staffing number will be further reduced not only for senior managers, but across the Council due to having to find the eye-watering amount of £196 million of savings. So in four years times we could see Cornwall Council having  less than 5,000 employees.

For anyone who has experience of planning, the whole subject is emotive and can turn very personal. I was a member of the Strategic Planning Committee for four years and know first hand some of the big decision that had to be made. I will also point out the very name of the committee gives away its purpose and you cannot have 123 members on a committee. Those members who sit on that committee do so with a strategic hat on; not as local members. However local members can speak at length on any application and they are not disbarred from doing so. From the context of the letter, it feels like the parish council is more miffed that it, or the areas local Cornwall Councillor does not have a seat on the committee.

The parish council fails to understand that seats on committees are politically balanced to reflect the make up of the Council. So the local member for Chacewater could sit on the committee but that would be up to their Group Leader and depend on the number of seats allocated due to the political balance of the Council. People may not like this, but these are the rules on how committees are set up nationally.

One comment in the whole parish council letter has concerned me the most this is:

To conclude we feel that Cornwall Council is emerging as a dictatorship rather than a democratic governed body

Cornwall Council is democratic.  Decision are made by Councillors. However it would be impossible and quite wrong for Councillors make all the decision due to legal and operational reasons. I can say this as having the experience of being a back-bencher and Portfolio Holder.

Planning is democratic; Councillors get advice from officers, but they make the final decision. Cabinet votes democratically. People may not always agree with a decision –  and I know I have not always – but the decision was taken democratically. Just because you did not win the vote or disagree with the decision, does not make the decision wrong or undemocratic.

I have to point out that the Cornwall Councillor for an area plays an important link between the local authority and the town / parish council. If this function is not working or has broken down, then this could lead to an added friction between the two authorities.

Furthermore, Cornwall Council has contested elections every four years. So if a local community does not think their Cornwall Councillor is fighting their corner well enough, they can vote for someone else. You only got to look at last years election to see Councillors who sought re-election failed to do so. I feel it a little rich for Chacewater Parish Council to talk about democracy, when they have not had a contested election for over 20 years.

The Second Town and Parish Council Summit

On Saturday, Cornwall Councils Cabinet hosted the second town and parish council summit at Kingsley Village.

The event had a reasonable turn out of around 90 people from 50 councils. It would have been nice to seem more representation from the 218 odd town and parish councils in Cornwall. But it is not that easy to find a suitable date or location that pleases all.

The town and parish council were given a budget briefing on the current position and the difficulties for the budget in the next four years.

Questions were asked by the representatives of the town and parish councils; many of the budget, plus others on the individual areas of the representatives. There were the usual questions on planning, the incinerator, car parking, buses and decisions Cornwall Council had previously made.

Sadly only one question was on the Portfolio I cover. But at least it was better than none!

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I hope the Councillors and clerks from the town and parish councils in attendance got the message Cornwall Council really wants to work with the town and parish councils. However, we know we are not always going to agree on every idea or request. But we must find solutions together because the future of local government will be very different from where it currently is now.

The Full List of Second Homes by Parish in Cornwall

The response to my proposals of getting legislation changed that would require planning/change of use for holiday lets and second homes has been positive. I have also been offered support from many quarters, not just within the council.

Since the publication of the data, I have been asked by people “what about my area?” So here is the list in full by Parish in Cornwall. I warn you, the list is long. This list only includes second homes (not holiday lets).

Parish Dwellings Second Homes Percentage
Advent                96                11 11.5
Altarnun               523                27 5.2
Antony               210                  8 3.8
Blisland               321                24 7.5
Boconnoc                60                  6 10.0
Bodmin            6,709                61 0.9
Botusfleming               338                  1 0.3
Boyton               200                  9 4.5
Breage            1,449               105 7.2
Broadoak                64                – 0.0
Bude-Stratton            4,938               295 6.0
Budock               786               113 14.4
Callington            2,671                16 0.6
Calstock            3,020                74 2.5
Camborne            9,528                63 0.7
Camelford            1,471                82 5.6
Cardinham               277                  6 2.2
Carharrack               653                11 1.7
Carlyon               745                39 5.2
Carn Brea            3,577                23 0.6
Chacewater               743                12 1.6
Colan               754                20 2.7
Constantine               856                52 6.1
Crantock               466                65 13.9
Crowan            1,107                26 2.3
Cubert               608                40 6.6
Cuby                71                  2 2.8
Cury               203                16 7.9
Davidstow               241                30 12.4
Deviock               815               109 13.4
Dobwalls and Trewidland               933                23 2.5
Duloe               329                18 5.5
Egloshayle               173                  6 3.5
Egloskerry               189                  4 2.1
Falmouth          10,326               379 3.7
Feock            1,791                95 5.3
Forrabury and Minster               575               109 19.0
Fowey            1,453               245 16.9
Germoe               252                15 6.0
Gerrans               629               178 28.3
Grade-Ruan               532                59 11.1
Grampound with Creed               303                12 4.0
Gunwalloe                92                  8 8.7
Gweek               293                  9 3.1
Gwennap               665                10 1.5
Gwinear-Gwithian            1,480                94 6.4
Hayle            4,318               239 5.5
Helland                88                  9 10.2
Helston            4,900                46 0.9
Illogan            2,433                28 1.2
Jacobstow               236                16 6.8
Kea               632                  9 1.4
Kenwyn            2,446                16 0.7
Kilkhampton               695                68 9.8
Ladock               673                14 2.1
Landewednack               499                50 10.0
Landrake with St. Erney               487                10 2.1
Landulph               249                13 5.2
Laneast                99                  1 1.0
Lanhydrock                85                  5 5.9
Lanivet               852                14 1.6
Lanlivery               216                  5 2.3
Lanner            1,226                10 0.8
Lanreath               231                12 5.2
Lansallos            1,014               155 15.3
Lanteglos               739               225 30.4
Launcells               234                  9 3.8
Launceston            4,248                42 1.0
Lawhitton Rural               133                  4 3.0
Lesnewth                35                  2 5.7
Lewannick               442                  9 2.0
Lezant               357                10 2.8
Linkinhorne               703                19 2.7
Liskeard            4,542                34 0.7
Looe            3,003               336 11.2
Lostwithiel            1,360                49 3.6
Ludgvan            1,537                53 3.4
Luxulyan               620                15 2.4
Mabe               737                10 1.4
Madron               718                67 9.3
Maker-with-Rame               788               270 34.3
Manaccan               217                57 26.3
Marazion               818                96 11.7
Marhamchurch               379                30 7.9
Mawgan-in-Meneage               354                12 3.4
Mawgan-in-Pydar               666               112 16.8
Mawnan               817               108 13.2
Menheniot               787                19 2.4
Mevagissey            1,302               184 14.1
Michaelstow               111                  8 7.2
Millbrook            1,081                37 3.4
Morvah                45                11 24.4
Morval               315                  9 2.9
Morwenstow               392                35 8.9
Mullion            1,054                87 8.3
Mylor            1,380               155 11.2
Newquay          10,658               558 5.2
North Hill               459                20 4.4
North Petherwin               332                  9 2.7
North Tamerton               124                  2 1.6
Otterham               111                  2 1.8
Padstow            1,846               540 29.3
Paul               130                  9 6.9
Pelynt               710                45 6.3
Penryn            3,364                47 1.4
Pentewan Valley               325                31 9.5
Penzance          11,330               520 4.6
Perranarworthal               700                17 2.4
Perranuthnoe            1,096                55 5.0
Perranzabuloe            2,678               180 6.7
Philleigh                94                19 20.2
Pillaton               230                  7 3.0
Porthleven            1,693               151 8.9
Portreath               706                60 8.5
Poundstock               530               107 20.2
Probus            1,047                21 2.0
Quethiock               197                  4 2.0
Redruth            6,385                30 0.5
Roche            1,656                12 0.7
Ruanlanihorne               118                13 11.0
Saltash            7,290                56 0.8
Sancreed               316                19 6.0
Sennen               553               121 21.9
Sheviock               366                42 11.5
Sithney               347                14 4.0
South Hill               207                  6 2.9
South Petherwin               436                  6 1.4
St. Agnes            3,789               244 6.4
St. Allen               178                  2 1.1
St. Anthony-in-Meneage               114                28 24.6
St. Austell            8,951                62 0.7
St. Austell Bay               687                83 12.1
St. Blaise            2,975                32 1.1
St. Breock               356                40 11.2
St. Breward               450                25 5.6
St. Buryan               669                73 10.9
St. Cleer            1,606                52 3.2
St. Clement               581                34 5.9
St. Clether                80                  5 6.3
St. Columb Major            2,114                89 4.2
St. Day               827                  8 1.0
St. Dennis            1,174                  9 0.8
St. Dominick               378                  7 1.9
St. Endellion               789               275 34.9
St. Enoder            1,878                24 1.3
St. Erme               539                  4 0.7
St. Erth               719                37 5.1
St. Ervan               220                23 10.5
St. Eval               468                44 9.4
St. Ewe               254                29 11.4
St. Gennys               484                85 17.6
St. Germans               655                10 1.5
St. Gluvias               681                  8 1.2
St. Goran               680                94 13.8
St. Hilary               351                17 4.8
St. Issey               494               116 23.5
St. Ive            1,003                10 1.0
St. Ives            6,877            1,230 17.9
St. John               342               140 40.9
St. Juliot               179                21 11.7
St. Just            2,480               226 9.1
St. Just-in-Roseland               877               293 33.4
St. Keverne            1,086               158 14.5
St. Kew               553                72 13.0
St. Keyne               211                  3 1.4
St. Levan               337                77 22.8
St. Mabyn               298                30 10.1
St. Martin-by-Looe               321                37 11.5
St. Martin-in-Meneage               163                13 8.0
St. Mellion               197                  7 3.6
St. Merryn            1,142               438 38.4
St. Mewan            1,498                38 2.5
St. Michael Caerhays                43                  2 4.7
St. Michael Penkevil                78                  2 2.6
St. Michael’s Mount                15                – 0.0
St. Minver Highlands               667               253 37.9
St. Minver Lowlands            1,182               507 42.9
St. Neot               469                19 4.1
St. Newlyn East               746                22 2.9
St. Pinnock               323                  9 2.8
St. Sampson               140                29 20.7
St. Stephen-in-Brannel            3,054                28 0.9
St. Stephens By Launceston Rural               166                  5 3.0
St. Teath            1,347               102 7.6
St. Thomas the Apostle Rural               389                10 2.6
St. Tudy               322                25 7.8
St. Veep               189                37 19.6
St. Wenn               158                12 7.6
St. Winnow               158                19 12.0
Stithians               906                16 1.8
Stokeclimsland               737                24 3.3
Tintagel            1,046               158 15.1
Torpoint            3,548                26 0.7
Towednack               167                  6 3.6
Tregoney               446                20 4.5
Tremaine                28                – 0.0
Treneglos                37                  2 5.4
Tresmeer               108                  6 5.6
Trevalga                32                  1 3.1
Treverbyn            3,462                28 0.8
Trewen                76                  3 3.9
Truro            8,902                95 1.1
Tywardreath and Par            1,526                33 2.2
Veryan               538                96 17.8
Wadebridge            3,212               125 3.9
Warbstow               245                  9 3.7
Warleggan               136                12 8.8
Week St. Mary               294                13 4.4
Wendron            1,157                20 1.7
Werrington               195                – 0.0
Whitstone               247                  5 2.0
Withiel               160                10 6.3
Zennor               127                19 15.0

* Data from Cornwall Council as of 27 November 2012