Cornwall must have better funding for schools.

In December and January, I made comment about the potential good news for Cornwall to get an overall increase of funding for schools. I did clarify the devil is always in the detail, and there would be no-doubt be winners and losers. There is no getting away from it, but historically, Cornwall has been one of the worse funded areas for education. Not just this current Government, but previous Governments too.

Whilst I welcome the additional £10m to Cornwall under the current proposals, this change does not address the historic differences between richest and poorest authorities. This is in part because one of the proposals in the new funding formula is to ensure no school nationally will face a per pupil funding drop of more than 3% – the same goes for Cornwall schools if there is any reduction in an individual school budget.

The best-funded authorities get around £9.5k per pupil even with a full 3% reduction they will still receive much more than the poorest authorities whose starting point is about £4.5k per pupil. Yes the gap, is slightly narrower, it is light-years away from being closed.

The Council, with the Schools’ Forum (who manage the Dedicated Schools Grant; the forum is populated by head-teachers from all sectors of education) have robustly commented on the Stage 1 Consultation by the Education Funding Agency (EFA) and highlighted a number of issues with the proposals. The first issue is the EFA have not sufficiently clearly demonstrated the true impact on their proposed funding formula. Too many figures are being used without clearly identifying the elements included for comparison, potentially resulting in misleading comparisons being made.

Furthermore, against the Council’s and Schools Forum’s advice in response to part one of the consultations, the EFA are basing calculations to fund the children with greatest needs on Free School Meals take-up rather than on more sophisticated and more reliable deprivation measures. The EFA are also proposing to reduce the amounts allocated by IDACI bands (income deprivation affecting children index) so additional funding will be skewed in favour of the free school meal take-up. It is very important to note this is take-up of and not eligibility for.

The proposed funding model focuses very heavily on pupil led funding. The problem with this is that Secondary Schools currently still have to deal with reductions in school population. The protection mechanisms in the formula only protects the funding allocated to each child rather than the total amount of funding received by a school, so reducing pupil numbers results in reduced budgets.  This fall in pupil population is set to be reversed in the next few years. So in effect, schools will receive more, but does not make it right due to the vast differences of AWPU between local authorities.

In a slightly ironic twist, small schools were very worried about their funding, but with the proposed lump sum allocations our very smallest schools will suddenly be considerably better off. Good news for small schools, not so good for larger.

The EFA consultation runs to the 22nd March. There is a stage two for this consultation and all concerns have been put into Cornwall Council official response to the second part of the consultation. This is currently in draft format and will be agreed with representatives of Cornwall Schools’ Forum before we submit it.

I have always been clear and fair that whilst I welcome the additional funding that will be allocated to Cornwall’s pupils, the review does not go far enough in redistributing resources to traditionally underfunded areas like Cornwall.  I will add that I see no justification for the vast differences in AWPU between local authorities. Our schools in Cornwall can only dream of having almost double the amount of funding like other local council have.  I just hope the EFA listens to the views of Schools’ Forum, the Council and head-teachers in making sure our schools are funded properly.

(this article is also featured in the West Briton etc).

97.8% of young people in Cornwall get their first choice secondary school

Near 98% of young people get their first choice of secondary school. That is a great achievement for not only for those parent, carers and young people, but to the School’s Admission Team at Cornwall Council who have processed 5,426 applications this year.

Of course I have total sympathy to those 155 parents who did not get their first choice. However, 99.2% of applications have been given one of their first three preferences. They can still appeal that process. This year we had more applications for school places than in 2016.

A few reasons why not everyone will be satisfied is whilst each area has what is called a designated school, a parent can apply to another school not their designated one. However, a child with a closer tie to a designated school will be given priority. Furthermore, even know we say this each it is important all three boxes filled in, and not just one. As it makes the team’s job more difficult if there are no second/third choice.

Another issue is we face – each year – is late applications. we are currently dealing with 170 late applications. Late application often end in disappointment, especially if a school has school place pressures.

This continued performance is good news for children and families in Cornwall at this time but the Council is closely monitoring the pressure on primary school places which is expected to start affecting secondary schools from 2018 onwards.  I can assure you the Council is working to mitigate this with capital funding for additional school places, including new schools.

Transferring to secondary school is an important and exciting step for Year 6 children and their families and we know that it is an anxious time waiting for confirmation of a school place. I am delighted that, once again, the Council is able to offer a very high number of children a place at their preferred school.  I was in London recently, and according to the media, over 30% of children in London will not get their first choice. We have near 98%

The Council will continue to plan for the demand on places to ensure that as many children as possible can attend their preferred school now and in the future.

Well done Schools Admission Team, and the Appeals Team who will be busy with any appeals.

The Parliamentary Boundary Commission makes its decision on Devonwall

The Parliamentary Boundary Commission has today confirmed –  as expected – that it is recommending a new cross-border parliamentary constituency of Bideford, Bude and Launcestonbetween that will straddle the historic borders of Cornwall and Devon.

This decision has formed part of the part of the 2018 review of parliamentary boundaries and the plan to reduce the number of MP’s from 650 to 600. 

In a statement issued by Cornwall Council in response to this news: 

“As we said in our robust submission to the Commission, we strongly object to this proposal which would create a new constituency crossing the historic border between Cornwall and Devon for the first time in Cornwall’s history.

 As well as destroying the integrity of Cornwall’s historic border, which would cause great distress to numerous residents , this proposal also conflicts with the spirit and intent of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities.

 We strongly believe there are cultural, legal, geographic and political reasons to maintain our border in terms of Parliamentary representation and we will be lobbying Parliament and calling on the Boundary Commission to rethink this proposal.”

From this announcement, there will be a second round of consultation on these proposal by the Commission; then following that, the final recommendations will be laid before Parliament in September 2018. If accepted the new boundaries will be active for the General Election in 2020.

More details can be found HERE


European Capital of Culture bid is passed by Cabinet, but I did not support it

Being the lone voice in a Cabinet is sometimes difficult, but when you cannot support an item you need to make sure your voice is heard and standby those views. The case in question is the European Capital of Culture bid (ECoC). My previous post on this issue is HERE.

Prior to today’s meeting, there was enough concern about the original decision by Cabinet. This resulted in the decision being ‘called-in’ by scrutiny who felt the process getting to the Cabinet decision was flawed. As Scrutiny felt there was a ‘flaw’ in the process of the decision – and as per the Constitution – sent the decision back to Cabinet for further consideration, and to consider if it made the right decision in the first place. For those who do not want to read on, the Cabinet voted 8-1 in favour of the bid (I voted against it). For those who want to know why, please read on.

I believe the process of getting to the shortlist phase is flawed for many of the same reasons as Scrutiny. Originally, the amount to get to the shortlist phase, was £536k, but now, on ‘relooking’ at the amount, this is now £336k. However, whilst this money is already in a budget (£60m) of EU match-funding, the costs most people seem to be missing is the estimated £10m that Cornwall Council will need to commit for this bid to work. This is not in the Council’s budget plan, and there is no clear way how this could be funded.

There is one thing of using existing budgets for something, but how do you square it when you really need a lot more for this to work. At today’s Cabinet meeting I commented how projects like the ECoC will find the money. Yet, corporately, money cannot be found for vital services in Cornwall. In reference to my point today, I talked about Post-16 transport funding.  Whilst this is a discretionary service of the Council, and it is important to note, the Council receives no support from Government to pay for it; even though they have made it mandatory for young people to stay in education (or training) till 18 years old.

If I had £10m, I could fund Post-16 transport for around eight-years. This is just one case of how money could be spent rather than on this bid. My point is we must fund for the most vulnerable and concentrate on our key services as highlighted in my previous blog.

Much has been made of this is a Cornwall-wide bid and not just Truro. Yet, Truro City Council was not really consulted prior to the bid paperwork going public. Furthermore, the City Council has only supported the ECoC bid by a narrow margin of 9-8. Hardly a ringing endorsement, but a democratic decision nonetheless.

A puzzling question that needs to be answered is how in reality will a Cornwall-wide bid work? Will it just concentrate on the existing sites like Eden and other large tourist attractions? If so, how will those who do not have a site like this near to them feel the ‘benefit’ of the ECOC? If commercial businesses are to benefit, it is a must they have to contribute, rather than the taxpayer footing the bill.

If town and villages are to be involved why haven’t they been asked?  Will it be left to the town and parish councils to find funding? A of example on costs is Helston Town Council made a decision not to have the Man Engine due to the costs of this one day event. If it is Cornwall-wide, then serious consideration needs to be made how these town and parish council will fund it, or will it be only the ones with the precepts large enough to contribute?

Another point I made today was on political support for the ECoC. Cabinet is made up of two group/party, Independent and Lib Dem. Yet the Council is made up of eight groups/party/standalone. I made an amendment for this decision to be made by full council as all 123 members can have a say, especially on the commitment of further funding like the £10m. This was not supported, but I am hopeful when there is money assigned, this can be debated via the capital programme which has to come to full council at a later date. A long-winded route to a simple debate on a yes/no option on the bid.

It is should be noted, the bid rule makes it clear any bid needs to be grassroots and supported from there. No reference has been made of this, or asked the public about their views.

In short, I voted against this because the bid is flawed on the timeline needed, monies could be spent on the most vulnerable, and there is not full political support for the ECoC. Not to mention post Brexit, there is little chance of winning the bid. As I said before, I was the lone voice, and the other eight members of Cabinet voted in favour for a bid and the £336k to proceed.



Helston College rebuild work to start in September

It has been a long time coming, but the much needed building work for Helston College is due to start this September – yes really this September! Helston College was part of the successful bid to the Government by Cornwall Council to get much needed money for C-Block and other works. The many posts on this subject can be found HERE.

With the project moving forward, the school will undertake a series of engagement meetings with companies hoping to gain the contract for the new build. This contract will be hopefully awarded in April. At the end of April or early May, there will be public consultation as part of the planning process.

This is really exciting, and something I have pushed for since the previous disappointments. Details on what will be built are still being finalised, but a start date is fantastic.  Huge credit to the College Head, Governors and staff at Cornwall Council for never losing faith in getting this money.

The deputy PM, Head of Helston School, the former MP and me at the official announcement of the rebuild back in the day

New Goals installed on the Moors

Last week the prep work for installing two new goals on the Moors playing field was started. From this, Porthleven Town Council’s handyman, Phil and his apprentice (me) fitted and installed the goal posts today.

It was good to be able to use my community fund for this, as I know many will have fun and appreciate these new goal posts. Thank to Phil and the town council for paying for the extra materials needed for the installation. Thanks also to the group of parents who helped Phil and I lift the goals in place.

No sooner than we had finished, a group of boys started to play football using the goals.

Phil and his apprentice

Shipyard application turned down by Porthleven Town Council

Thursday’s Porthleven Town Council planning meeting was likely to be a busy one, and it was, with standing room only. The item residents came to voice their concern over as you can expect was the shipyard application.

These public objections were on the size and impact of the building; not in keeping with the historic fabric of Porthleven; highways; loss of boat yard facilities; parking and access on and from the slipway. The Porthleven Fishermen’s Association also made comment at the meeting about the negative impact on the boat owner and fishing community this building would have.

This application was never going to be an easy-one, as changes to an area on this scale never run smoothly. But change can and does happen. It just not at the expensive of other important areas.

For me, I very much welcome jobs in Porthleven and those which are different to the tourism sector. However it is important to understand how many job, the type of jobs and will they be new jobs or jobs that have been relocated from existing buildings. In answering my question, Trevor Osborne and his architect suggested between 50 and 100 jobs. Though there was no confirmation as to whether these were new jobs or relocated.

I am sure many would agree there could be much more use made out of the shipyard, but this has to be in balance with other aspects of Porthleven and this building should not harm those other important aspects of Porthleven including heritage, the landscape and existing jobs.

This application comes down to need against harm. Yes we need jobs in Porthleven and it is good someone actually wants to invest in Porthleven. However, as the plans stand, I am not yet satisfied this proposal would in fact be totally positive for Porthleven.

This size, scale and impact on the area is of huge importance as this building would in effect dominate this area and would also impact on the surrounding area, including many important historical views. You only have to look at this site from different position like Peverell Terrace, Breageside, Fore Street corner and Church Row to see this building would fundamentally change those views.

There is a total lack of parking provision for the building of this size and for the number of jobs. It is no more than 10 from the plans. Parking is important, and adequate parking must be provided. Without decent levels of parking, this building would just create problems elsewhere. It was suggested by the application that parking could be provided past Tolponds. This option is flawed as the site is far away and there is no footpath. The area is also in a 60 mph zone, and you really cannot have people walking on this road without a footpath. Of course a footpath could be built, but this is not simple due to the sheer costs of putting in a footpath and this footpath would have to cross land in multiple ownerships.

A really important issue is the loss of the bus stop as this current plan removes the well used bus stop and has not been replaced with any dedicated provision in the plans for a bus stop. There is  somewhat of a ‘waiting area’ but this is not a protective shelter. It would also conflict with possible use as a café as this space would leave people confused, and unsure if they could use it whilst waiting for a bus. This current bus stop is well-used, and therefore, it would have a negative effect on those using public transport if it was removed and not replaced.

This application raises some really serious highways concerns I do raise serious concerns. There is no turning space not only for large vehicles, but those with trailers/and boats. The road on Methleigh bottoms is narrow in this location, and the field of vision looking towards the harbour with a sharp bend is not clear. If large goods vehicles, boat trailers cannot access the yard, then there would be a temptation to back on the harbour head road. If this happens, this would cause congestion in the area and will have a knock-on up Fore Street. The proposed access in and out of the shipyard is also of major concern.

The impact to the boat owners and fishermen has to be taken into serious consideration; this includes access on to and from the slip. There will also be a lack of boat repair and storage facilities if this plan was approved in its current format. Porthleven is a harbour and ‘safe haven’ and it would be totally unacceptable for a harbour not to have these facilities.

I also very much dislike the ‘company blue’

The matter is this application has to be decided on what are the current plan, and not any further amendments which may come forward. As there is no guarantee any of these changes will be made if support is given. Therefore, in light of the concerns raised, Porthleven Town Council felt it could not support this application and voted unanimously to refuse the application.

From the town council’s decision, the application can be decided by Cornwall Council as it stands, or as I am hopeful, updated plans will be submitted for the town council and the public to make further comment on.

Coronation Park and the Swans

I am doing this blog as I need to clarify a few points to make sure the correct information is in the public domain. This is reference to Coronation Park; security of the swan nests on Flora Day; and both the small and large island for nesting purposes. I need to also qualify, I am the local Cornwall Council which this area resides, but direct day-to-day management of this area is not in my responsibilities.

The following is my email to all those who are running or involved in the ‘Security for nest swans on Flora Day 2017’. My email is as follows:

“I have now asked every connected department about this (as this takes a while to make sure everyone has been asked) and from the emails I have received that on Thursday 9 February CORMAC operatives were instructed to leaf blow some paths in Coronation Park, no further works were performed by the operatives.

As for your litter pick/clean-up, I will repeat that no-one said there cannot be one taking place. However, Community groups are asked to register their litter pick with Clean Cornwall,, this not only avoids duplication of works but also allows the community groups to borrow equipment or to request a waste collection. When I emailed you, I asked for this to be merely postponed until the permission had been given both by the leaseholder and Cornwall Council. This had not been given, which is why I raised the point with you.

On this occasion the litter pick was not registered with Clean Cornwall. I very much welcome individuals or groups helping to keep our open spaces looking good, but processes must be followed to ensure the safety of those volunteers and the public. For instance, I run Pride in Porthleven (PIP) and before any clean-up/litter pick, I make sure I have permission from the landowner/leasehold prior to the work being carried out.

Furthermore, all parties including myself want to make sure the swans are safe. This was the original request was you wanted to protect them on Flora Day. This security has been arranged for Flora Day.

As for placing bales on the large island, this has to be part of a conversation with the leaseholder who in the past has offered help, and suggested the use of the small island – as the small island cannot be accessed by members of the public. The leaseholder and SKA have also offered to set up a public meeting, with bird experts to look into a dedicated care plan for all the birds. As for the size the lake, the bird population is far too great. At a count this morning, there were 16 swans on the lake.

Previous advice from RSPB, have said this area should only support one breeding pair. The RSPB have suggested feeding is discouraged, but this is hard to do, as many families enjoy doing this. Even by stopping the sale of the food in the area, people will bring their own. I know I did when I had a small child.

We are totally supportive of a sign saying which food stuffs can be given to the birds. This helps educate people on the natural food for the different birds. The birds are overfed and much of the food given to them isn’t eaten. I also like the idea of a floating island for the birds. However, this has to be done in conjunction with the leaseholder of the café, the current owners of the area and the new owners, SKA.

I will reiterate, I am very supportive of protecting the swans and making the whole area habitable for them. As I am for the ducks and other birds.  I also as the local member have to balance the requests of other people who have complained about the state of the island and want to use it. It is about being fair to everyone.

Furthermore, The SKA, have said: we are pleased that there is such great community support for protecting the swans around Flora Day. However we would not wish to see the creation of a habitat which would encourage an increase the swan numbers as this would have a negative effect on the diversity of other species in the Park and affect the wider public enjoyment of the area. Once the Park is transferred to SKA we will, in coordination with the Lakeside Cafe, take advice from wildfowl experts as part of a balanced plan to encourage the diversity of species. We will consult the wider public and define a policy for the management of all wildfowl in the area which will then set the ground rules for interventions such as Flora Day swan protection.”

I am happy for this entire email to be made public. My aim is for everyone to work together, as we all appreciate Coronation Park as a great place for all ages”.

Cornwall Council goes for the Mr Whippy option for the number of Councillors

As part of Cornwall Council’s Devolution deal, there was a requirement for the Council to look at how it is governed. This includes the number of Councillors who serve at the Council. For those who do not know, there are 123 Councillors.  It is easy to say there are too many, but this is often from a viewpoint of not knowing the role. In Cornwall we also have the difficulty of rurality where we have any small settlements. So too big of an area, makes it difficult to cover.

The Boundary Commission – who ultimately will set the number of Councillors – wanted the review to take place in time for the May 2017 elections. This was impossible to do, and the Council successfully argued for the review to take place, but not implemented till the 2021 elections. This is not about turkeys voting for Christmas, but making sure there is fair representation, and electoral boundaries reflect Cornwall’s settlements.

A lot of work has been undertaken with engagement from lots of different areas including town and parish councils, businesses and other public sector bodies. In gathering evidence, it is clear there are some divisions that have a low number of electors – some too many. These are not in-line with the Boundary Commission own rules, and the Commission is right in asking for a review.

Today, at the full meeting of Cornwall Council the debated and voted on its recommendation for the new size of the Council. This number is for 99 Councillors. This overcomes many of the issues raised by the Commission. The Tory’s want a lower number of 85, but this was resoundingly defeated.

A vote was taken (recorded) and it was approved that Cornwall Council would submitted its recommendation for 99 Councillors by 66 in favour, 13 against and one Abstention.

For those who want to read and understand the whole process and documentation by clicking HERE. There is a lot of documentation.

At the end of the day, it will be the Boundary Commission we set the numbers using their own methods and evidence.


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