Thursday, 2 July 2015

Bespoke services for Cornwall

Having  a bespoke flood authority for Cornwall, a body which deals with Cornish heritage (not English Heritage) and so on sounds absolutely great.

But, bespoke generally costs more.  We all know that money is tight. It seems unlikely that the Government will want to provide us with additional funds to create bespoke services.

We may get more money to deal with flooding, an issue that was highlighted in the Conservative Manifesto but do we want to spend it on what, at least in some respects, would be a rebranding exercise?

The Council now seems to have woken up to this and is asking for additional monies to run these new Kernow services.  But going forward the Council would take on new risks from these new responsibilities. I am not convinced that the Council has established a good enough reason to do this.

It is a bit ironic that the Council's ask on Heritage involved them taking over the Cornwall and West Devon World Heritage Site. So no worries there then on  Devonwall.

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Should the Council have more powers over green energy?

The Council says that the national grid within Cornwall is now at capacity. Therefore, if there are to be more renewable energy measures (wind and solar parks, geothermal and marine) there needs to be investment in the grid.

The Local Enterprise Partnership  (LEP) plans to spend more than £100m ( out of £600m ) of Cornwall's EU monies upgrading the grid. The Council wants to form a partnership to take the decisions on how this money should be spent.

This may lead to more large scale wind/solar, although the recent changes in Government's  subsidy regime make this less likely. Perhaps the subsidy changes mean that the LEP should review this £100m investment in any event.

But the Council keeps all the business rates from renewable energy projects so it is keen on this income generating initiative.

The Council also wants Government money to explore geothermal power. As £11.5m is already provisionally allocated for that from Cornwall's European funds it may be argued that more public money for this is not a top priority.

Finally, the Council wants another chance to run a project of subsidised measures to insulate people's homes. As only £5m out of £100m was spent of a similar Council project with British Gas, it is hard not to be concerned as to whether this new project would be a success. An alternative might be for any new scheme to be run by the voluntary sector.

Monday, 29 June 2015

What impact will the Council's plans for devolution have on the NHS?

Even members of the Council's Working Group on devolution do not understand what the Council have in mind in relation to health. An extra meeting has been arranged for today to try to explain it.

If we are only talking about joint commissioning (arranging in Council speak) of social care services, then that makes a lot of sense. Indeed, the Coalition Government  gave Cornwall funding to run a pilot project to get this done. So, no big deal on devolution, the Council should just get on with the job.

However, if it means the devolution of  the health budget  to Cornwall (as appears to be happening in Manchester: Devo Manc) then, I think there would be widespread concern about this.  This appears to be contemplated by the draft business case provided to members in January.

Apparently, Manchester believes that it can take a 5 per cent cut in Central Government funding and still make more savings to use locally.  But, it is risky.  The Cornwall Council's net budget is (only) £500m compared to the health budget of £1.3 billion.

Surely this needs public debate.  The Welsh Health Service has been described by the British  Medical Association as in 'imminent meltdown'.   So, if the Council get this wrong, there is a huge potential for failure.

Friday, 26 June 2015

Give Council more powers to raise tax?

The greatest frustration of the current administration at County Hall is that their powers to raise council tax by more than the Government cap (currently 2 per cent a year) requires a public referendum.  When it did not, you may recall that council tax used to rise at between 5and 10 per cent a year.

Ex Finance Portfolio holder, Cllr  Folkes, included the abolition of the referendum in a wish list to Eric Pickles 18 months ago of  50 ways to save the Government money. Warped thinking: save the Government by taxing people in Cornwall more.

Before and since it has been a recurring theme.

But the Council has no mandate for this.  It was included in their Case for Cornwall (more powers for the Council) approved in January. Since then they have tried to fudge the issue by saying that they are worried about the timing or the cost of the referendum.

Let us not beat about the bush: what they are worried about is they do not believe they could win one.
As I have been trying to give this issue more exposure (which they have failed to do themselves) they may drop it in the end. But if you have a view for or against, please sign our survey at and send them a message.

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Cannot be Cornish if you oppose the Council?

Since the very beginning, when the administration at County Hall decided it should ask for more powers following the Scottish Referendum, we have urged public consultation.

To take power and therefore risk into Cornwall needs public support.

It is, oh so easy, to be ambitious with other people's money.

We are conducting a 'survey' on the public's views. We are using this survey to get certain facts into the public domain. We feel we must do this because the administration has failed to do this itself in any meaningful way.

In contrast the Council  has produced a 'petition' by which you may support its 'Case'.
But you may disagree with some or all of its Case or you may feel you need more information (either about what is intended, how it will be paid for, whether the NHS/ police support etc etc). Or you may not even know what the Council is up to at all.  Much of the Council's paperwork is CONFIDENTIAL.

The Council do not really facilitate objections: If you are not "#standing up for Cornwall"  then they imply that you are disloyal and a non-believer.

This is hardly a balanced debate on a very serious subject with potentially large and enduring effects on Cornwall.

Any 'Case' must be a Case for Cornwall, not a Case for Cornwall Council.
Final decision date for the Council on the Case is 21st July.

If you would like to sign the Council's petition, which makes no mention of them seeking the 'freedom' to raise council tax without a referendum, a copy is below.

Cornwall Survey

 Cllr John Keeling MBE is asking Cornwall residents for their views on the "Case for Cornwall"

Download the SURVEY

or complete ONLINE

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Hats off to Mr Waller who took on the Council on a wind turbine and won

I am told that in 2014/2015, the Council's extra income was about £500,000 arising from its right to keep all business rates from wind/solar parks and (conservatively- their word, not mine) it expects to raise it a further £450,000 per year in the next few years.

This gives rise to clear potential conflicts of interest on planning applications on these installations.

So I was pleased to see that the Government announced on Thursday that, with immediate effect, local communities should have the final say on whether onshore wind turbines are acceptable.

Subsidies are to be withdrawn, which is a good thing in my view. Not unexpectedly, the industry is protesting.

The Council was recently slammed when its decision to approve a single turbine at Tredinnick was quashed by the courts for a catalogue of reasons, including its failure to report to the Planning Committee the concerns of English Heritage and of the National Trust as to the effect on the setting Of Grade 1 listed Trerice House.

The Council says that there are only 3 or 4 judicial reviews of its decisions each year, compared to thousands of planning applications.

I suspect that this is more to do with just how gruelling and expensive it is for individuals to take on the Council in the courts. Whatever the outcome, you are never recompensed for the money you spend and the stress you suffer. On top of that the developer can always reapply.

So hats off to Mr Waller, who took on the Council and won.