Jumat, 06 September 2013

Welcome Cllr Steve Knightley, new councillor for Wadebridge East

Last night, Lib Dem Steve Knightley was declared the winner of the Wadebridge East by-election triggered by the resignation (again) of Collin Brewer. Steve had missed out on election back in May by just four votes and won yesterday by 9 votes.

It's a great result for an excellent local candidate. It also gives a further boost to our local MP Dan Rogerson. The Lib Dems now hold 16 of the 21 council seats in North Cornwall and this win - in Wadebridge - is in the supposed heartland of Tory PPC Scott Mann.

The result also means that the Lib Dems are now the largest single group once again on the authority. The new balance is 37 Lib Dems, 36 Independents, 30 Conservatives, 8 Labour, 6 UKIP, 4 MK and 2 others.

Whilst it was a narrow (but welcome) win for the Lib Dems, UKIP, Conservatives and Labour took a step backwards. The Tory candidate was Stephen Rushworth who was defeated in the Padstow seat he previously held back in May.

Budget consultation meeting - St Austell

Last night saw the first public meeting to discuss the council's budget for the coming year and the medium term future. It was held in St Austell and we had about 40 people present and a really good debate.

The structure of the meeting is that I give a briefing of the challenge facing the authority - the need to save an extra £23.9 million in 2014/15 and as much as £196 million over the next four years.

I also set out options available. To my mind we cannot simply chip away at services as has been done in the past. In reality, we have to make a choice about what Cornwall Council will look like in four years time - and it won't be the same as it is now. We have to choose to do a few things well and understand that there are some things we will have to stop doing altogether.

But cuts are not the only option. We can also look to increase our income through fees and charges and through higher housing numbers, more renewable energy schemes and selling our services to other organisations. But many of these are controversial issues which need proper debate. There aren't any easy answers.

So I asked what people thought was acceptable and what they thought preferable.

It was good to get such a wide range of views and ideas. Many are those we have already started to consider - but it is good to get views on these. Others were genuinely new ideas and we have undertaken to consider every idea put forward.

Some of the ideas put forward by the people last night were faster and bigger devolution to town and parish councils; ending the subsidy to Newquay Airport; cutting staff numbers and making sure those that remain are as efficient as possible; building more wind turbines; and selling council assets like offices and county farms. All of these will be considered during the budget process.

One question asked - by the current mayor of St Austell and former Cornwall councillor Steve Double - was for a guarantee that the council will retain the number of staff in the town who are currently based there.

This is a guarantee that I can't give at this stage. The policy until now has been to consolidate staff within a town (ie move them to a more efficient central office in the town and out of smaller, more expensive and less efficient offices). That's pretty non-controversial. But there is another debate that I think we must hold about whether we want to go further. I don't have any preconceptions about what the outcome will be. But I can't agree that we should close off debate on issues which could make very significant savings. What is guaranteed is that the debate will be held with local town and parish councils and local Cornwall councillors - not dictated from Truro - and that debate will be held without pre-determined outcomes.

At the end of the meeting I asked for a straw poll on attitudes to council tax levels. I asked people to indicate whether they broadly supported a council tax freeze (and the additional cuts that would be needed if we followed this path); a council tax rise of around 2% as is currently shown in the draft budget; or a rise of 5% which would require the approval of the people of Cornwall in a referendum. This would mean we would only have to make around £18 million of additional savings but it would be at the risk of harsher cuts if the referendum failed. There were 3 votes for the freeze, 15 or so votes for a 2% rise and 4 votes for the 5% rise. This was only indicative (it is not a case of the loudest voice winning through) but I will continue to ask the question at each of the meetings.

Tonight the next meeting takes place in Perranzabuloe Parish Rooms at 6.30.

Kamis, 05 September 2013

UKIP - the high tax party

The deputy leader of  UKIP on Cornwall Council has announced that he will be backing a 5% council tax rise for next year. This is more than double the council's proposed 1.97% increase and will require an expensive referendum to be held.

Cllr Harry Blakeley was speaking in a finance committee meeting yesterday when the budget proposals were being discussed.

Our draft budget - which is now open for a first round of consultation until mid-October - is proposing a 1.97% rise in council tax. The Liberal Democrats have always said that we would seek to keep council tax as low as possible and we proposed a freeze for the current year. Unfortunately, further government imposed cuts in our budget mean that we believe a small rise is necessary for next year.

The rules state, however, that any rise above 2% needs the agreement of the public in a referendum. That process itself costs almost £1 million and has to be paid for by the council - meaning less money for local services.

The referendum can only be held in May and, if not supported by the public, then the council has to send out new bills and make immediate cuts to services.

I don't think Cornwall can afford to take the risk with our services and I don't think it is right to ask hard pressed families to pay even more in council tax than the small rise we are proposing. So I think that UKIP's proposal is irresponsible. It is also particularly shocking when the party sought election on the basis of being a low tax party.

Selasa, 03 September 2013

River Kensey fenced off after sewage spill - UPDATED

The River Kensey is currently fenced off at Prior's Bridge on Riverside following a small sewage spill. The Environment Agency has taken the action to protect people and their pets who might normally venture into the water.

I am assured that the spill was small and is limited to a short stretch of the river but the decision to close off the popular area has been taken as a precaution to ensure that there is no hazard to health. It is anticipated that the riverside will be back open as usual at some point tomorrow.

In the meantime, please stay outside the orange barrier and don't allow pets to go into the river.

UPDATE: Just to reassure everyone that the area has been given the all clear and the fencing has been removed.

Cornwall Council won't be using lie detectors again (at least if I have anything to do with it)

Earlier this year there was a storm when it was revealed that Cornwall Council was employing a company to use lie-detector technology as part of a review of people claiming the single person council tax discount.

Whilst it is perfectly right and proper that we should make sure that no one is claiming a discount to which they are not entitled, I objected strongly to the use of such invasive technology which was being used without the knowledge of the resident. I was not alone in my objections but the then Conservative Leader of the Council went ahead anyway.

Today I was asked a question at full council about future use and I gave a guarantee that any decision to use such technology in the future would be the subject of a vote of all councillors. But I won't be bringing such a proposal forward and, if one does emerge, I will be voting against it.

UPDATE: Press coverage of the issue

Cornwall Council takes action against payday loan companies

Cornwall Council is taking action to stop the promotion of payday loan companies after an announcement at today's full council meeting.

Leader John Pollard announced that we would stop allowing advertising of high interest loan companies in bus shelters owned by the council and that we would write to bus companies, other bus shelter owners and the owners of billboards in Cornwall to ask them to do likewise.

We also recognise that people use Cornwall Council owned computers to access the sites of such companies. We will take action to block such sites from staff computers and also investigate if we can do the same for our public access computers in libraries.

Instead, we will promote the credit union which offers a lower cost borrowing facility.

I don't like being over-regulatory. But I think that high interest 'payday' loans can be very damaging to individuals and their families and that we should be seeking to promote local lower cost solutions instead. I've had a number of conversations with colleagues at Plymouth City Council who have done this already and I think their work is worth copying.

Senin, 02 September 2013

Cornwall's budget - briefing members and staff

Today I have been briefing fellow councillors and the authority's staff on the budget for the next financial year.

Cornwall faces some pretty huge challenges. We have to make savings of £23.9 million next year in addition to those which were already agreed of £19 million.

And we have to save approximately £196 million by the end of 2018/19 - four years away. (This number depends on various government decisions and so will vary a bit, but probably not massively).

We can't pretend that we can make all those savings just by trimming services a bit. So called 'salami slicing' will trim services until they are virtually worthless. Nor can we pretend that we can solve the problem by paying officers a bit less, by cutting the number of councillors or by cutting waste. Of course we will cut waste wherever we find it. And we can debate cuts to councillor numbers or officer pay. But between them they won't save more than 1-2% of the amount needed.

Instead, we are asking the people of Cornwall to decide what they want their council to look like in four years time. We can try to preserve the services that people think are most valuable, but that will be at the expense of other services changing out of all recognition or being cut completely. We want the people of Cornwall to tell us what our priorities should be.

We have published a first draft budget based on a 2% council tax rise. Given the new cuts passed down by the government over the last 12 months, that is what the cabinet thinks is the right balance. But we are open to suggestions both as to the right level of council tax and where the initial cuts should be made.

More details of the savings proposed are being published and debated over the next few weeks. You can have your say by attending one of 19 public meetings being held in every part of Cornwall.

In the meantime, I have also recorded a video for the council's staff and we are asking for their ideas as well.

This is what my Launceston colleague Jade Farrington has written on her facebook page:

The first draft of next year's budget was presented to Cornwall Councillors today. Officers and cabinet members stressed that it's exactly that - a first draft - and made it clear they were open to alternative suggestions as to how money can be raised and saved.

Cornwall Council's grant from central government has been massively reduced and the people of the duchy are faced with finding cuts of £196 million by 2018/19. When you consider that the council's entire net revenue budget is just over £525 million you can see the scale of it. We're talking about serious cuts and an end to some very valuable services. Cornwall Council can't avert this as local authorities legally have to balance their budgets. The only way it could do that and keep services at current levels is to put your council tax up by more than 20%. I haven't met anyone who wants that to happen and a rise of more than 2% would require a referendum of everyone in Cornwall. That referendum would not be won and it would cost the council up to £1 million to run it, meaning an extra £1 million of cuts would follow the inevitable "no" vote.

This all equates to £24 million less for services in the next financial year, assuming a council tax rise of just under the 2% threshold. If the authority freezes council tax then there will be around £1 million more cuts.

Understandably people are finding these huge figures hard to grasp. Lots have suggested cutting the pay of top council staff (some of whom receive six figure salaries) and councillors (who get just over £12,000). To put this in perspective, that would save around 1% of the total the council is being forced to cut.

Lots of people would also like to see the council charge more council tax to second home owners. Unfortunately the council is legally charging them all it can and is incredibly constrained by central government. Unbelievably, the council has 1,300 statutory duties as set out in edicts from Westminster. This means Cornwall Council has 1,300 things it has to spend your tax on, regardless of whether councillors or local people think they're a good idea.

This all makes for quite depressing reading, but everyone needs to be aware of what is coming. Some services you rely on may not exist in a year's time, so if you care then you need to make sure you make your case. The cabinet member for finance, Alex Folkes - Cornwall Councillor for Launceston Central, has organised 19 public meetings to give you the chance to tell him which services you would like to see protected and those you would (reluctantly or otherwise) be willing to see reduced or axed altogether. Arguing that all services must be protected simply isn't an option, for the reasons I've just outlined.

I know Alex is genuinely interested to hear your ideas, so please take 90 minutes of your evening on Wednesday, September 11th to go along to Launceston Town Hall at 6.30pm and have your say. Please share this poster to make others aware and start thinking about what you would like to protect and how we can raise the money needed to do that.

Minggu, 01 September 2013

Councils selling electoral registers - the truth is not what the Daily Mail would have you believe

Tomorrow's Daily Mail leads with the splash headline:
"Sold for £5 - your personal details"
The story sets out the details of something that has long been the case - that councils are forced to sell copies of the electoral register to anyone who pays the appropriate (low) fee. All of this is covered by the law and local authorities have no say over the sales or the amount charged.

When councils ask for your personal details to compile the electoral register, the form contains a box which you can tick if you do not want your details to appear on the edited version which is made available for sale. Again, this form is prescribed by law and we cannot alter it. The only way to make more information about the consequences of not ticking the box available would be to spend more money on extra awareness campaigns. Whilst I would like more people to be aware of the edited register, I can't see that these information campaigns deserve money as a higher priority than, say, schools or adult care.

My personal view is to agree with Big Brother Watch who compiled this report. I think that the electoral register should be compiled for the management of elections only and not to enable junk mail companies to bombard my letterbox. Even with the 'edited' version and ability to opt out, the use of the register by junk mail companies is a disincentive to register and therefore disenfranchises people.
But the law is that that two versions of the register will be compiled by councils like Cornwall and we have to comply with it. The full register may only be used for limited purposes and every elector has the right to opt out of the edited version that is made available for sale to businesses. It is unfair to put the blame for sales of the register (and the subsequent junk mail that results) on Cornwall Council. We are only following the law in this respect.

So the true version of the Daily Mail front page should read:
"Councils obey the law"
But that's not going to sell many papers, is it?

UPDATE: The WMN is also running the story.

Rabu, 28 Agustus 2013

Budget comments - part 3

I'm back from a week off and thought I would answer some more of the comments posted as part of the council's budget consultation:

Well, Cornwall Council, you are still charging the poorest in Cornwall 25% Council Tax (Cameron's reintroduction Poll Tax from April this year), and are still taking people to court for non-payment of this by the thousand.
Wouldn't it be much better if you sorted that out for the next buget?
Other councils are refusing to pass this burden on - and you must do the decent thing too.

I well understand the concern that this change generated. The decision was made by the full council last year. It's a decision I disagreed with at the time and voted against, but I have to respect the decision made by the majority. The council has, however, started a review of the impact of all welfare changes and, if this has created a problem that we can address then we will ask the full council to do so in time for next year. We are not allowed to make changes mid-year.

how much does the chief exec get paid ffs, if you need us to provide the answers isn't he paid too much ???

The previous chief executive was on a salary range of £180,000 - £200,000 and was actually paid at the top of that range. When he left and an interim chief exec was appointed, the council asked for and received expert advice that the salary ranges for top officers had fallen in recent years by about 10%. We chose to cut that salary range for the interim by 12% and so the job now pays between £158,000 and £175,000. I would anticipate that, if any of the other directors leave, then we would be looking to cut the salary range for their replacements by a similar proportion.

I believe in local solutions most definitely. I am 25 and disabled and I want to see people like me able to use the skills that they do have on a voluntry basis throughout our county to contribute to the lives of others, even if it is just in some small way and maybe even for an hour a week doing whatever we can get involved in without being talked out of it by the job center or being treated like a total convict by ATOS. People that are on disability benifits may have a physical or mental incapacity but it does not mean that they are totally absent of any need for human contact, social integration, learning new skills, enjoyment etc... You see people like myself at times can be the Local Solution that you are talking about but instead on a national level their is no encouragement for us disabled folk to be anything other than written off. I am 25 years old, fairly intelligent... before i got ill I was very good at working with young people, I was very good at talking to older people that perhaps had a mental disability like alzheimers and the point is I didnt mind talking to these folks and yet I sit here day in day out being frightened to do anything at all in case i get told that i am fit to work. This isnt the case but for those of us that want to do things like this for maybe an hour a week to just help someone else out, just out of kindness to give carers a break or to help out local charities to improve our own mental health and the skills i mention above- we get the impression that we cant or arent allowed to. So many people in this county go above and beyond and CC isnt utilizing those skills or coordinating it in a way that could actually save the services many people desperately need. I cant believe we are talking about Budget Cuts again because pretty soon their isnt going to be anything left to cut. All of our services for vulnerable people are turning into skeleton services - you are giving just enough money for projects / schemes still to be run but it is the absolute bare minimum to see the staff and services through especially vulnerable people support services and it is absolutely appalling and negligent. We as in a collective we need to start looking after people again and then may be people will be bothered to get behind your "local solutions" idea.

I agree. We should always be seeking to use the skills and abilities of all Cornwall's residents and never ignoring the input that any individual can make - whatever their circumstances. The cuts being made at the moment (and in the future) are due to the national situation and the cut in grants being given to us. That is why we have said that we cannot simply continue to chip away at every service - eventually reducing them to nothing. We have to review what we do and what we want to look like as a council in four years time. That is the point of our consultation and why I am starting on a 19 meeting tour of Cornwall.

Cancel the proposed waste incinerator at St. Dennis. It is too expensive, obsolete technology, and would lock Cornwall into it until 2036, and as I understand it the council of the time would be landed with the cost of decommissioning and landscape restoration etc. rather than the waste company SITA.

Whatever the rights and wrongs of the decision on handling Cornwall's waste, and on the incinerator, the final decision was made by the previous administration. We are in a position now where any alternative would cost us far more than we could possibly save by adopting a different approach. At a time when money is so tight, we simply cannot contemplate this.

There are a couple more suggestions that I am getting answers to and I will post these as and when I have them.

Jumat, 16 Agustus 2013

Calm down Eric. It's only a bin

Is Eric Pickles scared of bins?

I only ask because his latest rant - about the terror of waste receptacles - seems even more bizarre than usual.

He goes so far as to describe having to exist within sight of a bin as making 'lives hell'. Come off it Eric. To be forced to live in an abusive relationship with no hope of escape might be described as a living hell. To be suffering with a painful medical condition with no hope of cure might be described as a living hell. To occasionally catch sight of your neighbours bins is most definitely not.

Mr Pickles wants councils to ensure that every home has somewhere to hide rubbish bins and bags. Most properties do, of course, but that isn't good enough for the local government minister. He wants councils to rip up their existing planning policies and insist that developers take his new phobia into account. I don't know about the cost of the changes to buildings, but the cost of changing a council's planning guidelines runs into many tens of thousands.

Here in Cornwall, we rely on the good sense of our residents over how to store their rubbish. Apart from some residents of the old Penwith, we don't use wheelie bins and are happy to allow people to buy bins, use seagull-proof sacks or just use black bags. We do ask that they don't put their rubbish out until the morning of collection to avoid problems with animals ripping sacks apart. Generally, this system seems to works pretty well without government interference.

Perhaps Mr Pickles should take a holiday instead of seeking to meddle yet again in the lives of hard pressed residents and impose even more burdens on local councils. If he does want a break he would be welcome to bring Mrs Pickles down to Cornwall to see that we don't need telling how to get the basics right.

Rabu, 14 Agustus 2013

Budget Q&A - part 2

I've had a few more suggestions about the budget in response to the short film I made. Here they are and my comments on them:

Perhaps cut the wages of some of our Cornwall councillors! Perfect start in my opinion. I'm positive that a gross majority of you lot are very over paid for the work you actually do!?

The proposal for a basic allowance rise made last year was reversed earlier this year (I voted against the rise in the first place and in favour of cutting it back). A new scheme for special responsibility allowances (ie extra money for those who take on bigger roles) was also agreed earlier this year which saw a cut in both the overall amount paid and in the rate paid for specific roles (such as cabinet members).
It's a valid suggestion to make that rates should be cut further, but it depends on the sort of councillor you want. If you are happy with predominantly retired or independently wealthy representatives then that is what you are more likely to get if allowances are cut back. If you want a more representative cross-section of Cornwall's society then you need to have allowances that compensate members for the time they give up when they could be working.
Overall however, cutting allowances could only raise a tiny fraction of the savings that the council needs to make. So even if this does happen, we need far more ideas as well. 

PMSL "protect the most vulnerable in society" thats the bggest laugh of the century!! Your making their lives a living hell fgs! what are you trying to do? get us all so stressed that it will make us ill and we dye or top ourselves because we can't cope with paying Council Tax, Bedroom Tax and now this Lifeline Service. All your doing is killing us all off so that you don't have to bother with us! Your all like that councillor who said that all disabled children should be killed at birth! Your all the same! Why don't you all take a cut in your wages for starters! and then refuse to have pay rises! I'm sure that will help by at least 90%.

See above re pay cuts.
We're genuine in our desire to see services for the most vulnerable protected. If you don't want to engage in this debate and simply stand back and hurl abuse then so be it. But if you don't engage then we can't take your viewpoint into account and we do want to hear from everyone.

How much do you spend on corporate hospitality? Perhaps a few less snouts in the trough might help. Then of course, we have the good old "minimum wage" I bet that would taste real fine. See you in Lidl

I'm finding out what the council has spent on anything that might be viewed as 'corporate hospitality'. I'm pretty sure that the amount will be negligible - but any spending in this area needs to be unimpeachable. 

A short film about our budget consultation

I've made a short film about the council's budget consultation events which are taking place next month. These events are open to all and I look forward to seeing as many people as possible.

Contrary to what some have suggested, these meetings are not the only consultation we are holding. As well as the 19 meetings across Cornwall, we are also holding discussions with staff and businesses and with local councils.

And we are going to use new technologies as much as possible with a webcast meeting from county hall, another online Q&A session and a website which sets out the options and lets you choose between them.

Selasa, 13 Agustus 2013

Correcting a mistake over Redruth allotments

Every so often, Cornwall Council makes a mistake and it is good to be able to meet with someone affected, apologise and put that mistake right. That happened today in the case of Redruth allotment holder Bob Mills.

Most allotments are managed by town and parish councils and a few by allotment societies. But Cornwall Council has inherited 13 allotment areas across 6 parishes. These had massively different rents being charged for them and it is unfair on allotment holders to be charged different amounts for the same sized plot.

So we are introducing a standard charge of £50 per standard allotment with proportionately higher or lower charges for big or small plots. In order to cover our administration costs which are the same regardless of plot size, we will have a minimum charge of £25. We have decided not to increase charges all in one go, but to standardise them over a couple of years to ease any increases.

Unfortunately, in the case on Mr Mills and his fellow allotment holders in Redruth, we failed to take account of the small size of their plots. So they were being faced with an increase in charge from £27.50 a year to £50 over two years despite their plots being less than half standard size.

Today I met with Mr Mills and was able to give him the good news that, rather than increase his charge to £50, we were actually going to cut it slightly to £25. I also apologised on behalf of the council for our mistake and the anguish caused by it.

The other action we are going to take is to seek again to pass these allotments (and others we control) onto local towns and parishes. We think they are far better run locally and, if the town or parish is still not interested, then we will consider leasing the plots to a local allotment society if they can run them securely into the future. It would then be up to these local bodies to set the rental charges themselves.

Senin, 12 Agustus 2013

Penwith's leisure timebomb

Over the course of the last couple of weeks, I have been involved in lots of meetings to do with the budget for next year. Our task of limiting cuts to frontline services is made all the more difficult by some of the situations that Cornwall Council has inherited from its predecessors.

One such is the PFI leisure contract for Penzance leisure centre. This costs the council £1.2 million per year.

In comparison, the 16 leisure facilities operated by the Tempus Leisure Trust (most of the rest of the leisure centres in Cornwall) together require a subsidy payment of £1.3 million per year and the Carn Brea Leisure Trust operates without any subsidy.

The contracts are slightly different. The Penzance contract is all in and the company takes care of utility bills and general maintenance. The same is true with Carn Brea. In the Tempus case, the council is still responsible for utilities and maintenance. But the stark comparison is still valid.

And the PFI contract signed by Penwith still has another 34 years to run, so there is no chance of a change anytime soon.

Of course, the company running Penzance leisure centre has done nothing wrong and they are perfectly within their rights to hold Cornwall Council to the contract. But being saddled with such a contractual millstone makes it very difficult to cut costs and balance the budget fairly.

Kamis, 08 Agustus 2013

Cornwall's budget - comments so far

Many thanks to everyone who has already given their views on how Cornwall Council can make next year's budget add up.

I want to listen to all the views expressed and to give some feedback where possible. BBC Radio Cornwall have kindly passed on some of the comments they have received, so here they are and some of my initial thoughts:

I was disturbed to hear about cuts to libraries - we need the libraries in order to have an educated population - they're also centres of the community. When I'm in Liskeard library I always see many youngsters using the computers. They're an excellent resource. So keep the libraries - but cut some of the council perks - the bloated pensions, high expenses etc.

I'm also a great fan of libraries and would like to preserve these if possible. By moving one stop shops into library buildings we have been able to make savings without losing services.
Pensions, expenses and perks will be looked at, but we should not think that we can save enough money just from this area.

Double the rates on second homes (and let's find out from the council how much that would bring in) - because they suck out more from the county than they bring in - and allow the poor people of Cornwall to access some of the European Convergence/Objective One money to start small businesses. We've had the poverty of Cornwall paraded around Europe for years in order to get this subsidy - but it doesn't actually help the poor - just big companies and big projects.  

The council has already done as much as we are allowed to on second homes. We have abolished the council tax discount they get and we are not allowed to charge them a premium. If you think we should be allowed to, please lobby your MP for a change in the law.
Enabling small businesses to get benefits from EU funding is a good idea and one I will pass on to my colleagues.

We voted overwhelmingly against the unitary system and they brought it in anyway - so what is the point in taking part in the budget consultation? They will do what they want anyway. It's window dressing. 

Although the change to unitary divided opinion and I respect the views of those who opposed it, there is no doubt that it helped Cornwall's council services to survive. Much of the £159 million cuts that have already been made in back office functions were only possible because of the change to unitary. I understand why people might have doubted the commitment of the previous council administration to listen, but we are committed to listening to every viewpoint.

My answer to the shortfall in the Council's revenue is Not to cut services but to re-introduce the annual increase in the tax. The Government, probably to enhance its own image, has encouraged Councils not to make any increase in contributions from residents.  How can this be sensible?  Prices and wages have continued to rise.  Surely, the annual increase should have been made to match the increase in the Council's expenditure.  To help the poorest, this could be a small or nil percentage for the lowest band, and a sliding scale increase for the higher bands.

The decision on council tax is one of the key questions facing us. The majority of councillors (including me) believed that the proposal for a freeze last year - combined with more investment in repairing our roads and in cutting many parking charges - was the right one. This year the council will have to make a fresh decision based on the current circumstances (many of which have changed over the last 6 months).
Even if the council had increased council tax last year by the 1.97% that was proposed, it would have brought in only an extra £900,000 or so this year compared with the £40 million cuts or so that we are facing.
However, the relative amounts paid by different council tax bands is fixed by law. So a percentage rise has to apply to all council tax payers and we are not allowed to increase lower bands by less.
That said, the council is reviewing the impact of the various welfare changes including the ending of full council tax relief on the least well off. We will consider whether there is anything we can do to help the very poorest households in Cornwall.

Your talking point this morning is Cornwall Council, now there's a surprise, run the Council that lot couldn’t run a tap and now they’ve got the audacity to ask you to ask the people of Cornwall how to save money, excuse me who's getting paid a huge wage to make the decisions? Well they better start looking at the source of the problem, that's where they've got to start, with ridiculous wages and taking council vehicles home, which we are paying for, insurance, fuel, tax and all the rest of it!! It makes my blood boil, they are a law unto themselves and do EXACTLY what they want, would help if they knew what they were doing themselves!

The final decision will rest with all 123 councillors, but I reject the idea that it is wrong to ask the people of Cornwall what they think
I have asked for a review of the council's transport policy including 'company cars'. In some cases - such as social workers who spend most of their days out on the road - it makes perfect sense and saves money for them to use a council car. But we should always make sure that we get the best value for money from these.

Stop road 'improvements'. Avers roundabout has just wasted millions on unnecessary works.  

I don't know the details of that scheme myself, but we need to make sure that any new schemes are getting value for money and are the best thing we could be doing with limited resources.

Stop all these ring fenced pensions, reduce the number of councillors and stop giving everything out to contractors

We don't have the power to cut the number of councillors - that is for the boundary commission. My personal point of view is that a cut back to 80 or so would be a good move.
As for contractors - by law we have to get value for money by giving the job to the cheapest company who can do the work properly. If we did anything else, we would be accused of wasting money.

Think the council should get quotes and not just use Cormac - private contractors tend to quote a bit cheaper. 

See above. We will get the best value for money. Cormac need to be competitive or we will not use them.

Rabu, 07 Agustus 2013

Cornwall's budget - have your say

This morning I have announced a series of public consultation events to encourage Cornish residents, businesses and visitors to have their say on budget proposals for next year.

The next few years will be no ordinary times. The council has to save up to £40 million next year and up to £100 million over the next four years. This cannot be done by making changes in administration and back office staff alone. There will have to be cuts to services as well. So the council wants to hear from Cornwall as to where they think savings can be made and which services they want to see preserved at all costs.

The initial budget proposals are being worked on at the moment. These will be made public on September 2nd. For the rest of September and early October, I and my colleagues will be going to every part of Cornwall to ask for views. We will be holding 19 public meetings as well as dedicated meetings with town and parish councils, businesses and our staff. We will also be holding a webinar - a conversation over the internet - and launching an online consultation tool called 'YouChoose' in early October.

I can't pretend that we will be able to accommodate every view and suggestion. But we will listen to everyone and consider every idea we hear.

Where possible, we will continue to make savings in back office functions. But we should not pretend that we can save all the money needed in this way. So far - through the change to unitary status and changes to the way we deliver services - Cornwall is saving about £159 million in back offices compared with only £11 million being saved from front line services. But we cannot do this again and so the axe will fall on the front line and we need to make sure that we are saving those services that people in Cornwall feel are the most valuable.

On the radio this morning, it was suggested that the council was being weak because we were asking people for their views rather than simply imposing our will on them. That might have been the way that some within the previous administration liked to do things, but it is not how the new Lib Dem/Independent partnership wants to work. We believe that we are hear to work for and with the people of Cornwall, not to let dogma (or party central offices) dictate what we do.

The public meetings, all of which will begin at 6.30 pm, are being held at:

Thursday, 5 September             St Austell - Old Restormel offices, Penwinnick Road
Friday, 6 September                  Perranzabuloe Parish Rooms
Monday, 9 September               Alexander Hall, St Blazey
Wednesday, 11 September        Launceston Town Hall
Thursday, 12 September           Shire House Suite, Bodmin 
Friday, 13 September                Wadebridge Council Offices, Higher Trenant
Monday, 16 September             St Pinnock Village Hall, near Liskeard
Tuesday, 17 September             Pool Innovation Centre
Thursday, 19 September           St John’s Hall, Penzance
Friday, 20 September                Helston Town Hall
Monday, 23 September             Roche Victory Hall
Wednesday, 25 September        St Germans Community Centre
Friday, 27 September                Millennium House, Pensilva
Monday, 30 September             Newquay Treviglas Community College
Wednesday, 2 October              Falcon Hotel, Bude
Thursday, 3 October                 Mabe Village Hall
Friday, 4 October                      Council Chamber, County Hall, Truro
Monday 7 October                    Frank Johns Centre, Hayle
Wednesday, 9 October              Clease Hall, Camelford

Upper Chapel plans - public meeting

The public meeting to discuss plans to build 100 houses on land to the west of Upper Chapel will now take place on Wednesday September 18th at 6pm in the Town Hall. This is a change to the previously discussed date.

The Upper Chapel plans have provoked a huge amount of controversy. The proposal is on land that was considered by the long-running town framework group which decided that the area was unsuitable for development. It is outside the town development boundary and will cause massive highways issues - not least around the school.

At a recent town council planning committee meeting a large audience condemned the plans and the town's planning committee voted unanimously against them.

The original date for the public meeting and informal site visit was this month. However, commonsense has prevailed and it has been decided to hold the visit at a time when the problems caused on the local road network will be more evident and at a time when more local people will be able to attend.

The public is welcome to come and make their views known to members of the planning committee.

Senin, 05 Agustus 2013

Banger racing this weekend

This weekend, the annual two day banger meeting takes place at Netherbridge, just over the border into Devon. It is a great event put on by North Cornwall Motor Racing Club.

If you have never seen banger racing, it is quite a spectacle. There are different classes from full contact bangers to classes which (in theory) allow no contact. There are even junior classes.

The NCMRC holds a number of meetings each year, but the two day August meeting is a highlight. You will be amazed at how some of the cars apparently written off on day one can make it onto the track again on day two.

Racing starts at 1.30pm on Saturday and at 12.30pm on Sunday. On Saturday evening there is a BBQ and music. Entry is £6 for adults each day and £3.50 for kids and OAPs.

Advance warning of another road closure

More road works - this time due to water works.

Westgate Street will be closed for overnight roadworks from September 23rd to 27th. The works will take place from 7pm until 7am each day.

Jumat, 02 Agustus 2013

St Thomas Road and Newport Square re-surfacing

Another road in dire need of re-surfacing is St Thomas Road and Newport Square. This too is on the list for action and the works will start on Monday 7th October and last for about seven night shifts.

The works will take place from 7pm until 7am each day.

This will, inevitably, cause some disruption to traffic and to local businesses. I'm keen to try to minimise these problems, so if any local firms or residents have concerns, please get in touch.

St Johns and Moorland Road re-surfacing

The dates for the closure of St Johns Road and Moorland Road for re-surfacing works have been changed slightly. The works will now take place from 12th to 23rd August during the daytime (0730 to 1800).

These works will cause considerable disruption as there will be a full re-surface for much of the road surface. There will be a diversion in place, but the best advice is to stay away from the roads if possible.

Residents of St Johns Road, Moorland Road, Cowlard Close and George Fox Close who have any questions about the works should contact Jamie Neal of Cormac on 0300 1234 222.

Kamis, 01 Agustus 2013

Parking Charges

There has been a lot of coverage today about a report which lists Cornwall in the top ten councils for parking income in the UK. Comparing Cornwall with London boroughs or Brighton and Hove is misleading. Cornwall has three times the population of the average London borough and twice that of Brighton and Hove. We are also a very popular visitor area and have a lot of car parks so it is not surprising that we have a lot of money coming in from them.

Without the income from parking, the council could not afford to provide the services that the people of Cornwall and our visitors rely on. We would have to cut these services and put council tax up. The income from parking equates to about 4% on council tax.

Whilst we receive about £8 million net income from parking each year, Cornwall Council spends £14.3 million each year on roads maintenance - things like hedge cutting, street lighting and so on. We also have a capital programme of £26 million for road repairs and safety works. On top of this, yesterday Cornwall Council approved a £60 million scheme to dual the A30 at Temple. This is one of the biggest bottlenecks on our road network which delays tens of thousands of drivers every year and deters businesses thinking of locating to mid or West Cornwall.

But it is right to say that parking charges in Cornwall are too high. That is why the council agreed with a Liberal Democrat proposal in the last budget for a scheme to cut pay and display prices. We believe that we could get the same income for the council but higher usage but cutting charges which would benefit the shops and businesses in our town centres and our visitor attractions which rely on footfall. This has already worked for season ticket prices and we hope to roll it out for pay and display charges too.

Selasa, 30 Juli 2013

Care Home Fees

This morning I was on Radio Cornwall talking about the council's approach to setting care home fees. This follows the announcement yesterday that a care home in Hayle is to close in two weeks and that 19 residents will have to be found new homes.

Normally, care homes need to give at least 28 days notice if they are to close or evict a resident. This allows relatives, the council and other care providers the time to find the most appropriate alternative accommodation. It is disappointing in this case than only two weeks notice has been given but the council teams will work with residents and their relatives to make sure that they are safely re-housed.

The council is making more than £170 million savings. Every department but one has seen their budgets cut dramatically. The exception is adult care - a recognition of the increasing workload and the fact that they look after some of the most vulnerable people in Cornwall. Last year, we were even able to increase fees.

However, the council cannot afford to increase fee levels further and we are confident that the amount we pay is enough to provide the right level of care for elderly and vulnerable people. But we will always listen to care home providers if they feel that they have extra information to give us. We will also help care homes to work together to get better deals on things like utility bills and supplies.

My post on the Police boss's questionnaire

I posted last week about a questionnaire which had been produced by Tony Hogg the Police and Crime Commissioner. The point I was trying to make was that the monitoring questions - about disability, sexuality, age and so on - seemed to have greater prominence but were not linked to the questions about crime and community safety.

There is a real point to having monitoring questions like this. They can help to identify whether services are used by and responsive to the needs of different sections of the community. The point I was trying to make in my previous post was that there did not appear to be any useful link between the services Mr Hogg oversees and the monitoring questions. It appeared to me that the monitoring questions were asked because someone felt they had to be, not because they would help plan services.

Within Cornwall Council I have been trying to make sure that the data we get back from our questionnaires is properly monitored and used to help inform our decisions.

My previous post has caused some disquiet, which is entirely my fault. I apologise for this, it was not my intention. I have taken down the original post.

Senin, 29 Juli 2013

Is Cornwall Council too poor to pay for bins?

It is true - Cornwall Council is not going to pay for bins (whether wheelie or otherwise) for every home in Cornwall. I'm not entirely sure why this story deserved to be the front page lead in today's Western Morning News.

Back in 2010, the council took the decision to move to a single waste contract for the whole of Cornwall. Stopping having six different contracts saved a heck of a lot of money. The new service didn't start too well - in fact it was a total disaster for the first couple of months. But it has now bedded down and I think most householders believe it to be a generally good service.

One of the decisions taken at the start was about whether to have wheelie bins or not. The last administration decided not. So residents put their rubbish out in black sacks and these are collected. If they want to use a bin of some description to protect the bags until they are collected then that is fine by us.

The only difference is in the former Penwith area where the old district council had a wheelie bin system. Many residents still use these bins and the council is happy to empty them. But they are not compulsory and the council will not replace them if they are lost or damaged.

Some residents have problems with seagulls or other wildlife attacking their rubbish bags before they can be collected. The council advises them either to use a bin, a seagull-proof bag or to cover their bags with an old bit of carpet. But we cannot provide any of these for residents.

The responsibility for rubbish stays with the resident until it is collected by the council. That is why we advise people to put their bins out on the morning of collection rather than the night before if possible. If their rubbish does cause a mess on a regular basis then our staff will talk to the householder concerned and give advice about how to stop the mess. If that advice is ignored then we will give a written warning. If they continue to refuse to take action then the council will issue a fixed penalty notice for littering - but this is very much the last resort.

Avoiding causing a mess and a nuisance for neighbours is just a matter of a bit of common sense. The alternative - the council paying for bins for all 270,000 houses in Cornwall - would be massively expensive and is not something that we can even think about affording at the moment.

Eric Pickles wants to allow parking on double yellow lines

The latest cunning wheeze from Local Government minister Eric Pickles is that drivers should be allowed to park for up to 15 minutes on double yellow lines. He thinks that this is the answer to helping high street retailers out of the current economic woes.

It is important to encourage visitors into town centres, but yellow lines are in place for a reason.  Allowing motorists a ‘grace period’ to park for a short period of time would cause danger and inconvenience to pedestrians and other road users, making it harder for people to cross the road and increasing congestion as motorists look for places to park.
The Council is continuously reviewing all parking restrictions and, if we feel that yellow lines can safely be removed, we will do so. We shouldn't have more regulation in place than is necessary.

There are many reasons why trade has fallen in many high streets over recent years, but we believe one of the ways to improve the vitality of town centres is to encourage people to stay for longer. In a number of towns, the Council, in conjunction with local Members, has introduced a lower two-hour parking charge to encourage longer stays. Most towns have free, on street limited waiting for those shorter stays – however road layouts make this impractical in certain towns.
The introduction of a grace period would be impractical to enforce as we would need to employ many more civil enforcement officers to ensure drivers did not treat any changes to restrictions as a licence to park all day.

Kamis, 18 Juli 2013

Could the end to wasteful council advertising be in sight?

It looks like the end of wasteful council advertising in local newspapers might be in sight. A Lib Dem initiative which could save Cornwall Council up to £360,000 each year has found favour with Eric Pickles.

The spending in question is on statutory planning, licensing and highways advertising in local newspapers. Many bits of the council's business have to be advertised in local newspapers in a prescribed format. That format is pretty boring and isn't really designed to draw readers in. In my opinion it is money very badly spent, but the council has no choice over it.

Now Lib Dem member of the House of Lords Graham Tope has proposed an end to the requirement to advertise in newspapers and says that councils should instead have to publicise the notices in any way the council “thinks is likely to bring it to the attention of persons who live in its area”. That might include on the council's own website and through One Stop Shops.

In response, Local Government Minister Eric Pickles has apparently told Conservative councillors that he is open to the idea and the requirement might end in as little as two years.

Cornwall Council currently spends £363,000 each year on adverts in local newspapers, with the majority being on these statutory adverts. If the legal requirement was withdrawn then the authority could decide what sort of advertising was proper value for money and on what occasions using local newspapers was the best way of reaching the desired audience.

Local newspapers are a very valuable way of reaching some of the residents of Cornwall and there is no doubt that the council will want to maintain a strong relationship with them. But relaxing the rules which require wasteful spending will mean we can save taxpayers money and potentially do more in partnership with local papers on schemes that actually work.

Rabu, 17 Juli 2013

Launceston Rotary Shop needs volunteers

The community shop set up and run by Launceston Rotary has been hugely successful. They have raised and donated more than £50,000 for local groups and organisations.

Now they are on the look out for new volunteers to help in the shop.

If you can spare a few hours on a regular basis, please pop into the shop and speak to Peter or Alan.

Launceston Big Clean

Last night Launceston Town Council backed an idea from the mayor, Dave Gordon, for a Launceston Big Clean group to work to tidy up our town. The idea stemmed from a community clean up organised by local accountants Hodgsons last month.

The primary responsibility for cleaning our town lies with Cornwall Council and contractors Cory. The general view is that the town centre - which is cleaned every day - is very good. The rest of the residential parts of the town and pretty clean in the main but there are problems from time to time. When we are made aware of these, we report them and take action.

But there are many areas that are not the responsibility of Cornwall Council such as the river and some of the back alleys. So the new group will come together a couple of times each year to organise clean ups. We're keen to involve local residents associations, youth groups and anyone else who wants to take part. If this includes you, contact Dave Gordon via the town hall.

It was also good to hear that new litter bins will be installed on the peace garden - the island in the river at Newport Bridge - and on the new picnic area that is being developed by the Causley memorial stone further along the river near to the bowls club.

Selasa, 16 Juli 2013

An hour with Laurence Reed

Today I spent an hour answering questions on the Laurence Reed phone in show on BBC Radio Cornwall. This is part of a series of weekly interviews with all ten of the new cabinet members.

During the hour, I answered questions on the budget, parking, toilets, the fire service and adult care among others. The listeners came from all across Cornwall, including two from Launceston.

Answering questions in a format like this is something I really enjoy doing. Not only is it a way of helping with individual cases, but it also means explaining the reasons behind our thinking to a wider audience.

In some cases there is little that the council can do. We are not allowed to charge council tax to students - that's a matter for Parliament - and we can't reduce parking charges to £1 for a whole day. But there are other areas where it is good to hear the strength of feeling and to clear up misunderstandings about what the council is doing.

At the end of the day, the more we communicate as a council, the more that residents in Cornwall will understand of our work and be able to give us their views. That is why the cabinet are doing these phone ins and why we are holding lots of public meetings to discuss the new budget.

Next Monday, Julian German takes the hot seat. Please give him a call between 1 and 2 if you have any questions on 01872 222222. In the meantime, if you want to ask me something, email using the address on the right.

PS - This is my 2000th post on this blog. Glad it could be on such a positive subject

Senin, 15 Juli 2013

Campaign launched to donate unwanted holiday food to foodbanks

My Lib Dem colleague Joyce Duffin has helped to launch a campaign to encourage visitors to Cornwall and holiday home owners to donate unwanted food to local foodbanks and other projects which help homeless and vulnerable people.

There are 23,000 second and holiday homes in Cornwall and each week there can be tons of uneaten food left behind. Especially in the case of holiday lets, cleaners go into the property and often put the whole lot into black bags for the bin men to collect so that the property is completely clean and ready for the next visitors. The new scheme encourages holiday home owners and visitors to donate this to those in need.

Cornwall's foodbanks can accept unopened tinned and dried food that is in date and demand for their services is rising. Many projects can also take toiletries and good quality clothes, beachtowels and suchlike too. They cannot take out of date, fresh or opened food.

So if you own a holiday let or you know someone who does, please have a word and encourage them to pass on uneaten food to their local foodbank.

Rabu, 10 Juli 2013

Cross party support for campaign to keep fire control in Cornwall

There was overwhelming cross party support among Cornwall councillors at yesterday's meeting for a motion opposing plans from the Home Secretary to hand control of the fire and rescue service to the Devon and Cornwall Police Commissioner.

The principle reason for this opposition was the loss of local control. Cornwall's fire service is unique. It is built around our towns and villages and in response to the needs of each town. There was a significant fear that moving control to Exeter would lose this tailored approach and also result in cuts to our brigade in order to support the less efficient Devon service.

Cornwall's fire and rescue service has not always been so good - but huge strides have been made in recent years by the staff, the excellent leadership and by the council itself. Why would we want to go backwards?

I'm delighted that there was also massive opposition from the Conservative group to the idea that the inefficient Tory Police and Crime Commissioner should take control of Cornwall's fire service.

Selasa, 09 Juli 2013

Launceston season ticket prices confirmed

A bit of really good news from today's council meeting was confirmation from the council that the £200 season tickets in Cornwall Council long stay car parks in Launceston will continue.

The news came after my colleague Jade Farrington asked the cabinet member for parking - Bert Biscoe - about plans to trial cheaper parking. This was a key plank of the Lib Dem budget passed in February.

Bert confirmed that the reduced season ticket price would stay and he also said that trials of cheaper 'pay as you go' parking would start soon. There is no certainty that these will include trials in Launceston, but I hope they will prove the benefit to all concerned of lower prices which bring in more drivers. Drivers in other towns would also start to see season ticket prices lowered as the trial in Launceston has shown that prices can be lowered without significantly affecting the overall income for the authority.

Some Launceston season ticket holders may have been quoted a renewal price of £500 by mistake. The council has confirmed that this was an error and they have apologised. The price remains the same and, if anyone did renew at the higher price, then they will offer a refund.

Opening the council up to all

Cornwall Council currently restricts the rights of those who might wish to film its meetings. To do so, you need to give 48 hours notice. This is seen by some to be overly restrictive and has been challenged by a local journalist. The government has also suggested that councils adopt a more open stance.

Our current rules are also unclear in the case of non-professional media - an increasing market.

Today, in my role as cabinet member for communications, I announced that the council will be seeking views on whether and how to open up the system to encourage people to film us and to do things like live blog or tweet from meetings. My personal view is that it will do us no harm to welcome more filming and other coverage and, by doing so, we will engage more with the public.

All councillors are being encouraged to have their say, but we also want to hear from journalists and from the public about what rules they want to see in place.

The views of everyone who wants to have their say will be fed back via the council's Constitution and Governance Committee and will then be voted on by the next meeting of full council on September 3rd.

The mechanism for having your say will be announced shortly. But, in the meantime, if you have any thoughts, please leave them in the comments section.

Cornwall Council asks for recall system for councillors who breach code of conduct

Cornwall Council today voted in favour of calling on the government to introduce a system of recall  for councillors found to have seriously breached the code of conduct.

The punishments available to the council in cases where a serious breach has occurred are relatively flimsy. In the past we could suspend a councillor or even refer them up to London to the Standards Board who could disqualify them for up to 5 years. Now the system has changed and the most that can be imposed is a censure and a suggestion that they apologise and undergo training.

Today councillors backed a call for the previous sanctions to be made available once again. But they also backed a proposal by my Launceston colleague Jade Farrington for a system of recall.

The details of a recall system would have to be determined. But typically they work like this. In a situation where the independent standards regime of the council found there had been a serious breach of the code of conduct, electors in the division of the offending councillor would have the right to demand a recall election. There would have to be a threshold for such a petition - say at least 10% of the electorate signing a petition within 2 months of the finding of misconduct. If a valid petition were presented then a new election would be held at which the offending councillor could be a candidate. It would then be up to local voters to decide whether they felt that the offence was grave enough that they wanted to remove the councillor from office.

Introducing recall would require a change in the law - as would restoring the previous sanctions. Cornwall Council today voted to ask the government to consider both.

Senin, 08 Juli 2013

Collin Brewer censured and resigns

Collin Brewer has announced his intention of resigning from Cornwall Council. His move came after the council's monitoring officer produced a report censuring him for outrageous and grossly insensitive comments about children with disabilities.

The story of Collin Brewer's remarks has been a long and tortuous one. Two years ago he made comments to a representative of Disability Cornwall saying that 'disabled children should be put down'. After a long standards board process, Cllr Brewer resigned. He then stood for re-election in this May's contests and was re-elected by two votes.

At that stage we thought that was the end of the matter. Many of us were unhappy to see him returned, but the will of his local electorate has to be respected and they had voted him back in the full knowledge of what he had done.

However, he then made more comments during a telephone interview with a journalist from Disability News Service. These included remarks which appeared to compare children with disabilities to 'deformed lambs whose heads should be smashed against brick walls'.

Mr Brewer immediately entered the standards process once again and the results of that were announced today.

The report of the monitoring officer found Mr Brewer guilty of the offences complained about. In a very strongly worded judgement, he was censured, ordered to apologise and banned from council premises where services for children with disabilities are commissioned or delivered. He was also ordered to go on various training programmes.

Some people have asked why more could not be done. Why could he not be disbarred from the council or suspended at the very least?

Sadly, these sanctions have been taken away from councils by the government. In the past we could have suspended him or referred him to what is known as the 'first tier tribunal' which could have disbarred him from public office. These sanctions are no longer available. The most we can do is the rather pathetic censure and ordering him to make an apology.

Tomorrow, Cornwall Council will debate calling on the government to return to us the power of suspension. I will listen to this debate with interest. Clearly the Collin Brewer case has demonstrated a good case for why the removal of these powers was wrong.

In the meantime, Collin Brewer has announced his intention to resign from the council. To be effective, such a move must be made in writing and so will only become official when his letter arrives in the post in the next couple of days.

Kamis, 04 Juli 2013

Link Road Morrisons gets the go ahead

Cornwall Council's strategic planning committee today gave the go ahead for the new Morrisons supermarket on Launceston's Link Road. The committee also gave outline consent for a hotel, fast food restaurant, pub and 275 homes.

The vote was 20 in favour and just one against.

Both I and colleague Jade Farrington spoke to the committee. We both broadly supported the plans but had concerns about the loss of up to seven of the Millennium Avenue of oak trees. We both argued that an alternative entrance would have been better and we regretted that the developers had not been able to find one in order to preserve the oaks.

However, it is clear that the majority of people in Launceston support the scheme. The developers found 80% support and Jade found just over 70% support in her survey. At the same time, we found broad opposition to the idea of a supermarket on Race Hill car park with around two thirds opposed.

So the supermarket will go ahead and bring over two hundred new jobs to the town. It will also bring competition to Tesco and there will be mitigation measures in place to offset any damage to the town centre.

The rest of the scheme - the hotel, pub, housing etc - will need to come back for detailed planning permission. When it does I will be looking to see that the housing has not encroached onto employment space, that the much needed southern loop road is properly formed and that there are works to the South Petherwin Road to widen this and make it suitable for the extra traffic it will be asked to carry.