Wednesday, 16 April 2014

September 2014 reception class places - letters being sent out

There has been a slight improvement in the number of children in Cornwall who have been allocated a reception place at their first choice school. Letters to parents of reception age children across Cornwall will receive details of which school their child is due to attend in September today or tomorrow.

The Council received 5225 applications for new reception school places for pupils in Cornwall to start school in September 2014. Of those 4910 (94%) have been offered a place at their first preference school, with 315 pupils being allocated a place at either their second (169 pupils), or third (40 pupils) preference school.  This means that 97.9% of children have been allocated one of their three preferences.

106 pupils (2.1%) have not been allocated a place at either their first, second or third preference school, but at the nearest school to their home address with room.  All reception age pupils who applied for a school place in Cornwall have been allocated a place.

This is fractionally up on last year when 93.1% of children were allocated a place in their first preference school, with 97.5% being allocated one of their three preferences.

Based on the figures to date, there are 47 over subscribed primary schools for new reception September 2014 admissions in Cornwall. This is a similar number to the figure for the past two years, with 45 over subscribed schools in 2013, and 49 over subscribed schools in 2012. There has, however, been an increase in the number of schools which are full for new reception admissions in September 2014. 71 out of Cornwall’s 236 primary schools are full, compared with 60 schools in 2013.

The Council’s admissions team have received 247 late applications for new reception places so far this year, with further late admissions expected in the next few weeks. The deadline for the second round of applications is 2 May.

All parents who applied for a place by the deadline will receive a letter formally telling them about the place their child has been allocated. This letter will also have details of how to appeal or go on a waiting list. It is important, if a parent wishes to appeal, that they fill in the proper forms fully. It is more important to get them right and with all the information required than try to break any records for returning them, but you should not wait too long. Waiting lists will become active after May 2nd.


Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Kresen Kernow consultation coming to Launceston next week

Interested in Cornwall’s history, archaeology and culture?  Want to get involved with shaping the future of the service that cares for the millions of records including documents, photographs, books, maps and databases that capture this information?   Then why not have your say on the development of the Kresen Kernow project?  

Funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and Cornwall Council, the new centre will house Cornwall Council’s archives and historic collections, and will be built on the old brewery site in Redruth. 

The scheme is due for completion in 2017 and members of the project team are now offering people the opportunity to share their views on the services, events and activities they want to see the project and the building provide.

The formal consultation will come to:

Launceston - Tuesday 22nd April. Launceston Town Hall, 10am to 3pm.

Penzance - Thursday 1st May. Pop-Up Penzance (in Peasgoods, the old pharmacy in Market Jew Street), 10am to 3pm

Truro – Saturday 3rd May. Lemon Quay, Farmers Market, 10am to 3pm.

Bude – Saturday 10th May. Bude Castle Heritage Centre, 10am to 3pm.

These are the latest in a series of consultation roadshows which have been taking place in venues across Cornwall to enable people to learn more about the project, and share ideas and suggestions for the archive centre and its services.  For full details of the events and locations visit www.cornwall.gov.uk/kresenkernow or find us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/kresenkernow.

There is also a survey on the Council’s website which people can use to give their views. You can read more about the project and find the online survey at www.cornwall.gov.uk/kresenkernow.

Monday, 14 April 2014

Cornwall's buses protected

In among all the cuts that the council is being forced to make in order to achieve £196 million of savings over the next five years, there are still some areas which we are able to protect. These are services which are considered to be so important that we cannot afford to lose them.

One of the services that Liberal Democrats have most championed is the local bus network. We have said that we will seek to protect lifeline services that allow those without access to cars to get around. Whilst some services are commercially viable, others rely on council subsidy. The council cannot afford to subsidise routes that aren't used, but when they are a vital lifeline we will do so.

The council has just been through a route tendering exercise - asking firms to bid to run various routes. This process isn't yet complete, but the overall picture is of no real cuts to the current level of service in the coming year.

So after years in which the bus route network has been cut back, I'm delighted that the Lib Dems in administration have been able to work with our Independent partners to halt the cuts. 

As we review all that the council does, buses will have to be considered alongside other services. But I think that being able to stabilise the current service level is a positive move.

Friday, 11 April 2014

Upper Chapel appeal allowed - new houses given the go ahead despite local objections

The decision in the case of the planning appeal over the application to build 100 new homes at Upper Chapel has come through. The appeal has been allowed and permission for the new homes has been given.

As local residents will know, the detailed town framework plan discussed where new developments should go around the town and came to the conclusion that the area off Upper Chapel was the wrong area and could not be supported, mainly because it would make a bad highways situation even worse.

Sadly, the inspector has not supported this view. In his opinion, the congestion situation already exists, is not that bad and would not become much worse if the development gets the go ahead.

As for the town's stated preference for building in other areas, he says that the town framework plan is not sufficiently advanced and cannot be given weight. In its absence, there is nothing to say that this land is any worse than the land off the Link Road, and so the development will be allowed.

This is obviously hugely disappointing for all of us who fought long and hard against the application. I still believe that this development will do huge harm to the local area. I also believe that local people and local councillors should be given the power to decide where development goes. So long as we accept our fair share, we should have the reasonable power to decide on location. It would appear that the law on which this decision was based denies us that right.

Cornwall Council and the town council will have to reflect on the detailed reasoning given by the inspector. There is no further route of appeal in this case and so we must make the best of the development that will happen.

Turf cutting for new Bodmin offices

This morning I joined local councillors and North Cornwall MP Dan Rogerson to formally cut the turf to start the building of the new council office building in Bodmin.

The reason behind the project is to save money for Cornwall Council and, therefore, for Cornish taxpayers. Every pound that we do not have to spend on our own offices is a pound we can spend on vital frontline services.

At the moment, the council's office estate in Bodmin is old and dilapidated in parts. It is certainly not efficient or cheap. By spending money on new offices now, we will be able to bring all our local staff together in an efficientbase. We can then get rid of the expensive leases for rented property and sell off the buildings we own but no longer need.

We will also be building some space in the new offices to rent. The first option for this space has been given to our partners in BT and they have said they are interested in taking it up. But in case they choose not to, the council has also been talking to other public sector organisations and private companies who have also expressed an interest. Our aim is not just to save money for the Cornish taxpayer, but also to bring new jobs to Cornwall.

In West Cornwall, the council has consolidated staff from lots of smaller offices into fewer, larger offices. So we now have 1200 staff in county hall instead of 600 and 600 in Dolcoath in Camborne instead of 300. Making the best use of these buildings is sensible but there was no building in Bodmin suitable for this sort of treatment and so the new build is the bets option.



Thursday, 10 April 2014

Cornwall Council compensation claims

Radio Cornwall have splashed this morning on figures for the amount paid out in compensation to people by Cornwall Council for trips, falls and suchlike.

Overall the amount paid out is relatively steady at about £200,000 each year. That's quite a lot of money which could be better spent on providing frontline services. But it is actually a comparatively low amount when you look at other councils.

Cornwall Council receives just over 5 complaints per 1000 residents each year. In comparison, the average for our sort of council is just over 7 complaints per 1000 residents. And in terms of compensation paid, Cornwall pays out only about a third as much as similar councils per head.

The duty of the council is to keep our roads and pavements in good order and, when a problem is reported, we have to take action to fix it as quickly as possible. That's why we regularly assess the road and pavement network for faults and why we will respond very quickly when issues arise. It's also why the initial 'fix' may not look very good and doesn't last very long, but it does last long enough to enable a permanent fix to be scheduled and carried out.

The council only has liability if it could reasonably be expected to have known about a problem and have a chance to fix it. That's why only around 10% of claims relating to potholes resulted in a payout.

Where someone suffers damage or injury as a result of council inaction, we will of course, pay fair compensation. It's unlikely that we will ever be perfect and reduce the compensation bill to nothing. But the aim is always to keep the amount paid out as low as possible. To help us to spend as much of our money as possible on frontline services, residents can help by reporting any potholes or other problems on 0300 1234 100.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Cornwall Council statement on Langarth Development

Cornwall Council has just issued the following statement with regard to the Langarth development between Truro and Threemilestone:

"As part of the planning permission given for the Langarth Farm mixed use development Cornwall Council was required to exercise an option for outdoor sports provision to serve the development in accordance with the Heads of Terms of the section 106 agreement approved by the Strategic Planning Committee in May 2012.

Three options were originally proposed and, having carefully considered all the relevant issues, the Council’s Director of Economy, Enterprise and Environment has today formally notified  the owners of the land, the Stephens family, and INOX, the developer, that he is requiring the parcel of land, known as 'the Blue Land', to be transferred to the Council.  This transfer will also include a sum of up to £900,000 which will be used to provide outdoor sports facilities for the local community at a later date, post commencement of the development.

This option provides the best facilities and the best potential for future expansion and, is, therefore, considered to be in the overall best interests of current and future residents of the Langarth and Threemilestone area.

In making this decision, the Council was required to consider how best to provide open space and outdoor sports facilities to serve the Langarth development. At a later date other developments in the area may well share the facility subject to appropriate s106 agreement contributions. Various other matters, including the provision of a stadium, are outside the scope of this decision and could not be legally required as part of the s106 agreement.

The site chosen by the Council for open space is the same land that has planning permission for a stadium to be built. However, selecting this option will ensure that the largest and flattest area has been preserved for public use and will ensure that it is not the subject of an application for an alternative development proposal, which is a real risk should the Council not choose this option. Selecting this land does not necessarily preclude its development for a stadium in the future.

While the Council has previously expressed its support in principle for a stadium funded by the private sector, no substantive plans have been put forward to build the stadium since the original planning permission was granted.  Should a realistic proposal come forward in the future, the Council would consider the feasibility of exchanging the stadium site for similar alternative  land in the Threemilestone and Langarth area for open space and public sports provision.

We note INOX's offer to extend the period of time in which the decision could be made. We thank them for this but note that it would require a change to the existing planning obligation and the consent of landowners. As we do not believe that additional time would lead to a better informed or a different decision, we do not think it would be beneficial to take it."

UPDATE: I'm sorry to see that a Conservative hanger-on is busy trying to stir up trouble on this issue by lying. The truth is as detailed above. Whilst members of the cabinet were asked for our opinions on this issue, the decision was taken by officers. Those same officers also sought the opinion of the two local councillors for the area - including the Conservative group leader Cllr Ferguson. Both indicated their support for the option that was chosen.

If anyone has any questions or wants clarification, please get in touch and I'd be happy to get them an answer.