#ChildPoverty, #FreeSchoolMeals, #CouncilTransparency, #CornwallWeWant, #CornwallProcurement, Resisting #BudgetCuts & #LowWages
Cornwall Council Report - 26/11/20
Full Council on Tuesday went well. The Labour motion on Child Poverty in Cornwall proposed by Cllr Olivier went through virtually unanimously. It went further than free school meals and called for the implementation of the National Food Strategy Report and to remove the cap on household income to be eligible for school meals, so that solely receiving Universal Credit would be the threshold. Full details of the motion as proposed are here - https://democracy.cornwall.gov.uk/documents/s140737/Motion%20-%20Free%20School%20Meals%20and%20Food%20Poverty.pdf. There were amendments made - mainly because the government u-turned after the motion was filed and so the Council has started to plan delivery for the Christmas holidays.
My motion on making the 'Call In' procedure for challenging Council decisions more transparent and objective was also voted through after consideration by Constitution and Governance Committee. https://democracy.cornwall.gov.uk/documents/s140707/Constitution%20and%20Governance%20Committee%20Minute%20Extract%20Motion%20on%20Call%20in%20Procedure.pdf
And the broad brush 'Cornwall We Want' document also went through. Some of the Tories voted against it, but the aims were so broad and unobjectionable that it is hard to see why they would not have wanted things like 'a more diverse economy' or a Cornwall 'where no one is lonely' or without child poverty. The Labour Group made amendments to strengthen the document's commitment to social housing.
Today I attended the 4th session of the Cornish Procurement Inquiry. Today we heard from various other local authorities including Manchester City Council who are way out ahead in the way they buy goods and services using social value and climate criteria, like Preston.
I also sit on the Health and Adult Social Care Overview and Scrutiny Committee. Yesterday we were asked to approve a £319,000 cut to the Drugs and Alcohol Treatment budget. We did not and called for the funding to be found from other sources and partners. We also discussed the closure of Edward Hain Hospital in St Ives and issued a recommendation that the convalescence beds that were lost should be replaced as a matter of urgency within West Penwith.
I also sat on a panel regarding councillors' remuneration. I wrote about that last week and have included that below along with low pay in Cornwall -
'It would seem only fair that vital keyworkers are paid a living wage, but it is still the case that many aren’t. 75% of care workers across the country get less than the foundation living wage of £9.50 per hour. So do the teaching assistants, cleaners and catering staff who are keeping our schools and hospitals going through this pandemic. In Cornwall, the Council committed to all directly employed workers and staff of contractors receiving at least foundation living wage. The new Cornwall ‘Proud to Care’ recruitment campaign runs on that basis. Unfortunately, this doesn’t apply to people who work in academy schools or contractors for other public bodies. 78% of our schools in Cornwall are academies and so most of our Cornish teaching assistants slip through the net. These people are doing jobs that we now know are the most vital in society and they simply don’t get paid a wage they can live on. It’s also no surprise that these jobs are predominantly carried out by women. Low pay sticks like glue to jobs done by women.
In May, Cornwall Council will reduce in size by a third. The Council does not presently resemble the people it is elected to serve and so is unlikely to reflect all their concerns. It is somewhat ‘male, pale and stale’! Only 24% of councillors are woman. In fact, there are more councillors over the age of 70 than there are women of any age.
The pandemic has changed working practices so that many meetings can be conducted online, although they are during working hours. Cornwall Councillors currently get a basic allowance of about £14,500/year (town and parish councillors don’t get an allowance). Working hours are not set, but on a 40 hour week that works out at just under £7 per hour and it is difficult to find part time work that fits in. If the allowance were set at the Cornish average wage of £18,000, would it open the role up to more working age people with mortgages and caring responsibilities and no other independent source of income? Maybe the reduction in the number of councillors gives an opportunity to consider this, without increasing costs? However we do it, we do need some way of making sure that a reduced Cornwall Council reflects the breadth of experience and concerns of all the people of Cornwall.'
This blog will be created by members of the Exec committee or by local Labour Councillors on topics of interest to the St Austell & Newquay Labour Party