Up to date Covid figures for Cornwall now all the pillar 2 data has been shared (from the private mobile test centres and care homes and postal tests) were finally released this month.
The cumulative number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 across Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly stands at 889 as at 6 July which is a rate of 156.5 per 100,000. Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly now has the 3rd lowest rate of Councils in England.
205 deaths have been registered for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly residents (up to and including the 26 June) which mentioned COVID-19; accounting for 6% of all deaths over the period.
Overall, there was 1 additional COVID-19 related deaths from the previous week, in a care home.
It has also been made public that 136 people were released from hospital to care homes without testing or test results being known in early April in Cornwall.
The chancellor made his summer statement
There is a focus on the hospitality industry to force it back to life with VAT cuts and hot food vouchers. Encouraging people to go on holiday and to spend in restaurants. That means coming to places like Cornwall. People are still wary. Test and trace is not functioning nearly as well as it should be to build people’s confidence, despite the £10 bn price tag that predominantly went to private companies. This isn’t a normal recession. 50% off a burger won’t be enough for people who are scared to go out, and nor should it be.
On the face of it the government are bringing back the Labour Future Jobs Fund. A focus on jobs for 16-24 year olds is welcome. But what about the self-employed and renters and those who are unemployed?
De-carbonising public buildings and housing is also welcome. However, we only get the money to pilot this in 83 Cornwall Housing homes in Cornwall. Where are the bold green energy schemes like in Germany’s response? Our geo-thermal, wind, tidal and solar resources are just sat here in Cornwall, waiting for investment to kickstart our green industrial revolution.
Along with the relaxation of planning laws, it is hard to see how a stamp duty holiday will help Cornwall unless it is limited to first time buyers or first home owners. As it stands, it will just make second homes that bit more affordable and end up depleting the housing stock when what we really need are more truly affordable council homes. Much of the business support grants in Cornwall have already gone to second home owners. https://cornishstuff.com/2020/06/23/71m-paid-to-holiday-home-owners/
We had a full council meeting on Tuesday and most of our 122 councillors managed to participate.
My motion on local council spend was referred to Cabinet and we had a vote on whether Cornwall should pilot voting at 16. The council voted in favour, but surprisingly, only narrowly. I spoke in favour & the Labour group voted for it. (See number 9 - https://leftfootforward.org/2020/07/radical-roundup-10-stories-that-got-buried-this-week-5/)
Jayne Kirkham- Cornwall Councillor for Falmouth Smithick
This seems like a natural point to start this blog, at Newquay Town Council (NTC) we’ve just held out annual meeting – it’s basically Civic AGM with lots of essential business that marks the transition from one Civic year to the next. The election of the new Mayor and their Deputy is one of the first orders of business followed by the selection of councillors to various committees and the election of the Chair of each committee, I’d thrown my hat into the ring to be considered for Chair of the Planning and Licensing (P&L) committee and had prepared well for the expected contested election up against one of my colleague councillors. Preparing for these meetings is a huge task when taken seriously, ploughing through 600+ pages of documents as well as the nerves that always come with putting yourself forward for election aren’t necessarily two things that complement each other!
At our previous meeting I’d pushed hard to hold our annual meeting, coronavirus regulations mean councils don’t have to hold them this year but I firmly believe that it’s important for local government to be seen functioning as normally as possible, facing and overcoming similar challenges that the people we represent are facing every day is important, it not only shows we are genuinely in it together but gives us a better understanding of those challenges first hand. It’s fair to say NTC has reacted well to the Covid-19 emergency, but I thought it was time for us to move from a solely reactive phase and become proactive, for that reason I’d also proposed the creation of a regeneration working party to look at cross community issues and how we help to get Newquay back on it’s feet from the effects of the coronavirus. Working parties shed the formality and minuted nature of normal council meetings and enable a much more fluid approach to issues.
So back to the annual meeting where there was a lot of heavy line by line checking of stuff and thankfully few political shenanigans, as the sole Labour voice on NTC I can sit back and watch some of the Liberals and some of the Conservatives trying to knock lumps off each other, the unfortunate upshot being that my opponent for Chair of P&L was knocked out of the contest by a motion that was a thinly veiled attack on the committee. I didn’t like winning by default in this situation – especially as I take the time to prepare well and canvass support so I was disappointed not to be able to make my pitch and I was even more disappointed for the shabby way my opponent had been treated, I’m genuinely upset that he’s decided to resign as a councillor altogether.
I’d felt the need to challenge for Chair of P&L for some time, we do suffer because of the public’s general perception of ‘planners’ based largely on misconceptions and assumptions, it’s a perception I don’t agree with and one I’m going to challenge. Planning and Licensing is often people’s only experience of interacting formally with Town Councils and anecdotally members of the public seem to have a more positive view of our committee than they do of wider planning in general, a view I hope to build on to protect and improve the image of the Council and those members and officers who fulfil this busy and visible role. The Written Ministerial Statement on Planning stated that “The Government expects everyone involved in the planning process to engage proactively” and that’s what people are going to see. There are opportunities for us to be much more on the front foot than we have at some times recently, I’ve been very visible supporting council policy and supporting my colleagues both on P&L and on the wider council during some very difficult exchanges on social media in the last few week. Sadly and not unexpectedly some of the exchanges descended into outright homophobia, I dealt with them and received some welcome support from another councillor – the immediacy of social media seems to have increased the ability of unpleasant people to say unpleasant things.
That’s about it for my first councillor blog – this one has hopefully started to set the scene and the rest will keep people informed as the story unfolds.
Stay safe, be well.
Newquay Town Council
Covid reporting, Care Homes Funding, “The Cornwall We Want” survey & How Council Spend could benefit Cornwall
Cornwall Council Report 27/6/20 - Jayne Kirkham - Labour Councillor for Falmouth Smithick
There have been concerns about the reporting of Covid cases. There had been 594 in Cornwall as at 22 June and 203 deaths as of 12 June. Since then there have been outbreaks in 2 care homes. Only Pillar 1 cases are being reported which are the NHS tested ones. The government are not releasing the Pillar 2 figures to the public. These are the tests done from the mobile testing centres by the private providers. This is because of inaccuracies. This means that the figures are likely to be quite a bit higher than those reported.
On 17 May, additional funding for care homes as an infection control grant was announced, with Cornwall receiving an allocation of £6.7m. Based on 5,272 registered care homes beds, this equates to £962 per placement in Cornwall which is being distributed. Care homes and domicillary care providers finally have most of the PPE they need. We are still concerned that staff and residents in care homes are currently only entitled to be tested once. Repeated testing is the only way to prevent the spread of Covid in care settings like the one that has just happened at Pengover. Information about cases is still not making its way from the national Test and Trace service to local Public Health officers.
The council have done a survey on ‘the Cornwall we Want’ - https://letstalk.cornwall.gov.uk/the-cornwall-we-want It’s about how the changes that have happened during the Covid pandemic have affected Cornwall and where to go next. Please have your say.
The hospitality industry re-opens on 4 July and bookings are already mounting for the rest of the tourist season. The Council and Visit Cornwall can do little more than encourage holidaymakers to book accommodation and day trips well ahead, follow social distancing guidelines while they’re here and help businesses to re-open as safely as possible
My motion on Cornwall Council adopting a Preston Labour Council style model of procurement has been accepted to go on the agenda of the full council meeting on 7 July, after much effort. It is gaining cross-party support. It is hard to object to the Council using its spend to benefit the people, climate and economy of Cornwall, after all! I am hoping that after all the work we have done on the wording to make it comply with competition and procurement law, that the Chair of the Council accepts it for debate.
We had a member briefing on the economic impact of Covid and the potential recovery on Friday. The most startling facts were that there were 24,876 Universal Credit claimants in Cornwall in March and that had risen to approx. 47,500 in May. The number of people claiming UC has doubled in St Ives in 2 months. The estimated potential job losses as a result of Covid in Cornwall are 72,800. Over half are in the retail, accommodation and food sectors. Approximately 60,900 people are furloughed in the county, with 24,800 of them likely to work in accommodation and food. Newquay has 56% of its workforce employed in the shut-down sectors. That’s half the town not working. Non-grocery sales in Penzance have dropped by 89%.. The worry is that as the furlough scheme is withdrawn, many more people will be made redundant.
We had the Cabinet meeting virtually on Wednesday which was a more wooden experience than a normal meeting. However, many more members of the public and councillors were able to attend, so it has widened participation. I gave a brief summary of the Covid report on the agenda in last week’s briefing. I was able to raise some questions on behalf of the Labour Group in Cabinet and asked:
There are coronavirus mobile testing centres at Falmouth Rugby Club between 10.30am – 4pm and St Austell Information Service between 10.30am – 3.30pm. To book a test use:
Jayne Kirkham – Cornwall Councillor for Falmouth Smithick
Cornwall Council’s Cabinet meet virtually on Wednesday for the first time since March.
The agenda is here - https://democracy.cornwall.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=577&MId=9546&Ver=4 - including a rundown of what the council officers have been doing since lockdown. The public should be able to virtually attend and watch.
The main item of interest will be the Council’s report on the actions taken since the Covid crisis began in March. Item 6 on the agenda is a report to the Cabinet on the council’s emergency response and a request that the ‘emergency decisions’ made by the CEO and other officers as set out in Appendix 3 be endorsed and ratified by Cabinet.
14 ‘emergency cells’ were set up to respond to the crisis. Between 24 March and 26 May 10,500 emails were sent to the firstname.lastname@example.org address. There were 2 million visits to the website. However, calls to council call centres dropped by 25.57% (probably because no council tax reminders were issued or business rates chased). There was a reduction of 88% in the council’s printing bill. 71% of our Covid deaths in Cornwall were men. There was a 401% increase in applications for free school meals and a 142% increase in council tax support claims.
The council has estimated that the Covid crisis has meant a £10.8 million net loss for the council, plus the lost council tax, business rates revenue and pressure on services which is yet to be quantified. The various funding from central government is set out at appendix 2 - https://democracy.cornwall.gov.uk/documents/s135386/Cornwall%20Councils%20response%20to%20Coronavirus%20and%20our%20approach%20to%20recovery%20and%20renewal%20-%20Appendix%202%20Fun.pdf
Examples of the ‘cells’ and decisions that have been taken are:
3. Housing Cell - At 500, double the number of households than normal needed temporary accommodation.
4. The Business Cell - Dealt with the business grants. There is a 61% increase of people in Cornwall who are claiming Universal Credit.
Full information is at Appendix 1 of the agenda https://democracy.cornwall.gov.uk/documents/s135385/Cornwall%20Councils%20response%20to%20Coronavirus%20and%20our%20approach%20to%20recovery%20and%20renewal%20-%20Appendix%201%20Sum.pdf
The next full council meeting is on 7 July. I have prepared a motion based on the work that Labour councils in Preston and Manchester are doing to try to ensure that the council considers social value and climate impact when it uses its spending power. This would benefit workers and the local economy. It is getting quite a bit of support across the council which is positive, if a little surprising!
Cornwall Councillor for Falmouth Smithick
Cornwall Council Report – 6 June 2020
Our Friday councillors’ briefing this week was on the new test and tracing system.
On 11 March, Cornwall Council’s Health Scrutiny Committee were told that Cornwall had 5 cases of Covid19. On 12 March we were told the government had abandoned trying to trace everyone the infected persons had come into contact with.
On Wednesday afternoon – 27 May, council leaders were told that the government’s test and trace system would begin at 9am the next morning, Thursday 28 May. Despite the new guidance saying that local authorities would have their own ‘outbreak control plans’ for workplaces, housing complexes, care homes and schools, councils were only told this on 22 May and had less than 24 hours’ notice of the launch of the government’s system. Like other local authorities, CC was not consulted about the testing process, or the script used by contact tracers, or any aspect of the contact tracing app. There are no additional powers to enact the ‘local lockdown’ plans and no guidance from government about what that response should be.
On 1 June we had 576 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Cornwall and 15 new cases in the last 5 days. 25% of our care homes have had or are having an outbreak.
On 15 June non-essential shops in many of the town centres are due to re-open. Towns are working to make sure this can be done safely and that social distancing can be observed. Roads will be closed to cars where necessary and planning restrictions not enforced so cafes and other traders can use the streets and public spaces. The £half million of government funding for this will be split pretty much on a per capita basis.
In the meantime, most Council decisions are still being made by a ‘core group’ of mainly officers. For example, the money given to keep the airport afloat. Cabinet restarts in the middle of this month and scrutiny committees are also meeting.
Sadly, due to a lack of provision, the Council are still looking for sites to put more emergency mobile housing, or a hotel, guest house or any other property suitable for being used as move on accommodation for the people who have become homeless during this pandemic. 260 people were housed, which is a number over 4 times higher than November’s rough sleeper count in Cornwall. If anyone has any leads for accommodation in Falmouth, please get in touch. email@example.com
Cornwall Councillor for Falmouth Smithick
Council Report dated 29 May 2020
This morning we had a briefing on the financial position of the Council in the light of Covid19.
In a nutshell, the effect of Covid on Cornwall Council may possibly be roughly twice as much as the money received from central government. As well as the money we have spent directly on Covid measures (including £1.6 million on PPE) it also includes lost income (eg carparking & other charges) and lost council tax and business rates. Central government have given 2 grants adding up to £34.4million. That leaves a large budget hole. At the beginning of this process central government promised they would make sure local authorities’ costs were covered. Lately the language has changed to ‘burden-sharing’. The council will review this year’s budget in July.
This article by John Harris interviewing our Labour LGA leader, Nick Forbes gives an idea of the impact on local government - https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/may/25/pandemic-failings-centralised-state-councils-coronavirus?CMP=share_btn_tw
There will be a full council meeting (finally) in early July and cabinet will meet on 17 June. Both virtually. There should be arrangements in place for public attendance and questioning to take place at those online meetings.
Scrutiny committees will meet informally in June to set revised work plans for resuming normal meetings, virtually if necessary, in July. We intend to scrutinise the Covid response. On Health Scrutiny, I am particularly concerned that we make sure our local test and trace response is up and running ASAP, now that the government have rushed out their centralised, privatised Test and Trace programme (most likely to take attention away from the Dominic Cummings debacle).
The council have found emergency housing for 230 people during the Covid crisis. Plans are in place to find move on accommodation so people don’t end up back on the streets when lockdown is lifted. They are hoping to hire extra staff to support people into new accommodation. I am still looking for accommodation nearer to Falmouth as well as that coming online in Penzance and Truro.
If anyone has questions, the Covid email response - Covid19@cornwall.gov.uk is still up and running, or contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org
Labour Cornwall Councillor for Falmouth Smithick
This week has been busy.
The Devon and Cornwall Local Resilience Forum has finally set up a ‘test, track and trace cell’. We haven’t had our Health and Social Care Scrutiny formal meetings but have still been asking questions and have been briefed by the various different ‘cells’ who are running Cornwall’s Covid response and I was relieved that our local Public Health team look to be taking the initiative here. Labour have been pushing for local authority Public Health teams to be involved in testing, tracking and tracing rather than leaving it to Serco! At last Regional Public Health has been asked to get involved, but it still seems painfully slow and it will be amazing if the whole system is up and running by 1 June as Boris Johnson rashly promised under questioning at PMQs.
Testing in care homes is also beginning to happen. Tests are being couriered to and from homes and results times are speeding up now. There is still a way to go to have everyone in care homes and working there tested by early June.
It still knocks me sideways that people were discharged from hospitals to care homes in early April with their Covid status unknown due to the government guidelines.
Cornwall Council’s Policy on schools restarting for Yrs R, 1 & 6 has been to offer help to schools but not give them any firm guidance. Labour’s policy is that schools should not open until it is safe to do so and we have made that clear locally and nationally. It was lovely to get a letter from the shadow education secretary, Rebecca Long-Bailey and Labour Local Goverment lead, Nick Forbes, supporting councillors in this last night.
The council has started the business grant scheme mark 2. If you know of someone with a local business who is suffering due to Covid and may need to apply through the scheme, please direct them here - https://www.cornwall.gov.uk/smallbusinessgrant
I have been working with local businesses about waste collection during the crisis which has led to the idea of waste/resource collectives as part of the Circular Falmouth initiative. We are also looking to open up the town centre during recovery to people and businesses and use public space and highways for people to safely social distance. This will also hopefully happen in 4 other Cornish towns.
Labour Councillor for Falmouth Smithick
Centrally run, temporary, mobile testing sites are being established for keyworkers at Bude and Penzance this week. Careworkers and care home residents should be able to access testing by delivery or at a mobile site. They should all be tested by early June. Please let me know if you have information that suggests this is not happening. We are not hearing good reports about the speed of getting results.
Tracking and tracing is going to be organised by central government too, although some help has been requested from regional Public Health. Labour have suggested that local authority Public Health staff, with all their local knowledge and expertise, should work on this. Cornwall’s Director for Public Health has offered Cornish staff to carry out tracing here. We were told by our Public Health Director at Cornwall Council’s Health Scrutiny Committee on 11 March that although we then had 5 cases of Covid19 in Cornwall, wecould not use our own resources to make sure the people who may have been infected were warned and told to isolate. Now we hear that the contract for the 18,000 staff to work on tracking and tracing across the whole of the UK is to be given to one company. The tracers will receive one day’s training. That company is Serco. Memories of their out of hours doctors’ service in Cornwall do not inspire great confidence in their ability to keep us safe from coronavirus.
To date, Cornwall Council has had to spend £1.6 million on PPE for Cornish workers due to supply failures in the central system and a lack of stored PPE and have distributed it free of charge. The supply chain is still not firm, but is stabilising.
The council is waiting for container units to arrive for Penzance and Truro so that more people who are homeless can be accommodated. The government money was paid in one chunk and there will be no more funding. However, the people who are housed now will be hopefully be able to access move on accommodation when this is over. The containers are likely to be permanently bought by CC to provide some extra emergency accommodation.
There is another £14 million of business grants coming for businesses who share workspace or B&Bs or who missed out in the first round. We are waiting for details of eligibility.
Household waste recycling centres open from 19 May on a quite complicated arrangement - https://www.cornwall.gov.uk/environment-and-planning/recycling-rubbish-and-waste/household-waste-and-recycling-centres/household-waste-and-recycling-centres-covid-19-update/
Labour Cornwall Councillor for Falmouth Smithick
Blog 5th April 2020
I am dedicating this blog to holding the Government to account over its handling of the Coronavirus. It must do better.
My message to this government is straight forward - get on with a testing programme and contact tracing otherwise we are going to lurch from lockdown to lockdown and more people will die as a result.
As a retired health care professional, (nurse and Director of Public Health), I have become ever more worried over the government’s response to the pandemic.
We are not adhering to the World Health Organisation’s advice and we will have catastrophic consequences to following our own path. We must test, test and test.
To begin with we had too slow a response and the heinous herd immunity approach taken at the beginning was genocide for older people and those with health conditions.
I am hugely concerned that we are being told lies and misled daily. To all those who would say this is no time to criticise the government and we must all pull together, I say not at the expense of lives. The government must be made to change tack and held to account. That’s down to each and every one of us. Where the right approach has been taken its right to acknowledge that. I applaud our local MP Steve Double for working hard to try and stop visitors and second homeownerscoming to Cornwall. Unfortunately, we do have a higher number of cases in Cornwall than some other areas of the SW and this may well be to people migrating here before the partial lockdown.
So how are we being misled?
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
Staff have said they haven’t got PPE either of the right sort, any or not enough, the government assures us they have got PPE. There’s too much evidence to show that staff haven’t got it. Staff are working in incredibly difficult and dangerous situations they must be supplied with the right kit to do their job and not be made to put themselves and others at a higher risk than necessary. The public health system that would have made sure that pandemic supplies of PPE were where it was needed no longer exists. Under the governments 2012 healthcare reforms local public health is no longer part of the NHS. In addition the regional public health bodies were abolished. During the swine flu pandemic a tried and tested distribution system was in place for distribution of PPE. It worked. Distribution system and daily situation reports made sure kit was where it needed to be.
The pandemic supplies were not as complete as they should have been. The costs of visors and eye protection was considered prohibitive and therefore limited to highly specialised areas of the NHS, which was in contradiction to the findings and recommendations of the pandemic flu planning exercises and reports. The costs of PPE should not be a consideration in protecting our brave and much needed NHS and social care staff. The Treasury have not been so penny pinching when it’s come to protecting business.
Knowing that they didn’t have the right kit what did the government do? Not a lot until more recently when they have involved the army in getting supplies where they are needed. Good move but why not earlier? Surely this should have appended as soon as the first reports came in that staff didn’t have the kit they needed? There are schools, colleges and local communities banding together to make sure staff have the PPE they need. If you can sew please get involved. Yes,local people are buying material and making up scrubs andface masks for our wonderful NHS staff – Cornwall Cloth Masks and Cornwall Scrubs. Find them on Facebook.
Staff are being disciplined if they speak out about a lack of PPE. This is totally unacceptable and not to be countenanced. We must know so we can help, that is what we do well and can do together.
There has been a lot of confusion about ventilators. There are not sufficient numbers within the NHS for what we are expected to need. They weren’t ordered in a timely fashion and there is still confusion over who has been asked to make them and who hasn’t. A public appeal went out much later than it should have and now many teams are creating ventilators and other novel forms of aiding lung function and oxygenation. We should have clear information about what has and hasn’t been ordered and the numbers of ventilators we now have on a daily basis. A big thank you to China who sent 300 ventilators to the UK today.
We are not as a country testing enough and are not following the World Health Organisations recommendation to test, test and test. We need to contact trace all contacts of people who are found to be positive and isolate those contacts to contain the spread of the virus, to prevent further outbreaks. We also need to have community testing on a widespread scale to manage the pandemic and understand its pattern and effect. Once we have more knowledge on levels of resistance that develop following recovery from having Covid19, we will be able to determine whether that would enable people to go about their business and lives as normal.
The information on what tests we have and haven’t bought and the missing of targets the government have itself set are woefully inadequate.
Like the NHS the public health system in this country has been reorganised, cut and underfunded. The system has been decimated and the command and control structures that used to exist have been demolished. That is not to say there aren’t exceptional people who still work in public health but their numbers and budgets are mightily reduced.
Financial aid for those most in need.
I can’t write a blog without failing to mention the Government’s economic assistance during the pandemic. The Government must do better for people who are now left with no money. People on zero hours contracts, part time workers and the self-employed. It is good there is a package for people who are self-employed, but it won’t start till June and won’t be available for everyone. Most of the measures theGovernment have introduced have benefited the already wealthy and the economic divide is widening even further. A universal basic income could have a cut-off point and therefore not given to all and certainly not to people who already have sufficient.
I hope by the time of my next blog many of these issues will have been resolved.
The news has just come in that Boris Johnson has been admitted to hospital for further tests. I wish him a speedy recovery. As I do everyone who has been affected by the virus.
This blog will be created by members of the Exec committee on topics of interest to the St Austell & Newquay Labour Party