Cornwall Council Report 1/8/20 - Jayne Kirkham - Falmouth Smithick
This week I tried to 'call in' a council decision. Cornwall Council Cabinet have decided to award a massive contract for 'extra care' housing (a bit like the old sheltered housing with care provided on site) to a national company called Mears. Mears have run all sorts of operations before - housing for asylum seekers in Scotland, care, council housing maintenance in places like London and Brighton. They are reported as having a chequered track record. They are a huge company and took over Mitie (which is a name you may know from the recent pay dispute at Treliske). They were the only bidder for the Extra Care contract in the end and the decision did not go through the appropriate scrutiny committee due to Covid. The trades unions and others raised concerns with me about Mears and I was already concerned that such a big contract was going to one national company (so much for local procurement). I spoke to other members of the Health and Social Care Scrutiny Committee, who were worried about the finance details of the deal, and 3 of us 'called the decision in' on a cross-party basis. It's a formal process meaning that we asked for it to be looked at again by the Scrutiny committee. It's very rare that a council decision gets called in in Cornwall. We found out on friday that the Council's chief legal officer hasn't accepted our application! We are reviewing the detail of the decision over the weekend and deciding our next steps.
We also had a Health and Adult Social Care Scrutiny meeting. The first since 11 March when we had had just 5 Covid cases in Cornwall. We had briefings on the Covid response and last year's public health report. Papers are here - The deputy director of Public Health reported that the authority is taking on more responsibility for the tracing local cases and getting more detailed information from the national track and trace system (at last).
It seems there may be money available for cycling infrastructure from central government and we are working on putting a speedy bid in for some of it for Falmouth and Penryn.
You will have seen that Johnson has relaxed restrictions on working hours on construction sites. Many developers in Falmouth are now trying to work 7 days per week, which is really difficult when the builds are in residential areas. I am working with CC to challenge some of these.
And we also had the Labour leader in my division. He spent an afternoon in Falmouth meeting with people trying to run and work in local businesses in the town throughout Covid. His team are planning a members' event when the Covid restrictions on gatherings are over and hopefully we'll get some front bench support for the local elections next May too.
A full on week at Cornwall Council.
On Monday I found out that my Preston-style local spend council motion won’t be progressed until September due to officer holidays in August. However, I did meet with the cabinet member and the chief officer and they are already working on it. I am doing a Labour Business zoom to gather support for it organised by our brilliant LCF business officer, Gareth Looker on 11 August at 12.30pm if anyone is interested to find out more. Do contact me – email@example.com
I spent time at Falmouth Placeshaping meetings sorting out a bid for Falmouth to get some money to improve the town centre and make the town centre safer for people and social distancing. Thank you to Kate and Austin who helped put down the stickers and stencils in the shops and on the streets to remind people to wear facemasks, social distance and use the one way ‘To the Left’ (of course!) walking system in Falmouth. When I went into town the next day, it was busy, but people were only sporadically keeping left, unfortunately. I also attended the first, embryonic meeting to plan joined up cycle routes between Penryn and Falmouth after a year of working with CC Transport officers and the university and cycle groups. We just need the funding now!
In County Hall news, Cabinet met on Wednesday. The main controversy, other than the large hole in the budget and the discussion on the Climate Change development plan document that I mentioned last week, was over the plan to build ‘extra care housing’ for the elderly and other people who need support with living. Care and community provision would be available on site, but each resident would have their own front door. The idea itself is one that is helpful for housing provision in Cornwall, but the controversy was over the choice of just one ‘strategic partner’ to deliver it. A large national company called Mears. Effectively, a privatised service. Many of us raised objections and an emergency health and adult social care scrutiny briefing has been arranged.
On Friday we discovered that the government has decided to claw back the undistributed business grant money meaning that 3,500 Cornish businesses who applied have been left short. This has become a dispute between the Tory government and the LibDem council in which the Cornish businesses and workers have been the ones to lose out.
Jayne Kirkham- Cornwall Councillor for Falmouth Smithick
This week I attended Economy Scrutiny for Cllr Olivier who has had an operation.
The Climate Change Planning document was discussed. This is the first draft of it -https://democracy.cornwall.gov.uk/documents/s136488/Climate%20Emergency%20DPD%20-%20Appendix%202.pdf This will now go to Cabinet and there will be a full consultation afterwards. If it goes through then it should come in in early 2021. Not bad going for a planning document! If you are interested in the Climate Emergency response, this is definitely worth reading and commenting upon.
The other large document discussed at that meeting was the Cornwall Economic Recovery and Renewal Plan – report here -https://democracy.cornwall.gov.uk/documents/s136500/Economic%20Recovery%20and%20Renewal%20Plan.pdf and the draft plan here - https://democracy.cornwall.gov.uk/documents/s136501/Economic%20Recovery%20and%20Renewal%20Plan%20-%20Appendix%201.pdf. This drew some criticism from councillors on some of the ‘command and control’ language. The consultation for the public can be found here - https://letstalk.cornwall.gov.uk/the-cornwall-we-want
We then had a briefing about the Council’s ‘Carbon Neutral Ambitions’ on Friday. The interesting thing about much of this is that the Council, in pursuing a Climate Emergency agenda (encouraging staff to remain working from home, stopping printing, commuting and business miles) is moving in the other direction from the Government who appear to be encouraging people to get back to their offices and workplaces from next month. The Kate Raworth style ‘decision making wheel’ is being rolled out for more council decisions. I suggested it is also adopted for when the council chooses contractors. I am discussing how to progress my Local Spend motion with the Cabinet member and key officer next week.
There are ambitious plans to retrofit Cornwall Housing homes, but so far the money has only been promised from government to ‘zero carbon’ 83 homes. With the hope of a less comprehensive retrofit on a further 600 homes. Still nowhere near where we need to get to considering how much our housing contributes to our carbon footprint. They are also looking at a biomethane pilot on County Farms and renewable energy. Nothing near as bold as ambitious as we need unfortunately, or that we would have with Labour’s Green New Deal.
For more info look at the ‘Carbon Neutral Cornwall Hive’ here - https://letstalk.cornwall.gov.uk/carbon-neutral-cornwall
To contact me – firstname.lastname@example.org
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 email@example.com 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. firstname.lastname@example.org
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 email@example.com
Labour Cornwall Councillor for Falmouth Smithick
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