WEEKEND 11/12 NOVEMBER – WE ARE DOING SOME ADMIN AND UPGRADE OF THE SITE AND FOR TECHY REASONS IT HAS TO BE ON THIS BASIC TEMPLATE OVER THE WEEKEND WHILST WE DO IT. ALL ARTICLES ETC ARE STILL AVAILABLE TO READ SO SHOULDN'T SPOIL YOUR ENJOYMENT THAT MUCH… LOOK OUT FOR THE COMPLETED UPGRADE :)
Sarah Newton, MP for Truro & Falmouth, has been promoted to Minister of State at the Department for Work and Pensions. She will oversee the department within the DWP for people with disabilities.
Mrs Newton previously had a junior position of Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Home Office.
In a large Whitehall department, the next in line after a the Secretary of State, who would sit in the Cabinet, is a Minister of State. They can be thought of as a deputy to the Secretary of State. Larger departments may have several – and they don’t come any larger than the DWP.
Some Ministers of State head their own departments and some attend Cabinet Meetings. They tend to be given their own responsibilities within a department, with the agreement of the Prime Minister. Sarah Newton has been appointed as Minister of State for Disabled People, Health and Work.
The Truro MP has shown an interest in this area previously and has hosted and attended several conferences and seminars in the last couple of years that focus on supported employment and getting more people with disabilities into work.
Despite the vulgarity of the ‘fit for work’ assesments, it always has to be remembered that 95% of people with a disability want to work although if you have a disability you are far more likely to be unemployed. As a whole, there is a 50% unemployment rate for people with disabilities compared to the current 4% in the entire population. The unemployment rate for people with learning disabilities is over 90%. The trick is finding the right job match for the right person and then supporting both worker and employer in the process.
There are several schemes nationally and locally for people with disabilities to access support in work, although DWP schemes like WorkChoice have been dogged with controversy since conception as the ‘payment by results’ model offered to providers encourages profit before people.
Sarah will now be required to answer relevant questions from the dispatch box in the Commons on behalf of the government. The promotion brings her rank along side George Eustice, MP for Camborne & Redruth, who is a Minister of State for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. His responsibilities include Fisheries, food and farming, the CAP (Common Agricultural Policy) and the bovine TB / badger cull policy.
All Ministers, as part of the collective responsibility of government, however junior, will be expected to back the Government in a Commons division or resign.
Cornwall Council today confirmed it is facing a budget gap with £75 million savings needing to be found over the next four years.
Deputy Leader of Cornwall Council Julian German said uncertainties around Brexit, social care funding and welfare reforms all add to a complex picture.
“Like other local authorities across the country, Cornwall Council is facing less funding from central Government, as well as increased pressure as a result of rising demand for services. This means that despite the £300 million savings we have already made, we still have considerable savings to find in the years to come.
“The main grant we receive from central government will be significantly reduced by 2019/20, so we need to find additional ways to fund services. At the same time, demand for our services continues to rise year on year, particularly those services for vulnerable children and adults.
“Cornwall Council provides a huge range of essential services to the people of Cornwall. When times are tough, it is more important than ever to spend resources wisely.
“Each year we prioritise spending on services that make sure children and young people get the best start in life, that communities feel the benefit of economic growth and that support vulnerable residents to live independently.
“To continue to do this we need to make difficult decisions about council tax and we have to look at reducing services.”
The draft budget for 2018-2022 will be discussed by the Cornwall Council Cabinet on Wednesday 15 November. The final budget is submitted to full Council for decision in February 2018.
If you didn’t like the idea of paying £75,000 of Council Tax Payer’s money once on place specialist consultants thinkingplace well hide behind the sofa now….
Cornish Stuff has learnt that the council has ALSO paid another £75,000 to public / private partnership CIC St Austell Bay Economic Forum (SABEF) to establish economic priorities for the St Austell Bay area. And thinkingplace were commissioned to do a simultaneous ‘place shaping’ and investment opportunities consultation specific to the St Austell Area, similar the one they are doing for the whole of Cornwall from this money.
“Follow us and help shape the future of St Austell”
Hiding behind commercial confidentiality, no one will tell us at this stage what percentage of this extra payment makes up thinkingplace’s fee.
Following the media coverage of the original £75k this week, lips have been sealed and although this is public money, no-one wants to talk about it.
SABEF is made up of business people, public sector and elected representatives from unitary and town councils in the St Austell Bay area. James Staughton, Chief Exec of St Austell Brewery is it’s public face and Chairperson.
And funnily enough, we can reveal that thinkingplace actually made a presentation to the SABEF board yesterday.
Their findings are only preliminary at this stage and after the widespread derision of the Lancashire consultants presentation to the Cornwall Leadership Board on Friday, anyone who has seen this one isn’t saying what the findings were.
Let’s hope it’s more than just “make the Eden Project the centre of everything in clay country” eh?
A insider told us “I have not seen the preliminary report yet. An inner group within SABEF have been liaising with Thinkingplace. A draft is meant to be circulated soon but it is unlikely to change much.
There was a meeting of SABEF (on Tuesday) which Thinking Place attended and gave another presentation. In fairness, it was better than the one given to Council on Friday.
The cost of the St Austell work will be less than £75K, that’s a broader grant than just this work”
Our friend added
“The private sector members on SABEF are broadly happy with what has been done. The councillors have varying degrees of scepticism”
Cllr Richard Pears who attends SABEF meetings but is not on the board could only tell us “I had to leave the meeting early yesterday so I didn’t see any of the presentations by the various groups that were there I’m afraid. As for SABEF’s work in progress I have seen some really fantastic projects underway, can’t wait to talk about them but at this stage I feel it would be very unfair of me to comment about any work which is not yet complete”
Also unavailable to comment was Dick Cole, MK Leader, who although seen and heard over the news yesterday complaining of the Cornwall wide thinkingplace report, is it turns out, also a director of SABEF.
Cornwall Council and the LEP recently submitted a response to a call for evidence from the Government’s Migration Advisory Committee. The research was based on a business survey, site visits, feedback from business and public sector bodies and national and local data sources.
Cornwall Council is calling on the Government to “make sure future migration laws deliver the right skills for the Cornish economy to prosper after we exit the EU” – with new research showing that Cornish farms are already unable to fully harvest crops this year due to a sharp fall in migrant labour.
Recent research commissioned by Cornwall Council and the Local Enterprise Partnership found changes to migration laws after Brexit could lead to multi-million pound losses to the Cornish economy if the horticultural industry can’t access the skills and workforce it needs. The research found that following the Brexit vote, recruitment immediately became more difficult for horticultural farms, harvests could not be lifted in full and staffing requirements were already dwindling to 65% of need.
Around 17,000 EU nationals are estimated to be living and working in Cornwall – approximately three per cent of the total population. There is no evidence that migrant labour is displacing the local workforce.
David Simmons of Riviera Produce, one of the biggest producers in Cornwall predicted dire impacts: “If we put strict limits on Eastern European migrant labour or devise alternative immigration policies that limit so-called ‘low-skilled’ labour, the Cornish horticultural industry is finished.”
Council Leader Adam Paynter called for Government to take a place-based approach to future migration and workforce. “Many of our major industries such as horticulture could be severely impacted and are already feeling the pinch with some of our crops rotting in the fields following a sharp fall in the number of EU workers.
“We are working with local partners to improve skills and employment for local people, but there will always be an important place in the Cornish economy for seasonal and migrant workers, particularly in the horticultural industry. We are calling on the Government to take a place-based approach to future migration, to make sure that the Cornish economy has access to skills which may not be highly valued in London but which are vital to a major rural economy like ours”.
Sandra Rothwell, chief executive of the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership said: “What this study demonstrates is that there are parts of the Cornish economy that are heavily reliant on migrant labour and that any emerging policy on movement of EU nationals must take this into account. We cannot afford a one-size fits all solution or the continued uncertainty that has already started to blight the labour market.”
The leader of the Mebyon Kernow group, Dick Cole started proceedings by announcing he had written formally to Adam Paynter, Leader of the Council, to express his concern at the nature of the work on the “strategic narrative” for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.
After taking time to view the webcast of friday’s meeting Cllr Cole said in his letter
“You will already be aware of our misgivings about how the leadership of Cornwall Council commissioned this report for the “Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Leadership Board” without any input from the wider democratic membership of Cornwall Council.
On numerous occasions I have raised concerns about this, and I have also, quite often, asked about the progress of the work being undertaken by the consultants thinkingplace, but have had little or no meaningful feedback. This includes at the most recent meeting of the Economic Growth and Development Overview and Scrutiny Committee on 1st November, which was only two days before the presentation to the “Leadership Board” on 3rd November”
The wider council has had no input into the narrative for Cornwall that the Leadership Board are developing, Cllr Cole claims, and were not consulted about the decision to spend £75,000 on a consultant’s report.
“I am seeking clarity on what the role of the Cornwall Council’s elected members will be in this process in the coming weeks, and when we will be able to have our say about the “vision” for Cornwall should actually be”
Tim Dwelly Leader of the Labour group on the council questioned whether the seats given to Conservative members means the Leadership Board is a back door entrance to the reformation of a Lib Dem / Tory alliance. “Who made Phil Seeva a leader of Cornwall?” he asked, pointing to the failure of the Conservative group in forming an administration after the most recent council elections in May.
Cllr Seeva himself claims to be relaxed about the spending on the report so long as ‘it’s not put in the bottom drawer’ and it brings in the investment it promises. However he made it clear that he was not party to the decision to commission thinkingplace as he was not appointed to the Leadership board until after that decision was taken.
“I’m not anti it” he told CS this afternoon “I considered the £75,000 to be and investment and you can only judge an investment on whether or not you get a return. It’ll be a waste if we do nothing with it”
But the Leadership board has only just convened and met officially for the first time on Friday. The decision to commission appoint the Lancashire consultants must have been taken very quickly after July 25, when Full Council approved the creation of the Leadership Board because thinkingspace say they carried out their ‘extensive programme of engagement’ in August & September. The council said in their previous statement that thinkingspace won the contract ‘through an open and competitive process’.
One Conservative councillor who will be making more of a fuss, and taking further action is newly elected councillor for St Blazey, Pauline Giles
After posting that on Saturday, Pauline told us today “I have asked questions about who decided this, somebody made that decision to spend that money. I’m not happy with the way money is being spent in Cornwall. There’s a responsibility that’s got to be taken by someone here”
Adam Paynter has defended the decision to commission the study. He said the decision to form the Leadership Board was taken by Full Council on 25th July this year and creating a strategic vision for Cornwall was part of that vote.
He told Radio Cornwall “This was a decision full council made, so Dick and the other were in the room and agreed to make a clear vision for Cornwall. Part of the work was 2 different departments from the council and the LEP putting in 25k each to work up that vision for Cornwall going forwards. Councillors have to give the overall direction of travel and then officers have to bring that to life and deliver it so that’s part of this agenda”
The LEP cleared up some confusion when they confirmed to us this afternoon that “it has not funded the work yet but it does anticipate making a contribution of circa £25k”
What is less clear is whether the reports and votes do give enough permission for this money to have been spent without the wider council knowing about it.
In fact it says the creation of a Leadership Board will be cost neutral or even make a saving as the board it replaces met more often.
The report only states under the heading ‘Financial Implications of the proposed course of action/decision’ ,
‘At an operational level, the financial implications of establishing a Leadership Board as proposed, would be met from within existing resources. Main resource implications would be the time commitment from elected Members serving on the Board and administrative support provided by the Customer and Support Services Directorate (meetings are anticipated to be quarterly).
It should be noted that the Leadership Board will replace the Devolution Monitoring Board which has met on a more frequent basis so there will be a cost reduction’.
“A very interesting book on a very under-explored subject. Deacon makes a persuasive argument for changing the traditional model of viewing Cornwalls establishment from a people pushed from their heartland into the cold fringes of Britain into one where a dynamic Cornish kingdom survived the Saxon onslaught with only the loss of its border provinces” – John Fletcher
“Beacon Deacon has an extensive in-depth knowledge on Cornwall and its history and here he has marshalled an incredible amount of research and reflection and reached slightly different conclusions to most other authors in this field” – kernow13