Tuesday, 11 November 2014

TRAC Report and Meeting

Cornwall Council has published their final report and evaluation of the TRAC and CYCLE projects in and around Launceston, Bude and Caradon Hill. The project failed to deliver many of its objectives.

There will be a meeting at 6pm next Tuesday to discuss the project and report. I'm grateful to council officers Peter Marsh and Steve Wood for coming to make a presentation and answer questions. The meeting is open to the public and will be at the Town Hall - Otho Peter Room - at 6pm.

As promised some time ago, the report is available here or you can read it below.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Resignation as a cabinet member

Today I have resigned as a member of Cornwall Council's cabinet. This is the text of the letter I sent to the Leader, John Pollard:
Dear John
As you know, I am currently dealing with a personal issue. I am therefore writing to tender my resignation from the cabinet with immediate effect.
I would like to say what an honour it has been to be part of Cornwall's cabinet. I believe that we have achieved a huge amount. The new budget is extremely tough but I believe that it is the fairest and best way of addressing the challenge that Cornwall faces over the next four years. We have managed to cut huge amounts of waste in order to focus on high quality front line services and I believe we have done our best for Cornwall.
I hope and expect to be able to address the personal issues I am dealing with and one day to be in a position to regain my seat at cabinet. But that is for sometime in the future. In the meantime I wish you and my other colleagues well. I thank you all for your support, but particularly Jeremy who has been unflinching in his support and advice throughout our time on the council.
I will continue to work my hardest for the people of Launceston.
Yours ever


This is his reply:

Dear Alex

Thank you for your letter, please accept this email as my acceptance of your resignation.

Thank you for all you’ve done for Cornwall.

Oll an  gwella


I don't intend to make any further comment at this time. Many thanks.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Lib Dems campaign for end to second home tax loophole

Lib Dems in Cornwall are campaigning to end a loophole being used by some second home owners to avoid paying either council tax or business rates.

As the cabinet member in charge of finance in Cornwall, I have been asking ministers to close the loophole. Now Julia Goldsworthy, the Lib Dem parliamentary candidate for Camborne, Redruth and Hayle has written to the Chancellor.

Here's how the loophole works:
  1. A second home owner is normally liable for full council tax on their property (two years ago the government removed the requirement to give a discount on second homes and the council immediately moved to require full payment to be made). The average council tax in Cornwall is just over £1400.
  2. But if they declare that the property is actually a holiday let and available to rent for 140 days or more per year then they can classify it as a business and be liable for business rates. The average business rates for any business with the word holiday in the category is about £1030, but this includes vast holiday parks so in practice the average for holiday lets is far less. 
  3. But most holiday lets are able to claim small business rate relief which reduces their payment to zero.
The decision as to whether a property is actually a business or residential is taken by the Valuations Office Agency - an independent body over which the council has no control. I have asked the government to ensure that they are applying the current rules correctly and to make sure that the VOA obtains evidence that the property is actually a genuine holiday let before they re-classify it.

This dodge is currently legal, but it means that Cornwall Council is missing out on potentially millions of pounds of income which could help to support services which are facing the axe. That is why we want the government to take action to end the dodge. But in the meantime we want an assurance that only genuine holiday lets are being moved from council tax to business rates.

Friday, 17 October 2014

Medical Centre expansion

A meeting to discuss the expansion of Launceston Medical Centre has been scheduled for 7pm on Thursday, December 18th in the Guildhall at Launceston Town Hall.

Dan Rogerson MP, a representative from NHS England, Paula Bland and Jo Beer from local Clinical Commissioning Groups, and Peter Harper from Launceston Medical Centre will all be attending.

Please put it in your diary if this is an issue you are concerned about.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Costa seek permission to place tables and chairs in town square

Costa, who have already secured permission to change the former shop at 24 Broad Street in the town centre into a coffee shop, are now seeking permission to put tables and chairs outside in the square.

You can view the plans and make comments one the Cornwall Council website using the application number PA14/09343.

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Road closures in Launceston

Three more road closures in town coming up:

1. Launceston Carnival - Saturday 11th October
Don't forget that lots of the roads in town will be closed on Saturday evening for the carnival. See you there!

2.   Windmill Hill, Launceston
Timing:            17th to 28th November 2014 (24 hours, weekends included)
Reason:          Transformer replacement works
Contact:          Western Power Distribution, Tel: 0800 365 900

3. Riverside, Launceston
Timing:            24th November to 12th December 2014 (24 hours, weekends included)
Reason:          Sewer lining works
Contact:          South West Water, Tel: 0844 346 2020

Police should share front desks with council rather than close down the service

Following the decision by the Police and Crime Commissioner Tony Hogg to agree the closure of many of the police front desks across Cornwall, I have written to him asking him to talk urgently to the council about whether the police could share front desks with the council via our one stop shop network rather than close down the service.

Having easy access to the police is important to many residents and, while I understand the budget pressures facing the force, I am concerned that closing this many will have a significant impact on the local service. Cornwall Council is already talking to the force about sharing front desk services to some extent in Truro and I would hope that they would consider what could be done in other areas too.

Cornwall Council is facing massive budget challenges over the next four years and needs to save money in all areas. Combining our work with other public services, including the police, makes a lot of sense The two organisations could share costs and both could save money whilst preserving their service.

With the front desks scheduled to close on November 1st there is only a short time for action to preserve this service and I hope to hear back from Mr Hogg shortly.

Here is the text of my letter:
Dear Tony

Thanks for the meeting last Friday and for setting out the position of yourself and of the police regarding the closure of front desks including Launceston.

You will be aware that both Cornwall Council and the police are part of Cornwall's public sector group and Supt Julie Fielding is leading on the issue of property. Cornwall has also successfully bid to be part of the government's One Public Estate Project.

I appreciate the arguments made for closing front desks, but I know you will accept that there is still a desire among the public to have a face to face service from the police. Whilst you have said that the decision to close the desks will not be reversed, I am writing to ask whether you will agree to look further at co-operation between the police and council with a view to providing some police front counter services via our network of One Stop Shops.

I don't seek at this stage to prescribe what should or should not be the outcome of such talks, and there may well be some functions of the front counter which are inappropriate for our libraries and one stop shops. But I am of the view that it would be wrong not to at least explore the possibilities as a matter of urgency. As you yourself have said, the 101 service is still not working as it should and residents will be, in my view, rightly anxious about the decision to close their face to face access to police.

I look forward to hearing from you


Alex Folkes
Cabinet Member for Finance and Resources