Friday, 8 February 2013

Council tax benefit, planning policy panel and an interim Chief Executive

Apologies for my failure to blog for the last ten days or so. This has simply been a consequence of back-to-back meetings, and I would like to bring readers up-to-date with some key activities of the past two weeks.

At the Full Council meeting on 29th January, Cornwall councillors debated the consequences of the decision by the Conservative and Liberal Democrat Coalition to pass responsibility for council tax benefits onto Cornwall Council, with an inadequate funding allocation that left a massive financial black-hole of over £5 million. Conservative councillors and most independents voted to impose 25% council tax on low income households of working age. It was a disappointing meeting and I am proud that all MK councillors opposed the administration on this telling vote.

Two days later, I chaired a meeting of the Planning Policy Advisory Panel to review a number of issues relating to the Cornwall Local Plan and make further representations to the next Full Council meeting on 12th February. The paperwork for the meeting totalled 594 pages. Members reiterated opposition to the long-standing officer recommendation for housing targets of about 49,000 as well as their revised target of 45,400, in favour of a figure of 38,000 that I put forward.

We also increased affordable housing targets, agreed to revise how new homes could be brought forward by local people in rural areas, sought a review of retail policy, and agreed that further work needed to be done on the cumulative impact of wind turbines. The majority of the Panel also wished to continue to support the planned eco-town near St Austell - I was one of two councillors who opposed the project.

We have also had the news that the Royal Cornwall Hospital Trust (RCHT) has decided not to enter into a joint venture with Cornwall Council and British Telecom, throwing the whole “part-privatisation” project – which has consistently been opposed by MK councillors – into doubt.
And today, I sat on the nine-strong interview panel for the post of “interim Chief Executive,” following the decision of Kevin Lavery to resign from his employment with the Council. We were unanimous in recommending the present Assistant Chief Executive, Paul Masters (see right), for the role and this will go forward to Full Council next week.

I am very pleased with the recommendation. Paul is a Cornishman, who joined North Cornwall District Council as a young man and has worked his way up through the ranks of the former district council and into the unitary authority, building up an extremely comprehensive understanding of local government in Cornwall. Paul is wedded to Cornwall and I trust his appointment will be a good for Cornwall.

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