April 15, 2024

South West News

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LIVE BLOG: Full Council, Tuesday, 20 February, 2024

A budget for 2024/25, focused on delivering services for residents despite the fiscal pressures faced by local government, will be put before Cornwall Council this morning.

The meeting of the Full Council will take place at County Hall (Lys Kernow) in Truro, starting at 10.30am.

The cabinet has already endorsed the draft budget for 2024/25, which includes extra funding of more than £20 million for Emergency Housing Accommodation, Home to School Transport and Children’s Social Care, as well as a focus on reducing all unnecessary spending in all areas.

Also on the agenda for the meeting are proposals for the funding of the Tamar Bridge and Torpoint Ferry, recommended changes to the numbers of councillors on committees, and the pay policy statement for 2024/25.

There will also be questions to Cabinet members from the public and from fellow councillors.

You can watch the meeting via the Webcast, or via the live blog below:

Watch the Webcast

9.30am: Today’s meeting will start at 10.30am

10.30am: Today’s meeting is now underway, and we begin with prayers

10.35am: We are now hearing apologies for absence and declarations of interest

10.37am: We move onto Chairman’s announcements.  Cllr Giles begins by congratulating her deputy, Cllr Jordan Rowse on becoming a father.  There are also tributes to former Cllr Roger Bonney, and to Cllr Edwina Hannaford, who passed away recently.

Each group leader is given the opportunity to pay tribute to Cllr Hannaford.

10.40am:  Cllr Colin Martin, the Liberal Democrat group leader, is the first to pay tribute to his colleague, saying it is difficult to overestimate the impact she had on her home town of Looe.

10.46am: Cllr Linda Taylor, council leader, pays tribute to Cllr Hannaford, followed by her fellow Looe Councillor, Armand Toms, who pays tribute to Edwina, the person and not just the politician.  

10.50am: An emotional Cllr Toms concludes: “This council has lost a great councillor, and I have lost a friend.”

10.51am: Cllr Dick Cole, leader of the Mebyon Kernow and Green group tells the council that Edwina was someone it was ‘impossible not to like’.

10.52am: Cllr Jayne Kirkham, Labour group leader pays tribute, saying Edwina was ‘inspirational, decent and kind’ and a shining light.

10.54am: A minutes silence is held in a clearly moved chamber.

10.55am: The leader’s announcements are interrupted by protestors calling for a ceasefire in Gaza.  The meeting is adjourned temporarily.

10.59am:  The meeting resumes after the protestors are removed.  Cllr Taylor tells the chamber she was delighted to welcome the Rt Hon Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities to Cornwall last week, where he announced new rules requiring planning permission for properties to be used as short term lets – something the council has been campaigning for.

Cllr Taylor said: “This announcement is a clear demonstration of how Cornwall’s voice is heard loud and clear in Westminster, and how we can influence national policy.

“It also shows how we are listening to the residents of Cornwall too.  As was the case in 2021 and again in last year’s residents’ survey, the number one priority that came back was the provision of affordable housing, which intensified the calls for the policies announced yesterday.

“We listened to the people of Cornwall and the Government listened to us when we lobbied them for the changes, and I look forward to seeing them become a reality and making a real difference.”

11.01am: We now move onto the minutes of the last meeting.

11.04am: We now move onto public questions, which begin with a question on support for meat-free diets by developing a plant-based food strategy.

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11.10am:  The second question notes the council is a full and committed signatory to United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child – and asks when the council will reflect that commitment.  Cllr Barbara Ellenbroek states that the council takes the issue seriously and does all within its powers to uphold the rights of children.

11.13am: The next two questions revolve around the Tamar Bridge tolls, and the situation in Gaza.

11.18am: There are three more questions on the Tamar Bridge and a proposed toll rise.  You can watch the questions and answers in full on our webcast service.

Cllr Williams-Pears explains that a debate and a vote on the proposed rises will take place later in the meeting.

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11.20am:  Cllr Olly Monk introduces the Housing Revenue Account for approval. He tells the chamber the plans will see £656 million invested in homes across Cornwall in the next 30 years.

11.23am: The HRA is seconded by Council Leader Cllr Linda Taylor, who says her administration both wants to and needs to make a difference in housing.

11.25am: Cllr Julian German begins the debate on the HRA, asking the council’s monitoring officer why the Tenant’s Forum’s response is not included in the report.

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11.46am: Cllr Linda Taylor reiterates her belief that the announcement made by Michael Gove last week will be a real boost for housing in Cornwall.

12.08pm: The HRA is approved.  We now move onto a debate on the Tamar Bridge and Torpoint Ferry funding.

12.10pm: Cllr Richard Williams-Pears is explaining to the chamber how the process works for raising the tolls on the bridge and ferry via the joint committee, which is made up of members of Cornwall Council and Plymouth City Council.

12.11pm: Cllr Williams-Pears tells the council that the committee is recommending an increase in the tolls to £3, and to £1.50 for TAG users.  He says there are two reasons – a rise in costs due to inflation, and a reduction in traffic levels since the pandemic.

12.13pm: He tells the chamber that a budget has to be in place by 1 April, and that, if this is not done, it could cost the taxpayer £200,000 a month, or could see TAG users, those who use the bridge the most, facing higher charges.

12.15pm: Cllr Williams-Pears tells the chamber that he is amending the original proposal to state that, if the Government does provide extra funding for the Tamar Bridge, then the proposed toll increases will be changed to reflect the scale of any extra money provided.

12.17pm: Cllr David Harris, deputy leader and portfolio holder for resources, seconds the amendment.

12.20pm: The proposals are now being debated by the full council.

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12.24pm: Cllr Phillip Desmonde has put forward an amendment calling for a deferral on the decision to raise tolls until April’s Full Council meeting.  He tells the chamber that local MP Sheryll Murray has written to the Secretary of State calling for extra funding for the bridge, and suggests time should be given to see what response is forthcoming.

12.28pm: The council’s monitoring officer speaks to advise the council that the amendment would mean that no fixed budget would be in place by 1 April.

12.40pm:  Cllr Colin Martin has put forward a second amendment calling for any decision to be deferred until after a general election.

12.48pm: Cllr David Harris states that the amendment is irresponsible as it could cost Cornwall Council money if there is no immediate funding solution found following any election – which could be as late as January 2025.

12.55pm:  The monitoring officer has outlined concerns on the amendment, including the effectiveness of the Joint Committee going forwards if the council does not agree the budget.

1.03pm: Cllr Louis Gardner reminds colleagues that they will be debating a very difficult budget later in the meeting – and that any decision to amend this proposal will mean they will have less money in the future.

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1.05pm: A vote will now be taken on the amendment

1.10pm: Summing up ahead of a vote on the amendment, Cllr Williams-Pears says that the changes would amount to ‘financial insanity’.

1.12pm: The amendment is rejected by 38 votes to 15 votes. We return to the original motion.

1.13pm: Cllr Armand Toms is now speaking, saying that any vote to increase tolls will affect those living in the South East of Cornwall the most.

1.38pm: We are now moving to the vote.  Cllr Desmonde is requesting clarity on the amendment.  He is asking for it to be official that a letter requesting the toll increase will be delayed until April.  

Cllr Williams-Pears says he is happy to include a delay of 55 days for the issuing of the letter to the Secretary of State if it means the vote is carried today.

1.42pm: The vote will now be taken.  An initial vote on whether it will be a recorded vote will be taken first.

1.44pm: There will be a recorded vote.

1.48pm:  The budget for the Tamar Bridge is approved by 38 votes to 36.  We will now break for lunch.

2.25pm:  The meeting is set to start again, with the budget for 2024/25 next on the agenda.

2.26pm: No alternative budgets have been received, so the only item for debate is the budget as it appears on the agenda papers.

Read the Agenda

2.29pm: Cllr David Harris introduces the budget, and details the challenges facing local authorities currently.

He concludes: “We are a huge organisation. Demand for our services keeps increasing as does the cost of delivering those services. I have said it before and will keep saying it, if we don’t have a radical review of our financial settlement then we will be bust inside two years.”

2.37pm: Cllr Linda Taylor seconds the budget.  She thanks Cllr Harris for his work on an ‘extremely challenging budget’ and says it will only get tougher going forwards.

2.42pm:  Cllr Julian German is speaking for the Independent group, and says residents are struggling, and that political choices can be made, highlighting areas where changes could be made.

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2.45pm:  Cllr Colin Martin, leader of the Liberal Democrats, is next to speak, calling the budget ‘disastrous’.

2.50pm: Cllr Dick Cole, leader of Mebyon Kernow, speaks next.  He says he agrees with Cllr Harris that the figures for the next few years are frightening, and that he supports the call for fairer funding from the Government.

2.53pm: Cllr Jayne Kirkham, leader of the Labour group, is next to speak on the budget.  She says that the burden on the tax payer has grown in recent years, and that the people who can afford it the least are those who are being hit the hardest.

3.40pm: After a lively debate, we now move to the vote on the budget. The budget has been approved by 44 votes to 25.

Read the Agenda

3.50pm: The next item on the agenda is a Review of the Chief Officers Employment Committee Terms of Reference, which is approved immediately. We now move onto the next item, looking at Political Proportionality and Committee Sizes, recommending that one extra councillor is added to committees.

4.03pm: The agenda item is approved.  We now move onto the election of chairmen, and how to deal with when there is a tied vote.  Currently, the matter is decided by the toss of a coin, while the new proposal will be for drawing lots instead.

4.12pm: The application to change the method of election is lost, meaning it will be an individual decision on the day  to decide how to choose a winner in the event of a tied vote

4.14pm: We now move onto the Licensing of Hackney Carriages, Private Hire Vehicles and Operators – Application Fees.  The item is carried.

4.20pm:  We are now moving onto the next item; Licensing of Relevant Protected Sites – Fees Policy.  The paper is approved.

4.22pm: We now move onto the Pay Policy Statement for 2024-2025.  The item is approved unanimously.

4.24pm:  We now move onto the final item on today’s agenda – councillors questions to Cabinet members.  There is an hour set aside for these questions.

5.16pm: Today’s meeting has now ended.