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LIVE: Full meeting of Cornwall Council, 16 April, 2024

Changes to the authority’s overview and scrutiny arrangements will be on the agenda when Cornwall Council meets in Truro today.

The meeting, which will take place in the Council Chamber at County Hall (Lys Kernow), will also hear an update on the capital programme, and will note the result of last week’s by-election in the Looe West, Pelynt, Lansallos and Lanteglos division.

Two motions have also been submitted for debate, one on the loss of farmland for solar farms, and one on dental care provision for Cornish children. A decision on whether the motions will be debated will be made at the meeting by the Chairman of the council.

There will also be an opportunity for public questions, and for councillors to quiz Cabinet members on their portfolios.

You can follow the meeting via our live blog below, or watch proceedings via our webcast service.

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8.30am: Today's meeting will start at 10.30am.

10.30am: Today's meeting is underway, beginning with prayers.

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10.38am: We now move onto declarations of interest and apologies for absence.

10.40am: We are now hearing the Chairman's announcements.  Cllr Pauline Giles tells the chamber that the council is committed to allowing peaceful protests on its land, while ensuring they do not impede on democracy being carried out.

She ends by paying tribute to former councillor Glenton Brown, who passed away last month.

10.49am: We are now hearing the Leader's announcements.  Cllr Linda Taylor tells the chamber that she is hosting a series of events which will give the public the chance to ask questions on the council's work.
She tells councillors: "Please do come along and encourage residents in your areas to do likewise, these events are only successful if people attend and have their say.
"We are determined to ensure we act as an empowering and enterprising council, and this can only be achieved by listening to our residents and ensuring we are focused on what matters to them."

More information on the events can be found at the Lets Talk Cornwall website.

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10.52am: The minutes of the previous meeting have been approved.  We now move onto public questions.

10.54am: The first question regards whether the council is confident that bus operators in Cornwall will continue to cap their fares at £2 for the rest of 2024.  Cllr Williams-Pears responds by saying it's a policy negotiated by the Department of Transport, and in place until December 1, 2024.

10.56am: The second question regards the safety of horse riders from speeding cyclists on the Camel Train.  Cllr Martyn Alvey responds that the council's policy is supported by partners, and that the council will continue to work to take positive action to improve safety where it is needed.

10.58am: The final public question regards the number of planning applications for solar farms, and whether if they are granted, does the land then become brownfield land.  Cllr Monk responds that solar farms require only minimal footings so land can be returned to its previous condition once the equipment has been removed, and therefore it would not become brownfield land, which is previously developed land.

11.04am: We now move onto the next item on the agenda, noting the result of last week’s by-election in the Looe West, Pelynt, Lansallos and Lanteglos division. The newly elected Cllr, Jim Candy, says he would far prefer to have the previous councillor, Edwina Hannaford, still in the role.  Cllr Hannaford passed away in February after a long illness.

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11.08am: We now move onto the Capital Programme Update, introduced by Cllr David Harris, deputy leader and portfolio holder for resources.  Cllr Harris tells the chamber that the update includes £10 million of borrowing to support the Pydar development in Truro.

Cllr Harris says that he has studied the numbers and is confident the project is worth investing in, and will deliver the best possible outcomes while minimising risk, delivering space for retail, education and housing.

11.15am: Cllr Louis Gardner, portfolio holder for the economy, tells the chamber the project is not just good for the economic vitality of Truro, it is in fact essential.

11.16am: Councillors are now able to comment.  Cllr Rob Nolan, who represents the area, says he believes the project is good for Truro and says he will support it.  He urges fellow councillors to do likewise.  Cllr Lois Rich, also a Truro councillor, says it is not just about the city, and that most of the people who work there commute in from elsewhere in Cornwall, so the project will benefit a wider area.

11.20am: Cllr Jayne Kirkham asks why this extra money has been requested so soon after the budget was set for the next year. Cllr Harris says it took until last month for the figures to be produced correctly, and that it could not have been done before.

11.24am: Cllr John Conway says he does not believe that the council can afford to fund the project at this time, and proposes an amendment to the Capital Programme Update, removing the Pydar element from the figures. 

11.27am:  Cllr Harris does not accept the amendment.  There will now be a debate on the proposed change.  Cllr Adam Paynter is the first to speak, and says he will support the amendment, stating that the project may be good for Truro, but the rest of Cornwall needs investment.

11.29am: Cllr Tim Dwelly says he will not support the amendment, saying that if people support town vitality spending, they should support this.

11.31am: Cllr Andrew Mitchell says it is a difficult choice today, and that the project seems to have run away from officers. He says the council cannot afford it, and it could bankrupt the authority.

11.34am: Cllr Julian German is next to speak, and says he believes that the capital programme is unsustainable, and that this is just kicking debt down the road for another administration to pick up.  He urges colleagues to support the amendment.

11.36am: Cllr Laurie Magowan is next to speak, and says he has real concerns over the project.  He says asking for the extra funding undermines the calls for financial prudence previously made.

11.39am: Cllr Stephen Barnes says he will support the amendment, and that too much money is being spent in Truro compared to the rest of Cornwall.

11.45am:  Cllr Olly Monk, portfolio holder for housing, says he supports the plan, which will provide housing and accommodation for around 1,000 people, all of whom will be spending money in Truro, providing a shot in the arm for both the city and for the whole of Cornwall.

11.51am:  Cllr Dulcie Tudor speaks against the amendment.  She says many of those arguing against the development today were in favour of the scheme when it was first suggested under a previous administration at the authority.

She says the scheme is needed for Truro.

11.53am: Cllr Harris says he is against the amendment.  He tells the chamber he is on top of the figures and that he has been pushing for this report for months.  He calls on the chamber to reject the amendment.

11.56am: Cllr Conway sums up on the amendment, and says the £10 million uplift is the tip of the iceberg.  He calls for councillors to support his amendment, and says they should revisit the project later in the year, when he hopes interest rates may have dropped by then.

11.59am:  The vote on the amendment is taken.  It is defeated by 51 votes to 26, with six abstentions.

12noon: We now return to the original debate.  Cllr Tim Dwelly says the whole debate shows why the council's investment programme requires greater scrutiny.

12.07pm:  Cllr Andrew George says it is a very desirable project, but he is concerned by the number of stalled projects elsewhere across Cornwall, and wants further information on the plans before making a decision.

12.09pm: Cllr Harris sums up on the programme update. He explains that one of the reasons it has taken time to get to this stage is the work undertaken to ensure the project is going to provide value.

He says he has picked at the plans to ensure he is happy with the proposals, and that the cost estimates have been produced by independent experts.

He urges councillors to vote in favour.

12.13pm: A call for a recorded vote does not gain the support required.  The update is approved by 52 votes to 19, with seven abstentions.

12.15pm: We now move onto a series of items from the Constitution and Governance Committee, starting with the item 'Delivering Strategic Priorities in the Planning System'

12.21am: Cllr Andrew Long questions why a committee made up of people without planning expertise has taken a decision directly affecting those on planning committees, and asks for in future if people are making changes to the planning process, those on the affected committees are involved.


12.34pm: The recommendations are approved.

12.35pm: The second item from the Constitution and Governance Committee is the Operation of Provisions Relating to Special Urgency and Call-in.

12.37pm: The item is approved.  The next item is expected to take some, time, so a lunch break is now being taken.  The meeting will restart at 1.20pm.

1.24pm: The meeting is now getting back underway

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1.27pm: We now move onto the third item from the Constitution and Governance Committee, which is on a review of scrutiny.

The proposals are:

1. The Customer and Support Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee be
renamed to the Corporate Finance and Performance Overview and Scrutiny
Committee, the Budget Development Overview and Scrutiny Committee be
established and the identified changes to Article 6, Responsibility for
Functions and the Overview and Scrutiny Procedure Rules be approved to take
effect from the Annual Meeting 2024;
2. The realignment of the Overview and Scrutiny Committees to the revised
Directorate Structure be agreed to take effect from the Annual Meeting in
May 2025;
3. The Chairman and Vice-Chairman of the Council’s Overview and Scrutiny
Committees not both being from the administration and for their election by
secret ballot be agreed to take effect from the Annual Meeting in May 2025.

1.32pm: Cllr Jordan Rowse, vice chairman of Cornwall Council, chaired the review of scrutiny.
He said: "I do believe the changes to the OSC procedure rules and the constitution will help us do scrutiny better at Cornwall Council. Even before we have concluded this piece of work, we already have other local authorities looking to us as leading by example and when it comes to reviewing and improving how local authorities ‘do’ scrutiny.
"However, one of the most important factors in making this work, and I want to take the opportunity today while you are all here in one room, is that we need the buy in from members and officers. We need both members and officers to embrace these changes so we can finally get scrutiny right, once and for all."

1.38pm: Cllr David Harris asks if the committee can next look at the council's Audit Committee to see if it can be aligned with the new rules for selecting chairmen and vice chairmen for scrutiny committees.

1.43pm: Cllr Louis Gardner says he supports the changes apart from the call for secret ballots, which he says will obscure accountability.

1.46pm: Cllr Barry Jordan, chairman of the Constitution and Governance Committee, says he must support the committee's view that secret ballots are necessary in this instance, and does not accept the suggest to remove the proposal.

1.48pm: We are now amending an amendment to remove the words 'secret ballot'.  The first member to speak, Cllr John Conway, says he will support the amendment, and that a councillor should be prepared to stand up and be counted and for the electorate to see how they voted.

1.51pm: Cllr Colin Martin says when it comes to electing people to positions of power, it is a different matter, and that a secret ballot helps the right person for the role get elected rather than anyone being subjected to political pressure.

1.54pm: Cllr Peter Guest asks how you can scrutinise a secret ballot.

1.55pm: Cllr Jayne Kirkham says that, if the current system allows for the best people for the job to be elected, why are all the chairs and vice chairs of the current committees all from the same party

1.56pm: Cllr Julian German says that best practice nationally is for secret ballots in these situations, and tells councillors to listen to the experts.

2pm: Cllr Andrew George says that secret ballots should be avoided where possible, but points out that they are only used in Parliament in situations such as electing committee chairmen where political pressure could affect the vote.

2.02pm: The vote on the amendment is carried, and the words 'secret ballot' will be removed from the text.

2.03pm: We now move back into the debate on the three proposals.  Cllr Jim McKenna is first to speak, and asks whether the council should be tying itself into changes now when there could be a different administration in place when they come into effect.

2.05pm: Cllr Julian German questions why, if these changes are designed to improve scrutiny, why they are not being implemented immediately and are being delayed for 12 months.  He has submitted an amendment calling for the changes to be made from next month, rather than from May 2025.

2.09pm: The amendment is now being debated. Cllr Leigh Frost says he will support the change, and that the changes should all be carried out at the same time, rather than bit by bit.

2.12pm: Cllr Jayne Kirkham says she was on the committee that put forward these changes, and that they were told the changes should be made as quickly as possible.

2.14pm: Cllr Hilary Frank says she was on the committee as well, but did not support delaying the changes to 2025.  She asks, if it it good practice to make these changes, why are they being delayed now?

2.17pm: Cllr Martyn Alvey says the scrutiny committees have been together for three years now, so to change them a year ahead of the next election will mean losing valuable experience.  He says he will not support the amendment. 

2.20pm: Cllr John Conway says he can see little reason for having different dates for the changes. He says it is important for people to have respect for the chairs and vice chairs of these committees, and that he has sympathy for the amendment.

2.24pm: Cllr Chris Wells says he agrees with Cllr Alvey, and that making these changes now will be disruptive, and should be done in May 2025.

2.25pm: Cllr Linda Taylor says she feels it would be reckless to contemplate changing the current chairs and vice chairs and losing the wealth of experience currently in place.

2.33pm: Cllr Paul Wills says this is the way it has always worked with the administration appointing its own people to positions, and that he will not be supporting any amendments.

2.39pm: Cllr Colin Martin tells the chamber that, if the changes are made next year, there is a risk that there will be a wholesale loss of experience all at once, and that if the changes are made this year, it will be a much more manageable process. 

2.44pm:  Cllr Barbara Ellenbroek, portfolio holder for children and families, says she remembers when the previous administration was in power and refused to make these changes.  She says the amendment should be rejected and the original recommendations should be approved.

2.47pm:  Cllr Dick Cole says he wished the debate could focus on scrutiny rather than the mechanics behind the way it works.

2.49pm: The amendment to make the changes in 2024 rather than 2025 is now being voted on, and is rejected.  We now return to the original debate on the recommendations.

2.51pm: Cllr Colin Martin asks if the newly created Budget Development Overview and Scrutiny Committee could be changed to the Budget Development and Climate Action Overview and Scrutiny Committee.

2.55pm: The amendment suggested by Cllr Martin is now being debated.  Cllr Thalia Marrington says she believes that after the council declared a climate emergency, it is the right thing to do.

2.57pm: Cllr Pat Rogerson says that climate should be at the heart of all the council does, and says she will be supporting the amendment.

2.59pm: Cllr Martyn Alvey, cabinet member with responsibility for the environment, says that the climate already sits within the Neighbourhoods Overview and Scrutiny Committee, and that the Budget committee will be focused on the budget.  He suggests the climate could be included in the name of another committee and not in the new Budget Development Overview and Scrutiny Committee.

3.02pm: Cllr Barry Jordan says he feels this is a pointless debate as the climate emergency is everyone's responsibility all of the time, and not down to one committee.

3.06pm: Cllr Colin Martin says he is disappointed not to get support, and that everyone in the council needs to do more to address the climate emergency. The amendment is lost.

3.11pm: We are back debating the original recommendations once more. Cllr Connor Donnithorne tells the chamber that, if you want to scrutinise better, you need to turn up to meetings.  He says that there are processes in place to enable you to scrutinise the work of the council.  He says he is happy to support points one and two but will not support recommendation three.

3.19pm:  Councillors are now voting on the recommendations, including an additional fourth, bringing the audit committee in line with the changes to scrutiny.

3.22pm:  All four recommendations are approved.

3.23pm: We now move onto item 12 on the agenda; motions.  The first concerns loss of farmlands to solar farms.  The chairman has decided the motion can be debated today.

3.24pm: The motion is introduced by Cllr Alan Jewell.  He says the motion is not to stop solar farms, but to remind farmers of their primary purpose; to feed the people of Cornwall.

He concludes: "You can live without electricity, you certainly cannot live without food."

3.28pm: The motion is seconded by Cllr Lionel Pascoe, who says he is not against solar farms, but that they need to be built in the right places, and not on prime farmland.

3.30pm: Cllr Martyn Alvey says he believes planning laws need to change to better protect arable crop-growing land.

3.39pm: Cllr Steve Arthur says he supports the motion but that he feels it does not go far enough.

3.43pm: Cllr Jim Candy and Cllr Dominic Fairman both say they cannot support the motion.  Cllr Candy says the steady income for some farmers from renewable energy could be essential, while Cllr Fairman says that climate change means we need to change the way we approach farming holistically.

4.05pm: The motion is approved to widespread applause from across the chamber.

4.20pm: We now move onto the second motion of the day, calling for the reinstatement of dental services for children of school age in Cornwall.  It is introduced by Cllr Jim McKenna.

4.38pm: Cllr Andy Virr, portfolio holder for adults, asks to add a line to the motion noting the benefits for teeth of fluoridation of drinking water. 

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5.35pm:  The meeting is now closed to the public as the final item on the agenda is to be held in private session.

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