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Archives for February 2012

From Rob Saltmarsh, Inox managing director

Graham Smith | 19:25 UK time, Wednesday, 29 February 2012

By Email
29th February 2012
Dear Councillor,
Ref: Inox Group

I am writing to you following a recent email from Councillor Bob Egerton that was
sent to all members of Cornwall Council in relation to my company Inox Group.

Inox Group (trading as Inox Property Ltd as stated on Inox Group's website under the
privacy section) is the company that applied for and secured outline planning consent
for the Stadium for Cornwall at Threemilestone last year, and has submitted the
Langarth application for a sustainable mixed-use community at Threemilestone,
which will be considered by the Strategic Planning Committee on 5th April.

Councillor Egerton's email makes a number of points that need to be addressed.
Inox Group was established in 2005/06 and commenced trading in 2008 to pursue a
number of development opportunities across the UK and to create a recognised brand
in the market place. Although a relatively 'young company', Inox's investors and
development partners have an extensive track record, both in the real estate industry
and the general field of business.

For each project we usually establish a development vehicle in the form of a limited
company. As managing director of Inox Group I am listed as a director of some of
these holding companies. On completion/sale of the individual project, the limited
company is usually dissolved. This is recognised practice in the development industry
and is fully accepted by HMRC.

Some of the companies that Councillor Egerton mentions, of which I am a director,
are listed as 'dormant' at Companies House because they relate to projects that are in
the process of being brought forward, or are yet to commence and therefore no
promotional or development expenditure has been incurred. This is particularly
evident in the case of Exemplar Projects (Truro) Ltd, which is joint applicant for the planning applications at Langarth, but would not commence trading until construction
began and hence would remain dormant until such a time.

Other companies may show a trading loss, year on year, because they reflect the
significant up-front costs of bringing a development project to fruition over say, 3-5

At no time have I stated that I personally fund any of our projects or indeed that I am
anything other than the Managing Director of the lnox Group and associated
companies. I deal with the day to day running of the companies and am the 'face' of
the business. I also have my own property related interests which are completely separate to the Inox Group. For example, 122 Kew Road Ltd, which is a flat management company, managing the London based property of the same name, of which I am an owner and Ikona Developments Ltd that recently developed a small housing scheme, which has now been completed and sold. Both sets of accounts are with Companies House for processing (signed 21st February 2012). I have also relinquished my interest in Riversvale Ltd and am no longer a director of the company, as of 31st October 2011.
This will be reflected in the company's annual return which is due on 14th March

In regards to Inox Group's two separate planning applications at Langarth, we have so far incurred ongoing costs of £1.9 million. This includes money we have spent for
both the stadium and residential applications. Inox became involved in the Langarth
projects at the end of 2009.

We do not have extensive numbers of employees, as for each development project we
employ a specialist external project team, which can consist of anything up to 15
individual consultancy firms. And because we work across the UK, we have little
need to enter into a long term lease on office space that does not meet our needs;
hence the reason for occupying Grade A serviced office accommodation in the centre
of Exeter, where we have been based since 2008. Several well known UK-based
companies also occupy space within the building.

Inox Group is backed by private equity investors, both institutional and individual,
who forward-fund our development activity. If planning permission for a development is granted they make their return once the development is sold. In the case of the Langarth development, these investors would fund the infrastructure necessary for delivering the scheme, including roads and services. We would then sell serviced development plots on a phased basis over a number of years. On each project, Inox Group enters into partnership agreements with major PLC house builders.

In the period 2006-2010, Inox Group's associated companies have sold property
assets with a gross development value of £65m, despite a very challenging market. A
complete overview of transactions are not accessible on the Companies House
website and not all associated companies have myself as a director, so I would be
happy for our accountants to confirm this position if required.

Councillor Egerton also points out that the financial accounts for Inox Group's
associated companies are overdue. This is correct and relates to Inox Property Ltd and
Inox Capital Ltd. This was due to an internal valuation exercise that was undertaken,
which lasted longer than expected. Accounts were filed with Companies House on
21st February 2012 and no doubt their website will be updated in due course.

In his email Councillor Egerton asserts that Inox Group has promised to make a
substantial financial contribution towards the construction costs of the Stadium for
Cornwall. This is not the case. We have made no promises whatsoever and our
position remains that we do not intend to fund the capital costs of the stadium, but we
may be able to facilitate third party investment.

Inox Group have made it very clear from the beginning that we would finance the outline planning application and provide the land area for the stadium, at no cost to the Council or indeed taxpayer. We have also made it clear that the residential scheme would provide for a dual-use of infrastructure and would therefore aid with the viability of delivering a stadium at Langarth.

Recent discussions with the Council's economic team have led to the formation of
Cornwall Community Stadium Ltd (CCS Ltd), which includes Truro College, Cornish Pirates RFC and Inox Group (myself as a director). This company has been formed to
enable the costs of the detailed planning application to be met and also could act as a
vehicle for the future management / delivery of the stadium.

Inox Group has been in talks with third party private investors, and there is potential
interest in funding the project but there is presently no formal agreement in place that
would guarantee private sector funding. I believe this will remain the case until the
revenue/rental model that is currently being developed is finished and is shown to be
viable and deliverable. At this point, then it is possible that CCS Ltd could deliver the
stadium project with third party private sector support.

In relation to Inox providing direct funding into the stadium project from monies that
would otherwise be used to fulfil its Section 106 obligations for its residential
application, this will absolutely not happen and not a penny of the S106 monies due to
the Council will be used to fund the stadium project. Inox will comply with all legal
obligations, as set out by the S106 agreement and will deliver in full these obligations.

The significant S106 package will include the single largest allocation of affordable
housing in Cornwall for years, some 525 affordable homes for local people. Significant new jobs will be created and we already have expressions of interest from Truro based firms, wishing to acquire the planned community uses, such as the medical centre and care home. The delivery of open market housing will also enable a multi-million pound investment into upgrading infrastructure, including roads, public transport sewers and extensive play and recreational areas which will benefit the whole of Truro. Inox Group genuinely believes that both proposals at Langarth are exceptional and will offer a huge boost to the local economy.

It is disappointing that Councillor Egerton did not contact me directly prior to his email to members. Equally, I would have appreciated the opportunity to comment prior to the email being posted online by Graham Smith at BBC Radio Cornwall.

Because Councillor Egerton felt the need to cast doubt over my professional integrity
and indeed Inox Group's credentials, I have attached a letter of reference for your
information. I have also written separately to Councillor Egerton to offer to meet with
him, to discuss any genuine concerns he may have.

I would also like to lay to rest, unequivocally, comments made in the press by Councillor Dyer, that Inox Group have agreed to sell the Langarth residential site to Manchester City Football Club and Manchester City Council to create a retirement village for people from Manchester, as being entirely untrue. To state further that local people will not benefit from the Langarth proposals and the scheme will become a burden on local services is inaccurate at best. Again, I have written separately to Councillor Dyer and offered to meet with him also.

On a personal note, I have genuinely enjoyed engaging with many positive and proactive people, who have no agenda other than to provide first class facilities for the
people of Cornwall. However, I have found it disheartening that some choose to treat
the stadium as nothing more than a political football.

I would be happy to answer any further questions you may have.

Rob Saltmarsh
Managing Director
Inox Group

Then and now

Graham Smith | 09:08 UK time, Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Here is the full interview with Inox's Rob Saltmarsh, broadcast on BBC Radio Cornwall on 15th September. Compare his distinct lack of enthusiasm for investing in the stadium with the business plan published by the council:

"The cost of construction can be met in the majority by the individual members of CCSL. The Council has not previously made provision for any capital contribution to the stadium's construction costs and the Council's Leader has indicated that it is unlikely that any such contribution would be made. The constituent members of CCSL have indicated that the majority of the capital costs can be met by them..."

It is of course possible that Rob has changed his mind - I hope to hear from him later today. But if the Inox position has not changed, then what are we to make of the council's business plan?

Conspiracy or cock-up?

Graham Smith | 21:28 UK time, Tuesday, 28 February 2012

I have now spoken to several members of Cornwall Council's Conservative group and none has been able to tell me why Scott Mann resigned. Scott himself is reluctant to add to the resignation email he sent to council leader Alec Robertson - an email which claimed the "straw that broke the camel's back" was some secret plot to fund the stadium.

The council, by its dogged refusal to answer the inevitable detailed questions, is doing its best to make this look like a conspiracy to use taxpayers' cash for soft loans, guarantees and/or infrastructure. But I have a feeling that Inox, promising to answer comprehensively a whole host of detailed questions tomorrow, might be about to demonstrate that the cock-up theory of history once more prevails.

A shame. I much prefer conspiracies, they are such fun and like every other journo I'm still looking. But really good conspiracies call for a degree of competence not normally associated with local government - and with so many critics eager to find holes in the stadium business plan, it would require a world class magician to pull this off.

Jumpers for goalposts

Graham Smith | 10:54 UK time, Tuesday, 28 February 2012

On 15th September last year, the Inox managing director Rob Saltmarsh spent nearly an hour discussing the Truro stadium project with my BBC Radio Cornwall colleague Laurence Reed. He made it quite clear that Inox was not planning to invest in the stadium.

Laurence: "Is your company going to paying anything towards this venture?"
Rob: "Not towards the stadium."

I will upload the whole interview when I find a way to squeeze the large audio file onto this blog. It is hard to avoid the impression that what we are talking about is a very large housing estate, which might or might not have a sports/recreation area nearby.

Meanwhile here is a shorter interview, broadcast on the same day, with Cornwall Council's head of economic development, Sandra Rothwell. She makes it clear that not one penny from the associated housing project can be used to fund the stadium.

And here is the relevant extract from last week's Scrutiny Committee meeting, which perhaps explains why many councillors feel they don't yet have a business plan:

Capital Funding

34. As identified earlier in this report the capital cost for a 10,000 capacity stadium (including all stands and a mezzanine floor) is approximately £15,200,000. The cost of construction can be met in the majority by the individual members of CCSL. The Council has not previously made provision for any capital contribution to the stadium's construction costs and the Council's Leader has indicated that it is unlikely that any such contribution would be made. The constituent members of CCSL have indicated that the majority of the capital costs can be met by them with a shortfall being the subject of
borrowing on the part of CCSL.
Revenue Funding

35. An operational revenue model has been developed and is being refined by CCSL. More work is required due to the uncertainties around the capital funding package and the potential involvement of interested parties.

Stadium rocks as Bob looks for the Inox piggy-bank

Graham Smith | 18:33 UK time, Monday, 27 February 2012

Cornwall Council insists it has no plans to spend public money on the proposed Truro stadium. Would the offer of soft loans, guarantees and infrastructure costs - if such offers were ever to be made - count as spending public money? I'm only asking - but until the council puts someone up for interview on this it's going to be hard to be sure.

And so as the plot thickens over Scott Mann's dramatic resignation, I'm grateful to Alex Folkes for drawing my attention to this email from councillor Bob Egerton to all members of Cornwall Council. Bob has kindly sent me a copy.

Inox is the organisation that applied for planning permission for the Stadium for Cornwall and is also hoping to develop a large number of houses in that area. You may be curious to find out who Inox really are.

There is a website
In the section of the website entitled "Projects", there are 6 pages as follows:
Olympia, Glasgow Coming soon
Truro, Cornwall Coming soon
North Devon Coming soon
Whitby, Yorkshire Coming soon
Sandy, Bedfordshire Coming soon
South Devon Coming soon
Curious that there is no mention of projects that have actually been finished, or even started.
The address for Inox Group is given as The Senate Building, Southernhay Gardens, Exeter. Nice prestigious address. Although the Inox group has ambitions to deliver a £300 million build project in Truro, they are keeping their costs down by not taking a vast amount of office space on a long lease; instead, they are renting a serviced office from Forsyth Business Centre in that building. This could be as little as a work station and a phone line. Very prudent.
In the section "About Us", there is wording on Our Vision, Our Objectives and Our Prospects, but no mention of any particular individuals or even of any particular limited company. Inox Group is not a registered limited company, although there are a few registered limited companies with the word Inox in the title (more later).
Technically, it is an offence under the Companies Act not to display on a business website the name of the legal organisation, whether it be a sole trader, partnership or limited company that is responsible for the site. In the case of a limited company this should include the proper registered name of the company and the registered number. However, this is probably just an oversight and I expect that Devon Trading Standards have got more pressing issues on their desks to pursue.

Limited companies
The title Inox Group is not specific as to what it encompasses. However, there are 3 limited companies with the first word Inox in their names that have The Senate Building, Exeter as their registered office address. There is also Exemplar Projects (Truro) Ltd. at the same address. Some information about these companies (all in the public domain at Companies House) is as follows.
Inox Property Ltd. incorporated 2008. Last accounts up to 28/2/10 showed a net worth of minus £72k. The following year's accounts have not yet been submitted and are marked in Companies House as "Overdue".
Inox Capital Ltd. incorporated 2010. No accounts yet filed. Accounts were due to be filed by 19/2/12, but Companies House has them marked as "Overdue".
Inox Capital Investment Ltd. incorporated 2010. Accounts to 30/6/11 filed and marked as "Dormant", i.e. no significant financial transaction had occurred in the period covered by the accounts.
Exemplar Projects (Truro) Ltd. incorporated 2009. Accounts to 30/11/10 filed and marked as "Dormant".
Mr Robin Saltmarsh is a director of all four of those companies. His fellow directors vary by company, but they all have the surname Saltmarsh.
Mr Robin Saltmarsh is also a director of Cornwall Community Stadium Ltd., the recently formed company that is the planned vehicle for the stadium project. (Co-directors are a Truro College employee and a person with a London address.)
Mr Saltmarsh is also a director of 5 other companies:
Moorlands (Whitby) Ltd.
Sustainable Projects (Sandy) Ltd.
Riversvale Ltd.
Ikona Developments Ltd.
122 Kew Road Ltd.
The accounts for the first two of those companies are marked as dormant. The accounts of the other three are all marked by Companies House as "Overdue".
So, Mr Saltmarsh is a director of nine companies as well as the Stadium company. Of those nine companies, the accounts for four are dormant, the accounts for the other five are overdue in Companies House.
One could say that being late with the submission of one set of accounts is unfortunate; being late with two sets of accounts could be seen as careless; I am not sure what the right adjective is to describe being late with five sets of accounts.

Inox has promised to make a substantial financial contribution towards the Stadium project. (I cannot tell you how much they have promised because that was in part 2 of the Environment and Economy Scrutiny Committee meeting last week.) The problem is that I do not know where the money is going to come from. It certainly cannot come from within the balance sheets of any of the "Inox Group". Perhaps they are waiting on a postal order from their auntie?

Curiouser and curiouser.

I look forward to putting these questions to Inox when I get to the office tomorrow, but Bob knows what he's talking about and his email seems to have walked that fine line between drawing on publicly-available sources without disclosing details of last week's confidential meeting - although I have now spoken to three councillors who attended that meeting who say they don't understand why it was closed to the press and public because, in their judgement, there was nothing on the table that could genuinely be described as commercially confidential.

It's also strange that this routine due-diligence research seems to have escaped the stadium feasibility study, which has already cost taxpayers £120,000.

I had hoped to learn more about this at the next meeting of the council's cabinet on 14th March. Sadly, this meeting has been postponed. The next full council meeting on 27th March, therefore, looks like being a real barrel of laughs, particularly if any mischievous members should seek to ask impertinent questions about funding for the stadium.

Lib Dems won't contest Police Commissioner election

Graham Smith | 11:05 UK time, Monday, 27 February 2012

It's official - the Liberal Democrats, until two years ago demonstrably Cornwall's largest political party with all five Members of Parliament, will not contest the election for a Police Commissioner in November.

This decision, taken by the Devon and Cornwall regional executive over the weekend, is likely to irritate many grassroots activists.

The official party line - not wanting to "politicise" the issue of law and order - is one which the Liberal Democrats nationally hope will deflect attention from the dramatic drop in their poll support since the 2010 general election. But several local officials have told me they think this is the wrong decision, believing the whole point of political parties is to organise for and contest elections which are driven by the need to develop public policy.

So far only the Conservative and Labour parties have said they will definitely field candidates in Police Commissioner elections. The Lib Dems are now hoping an "independent" candidate emerges for Devon and Cornwall who they feel they can rally behind.

Lib Dems to duck Police Commissioner contest?

Graham Smith | 06:59 UK time, Monday, 27 February 2012

The Devon and Cornwall Liberal Democrats met at the weekend and made a decision, but won't say what it is. Apparently they need the help of national officials to agree the wording of a statement. I hope to get to the bottom of this later today, but I would have thought that if the Lib Dems were to fight this election, they would be keen enough to say so.

Scott Mann quits

Graham Smith | 17:53 UK time, Friday, 24 February 2012

Congratulations to Andrew Wallis for this scoop! It's only ten months since Scott got the job, and reminds us all that council leader Alec Robertson's command of his Conservative group is wafer-thin.

The council now has the weekend to think about how it will respond to all this. If it is true that there is some secret plot to pour taxpayers' money into the stadium, I doubt it will stay secret for long.

Market forces

Graham Smith | 10:43 UK time, Thursday, 23 February 2012

The "plain language" used to explain senior officers' pay at Cornwall Council is now on-line. This bit covers most things:

"In exceptional circumstances the Council may pay a market supplement in addition to the salary for the job where, in the absence of such a payment, it would not be possible to recruit and retain suitable employees. The value of the market supplement takes into account the labour market pay information for similar jobs. Any market supplements are reviewed on an annual basis and are varied or cease as necessary according to the labour market evidence for the job in question."
I look forward to detailed surveys and analysis of the "labour market evidence."

Who wants to be our Police Commissioner?

Graham Smith | 14:26 UK time, Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Time is running out for the potential runners and riders in the race to become the elected Police Commissioner for Devon and Cornwall. Here are some key facts:
  • The election will be on 15th November
  • The election deposit is £5,000
  • The election will be run using the "Supplementary Vote" system.
Only the Conservative and Labour parties have so far decided they will definitely field candidates. The Liberal Democrats, nationally, say they can't afford it don't want to make law & order a "political" issue (that's what they said) but the Devon & Cornwall regional executive, meeting this weekend, might take a different view. LibDem Voice has done a good job covering this internal party debate.

Conservative MPs Oliver Colville (Plymouth Sutton) and George Eustice (Camborne & Redruth) are currently "talent spotting" but a Tory HQ spokesman told me that being chummy with Oliver and/or George would not necessarily make a difference.

"Anyone can apply - there is a form on our website," he said. "Applications come to Central Office, there will be shortlisting and interviews to decide on an approved panel, and then local parties will decide for themselves how to select. In Devon and Cornwall local constituency associations will come together to decide if they wish to run open primaries, make a decision at a meeting, or run postal ballots. It is very much for local associations to make the key decisions themselves."

Labour hopefuls have until 29th February to get their hats into the ring. Party bigwigs in London will draw up a shortlist for each police region - each shortlist will have at least one woman - and then individual members will be balloted in May, with the Labour candidate in place by June.

The United Kingdom Independence Party has yet to decide if it will take part. "That's something our national executive will have to consider in the next 4-6 weeks," a UKIP spokesman said.

Mebyon Kernow has decided not to field a candidate and the Green Party has yet to respond to my question.

Update: Green Party says it has yet to decide, but think it's unlikely to join the fray in Devon and Cornwall.

Pat 1 - 0 Alec

Graham Smith | 14:50 UK time, Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Readers from outer space might be new to this: there has been a bit of tussle between Cornwall Council's leader, councillor Alec Robertson, and the council's chairman, councillor Pat Harvey, over who should be front-and-centre when the Olympic torch starts its cross country procession from Land's End in May.

Well, the council just voted to write to LOCOG (London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games) asking that if anyone gets an invite to the Olympic torch procession, it should be the civic leader of the council. Even though it was the political leader of the council who found £80,000 of his contingency fund to support the ceremony. A suggestion that the Lord Lieutenant should get the gig, provided he wears full regalia, attracted the support of only two votes. Several councillors abstained.

Before the voting was complete, but once it was clear that an amendment which would have given Pat a role "only if invited" had been defeated, the council helpfully sent this Tweet: "It's worth remembering there isn't a formal role for CC at the Olympic Torch ceremony, it's up to LOCOG who meets the torch."

Councillor Doris Ansari successfully suggested a further amendment, making it clear that the council should positively solicit an invitation for Pat, not Alec.


A minor reshuffle

Graham Smith | 08:28 UK time, Tuesday, 21 February 2012

From Cornwall Council's press office:

The Leader of Cornwall Council, Alec Robertson, has announced a minor reshuffle of the Council's Cabinet.

From Thursday 1 March, Councillor Julian German will become portfolio holder for Localism, Sustainability and Devolution, while Councillor Steve Double will take on the portfolio for Environment, Heritage and Waste Management.

The move has been prompted by the retirement due to ill health of Councillor Ray Tovey from the Cabinet.

"Julian and Steve are already valued members of the Cabinet - I am pleased that they have agreed to take on these roles and look forward to the further contribution they will make.

"I will also be taking this opportunity to review the inevitable cross over areas between portfolios. Details of this and Cabinet Support Member appointments will follow in due course.

"I would like to take this opportunity to thank all Cabinet and members - Cornwall Council is in a strong position as a result of their hard work."

This is not about a photo opportunity

Graham Smith | 11:29 UK time, Monday, 20 February 2012

From Cornwall Council leader Alec Robertson, to all members:

"As arrangements come together to celebrate the start of the Olympic Torch Relay in Cornwall, contact with town and parish councils and representatives of local communities suggests the need to re affirm the role of Cornwall Council in this. While we have welcomed the opportunity to support this once in a life time event through providing support from our highways, economic development, environment and localism teams, as well as with funding from the Leader's contingency, this event is being organised and led by LOCOG (The London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games) and not by the Council.

"It follows that, whilst I have no difficulty in supporting, in principle, the motion to Council regarding the civic function, which simply re-states what is clearly set out in the Constitution, I cannot vote for it in its current form as the Council cannot "ensure" that the Chairman is in attendance at all events relating to the Olympic Torch relay as that is a matter for LOCOG not the Council."

- Councillor Alec Robertson

Caveat emptor

Graham Smith | 17:53 UK time, Thursday, 16 February 2012

Someone at Newquay airport obviously knows something I don't - the latest business plan forecasts a leap in passenger numbers from the budgeted 177,930 in 2012/13 to 212,000 just two years later - a rise of 34,070. The plan says:

The focus is on expansion of the airport's domestic route network, the availability of its charter programme and the introduction of summer and winter sun destinations. Destinations which are being targeted include: Leeds Bradford, Birmingham, Newcastle, Dublin, Tenerife and Palma.

A great idea! Can't think why it hasn't been tried before.

Cornwall to run its own railway?

Graham Smith | 16:03 UK time, Thursday, 16 February 2012

I have to confess I never knew that Cornwall had a rail strategy until I read this. The final words of the report say:
"This is a unique opportunity to consider making a step change improvement in Cornwall's railways to deliver greater local authority involvement through the new Great Western franchise and Government's devolution agenda."
No-one can say that those in charge at County Hall lack ambition. Perhaps a new branch line to serve the stadium?

Political mischief? Surely not...

Graham Smith | 11:29 UK time, Thursday, 16 February 2012

From the leader of Cornwall Council, councillor Alec Robertson, to several members of the council, cc Council Chairman, councillor Pat Harvey:

Dear Members

I have now had the opportunity to review the Council Agenda for the meeting on 21 February and I have read through and considered the motion under Item 10.2, Civic Function of the Council.

Like many Members, I am keen for the Council to debate issues of significance and importance for the Council and/or Cornwall but I'm having difficulty understanding how your motion meets those criteria.

The motion is a statement of the obvious and it is hard to anticipate any Member who would not be in full agreement to what is long established local authority protocol and simply restates what is set out in the Constitution.

It is hard to escape the conclusion that the aim of the motion is to create some sort of political mischief. In case I have misunderstood your intentions or the purpose of the motion, please let me know and I can plan my contribution to the debate accordingly.

The receipt and carrying of the Olympic torch across Cornwall is a fantastic opportunity to showcase everything that is positive about Cornwall and it would be unfortunate if any perceived and, for my part, unnecessary internal Council wrangling were to detract from a wonderful cultural celebration.



Tortoise sanctuary to stay closed

Graham Smith | 18:47 UK time, Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Joy Bloor has just told me she will not be re-opening her Tortoise Sanctuary at Sticker, even though her charges are now awakening from their seasonal slumbers and looking for their breakfast lettuce. "We did spend a lot of time thinking about this over Christmas and the New Year and have come to accept that we will not be re-opening to the public," she told me. Joy said Defra's requirement to micro-chip the tortoises, because they are an endangered species covered by international law, was the final piece of bureaucracy that made her throw in the towel. The closure to the public, which Joy hopes will not affect the welfare of the tortoises, follows a two-year battle with Cornwall Council over whether or not the Sticker Tortoise Sanctuary should be regulated as a zoo.

Something is happening and I don't know what it is

Graham Smith | 20:31 UK time, Monday, 13 February 2012

Since installing Google Analytics on this blog, it has apparently attracted 6,774 unique visitors, including one in Madagascar, two in Kenya, four in Argentina, 181 in Australia and, I hope, a few from Cornwall. Despite plagued by technical difficulties for most of last year, the blog has survived. I appreciate that a "unique visitor" is simply a computer terminal and probably not an accurate reflection of how many real people are reading. Nevertheless I'm fascinated by the Google data which tells me the primary language of some of my readers: 19 Spanish, 24 German, 26 Russian and 69 French. Anybody got any ideas what's going on here? Could these just be random landings?

Dwindling support for Cabinet Support Members

Graham Smith | 20:11 UK time, Monday, 13 February 2012

As we hurtle towards the first anniversary of Cornwall Council leader Alec Robertson's creation of Cabinet Support Members, it seems that the coalition partner, the Independent group, is so fed up with the idea that it's about to withdraw any support for it. Back in April 2011 this issue was "urgent." So still no majority in the council chamber. And bad news for those CSM councillors hoping to get Special Responsibility Allowances.
UPDATE: I should have made it clear that there is no council majority for CSM allowances, rather than the existence of CSMs per se (as long they as they do it unpaid.) Apologies for any confusion.

Outstanding schools face relegation

Graham Smith | 14:30 UK time, Monday, 13 February 2012

Scratching around the Ofsted website, it appears that four of Cornwall's secondary schools achieved "outstanding" status last year. They are Helston Community College, Newquay Tretherras, Penrice Community College and The Roseland Community College. But the new Ofsted criteria will require the quality of teaching to also be "outstanding" - and only Penrice meets this test. The teaching at Helston, Newquay and The Roseland was classed as only "good." No wonder the teachers were not very impressed with the new Ofsted yardstick.

Blood on the carpet?

Graham Smith | 14:26 UK time, Monday, 13 February 2012

Next week's full council meeting promises to be the most fun we've had in a long time. Motion proposed by Councillor Wallis, seconded by Councillor Long and supported by Councillors Robinson, Rowe and Rushworth:-

"The Local Government Act 1972 sets out that the Chairman of the Council is the civic head of the authority and is given precedence at civic events (this is not the case where there is an elected mayor or in the case of royal events where the Lord Lieutenant takes precedence). Therefore this Council recognises the intent of the Act and ensures that the Chairman, as the civic head of Cornwall Council, is lead and in attendance, at all events relating to the Olympic Torch Relay including the receiving of the Flame at RNAS Culdrose, at Lands End, at Truro and, if possible, at the handing over at the border with Devon and, beyond that at all future events of this stature and significance."

The price of greatness

Graham Smith | 10:28 UK time, Friday, 10 February 2012

Special Responsibility Allowances (mp3)
Several Cornwall Councillors have asked me to post yesterday's Special Responsibility Allowances report from BBC Radio Cornwall's Breakfast programme, so here it is.

Don't mention the stadium

Graham Smith | 16:22 UK time, Thursday, 2 February 2012

Quite possibly one of the more controversial recommendations for approval from a planning official for some time, advocating the construction of 1,500 houses on a mid Cornwall farm. The report says:

"The loss of 37ha of best and most versatile agricultural land is a significant adverse impact but at approximately 57% of the total site this is similar to that likely to result from development of any major green field site around Truro."
The adjacent land already has planning permission for the proposed Cornwall Stadium, but of course the two applications have to be dealt with separately. The housing proposal will need referal to the Secretary of State, there are objections from two local councils, the target date for a decision is November.

Calling all bar room lawyers

Graham Smith | 15:46 UK time, Thursday, 2 February 2012

The recent excitement over Cornwall councillors who didn't pay their council tax on time prompted me to inquire into the responsibilities facing town and parish councillors. They also vote on taxes. On the basis of no evidence whatsoever, I suspect there might be more than a handful of town and parish councillors in Cornwall who at one time or another are behind with their council tax payments. Yet town and parish clerks don't have the information they need to prevent a breach of Section 106 of the 1992 Local Government Finance Act. Is this a law in need of review?

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