Plymouth Council

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  1. Legal action to recover Plymouth council tax debt restarts

    Ed Oldfield

    Local Democracy Reporting Service

    Plymouth City Council has started legal action to recover council tax debts after a pause over the summer due to the Covid pandemic.

    The council confirmed it had started the process to obtain liability orders for non-payment from the magistrates court. But a spokesperson urged anyone struggling to pay their council tax to get in touch as early as possible to seek help.

    People on low incomes, both in and out of work, can claim Council Tax Support, giving a discount of up to 80% on the bill, based on the income and circumstances of the household.

    In March, the city council announced an extra £150 discount for people claiming the support.

    It was estimated about 12,000 would benefit from the government scheme, designed to help those whose income has been hit by the pandemic.

    The council also has a discretionary Exceptional Hardship Fund, to cover the shortfall left by the support scheme in some circumstances, designed as short-term emergency help.

    Councils are concerned that the economic impact of the pandemic will affect the amount of council tax and business rates they are able to collect, and the government has allowed them to spread recovery over three years instead of one.

    The latest financial position for the council is that it is facing an overspend of just under £1m this year on its revenue budget of £194m, which covers its day-to-day spending on services.

    Plymouth City Council website
  2. Plymouth sees decrease in new Covid cases

    Andrew Segal

    BBC South West

    Plymouth has seen a decrease in new Covid-19 cases, the city council has said.

    The authority said that, during the week 14 to 20 November, there were 362 new cases confirmed in Plymouth, a decrease on the previous week total of 613.

    It saw a rate of 138.1 per 100,000 people, below the current rate for England, which is 177 per 100,000.

    The total number of confirmed cases in Plymouth since the start of the outbreak was 3,776, the council said.

    The city had seen 105 deaths associated with Covid-19 since the start of the outbreak, it added.

  3. Tamar Bridge and Torpoint Ferry 'were running on reserves'

    BBC Radio Cornwall

    Tamar Bridge

    A £1.6m government grant for the Tamar Bridge and Torpoint Ferry has been welcomed by a senior Cornwall councillor because managers had been using cash reserves to keep them operating, he has said.

    Crossings owners Cornwall Council and Plymouth City Council were considering tolls increases to cover financial shortfalls caused by Covid-19 reducing traffic.

    The new cash meant plans to increase fees at the start of 2021 "will not need to go ahead at this stage", managers said.

    A charge for a car would stay at £2 or £1 for pre-paid journeys, they added.

    Cornwall councillor cabinet transport member Geoff Brown said it was a great relief because managers had spent almost all of their reserves keeping the routes open.

    Quote Message: There is a misconception that the bridge [and ferry] puts money into the coffers of Plymouth and Cornwall councils. There isn't a single penny that goes back to the authorities. Although they have responsibility for the operation, it's a self-financing thing and the money is ring-fenced, so that's why this was such a concern because they've used nearly all of their £2m of reserves." from Geoff Brown Cornwall Councillor, Cabinet Member for Transport
    Geoff BrownCornwall Councillor, Cabinet Member for Transport
  4. Government's £1.6m for Tamar crossings halts toll increase

    Andrew Segal

    BBC South West

    There will be no increase in tolls on the Tamar Bridge or the Torpoint Ferry between Cornwall and Plymouth in the new year.

    It has been announced that the routes' owners - Cornwall Council and Plymouth City Council - have been given an additional £1.6m grant to cover a proportion of the financial shortfall caused by the impact of Covid-19.

    The charge for cars on the bridge will remain at £2 or £1 for those with a pre-paid tag.

    The money meant that "proposals to increase toll prices at the beginning of next year will not need to go ahead at this stage", bosses said.

    The grant is to "cover the period up to July 2020", they added.

    Tamar Bridge
  5. Call to restart Plymouth bulky waste collections defeated

    Ed Oldfield

    Local Democracy Reporting Service

    A plea by the Conservatives on Plymouth City Council to restart bulky waste collections early in December was voted down by the ruling Labour group.

    The service was suspended due to the pandemic and the Tory shadow cabinet member for environment Maddi Bridgeman claimed there had been an increase in fly-tipping due to lockdowns.

    Her motion to a meeting of the full council on Monday afternoon called for the Labour administration to restart bulky waste collections from Saturday 5 December, or alternatively set up free-to-use community skips at Covid-secure locations.

    The meeting heard the bulky waste service was expected to be reintroduced in the spring.

    Labour said fly-tipping had not gone up, and the service could not restart just days after the end of the current England lockdown due to the uncertainty caused by the pandemic.

    The Conservative motion was defeated by 20 votes to 32.

  6. MP calls for Plymouth-Cornwall routes' Covid compensation

    BBC Radio Cornwall

    One of Cornwall's MPs has sought assurances from the government that the Tamar Bridge and Torpoint Ferry will be recompensed for losses during the Covid pandemic.

    South East Cornwall Conservative Sheryll Murray raised it when she spoke via video link in the House of Commons on Monday.

    In response the minister responsible, Jake Berry, said provisions had been made for both Cornwall and Plymouth city councils, which jointly own and operate the routes.

    Tamar Bridge
  7. Call for new Plymouth police HQ backed by city council

    Ed Oldfield

    Local Democracy Reporting Service

    Councillors in Plymouth have backed a call for the city to get a new police HQ.

    The move came from Labour’s Gareth Derrick, the party’s candidate for police and crime commissioner, who said the city had been let down by government cuts to policing since 2010, and had seen a big rise in violent crime in recent years.

    The councillor said that, although the region was described as one of the safest in the country, violent offences had risen by more than three-quarters since May 2016, when current Conservative commissioner Alison Hernandez took office.

    He said the level was now just below the national average, rising out of line with other offences, with the majority related to domestic abuse and alcohol-related crime.

    Cllr Derrick told a meeting of the full council on Monday the city’s two main police stations at Charles Cross (pictured) and Crownhill were designed in the 1960s and out of date, meanwhile new stations had been built elsewhere in Devon and Cornwall.

    He said it was a good time to go ahead with major investment as the city recovered from the coronavirus pandemic.

    His council motion was opposed by members of the Conservative group, who accused him of electioneering, and opponents argued information in his statement was inaccurate as it did not take into account recent investment in Plymouth.

    Conservative leader Nick Kelly also said the current commissioner had invested heavily in front line resources and infrastructure in the city.

    The motion was passed by 28 to 16, with eight abstentions from former members of the Conservative group who resigned last month.

    The council’s leader will now write to the commissioner asking for the policing needs of Plymouth to be prioritised, and offering help towards planning a new HQ for the city.

    The job of police and crime commissioner for Devon and Cornwall is due for election in May 2021 after the vote was postponed from May this year due to pandemic.

    Charles Cross police station
  8. Calls to bring back Plymouth bulky waste collections

    BBC Radio Devon

    There are calls for Plymouth City Council to resume collections of bulky waste from the beginning of December.

    The city council has suspended the collection of larger waste items, such as mattresses and carpets, because of the Covid pandemic.

    In a motion going before the city council, Councillor Maddi Bridgeman said bringing the service back - or providing skips that people could use in a Covid-safe way, would help reduce fly-tipping.

    On its website, the council said that people should store bulky waste at their property until full services resumed, or they could dispose of certain items at recycling centres.

  9. Covid-19 cases 'affecting all ages and areas of Plymouth'

    Andrew Segal

    BBC South West

    Covid-19 cases are still "affecting all ages and all areas" of Plymouth, the city council has said.

    The authority said it had seen 460 new cases over seven days and the current rate of 175 cases per 100,000 people was the "highest rate so far".

    The average area in England has 177, according to the latest figures.

    View more on twitter
  10. Labour and Tories clash after Conservative resignations

    Ed Oldfield

    Local Democracy Reporting Service

    The fallout from the resignation of eight members of the Conservative group on Plymouth City Council triggered a political clash at an online public meeting.

    Conservatives accused the ruling Labour group of being anti-democratic, but the leadership hit back by accusing the Tories of arrogance and ignoring the law.

    At one point the council’s Labour leader Tudor Evans called on Tory leader Nick Kelly to resign over the loss of support shown by the resignations from the Conservative group.

    The special meeting of the Labour-controlled council on Monday evening was called to consider how seats on its committees should be shared out following the changes.

    A report said that the places of former Tory group members should be filled by Labour councillors.

    That was because non-aligned councillors cannot be given a committee seat if they are outside a political group, as set out by the law covering local government.

    The report said that of the 57 seats on the council, 30 were held by members of the Labour group, equal to a majority of 52.6%.

    There were now 17 members of the Tory group, representing 29.8% of the seats, and 10 Independents making up 10% – the eight Conservatives who resigned plus two former Labour group members, Chaz Singh in the Drake ward, who resigned from the party, and Kevin Neill in Stoke, who has been suspended.

    Conservatives claimed the proposal to remove the independent Conservatives from committees was anti-democratic and would weaken scrutiny of the ruling Labour administration. They called on the Labour group to give up seats to the Independents.

    But after a half-hour debate, the proposals for the new committee membership set out in the report were approved, with the newly-independent Conservatives voting alongside the Labour group in favour.

  11. Plymouth told 'don’t go nuts' before new Covid lockdown

    Andrew Segal

    BBC South West

    People in Plymouth are being told "don’t go nuts" as the city faces a new Covid lockdown.

    In a Twitter thread, the city council said it was "appealing to those tempted to have a last hurrah to stay at home" before the lockdown started on Thursday.

    Council Leader Tudor Evans said the lockdown was "not about spoiling people's social lives" but about reducing the infection rate of the virus.

    Extra police officers and Plymouth Against Retail Crime (PARC) rangers [private security staff] would be on patrol, the council said, and teams could "respond to calls away from the city centre, North Hill and the Barbican if the need arises".

    View more on twitter
  12. Councils to lobby government for extra lockdown funding

    Andrew Segal

    BBC South West

    Councils in Devon are to lobby the government for extra funding because of concerns the South West will be badly affected by the latest England Covid lockdown.

    Plymouth City Council leader Tudor Evans said government "failure" to enforce a circuit-breaker lockdown over the half-term holiday meant some businesses were facing being "devastated" by a lockdown now.

    He said he was supportive of measures aimed at controlling the virus, and there was "relief" at the extension of the government's furlough scheme until December, but that he was not confident the lockdown would work due to a lack of funding for local authorities, and because the track and trace system was "completely broken".

    Quote Message: "The message of furlough [extension] is a relief - the government finally heard what everybody was telling them. But, for some people who have been made redundant in the last month, the damage is already done." from Tudor Evans Leader, Plymouth City Council
    Tudor EvansLeader, Plymouth City Council

    Mr Evans added that the city authority had only been given enough money for 157 payments of the one-off £500 handouts for people on low incomes who would be asked to isolate and would lose work as a result, and that, for a city of more than 200,000 people, this support will "disappear in a matter of days".

    Meanwhile, Torbay Council's leader, Liberal Democrat Steve Darling, said under-funding of the area had contributed to problems it was experiencing in the pandemic, leaving it "between a rock and a hard place at the moment".

    Quote Message: The reality is that we've had years of lack of investment in Torbay, which means that we don't have the service that we perhaps should be having. Even though we have still relatively low [Covid infection] numbers compared to other parts of the country, we don't have the capacity to deal with it." from Steve Darling Leader, Torbay Council
    Steve DarlingLeader, Torbay Council
  13. Plymouth rubbish collectors self-isolating

    Nine rubbish collectors in Plymouth are currently self-isolating as a result of having Covid-19 symptoms, living with someone with them or being contracted by NHS Test and Trace.

    The council said it was "juggling staff around" to minimise disruption to collections, but warned some people may have their rubbish collected a day or two later than normal.

    View more on twitter
  14. Plymouth Tory leader defended by colleagues

    Ed Oldfield

    Local Democracy Reporting Service

    Senior members of the city council’s Conservative group have spoken out in support of the leadership after a series of resignations.

    Six councillors have now left the group, including former leader Ian Bowyer, and all have criticised the way it has been run.

    But in a statement on Thursday, two senior members strongly backed leader Nick Kelly, who replaced Councillor Bowyer in March.

    The statement from current deputy leader Patrick Nicholson and former leader Vivien Pengelly described the resignations and criticism as “very disappointing”.

    They deny allegations about the behaviour of senior members of the group, say those who have left have been unable to accept the democratic change in leadership, and praise the “energetic” approach of Councillor Kelly in holding the city council’s ruling Labour group to account.

    Thursday’s statement said the resignations and comments were “very disappointing when they are all supposed to believe in team work and democracy in order to represent their respective local communities and the wider city of Plymouth".

  15. More Conservative councillors resign

    Ed Oldfield

    Local Democracy Reporting Service

    Two more councillors have left the Conservative group on Plymouth City Council, taking the total number of recent departures to six.

    The latest to resign are Andrea Johnson and Richard Ball, both councillors in the Compton ward alongside group leader Nick Kelly.

    In a joint statement on Wednesday, they blamed "irreconcilable differences" with the current leadership.

    Councillor Ball, who was Lord Mayor until May, said the group had "fallen apart" and suffered "massive damage".

    The spate of resignations began when former leader Ian Bowyer and Peverell councillor Tony Carson quit on Friday after being suspended for comments in a press release calling for a cut in the speed limit on the A38.

    They urged the Labour-run council to seek a review following concerns about safety, pollution and congestion.

    Councillor Kelly said they were temporarily suspended pending an investigation as they had broken group rules and their statements did not represent the group’s views.

    He denied allegations from Councillor Bowyer, who he replaced as leader in March, that there was a culture of "aggression and intimidation" and said the disciplinary action had followed group procedure.

    The departures were followed on Monday by Councillor Bowyer’s colleagues in the Eggbuckland ward, his wife Lynda Bowyer and Heath Cook, in protest at the leadership’s behaviour.

  16. Councillor quits with swipe at 'controlling' leadership

    Jonathan Morris

    BBC News Online

    A senior Plymouth councillor has quit the Conservative group with an attack on the "controlling" leadership.

    Tony Carson

    Tony Carson, who has represented Peverell ward since 2016, was suspended with fellow Tory Ian Bowyer this week after they called for the speed limit on the A38 in Plymouth to be reduced.

    It is understood the views do not represent local Conservative policy.

    Mr Carson, who is chair of the Plymouth Sutton and Devonport Conservative Association, said he had been "elected as a clear voice for my residents" and the "unreasonable disciplinary action" had "undermined" his role as a councilor.

    He said in a statement that he would "not be silenced on matters that are important" to residents and was removing himself from the Conservative whip.

    "It smacks in the face of democracy to remain within such a controlling environment and goes against Conservative principles of individual freedoms and personal responsibility," he said.

    "I cannot, and will not accept this way of working."

    Mr Bowyer, who represents Eggbuckland, is a former leader of the Conservative group and is also facing disciplinary action by new leader Nick Kelly, who took over from Mr Bowyer in March.

    Mr Kelly has so far refused to comment, saying it was an internal group matter.

    The Labour administration tightened their grip on the council at the local elections in 2019, with 30 seats. The Conservatives were left on 25 and there are two Independents.

  17. Senior Plymouth Conservative councillors suspended

    Ed Oldfield

    Local Democracy Reporting Service

    Two senior councillors have been suspended from the Conservative group on Plymouth City Council.

    Plymouth City Council

    Former group leader Ian Bowyer, who represents Eggbuckland, and Peverell councillor Tony Carson were suspended by new leader Nick Kelly, who took over from Mr Bowyer in March.

    Mr Kelly refused to comment, saying it was an internal group matter. The reason for the suspensions has not been confirmed.

    The action follows a press release issued by Mr Bowyer in September in which he and Mr Carson called for the speed limit on the A38 in Plymouth to be reduced.

    It is understood that the views do not represent local Conservative policy.

    Both councillors have been suspended pending an investigation.

    Mr Kelly said: "This is an internal group matter and in view of this we are not going to discuss such matters publicly at this time."

    Mr Bowyer, who was leader of the city council for two years until Labour regained control in 2018 and Mr Carson, a former member of the council’s Conservative shadow cabinet, declined to comment.