Twittergate Pt2

I can’t believe the media coverage we have got on this. To be on the front page of the WMN and other papers is one thing. Then to find it being on BBC spotlight that very night after the story “broke” (it was a week after it had happened).

Today it went even further. It was being discussed by Chris Evans for a short period on his morning show and then, whilst Mr. Blair was going his Inquiry thingy we were the most read news item on the BBC web page, with the Inquiry second. (this did change by the afternoon).

A sort of no-news story get this coverage is surprising. I personally have taken on board a lesson learnt from all this. I shall now Tweet during Council meetings where appropriate and with serious points (well I might lob in the odd bit of humour). I am not going to stop, as I fundamentally believe this is a good way to communicate to those who know little about local government or wish to be kept informed.

I have had some very positive feed back from people, and I have had some negative. It’s all about a learning curve. I am human and not a robot. If people want a robot then I not that sort of person, nor will I ever be. I believe in what I say and do try and do the best for my community and Cornwall. Hopefully with this interest people will learn more about Cornwall Council and the Councillors.

It would have been nice for the report to cover all my Tweets as I generally do only keep to the points while in Council. I guess those who now follow me have found that out. Social Media is new to a lot of local Councils. Why, well generally most who held this position were older. Some of us are a lot younger and embrace this sort of tool. I am sure when computers first came in the younger ones (who are now the older ones) embraced it, whilst there then older Politicians thought no good would come of it.

I have taken on the points from various sides. I would love for you to keep tabs on my via my blog or Twitter.  If not, I am still more than willing to chat with anyone face to face. At the end of the day I am working for you, but remember I am only human and sometimes will be prone to the odd mistake.

I am going to post a few links on what others are saying. I have not found a blog that is negative to this issue, but if you do, then i will happily link it.

Here is Cllr Steve Doubles final thoughts on the subject His Views

One from the Editor of the Cornishman: Her Views

Anyway please (if you like) follow me @CllrAWallis and find out what I do

The End Of The Week

Friday is here and I am home after a long and interesting week to say the least. The main part of my day was spent attending the Planning Policy Panel. This Panel is set up to look at Planning and the Policy around it (the name sort of gives it away).

Today’s two main items were on the Area Action Plan (AAP) for Camborne, Redruth, Pool and Illogan. This plan was first started when I was at Kerrier District Council. I have to say I have not had anything to do with this plan since I have been at Cornwall Council. Anyway, the main point to this is they are planning on places near 9,000 homes and 20,000sq m  of retail space in these areas by 2026. From what I understand various groups like this or don’t. This plan has come out of the Regional Spatial Strategy (RSS) plan set by Central Government. Its a sort of Chicken and Egg scenario, do you build the homes to attract the industry or have the industry to fill the homes. I get the feeling that want to herd us all into the towns without the thought of the small local communities that are prevalent in Cornwall

The second part was on sites for Gypsies, Travellers and Travelling Show People and the need for a Policy in finding new sites for them. This is one of those subjects that no-one really wants to handle as you can bet your last £1 no matter where you place it you are going to get a mighty uproar from the Community that’s is placed near. I remember when there was a idea to place one in Leedstown. Before you could say Petition there was one doing the rounds with all sorts of Public Meetings  planned to fight it. Nothing came of the plan, but that does not mean the issue has gone away.

The issue has not gone away and it needs tackling. Its how you are going to tackle it is the problem. I have no answer for that, and if I am honest I am glad I am not the one who is dealing with it. They used to have some sites identified many years ago, but I am not sure if they are still suitable. I guess they will wait to see what land could be sold  for this issue and then look into developing it for that purpose. I am sure the first call the local people will be making if there area is identified is to their Councillor!

Parking Panel and Twittergate

Thursday started off with a bang. I made the front page on the Western Morning News over Twitter. I have blogged before that I use this medium to communicate. Sometime we have a bit of humour, but generally we use it to good measures. My only other point in this whole issue is surely there is more news worthy stories to cover than Twitter.

A more important role I had to day was as Chairman of the Parking Panel. Today’s major business was on the consultation of proposed Car Parking Charges and the changes to the fees. It’s never an easy task (blogged before) to even please people on this issue.

I have already said from the beginning that I want to make a Policy that’s as cheap and fair as possible. Not an easy task. The proposed increase was a blanket 5% increase to the nearest 10p. The debate was taken up in the morning with the work program for the next 14 or so months. This is going to looking into Parking from bottom.

The afternoon was the debate on the Consultation. It was a good debate with many points. The main points discussed and voted on Disable Parking, Fees and the discount card in two former Districts.

  1. What came out of it were those cars that are DVLA exempt Tax or mobility converted cars would be able to park for free in all Cornwall Council Car Parks. Those other Blue Badge holders would have to pay.
  2.  The parking discount schemes in the two former District was to be removed
  3.  Fees for the first hour parking will be fixed at the current levels and all other charges will rise by 5%

Now this might not please people, but I can assure you that my Panel will be looking at these issues again with the hope (sorry to repeat myself) to make it as cheap and free as possible in the future when i have been able to give this subject a full review.

These recommendations will be made to the Cabinet where they will decide if my recommendations are fully accepted.

For the record, I did not Tweet during this meeting. This was because I had the more important job of chairing this important meeting.

Twittergate

In this week’s Cornish Guardian the Twitter Gang has made page 14 with the whole page devoted to us. Now I believe they trivialised this subject and not concentrated on the main points, engagement with the General Public.

Yes sometimes we do have some light hearted banter between each other, but we do transmit a lot of information from the meetings we are in attendance. I relayed the major points from the Special Cabinet Meeting on the Route Partnership Link and the Budget. People find it difficult to find out what going on in their local Council and if this helps them getting a better understanding then I am all for it and will continue to Tweet during meetings.

As with any technology that’s new or misunderstood people can get the wrong idea of how it works. The same was said on the Internet and Mobile Phones. I am of the generation that has grown up with the technology. I still remember my first computer in the 80’s with some fondness, the BBC-B.

I am sure we (the Gang) will get a lot of criticism on this press article, but how much will be from those who understand the technology? My guess it will be from those who have never heard of, used, or even tried Twitter (or other Social Media).

I will continue to relay information were possible. It does not impede my work as a Councillor in meetings. So where is the harm? I see more Councillors leave the chamber during the discussion for a short while and still vote. Has anyone made a full page article on that?

Here are some links from the other Cllr’s who Twitter
Cllrs
Steve Double

Jeremy Rowe.
Alex Folkes

Also, here is the link to the article online with the comments from the Public (Press Article)

Now if you do want to try this form of communication or “follow” me. Here is how. @CllrAWallis

Talking alot of Rubbish

The Waste Panel met today. Now I believe this is one of those difficult panels to be on. It’s like Parking, everyone has an opinion on it and no matter what side you sit on, you think your idea is best.

Full Agenda and Documents (Here).

The main job of this Panel is looking into the shambles that’s been the Incinerator Project for the last several years. It’s been turned into the proverbial political football with all sides unable to reach an agreement.

The Public also have a view. Those who live near the proposed site are unhappy with it being placed there. Some would be happy that a smaller Incinerator was planned; with other areas of Cornwall (West and East) having their own. Others might agree with it because we must do something about our waste, and not just shove it in the ground and forgetting about it.
 
As I sat listening to those Cllrs and Officers who knew far, far more on this that I do debated the pro’s and con’s of this project. I was startled to discover that the Land Fill Tax we are currently being charged is £72 per metric ton. That’s a staggering amount that we as tax payers are shelling out. It may even rise as Central Government sets this tariff. 

I asked a question on the Recycle Centres (Dumps). I ask why can those items that could be reused by others were not allowed to be taken away. The old saying goes One man’s junk is another man’s treasure. Lot’s of these items deposited at these places could be reused and would cut down on it being placed in a hole.  The answer I got was encouraging. The Officer said we are currently  looking at this with the view to allowing it to happen again, but at present we are in contract negotiations and could not discuss this to much. I fully welcome this and hope we can implement this again soon.

What people should do is before they take these items to these Centres is ring up those organisations that collect items and re-distribute to those less fortunate or pop into the local charity shop and ask if they wanted it. That would stop it being placed in a hole and help others that would get a direct benefit out of your junk.

My personal view is that we need some sort of Incinerator that  produces heat and light for homes in Cornwall. The difficult thing is where to place it. No matter where one or several smaller ones are placed those near will I’m sure won’t like it.

Anyway, I am sure you are going to hear a lot more about this Incinerator before any decision is made. Who said Cllr’s always talk a lot of rubbish. (sorry, could not resist the joke)

Budgets

As I said it my previous post the other important item on the Agenda was the Budget for 2010-11. Now i wont go into great detail on this as most of the work on this has been carried out over the last few months.

It was only to be expected in the two main parties that make up Cornwall Council did their normal blame game and point scoring routine. A few of the Councillors still left in attendance asked a few questions, but considering most of these had been dealt with previously there was no killer questions delivered.

An interesting point in the budget was on Highways. It looks like each Divisional Member might (here’s hoping) be allowed to spend £8k on Highways projects in their areas. Now I welcome this as it give us local Councillors a chance to do a highways project in our areas that would not be normally done during routine operations.

A point was made that £7m is being but aside for restructuring. I am led to believe this is includes Staffing. No details were given, but it was said about future redundancies. 

Budgets are always difficult to deliver especially in tough economic times. Lets hope we don’t stay in this tough time for long or things might just get a little tougher for all of us.

A Full House

Special Cabinet meeting today over at the Ivory Towers. Two Major items on this. The Route Partnership Link to the Scillies and Penzance and the 2010-11 Budget. Both important issues and a packed house of Councillors.

Today was a first for me as well as I decided to Tweet the major points during the discussion. A sort of at the scene Twitter Reporter. I believe it was successful in keeping those who were unable to make the meeting informed of what was going on. Here is a link of the running tweets by me and some of the Twitter Gang. (Tweet Link)

I believe it was a good debate (I did not speak due my position on Strategic Planning). The Leader Alex Robinson (aka The King) allowed all those who wished to make a point to do so. Even members of the Public were invited to speak (as long as their questions were sent in beforehand). 

I felt it the debate was good for Democracy. A few personal and political comments were made, but over all the debate was well run and their were plenty of good questions and answers. A motion was made and voted on. All the Cabinet we unanimous in their decision to back Option A with the fall back option of Falmouth. The plan for Option C was noted, but it was not going to be pursued in any form.

What will happen now is that there will be a new application for Option A. This will go through the correct channels and will most probably end up with the Strategic Planning Committee to make the final decision.

I guess now those in favour or against will be meeting soon to make plans for the up and coming battle. Penzance could have its own little Civil War with the various factions fighting it out to the end to defend their view points. I have the feeling my in-box is suddenly going to get a lot of e-mails with Penzance in the title.

Vision Impaired Plan

After a busy week I had two meeting that I needed to attend, sadly they were at the same time and in different locations. One was Cornwall Sea Fisheries and they other was Licensing Act Committee. Considering I am the Vice-Chair of the later I thought it be prudent I attended that one. Most of the meeting was taken up with various procedural matters during Hearings and the way the Panels are set up.

Luckily I was kept informed what was going on in the other meeting by the power of Twitter. Alex Folkes and a member of the Twitter Gang kept Tweeting information (His Points).  So even though I could not be there at least I was able to keep abreast of what was going on.

Another meeting I would love to have attended was the Public Meeting in Wadebridge. This meeting was called by the Corp Resources OSC. This was about the possible selling off of some of Cornwall Council surplus buildings. (I have posted before on my views on this).

This building is one of the most modern buildings that Cornwall Council owns. The argument is that this building is underused and should be shut down and sold off. They want to move the staff to a new building in Bodmin (not built) as part of the centralisation plan, AKA “Vision Plan”. Now all well and good, but I still don’t understand why you need to sell one building that could be used, and build another one less than 6 miles away.

We are told the land is worth £10m and the new building will cost £12m (that’s if the build costs are even within budget!),so we are already £2m down.  The whole plan does not make sense. The Local Councillors are trying to save this building and I at this point fully support them. Here are the links to their blogs Cllr Scott MannJeremy Rowe.  They as local Members can explain it better.

Now you could wonder why I am blogging about something that is not in my area, or even close. I am blogging because my area could be effected when other areas are looked at. The current plan is for 3 “Hubs” Camborne, Truro and Bodmin (not yet built). I do worry what will happened for the Public and the Staff who may have to travel great distances to go to one of these Hubs. Its called a “Vision”, but in its current format I am more inclined to call it the “Vision Impaired Plan”

Twitter, Blogs and Cyberspace

Back to County Hall today (seems I never get away from the place). This time is was for Corporate Resources Scrutiny Committee. I am a non-member of this Committee, but considerings it’s about the Councils assets its important to know what’s going on  (you never know what building is going to be sold off next). It also covers other important items such as the functions of Communications

Item 9 on today Agenda was on Social Media and its use within Cornwall Council. This is a draft document and needs to go through a few more tweaking process before it becomes Policy. Here is the Draft Policy (Draft Policy).

I welcome this as I am one of those who use many different types of Social Media from Facebook, Twitter, Blogs and Texts to name but a few. I believe this is a good way to communicate and we should fully explore its use within the Council, and with the Public. Even though I am prolific user of this type of communication I still think meeting face to face can’t be beaten.

One of the future plans could be the use of Web Casting. I am not sure who will watch a full Council in action, but I believe if it gets more people involved and interested in what happens in Local Government then that great. (still has to be cost effective).

I made a comment at this Committee that this is a step in the right direction, but we still  not even got electrical power points in the various chambers to enable us (cllrs or public) to use laptops. If you want to cut down on the printing cost and read the Agendas via WiFi or on laptops then give us the basics. Just imagine how much money could be saved if we went paper less where possible.

I think The Comms team of Cornwall Council have made an important step. This is due to Annie who has worked really hard on getting this out of the starting blocks. I still find the whole process of getting this Policy implemented  as slow as “Dial Up”, but at least we are heading in the right directions.

Here are other links to views on Social Media  Cllr’s Jeremy Rowe
Alex Folkes

I am pleased that Cornwall Council is looking into this. Even the “Twitter Gang” that were present today got excited on this plan, but there was a moment of panic, when during this item Twitter could not be accessed for a while!

The Debate Pt 2

Allowances, always a tricky subject, even trickier when you have to justify it to the general public. Today at Full Council this subject was up for discussion post an independent review. They recommended that due to the nature of the workload there should be a increase in the basic allowance from just short of 12k to 14,600k. Roughly a 20% rise.  
I have blogged  before on what I think. I will spare you from me repeating myself. I will just give you the link for you to refresh yourselves. (Debate Pt 1).
Anyway, 3 hours were spent discussing this. I threw in my 10p’s worth along the lines of ‘if you want younger people involved you will have to make the allowance attractive to them so they can afford to live’. It seemed to have hit the note with others (Jeremy Rowe) who like others had some sympathy with my points.
I feel that people may have been inclined to accept the recommendations if the current economic situation was better, and we were not about to have a General Election.  The Liberal Democrats and the Conservative Parties are both fighting for hotly contested seats here in Cornwall and were not about to give the other side any opportunity for points scoring.
 Part of the recommendations did say that we may look at this again a year or so. What should happen is allowances awards should be made by a independent panel and taken out of the hands of the Councillors who at the end of the day will be seen as voting (or not) for a pay rise themselves.
I am sure this issue will keep coming back because Politics gets involved. I do wonder sometimes how much a hindrance Politics is, and how much it slows down any decision.
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