A Coach Trip

The Waste Development Panel had arranged to go on a site visit to various Waste Transfer Stations, Dumps and old Landfill Sites. We mostly visited the central and eastern areas of Cornwall. We even went to a small Incinerator that’s in Cornwall. I have to say I never knew there was a Incinerator in Cornwall, but today I was standing looking and walking around the site.

I won’t bore you on how the coach trip went, but I have to say it was most informative on the finer points of what to do with waste and the harm that Landfill has for many generations after its filled up and closed down.

Another good point to come out of this trip was the chance to chat with other Cllr’s outside the Ivory Towers. We had some great debates on various subject not just on Cornwall Council. These trips can have a benefit of finding out about the places you visit, but also the people you work with. It was worth being on a coach all day.

Bad News

Last night I attended a Porthleven TC meeting where the Town Council was going to tell a group some disappointing news about their plan. Not a pleasant task to do.

This group has worked hard in achieving something in Porthleven and this plan might take a little longer to come into existent because of some finer points of the Law and land ownership. It surrounds a piece of land that the Town Council thought it owned and had owned since at least 1981. It seems some documents were lost or not completed between 1973 and the 1980’s on transferring the ownership titles. Not a good. We have been assured by Counsel that this is can be sorted out without to much hassle. (I worry when Counsel says “without” and “cost”). The Council has agreed to pursue this point on ownership

If this was the only point then I would not be overly worried, but there is another point which dates back to 1935 when the original deed was placed in Trust. It seems in rather old fashioned legal wording that we may (if we do indeed own the land) not grant a sub-lease to this area. If that is true we may have to go to Court to get this part removed from the Deeds. That is simple if no one objects, but if indeed anyone does object, then this could turn out costly and long winded.

I have to say it was a rather disappointing night, but one that might still have light at the end of the tunnels.

A Technical Briefing

On Monday a Technical Briefing was arranged about the Isle of Scilly Sea Link. I was told this “briefing” was not confidential and open to anyone. Not sure if anyone was informed or invited that was not on the Strategic Planning Committee or a Cllr of the Council.

Anyway I asked a simple question about is this simply the Irish Question (a reference to the Lisbon Treaty). I was told NO, not at all. The briefing started with some of the finer points of the HRO (harbour revision order) and other bits and bobs on the plan.

I have to tell you at this stage (after about 45 mins) I decided to leave because I (and this is my personal view) felt that certain information was being highlighted. I am not saying anyone did anything wrong or was trying a guide someone down a certain path, but I decided to leave. A senior Lawyer was present, so no one was on any misunderstanding as to the nature of this Briefing. He did at one stage warn a Cllr this was not a place to debate anything. The Cllr promptly shut-up.

Maybe if someone other people were invited or told about it that were not Members, then I am sure I would have stayed longer.

Good Old Parking

These meeting are coming thick and fast. Yesterday’s was about Parking Enforcement. It seems the general consensus that there is not enough enforcement of parking infringements. Most of the correspondence is that we need more enforcement.

Over 3 hours was spent discussing this very issue. I also invited along a Police Inspector to give the Polices view on this issue (they stopped enforcing since May 08). It was an interesting debate. It was greatly appreciated by the Panel to have an insight as to how the Police see and deal with this issue. It seems there are indeed a few”grey” areas in Parking Enforcement where the Police and Cornwall Council (CC) can enforce at the same time. It was felt (by the Panel) that a lot of progress had been made in understanding and co-operation between the Police and CC. This is to be welcomed.

One of the main recommendations that I in my role as Chairman will be making to the Cabinet is that we take on up to another 20 Civil Enforcement Officers (CEO) to help combat some of the problems faced in Cornwall. I personally think this is a good step forward.

The Police officer said at the end of the meeting that he was greatly impressed by the Panels work, and looked forward to working more closely on this subject.

Community Network

Last night was the first Community Network Panel of the Helston and Lizard Area. This is a Network where Cornwall Council,  The Town and Parish Council’s, Police, NCH meet to discuss issues in this area, and then make (hopefully) positive changes.

No Police or NHS were invited to this one due to the fact it was mainly going setting up the whole Panel and it’s Constitution.  There are seven Cornwall Councillors and 18 Town and Parish Councils involved in this Network. Sadly only half of the Town and Parish Councils did attend. I hope they don’t feel ‘what’s the point’ in this and we will see them at future meetings.

I facilitated a small group exercise where the Town and Parish Councils gave 3 pressing concerns that are there areas and how the Network can help them to achieve them. Porthleven and Helston were grouped together and they came up with a pretty united front on what would be of benefit to both areas.

Transport, including better road and bus links was agreed. It was also pointed out that the bus services must be cheaper and more frequent if you want more people to use them. Small Micro Business Units were also listed. Be nice to have some more small Units to encourage people to work in their own areas without the need to travel so far.

It was felt that due to the size and nature of Porthleven and Helston, they felt there was no dedicated sports complex that was fit for the 21st Century. Finally Environmentally Sustainability was mentioned. This included more protection to Conservation Areas, Renewable Energy  and other like environmental issues. Those four issues that were listed are not just about Porthleven and Helston, but all would benefit the whole area if they did indeed happen.

I am not sure if these Networks will be able to wave a magic wand and solve these and other issues, but what they can do its be a large and loud collective to bring pressure to those issues. Early days, but a lot of those who did attend did seems keen for it to work.

Funding

It was not all doom and gloom from this years Budget. Two items that I wholeheartedly welcome is the renewal of the Community Chest Grant of £2195 to each councillor and a local highways grant.

Previously under the old Cornwall County Council each member was given roughly £10k for small Highways improvements in their areas. Up to now this had not been budgeted into the Cornwall Council Budget. The good news is that from yesterday’s acceptance of the Budget; £1 million is being made available to the local Members. This equates to roughly £8,130 for each Member from the 1st April 2010.

It does not seem a lot of money as any highways project, even the small ones, costs a huge amount. I say, £8k is better than nothing. The Cabinet Member for Highways has indicated that you will be allowed to roll over the amount to the next financial year. Again, another positive

I can’t say for definite where I will be spending this money, but I have always said and campaign that there needs to be some sort of Pedestrian Crossing or Island between the Fairground Carpark and the Boating Lake in Helston. I will be investigating the feasibility of one of the schemes over the coming months.

The Community Chest Grant allows me to help organisations with a small grant. This year I have tried to help as many of the small clubs in my Division. Again, I welcome this inclusion into the Budget. Hopefully soon we will be having a review to ‘simplify’ the application forms as I have to say they are way too bureaucratic and desperately need to be simplified.

Full Council – Budget

It was always going to be a long day over at the Ivory Towers; it was after all Budget Day. It all started at 10:30. The Chairman opened the procedures and made reference to Twittergate. She did tell us off, not for Twittering, but for a few of the comments that were made.

I have already apologised to her personally for any offence caused. I reiterated my apology to her in today’s Council. It was also refreshing  and welcoming to hear that she would allow the continuation of this form of Social Media in Council meetings. It is for those Councillors to use it where appropriate. I am planning with the help of cross party support to make a motion at the next full council to allow Web-casting, Live feeds, film and other forms of recording to be allowed in future meetings. I will be talking to my other like-minded colleagues for support on this matter.

The main and most important issue of the day was the setting of the Budget. The Leader of the Council outlined his case for the Budget. It was followed by the other Party Group Leaders. Not all the other Group Leaders were indeed in favour of the proposed Budget and certainly made their case as to why this was a flawed budget.

Sadly, later on the old blame game entered the debate. I for one have never liked this behaviour. It seems childish and achieves little. What happened in the past happened, let’s move on and think of the future, not the past. Just before One o’clock the Chairman put to the Council as to if we should go to the vote. A vote was taken on going to a vote (I know, sounds silly). The Council voted in favour to go to the vote on the budget (It still sounds silly).

This causes some uproar from some of the Councillors who felt the debate had not gone on long enough. I have to say in the Chairman’s defence she allowed lot’s of speakers to go way, way over the 3 minutes normally allowed for a Councillor to make their case. Maybe if they kept within the rules, it might not have taken so long and allowed others to speak.

A recorded vote was taken. The Council voted in favour of accepting the 2.9% raise on the Council Tax. How did I vote? Well, I am not one normally to sit on the fence, but this time I Abstained. Why? Well, I felt that I could not vote in favour or against this because I felt that I did not have a lot of the finer details in the proposed Budget. I was also unhappy with the Fortnightly collection element. (no decision has been taken on this – yet).  Part of the budget I agreed with, but there was also many items I did not. I am not in principle against the Budget, but I think it would be a dis-service just to merely vote in favour of something I don’t fully agree with (or vice-versa).

We then broke for lunch.

Catch-up

Last Thursday I attended the monthly meeting of Porthleven Town Council. Not a lot of the Agenda for this month. I gave my report of what I had been doing during last month and what was likely to effect the Town over the coming months.

The Main point I raised was the Draft Document of the Article 4 Directive (more protection in the Conservation Area) is going through the Scrutiny process in March with the hope for it being adopted fully in June/July. This I believe is a good, if not long over due document that was started over 18months ago by Kerrier DC. I am hoping it will be adopted with just a few minor tweaks.

On Saturday I held my first Surgery In Porthleven. I would love to say it was busy, but it was not. Two people did attend, and I was able to deal with their problems quickly. Maybe when word gets around that I am holding them more people will attend.

Today Monday was a quiet day. The Morning was taking up with the a pre-meeting for the first Community Network meeting that will take place on Wednesday evening. The afternoon was spent answering e-mails and sorting out a Resident who had a problem with their Benefits. After a phone call I was pleased to inform the Resident that a cheque for £549 would be dispatched that very night. The Resident in question was very please with the outcome.

Tuesday is going to be a long day as its Full Council with a long Agenda. 

Local Role.

After an interesting Town Council meeting yesterday, I went to the pub for a quick pint. During the discussion Twittergate was mentioned. Not in a real bad way, just how it may have come across. (points I have already accepted). We got chatting about various issues in and around Porthleven when one of those I was sitting with started to talk about the various Political Blogs that are in Cornwall.

He said he enjoyed reading mine (and some other bloggers). He made a point about you should add more about what you do in Porthleven and Helston South. It was a good point, and one that I will try to address. I have in the past blogged about some of the more strategic roles I do and how they will/might effect those in my area. I have not deliberately missed out  talking about Porthleven, but will try and explain why I don’t always.

The reason is that a lot of questions, issues or complaints are in a personal nature or sensitive in their nature. I am sure people who have confided in me would not like their problems/issues aired in such a public way. One major role of a Councillor is keeping confidence of what you are told. It’s a part of the job I take really seriously and would not ever break unless some ones life depended on it.

I am also not the type of person who talks about myself in the “look at how good I am”. It’s not in my nature to do that. Sure, I like some one to say thank you for the hard work you are doing, but I can live without it if needed. I am always at the end of a phone, e-mail or come knock at my door. If I am out or in meetings leave a message and I will get back to you. I can’t wave a magic wand and instantly solve it, but I will try to get some answer for you.

Anyway, I hope that explains my position on this matter and in future I will try and add more about more local stuff. I just don’t want to say “met someone in the street and had a chat”. I can tell you if I pop out for a pint of milk it will normally take me half and hour. The shop is only 2 mins walk away. Even my son said whilst out for a walk this weekend “Dad , why do you talk to everyone?”

My number one priority is helping those in my Ward. The Strategic work comes second.

Recycling – Update

Just over a month ago I started to recycle properly (old blog). I started off as keen as mustard, making sure everything was put in the multitude of bins I have. Friday came and it was Recycling Day. I placed all my containers out with some pride of how good I had been.

It was only when I went to collect the empty boxes I noticed some had not been emptied. All the glass, tin, milk containers and paper had been emptied. The plastic was not even touched. The plastic in question was the meat and other like plastic containers you get in supermarkets. I thought this is what recycling was all about. Making sure plastics are not just dumped into the ground.

I was later told it was the wrong type of plastic. I know from my Chemistry lessons that there are many different types of plastics, but surely they must be all recyclable. How wrong I was.  I ended up with another bin bag full of rubbish to be collected and thrown into landfill.

My first real foray into recycling was a disappointment. Sure they took other items away and in turn they wont end up in landfill. Why does it seem we are only playing at recycling. If its the wrong type of plastic, then make though law the manufactures use the right type that can be recycled. At a basic level plastic is plastic to most people.

I ended up throwing out another bag full of rubbish. Imagine all the other homes that are doing this. That’s a lot of rubbish to be dumped into a large hole in the ground.

I will continue to recycle, but I am met with some disappointment every time I throw another plastic item into the waste bin.

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