St Ives Hustings

Last night I attended the Hustings for St Ives Parliamentary seat over at the St Ives Guildhall. (A Husting is where the prospective MPs face questions from the public). I had never been to one of these before , but I thought I would turn up and hear what they had to say for two reasons. Firstly, I am going to vote for one  these Candidates, and secondly who ever wins the seat I will have to work with in my role as a Cornwall Councillor.

Five of the Seven Candidates turned up. The two missing were Simon Reed for MK and Jonathan Rogers from the Cornish Democrats. No reason were given as to why they could not attend. The whole even was organised by the Cornishman Newspaper and Chaired by Jaqui Walls its editor. I did a quick head count and I reckon just over 80 people attended.

The Candidates were then invited to give a 2 minute opening statement. Everything was pretty standard as they laid out their stalls on what they were standing on and what they would do. It was then the turn of the public who had submitted questions previously.

If I am honest this is where the whole concept went wrong. Instead of giving the candidates a set time limit to answer the questions they were given an open mike. This resulted in a lot of waffle and rambling from most of the Candidates. Hardly clear and the  points they were trying to make got lost in a lot of waffle. I had to ask myself are they still answering the same question they were asked.

As to who came out best is best answered by those who were there here is the link to the Podcast for you to make your own minds up. I know who I thought did best and who came unstuck a few times, but that’s for me to decide when placing my X in the box. (Link to follow)

After an hour and a half only 6 questions were asked and answered when the Chair called the Hustings to the end. This was not well received and I stood up and asked if the meeting could be extended as many people there had questions to ask and had travelled a fair distance to be there. One Elder Gentleman was most upset and made the comment that he had made the effort to come and had forgone his Dinner to be there. There were a few other shouts from the crowd to extend, but sadly it wasn’t.

I came away disappointed as I had not heard enough as to who was the best to have my vote. I know there has to be a time limit on the procedures, but only 6 questions? Guess we will have to wait another 4 odd years to have another go.

Saying that its hard, and I know from experience when you are the Chairman as to when to cut someone off, or allow them to continue to make their point. We are all guilty of waffling on in this job. I would rather see the Hustings than not. So good effort all in all.

Reception with Jack and Jenny

Last night I attended the Chairman’s reception for the Ships Company of HMS Cornwall. Two Bus loads of the Senior Service were shipped over to County Hall for a few drinks and nibbles. (Jack and Jenny is the nickname of male and female sailors)

What struck me when looking at the Ships Company all dressed in Square Rig was the amount of Campaign Medals that they were wearing. It was not just the old sea dog that had a chest full, but those in their late teens early 20’s that were wearing them. Here they were dressed in their No1’s wearing Campaign Medals standing in a building that they were in simplistic terms out there in the world defending our right to debate, make new rules and laws.

Sadly, and I know there is a General Election on, but I am sorry to say there were not many Cornwall Councillors present. No more than 15 Cornwall Councillors attended out of 123. Sad really, as these people could make the ultimate sacrifice. It would have been nice if more Councillors could have turned up. An Interesting fact that a few years ago 54% of all personal in Afghanistan were from the Royal Navy (Royal Marines are part of the RN).

Chatting to the Officers, Senior Ratings and Ratings it was the lower ranks that were generally interested in how Politics works. I was humbled because they generally wanted to know how it all worked. It was a little easy for me as I was able to speak the same language as them as I wore the same uniform many years ago. I took a few of them into the Chambers to show them. They were again generally interested and impressed not with the building, but the concept and that each seat in there represented a part of the community.

Looking around the Long Galley you could see the young sailors chatting to the various Mayors with them and pointing at the gold they were wearing and asking lots of questions. It seemed the Sailors were interested in what gold each was wearing, whilst some of these Mayors were more interesting in their medals.

Special mention should go to Mo and the Chief Stoker, they were great company! Sadly both of these will be leaving the service soon. Mo (and he will hate me for this) Won the MBE in Sierra Leone 12 years ago. He was the youngest ever rating in the RN to be awarded the MBE. Ask him how he got it; he will say “wrong place right time”.

Another Rating I met was caught up in that debacle a few years ago with the Iranian Gunboats. He was one of those who were captured. What impressed me most was that he was offered over £30k to tell his story, guess what he said. Not interested. You have to ask yourself how many of us would turn down £30k when that’s equivalent to 2 years wages tax free.

Why have I mentioned these two, well these are just two of the people in that room that had a story to tell or had seen something. Ask them about it and they will just say “life in a blue Suit”. This Ships Company are a credit to themselves and the Royal Navy.

In true Naval fashion the bar was left empty at the end of the day

Sex Establishments

On Friday the Misc Licensing Committee met. On its Agenda was a Change to the Policy under the Licensing Act 2003 on what would be classed as a Sex Establishment. They changes cover 3 parts. Sex Cinemas, Sex Shops and Lap Dancing Clubs. Cornwall does not have any Sex Cinemas, so there will be no change there.

As for Sex Shops (not to be confused as brothels), Cornwall only has one and from what I am told by the Authority this is well run and without incident. As for Lap Dancing Clubs there are a few in Cornwall. 2 of them are located in Newquay. Those in Newquay have attracted a lot of attention over the last few months. I guess it all depends on your moral outlook on this subject. You either think these are totally wrong, or have a place as long as they are heavily regulated to protect the workers.

The full report is here (Agenda)

It was to the credit that the Committee did not just blindly accept this change in Policy. They wanted to make sure that this Policy was fit for purpose and right for Cornwall. To many times in the past rural Authorities have just adopted something that is more suited to a metropolitan area.

This Committee will now be looking into this at length. Not saying they won’t accepted this Policy, but from what I heard the Committee wanted to make sure it was right. They have come from intense pressure from those in the Community who are so against these establishments. I got the feeling that the objections on this are purely from the moral aspect.

Community Networks

Last night was the first formal Community Network for the Helston and Lizard Area. This was held in Porthleven at the Football Club and Chaired by me. We agreed that the Chairman would be from the area that the meeting was held in.

Firstly, we had a hour session on the Local Development Frame work (LDF) and the Community Sustainable Strategy. About 40 people attended this and we broke into 3 groups for this. What came out of these groups is that this area needed more local needs housing and better transport/infrastructure. Everyone agree that this area seems to be missing out on this and this needed to be addressed urgently.  As the Transport issue was one of the main concerns this is will the sole item on the next meeting agenda.

What struck me as the Chairman was after the initial concerns that this Network was just going to be another “talking shop” I got the feeling that those present wanted to make this work as they could see the benefits of all working together. I came away that we might, with a lot of work, just pull this concept off.

Of course this road is a very long one with quite a few pothole in it. These meetings are also open to the Public to attend and take part in the discussions. So please feel free to attend the next one.

View of an Independent

After last weeks televised debate it seems that this Election has kicked off, or has it? For those who are more politically minded or interested in this subject it has. From the various Social Media outlets I read and follow in cyberspace everything in this Election has changed.

But, if you talk to the “man in the street” they hardly mention the debate. Why? Well, your guess is a good as mine. People have this attitude of no matter who gets in; they are still going to tax us more, either directly, or by some other means. They also talk more about the weather than Politics.

As for the Leaders, do people really vote for a PM when they place their X in the box? I don’t, I pick the person who is standing in my area who will best serve that area. Picking a PM is not going to change what happens in my area, but picking the right MP can.

Going back to the debate, Nick Clegg did seem to come out on top, closely followed by David Cameron. As for Gordon Brown, he looked slightly nervous as he did that forced smile a little too often. To be honest I was not that impressed with it all. Sadly people seem to be making more out of what suits, hand gestures and hair-do than actual substance and policies. As I have said before, it takes more than a TV performance to run a Country.

Will the other two debates be any better? Who knows, but one thing is sure those 3 Leaders will be having more “training” on this before the next one. So you will never really know what’s the true person or some polished training.

The final question is who will win the Election? The answer is, we will find out after 10pm on the 6th May when the Polls close and the count begins. My view at this stage is that the Lib Dems and Labour are fighting over the same vote as the more tradition Tory vote will vote Blue. Saying that, is there still that tradition vote around?

As for Polls, they should be taken with a very large pinch of salt. Anyone thinking otherwise should remember the Bradley Effect (link). Another factor I believe is being missed is that it’s not trendy or cool to be seen as a Tory voter, but when people get in the Polling Booth things can turn out a little different. This is called the “Shy Tory Factor” (Link).

Again these are my views, I don’t have any Party loyalties or blinkered by being a Member of a Party. I have always followed Politics since I first watched the 1979 Election as an 8-9 year old. I have also not voted for the same Party in all the General Elections since I was eligible to vote. For me the choice is down to two Parties. One of the Parties I have completely discounted as posted in a previous Blog.

At the end of the day it’s a long time in politics until the 6th May, and anything could happen.

Gypsy and Traveller Camps

A new Working Group on this very subject has been set up. I am not a Member of this Group, but I have got hold of the notes and Agenda for this Panel. It makes for some very interesting reading. In my experience from being a former Kerrier District Councillor nothing makes the Public take to the streets or start a Petition quicker than when there is a hint of a Gypsy/Traveller site proposed for their area.
Now I will be straight up and say I do not know where these proposed new site could be, but only the recommendations laid down in the report. Much could change from this and the final decision, but I thought it right to tell what is being proposed. The next few paragraphs are taken from these notes.
It was decided that a key task and output of the Working Group was preparation of an initial Issues & Options paper for the included Travelling Communities Development Plan Document, the paper to be presented to Cabinet in July 2010 for approval in anticipation of possible public consultation in September 2010 (alongside a similar document for the Core Strategy). In terms of a related programme of work, in advance of presentation to Cabinet, it was decided that the next meeting (15th April) should focus on evidential issues and strategy options. Thereafter, draft and revised draft versions of the Issues & Options paper would be prepared for consideration at following meetings (13th May and 10th June respectively) before eventual presentation to Cabinet. 
Number of Families Occupying Unauthorised Sites
Cornwall    Caradon   Carrick   Kerrier   N. Cornwall   Penwith 
   118             7             20               24                0                      8            
Restormel
      59

RECOMMENDED DISTRIBUTION OF RESIDENTIAL SITES (GTAA) 

Caradon –  (1 Site) Liskeard area Gypsies and Irish Travellers
Carrick – (2 Sites) 1 Near Truro, New Travellers. Near authorised Wheal Jane Site – Gypsies and Irish Travellers
Kerrier – (2 Sites) Lizard – New Travellers. Near Camborne – Gypsies and Irish Travellers
Penwith – (1 Site) Not Specified – New Travellers
Restormel (2 Sites) St Austell/Bugle Area – Gypsies. Newquay – New Travellers.

Now these areas just listed are not confirmed, but just recommendations. 

RECOMMENDED DISTRIBUTION OF TRANSIT SITES (GTAA)

Caradon (1 Site) Near Liskeard, towards Plymouth
Carrick (2 Sites) Truro Area and Near Authorised Wheal Jewell Site
Kerrier (1 Site) Helston or Lizard
N. Cornwall (2 Sites) Davidstow and Camelford
Restormel (1 Site) Near St Austell.

Again, these are just recommendations, but as I said in my opening paragraphs, I think its only right that these should be known up front and not when the decision has been made that they ARE going there.

No sites have been identified in these areas. I am informed that before any decision is made the local community will be fully consulted before any decision is made. Saying that I think it’s always best to be up front on issues like this.

As always I welcome your views.

Pest Control- Charging

Cornwall Council is making changes to the pest control service provided to the public in order to provide the same level of quality service across Cornwall.

Each of the former district and borough councils used to provide different levels of service for domestic premises in their areas.  For instance the former Caradon district council did not provide any pest treatment service at all, whereas others provided a free service for rats and mice.

The changes, which come into effect on Monday 19 April, do not affect the Council’s public health responsibilities in any way.

One significant change will be the introduction of one number on which to request a pest control treatment.  This new number will be 0300 1234 212.

The same level of service will now be available to all domestic premises in Cornwall.  For rats and mice only, the Council will arrange for a professional pest operative to visit, assess an infestation and if appropriate lay bait.

Another significant change will be the introduction of a charge of £36 +VAT.  The charge has been set at this level to cover the cost of the contract.  There will be no net cost to the council.  Consideration was given to offering a reduced cost to those on certain benefits however the customer contact centre (who will taking the calls) are unable to verify if a householder is in receipt of benefits.  The amount charged by the Council will be for 1 full treatment this will be an initial survey, and the laying of bait, a further revisit 6-8 days later to check on bait take and remove any carcases and a third follow up visit if necessary.  The charge set by the council is extremely competitive and in some cases almost half of that charged by private companies.

Householders wishing to use this service will be asked to pay up-front either by cash, or card either at one of the Council’s 22 one-stop shops, by phone through the Council’s customer contact centres.  For people wishing to undertake baiting themselves advice is available on the Council’s website.  There are also at least 13 separate private pest control contractors listed in yellow pages as working in the County.

No service will be provided in respect of any other pest species such as fleas and wasps but staff in Customer Contact Centres will be able to offer advice on the best way to deal with this type of pest.


Several other local authorities across the UK currently charge for their pest control service including Stevenage, Brentwood, Walsall and Southend.  Other authorities have chosen or to cease provision completely for example the former Caradon District Council.

Unlike many services undertaken by the Council it is not duty-bound to provide a pest control service.

However, the council is still under a duty to investigate allegations of rats and mice on land.  The Council’s enforcement powers remain the same as they have been for the last 60 years.  The Public Health and Protection Service will continue to investigate allegations of infestations and where infestations of vermin exist, or sufficient steps to prevent them from occurring have not been taken, then the Council can, and does, require the occupiers or owners of land to take action to deal with the problem.

Hope this information helps. Feel free to comment.

Webcasting update

Today, the small working group set up to implement the Motion of Webcasting met. This is moving along rather nicely. The camera required for this will be fitted at the end of April and the first live broadcast will take place on the 11th May 2010 at Cornwall Councils AGM.

I will of course keep you up to date on the process and give details of where you can watch (if you wish) this historic step forward.

Staffing at Cornwall Council

I attended the Cabinet meeting today at Cornwall Council. Item 12 of the Agenda Workforce Development Strategy 2010-14 had some interesting facts and figures. Now these fact and figures are up to the date of the 31st December 2009. That mean they are slightly out of date, but they are the most resent ones available and presented to Cabinet.

It was for me interesting to read how Cornwall Council is made up in Gender, Salaries and Jobs. From these figures Cornwall Council employs 20,994 people. These figures include full and part time employees.

I shall start with Salaries and the ranges. Please note these figures are in a simple format and the lower end pay scales include those who are part time or limited hours.

                         Male    Female Total
Less than £10k  1272    6387    7659
£10-14,999k        691   2125    2816
£15-£19,999        947   1818    2765
£20-£24,999        792   1505    2297
£25-£29,999        557     731    1288
£30-£39,999       1278   1790   3068
£40k and Over      557     544    1101

As you can see for an organisation we have 1101 of our Staff over £40k. I would like to know what would be the split of this figure for those paid over £60k-£100k. I am not saying that they should not be paid this money, but I thought I should point it out from the recent national press that all Government jobs are over paid. As you can see from the figures it seems not to be the case. You might argue that Cornwall is an area of low paid seasonal jobs, but instead of keeping all wages low, we should strive to raise wages to a higher standard.

The next figures are what roles and dept these staff are employed. So here is a break down of this.
        
Adult Care and Support -1450
Chief Exec  – 116
Communities  – 2504
Corporate Support  -1350
Children, Schools and Families  – 1940
(Non School)
Children, Schools and Familes – 10640
(Schools)
Environment, Planning & Econ  – 2994

For the full break down of the report click Here- Item 12

Paying for the Police

As you know in part of the Council Tax bill we pay for the Police. This is not a small figure. Cornwall and Devon have a joint Police Force; so the money collected from both areas is pooled to run the service as one.

The interesting part of this whole deal is the split on how the money is spent. Currently Devon gets 2/3 of the money to spend in that area, and Cornwall gets the rest. You could argue that Devon has more cities and slightly larger population/demographics than Cornwall, but does that justify this split?

Does than mean we are getting less per head spent on Policing than our neighbouring county? Maybe the split should be more even?

Anyway, let me know your views

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