CCTV and the costs

The other day I attended an inquiry day set-up by Cornwall Council. This was on the cost and effectiveness of CCTV in Cornwall. To be honest, I have got accustomed to seeing these cameras in various locations around our towns. I thought overall they are a good thing if they reduce crime and make people feel more safe. I am not one of those who believes its a infringement on our civil liberties being watched by these cameras.

In Cornwall there are 4 CCTV systems covering 14 towns with 161 cameras in total. Two of the systems are operated in-house with the other two are outsourced. The four systems are run and controlled at Truro, Liskeard (in house) and Hayle and Newquay (outsourced).

Currently these systems cost £984,000 to run and operate. This is broken down by the following. Maintenance £147,000, Monitoring £600,000, Transmission £163,000, Other £74,000 .

This is funded via £833,000 by Cornwall Council, £151,000 by various Town Councils. The most surprising aspect of this is that the Police make no financial contribution to the running cost  except that they allow two of the systems to use the Police Stations rent free.

Now to the point of the Police funding, or lack of it. This raised everyone’s eyebrows to say the least. Surely the main beneficiaries to this system are the police. In fact, an independent report by Deloittee Consulting said that the use of CCTV equated to having another 29 Officers on the beat. The answer from the Police representative said we had no statutory duties to fund CCTV.  A question later to the consultant about do the Police fund CCTV schemes in other Authorities was answered yes, either fully, partly or as in Cornwall’s case, not at all.

As for why we are having the inquiry on CCTV is party due to the cost, including the value of money to Cornwall Council. There is also a claim from various investigations that there is limited, if any, evidence of public realm CCTV actually reducing crime based on national evidence. Now this is not to say it does not, or it can be used to prevent crime as in stopping incidents escalating because it’s been caught early and dealt with. Not to mention that it gives the public a peace of mind.

We are also at a point that capital investment is required to replace ageing equipment estimated at £500k plus £100k per annum. Could this and the running costs more effectively used funding other crime prevention and reduction schemes? What must also be looked at is if the Police and/or other parties will agree to fund revenue and capital costs. If not, one of the proposals on the table is to simply flick the switch to off.

What is going to happen now is various avenues and questions raised at this first day will be brought back to be thrashed out before the findings and recommendations are presented to the OSC, who will then report to Cabinet for a final decision.

I got the feeling from the Police that they were unhappy/unlikely to agree to fund CCTV fully or partly. The question is, can the Council afford to pay for this service?

The Mayor’s charities

The Mayor of Porthleven has picked his charities for this years term of office.  Whilst these groups are not strictly charities they are very important to Porthleven.  Last year Age Concern was the charity, and just over £1500 was raised.

This year its the turn of the youth to benefit.  Also, it wont be just one group that’s supported. in fact, four groups will benefit.  These groups are Portheven Guides and Brownies, Porthleven Youth Football team, Porthleven Youth Gig team, Porthleven Youth Cricket.

I think the Mayor has made some great choices again this year. Even better is that more than one group will benefit.

The Cuts at Cornwall Council

Yesterday we had our first Budget under the new Coalition Government. Depending on your political view point you agree, disagree, or you just want to know how much money you might lose once you made sense of all the figures.

Cornwall Council has already been informed by the Government of further cuts.  These amount to £13.668 million in Government grants, and include both capitol and revenue grants. That’s quite a chunk of money to lose in anyone’s books

It could get worse. We could expect a further 20%-25%  in grant cuts as announced yesterday in the Budget.  That’s not to mention the spending reviews taking place by the Government of  Isle of Scilly Link, Building Schools for Future and road improvements over at Camborne/Pool. It is worrying to say the least.

Tough times are indeed ahead.

What I cost you, the tax payer

Much has been made (and rightly so) of MPs and Councillors expenses. No one was impressed with the excuses a lot of MPs came out with to defend their claims. I thought I would dispel a certain myth or misunderstanding that people think all Councillors are paid £30k plus.

The following figures I list are what I cost the Tax Payer in Allowances last financial year. This is recorded on my P60 if anyone doubts the figures. These figures are from 6th June 2009 (when I took up Office) and the 31st March 2010

Total Allowance  £11,834.19 (Gross).

I paid the following:
£1334.60 Income Tax
£811.95 Nat Insurance
£944.84 Nat Insurance Emergency Rate

Total £3,091.39

I received £8,742.80 (Net) of that. This includes all Special Responsibility Allowances (SRA)

On top of that Cornwall Council paid £811.95 in Employers Contributions

I also claimed 3916 miles. The cost of that is £1566.40 on the 40p per mile rate.

The total cost to the Tax Payer in my role as a Cornwall Councillor is £14,212.54

From 6th June 2009 till 31st March 2010 I attended  45 out of 46 meeting that I should attend due I am a member of that Committee. I also attended 33 other Committee meetings that I was not a member of, but attend to find information that could effect my area.

Here is the Link to my details.

This does not include all the Town and Parish meetings, meetings with the public or other meeting I attend in my role. I receive no mileage payments for these meetings and the costs are met by my Allowance.

I am not saying I am good value or anything like that, but I wanted to be honest in what I cost you, the tax payer.

The second webcast meeting

On Tuesday Council Council full meeting was broadcast live on the web for the second time. The Councillors present seemed more relaxed about it after last month.

The live viewing figures were not as good as the previous meeting, but its the archived meeting views that really count due to people working might not be able to watch, and so will wait till they have the time. Another good point to the archived file is that you don’t have to watch all the meeting, but can click on the “Index Points” to go to an Agenda item, or click on “Speakers” to see what a Councillor had to say.

Anyway, here is the link to the Archived File for you to watch.

Here are the comments from the BBC reporter Graham Smith on how he sees the web-cast.

Re-Elected

Today I was re-elected as the Chairman of the Parking Panel. Its a difficult job, but is made easier because of the commitment from the  Panel Members.

On the Agenda today was the groupings of certain car parks and the charging periods. A lot of work had gone into trying to place each car park in the correct grouping. That’s not an easy task. On the whole there was not too many changes to what was proposed.

As for the charging periods, this was deferred till the next meeting on the 8th July. The reason was because the Panel felt that the charging periods should be decided when we discuss the pricing structures and prices for these groups. They might all be different, or all the same. That is the discussion for the next meeting.

I have always promised that I would try and make parking charges as cheap and fair as possible. I still aim to do this, but this process cannot be done over night.

Waste Panel

The more I attend these meetings the more I realise how complex the issue of waste is. Its truly mind boggling. It’s compounded that we are trying to make one clear workable and understood policy post the recent massive changes to local Government in Cornwall.

This is made more difficult with National and European targets. For example the Government Waste Strategy 2007 for recycling of Municipal, Commercial  and Industrial Waste requires that Cornwall Council to have a household recycling rate of 40% by 2010, 45% by 2015 and 50% by 2020. Currently Cornwall Council achieves a rate of 37% (rising to 38% this year).

Due to different contracts that Cornwall Council can’t get out of we wont be able to have a fully integrated kerbside waste collection until 2012.  The work for this has to start now and be ready for adoption then. The aim of any policy is to reduce the amount we stick in the ground as landfill. This is done by Recycling. At present we are not bad at it with a 37% rate, but there is still room for improvement.

In 2008/2009 725kg of waste (black bag) was produced per household. This has reduced for 2009/2010 down to 700kg per household. In anyone’s book this is still to much to simply stick in the ground.  Garden waste equates to 33,426 tonnes of waste produced (2009/2010).  Luckily, 27,306 tonnes of this has been diverted from landfill in the way of composting methods.  That still leaves 6,120 tonnes that end up in a hole.  Of course garden waste will degrade, but its costs £48 per tonnes to place it in the ground. Worse, is if you go over your allowed limits this figure raises to £150 per tonne. This money could and should be saved.

The Council in the past has sold at cost certain types of Composters. Between 1996-2010 some 54,000 of these have been sold. This has resulted in 71,000 tonnes being diverted for that period. Current estimates predict that 8,000 tonnes per year is being diverted using this method. When you start to add up these figures you take a large gulp of air and realise just how much money would have been wasted if this practice was not in operation. We can still improve on this by more people using composters.

Another way of reducing waste is to re-use the items. The old saying of ones mans junk is anothers treasure. It was a very handy practice of allowing people to take away items at the Recycling Centres. This stopped because of Heath and Safety rules. Cornwall Council is looking into ways of adopting a scheme that would not breach Health and Safety rules. That in its self is never an easy task, but that’s not to say it should not be attempted.  In 2009/2010 roughly 241 tonnes of material was re-used via the Council managed channels. Its estimated that another 2% – 5% of municipal waste could be re-used.

I think we all have a duty to recycle better. Not just because it will save help the planet, but to better use the public’s money better. Always willing to hear other peoples views.

Tourism Panel

I have been selected to sit on the newly formed Tourism Panel at Cornwall Council. This will be a challenging role as tourism is a vital form of income for Cornwall, roughly 25% of GDP and employing around 15% of the workforce. We met for the first time last week and it gave us chance to sit around the table to raise and discuss the issues and problems that the tourism industry is facing.

It would be great to say that we have a huge budget to tackle these issues, but in the scheme of things its not. Its around £2.6 million, and I doubt that we will get any more money. So we will just have to use this amount as best as we can. Do we advertise more outside the County, or do we publicise more of what’s around once they are they are in the County. These are just two of the questions raised and that will need addressing.

What the tourism industry really needs is some great weather. The weather for the last 2 years have not been great. If the weather continues to be poor during the “season” then I am really worried because poor weather keeps people away.

A nice thought from the Police

Today I picked up my answer phone messages. Apart from the calls who are trying to sell you something I received one from the Police.

This was in response to a car accident I and my son we involved in just over a week ago. Apart from the car looking like it had entered the local bumper car race we both escaped with just a odd bruise.  This was call from a female officer who had just rung up to see how my son was, and hoped he was ok post accident. I was very grateful for this call and showed that the Police do really care. 

Thank you. I am very grateful for this call.

A Porthleven Town Council Meeting

Last night I attended the monthly Porthleven Town Council (TC) meeting. During the public participation part we had 3 people who wanted to speak. Two were requests and the other speaker was there to introduce them self in the new role of Harbour Manager created by the Harbour owners, The Harbour and Dock Company. I shall cover the two requests first

The first request was from the Gig Club wanted for the Town Council to apply for planning permission for a storage container for the Gig. The reason for this is that if the Town Council applies it gets 50% cheaper planning fees. We don’t normally do this, but as we own the land this will be situated on, and we support community clubs like this. So we were more than happy to do this.

The second was from the Bowling Club wanted permission from the TC to have a small bar in the club house. We as Landlords of the building were again more than happy to support this.

Now to the point of the introduction. I was glad the Harbour Manager came. I wanted to ask some questions over changes to using various parts of harbour. These points had been raised by people and community groups who use the surrounding areas of the Harbour. They felt upset and annoyed over these changes and had asked me to take up their concerns.

For anyone who knows Porthleven there is a area called the harbour head. This is a good sized green area that traditionally groups have used to raised a little money to help their causes/groups. I am not going to say this is only used by community groups because events and commercial stalls also use this area. The point is these groups have been sent a letter saying they will only be able to use this area on the 4 Bank Holidays. Before that, they were allowed to (subject to booking) use this all year.  I challenged this. The response I got was a slight change to what was said in the letter. They said outside these 4 days they could apply to use it. No guarantee was given of these groups being allowed to use this area more than 4 times. But at least its a step in the right direction.

The second point I raised was to do with another piece of land. The size of this is small, and is more suited to a couple of tables selling a few cakes and other bric-a-brac. Its only really used by local groups who want to raise a little bit of money to help their groups.

They might only make 20 odd pounds for the day, but that’s a lot to these groups. Last year a fee was introduced of £5 per day. This year its now £10. That’s a 100% increase on something that you should really not charge for. It smacks more of penny pinching.  These groups rely on this money and if they have to “rent” this space for such a high charge then they maybe force to stop.

Now I have to give credit. The person in question did listen and said they would take it up with the boss and owner of the harbour. They said they would raise these important points when they phoned the owner in Bath.

I do understand the Harbour is a business. It does charge for the new purpose built market stalls over at the far end of the harbour. These are commercial stalls and I see no argument in not charging. The community stalls don’t compete with the commercial stalls. In fact they are completely different. It seems more about money, than by helping groups that struggle to get funding who are only trying to raise a little money.

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