Library – Online option

I have to admit its been a few years since I have been into a Library. It’s not that I don’t like reading, but I used to do it for pleasure. Now with the amount of paperwork, reports and other documents I have to read in my role I don’t now read for pleasure.

Cornwall Council is looking into how a library should function in today’s modern and somewhat electronic world.  A new way is looking to see what books are in stock and available in the various libraries in Cornwall via the internet. It would be better if you could actually read those books online, but it’s a start.

Click HERE to see what books are held and in stock. It also gives you the earliest date that a book is meant to be returned. This is a good start, and well done to Cornwall Council.

Web-casting – Another step forward

Good news on web-casting. Because the amendment to the original motion on expanding web-casting to other meetings like Cabinet was so poorly thought-out, equipment is being installed that will enable the Cabinet meeting on the 13th October to be web-cast. The amendment did not say it could not be installed. You see what happens when a ill thought out plan is made up on the hoof. See previous post HERE

Hooray might be added, but there is a sting in the tail. Namely, that this equipment cannot be used for any other meeting than Cabinet.  Unless this motion is brought back to Council to be changed. This is made a little harder because of the 6 month rule. That rule is no motion/debate can be brought back within six months unless its supported by at least 20 Members.

At least another meeting at Cornwall Council is more open and accessible.

Honouring the Boys (and girls)

Today I attended the reception held by Cornwall Council to honour the Jack Tars of 854 Squadron based at RNAS Culdrose. They along with 1000’s of other of our Forces have served in Afgan. It’s no easy task to be in the face of constant peril, but its also hard for those families left behind to having to deal with getting on with the day to day things and hoping those ‘over there’ are ok.

It was good to chat to many of those there. Many in fact I had served with, so it was good to catch up with them and have a chat (in Naval terms that means having a good mank & moan) about life, the old days and how people are keeping.  Later this year this unit is deploying again. They do a 3 month rotation with their sister unit.

It was good to see Cornwall Council honouring not just those on 854, but in essence all those who are currently serving.

Parking charges – Is it that simple?

Yesterday, Wednesday, the Parking Panel met to go though the final phase of the work they have been doing for the last 9 months before it goes out to the formal public consultation. This process was coming up with one policy from the 6 of the former District Councils. It’s not been an easy task, but then I knew that when I took the role as Chairman. 
Everything on the table was up for discussion; nothing had been set in stone and could be tweaked, changed or removed if needed. I am going to be honest that some people will not like it. But would they no matter what decision had been taken?
I made sure that the Public, Town and Parish Councils, business organisations and Cornwall Councillors were asked for their views on this process. Out of the 270 Town and Parish Council that received a person letter from me asking for their views only around 50 responded. 65 out of 123 Cornwall Councillors responded. I also encouraged as many of the public to send in their views. I am not sure what else could be done to make sure people responded without knocking on people’s doors to tell them.
So yesterday we made some proposal on those views and the requirement to achieve a certain income from the parking. Like it or not, charging for parking does pay for services that you and I receive. Making it all free is good, but that would require an increase in Council Tax of around 6-8% to achieve the same level of funding. I have listened to just about every idea that people have thought of. Some are just unworkable, but others had merits that have been incorporated into the proposals. One of the most asked for issues to be addressed was the need for cheap 1 hour car-parking to encourage people to use the town centres instead of going to the out of town retailers.
On that note, most areas will see a drop in the first hour charge down to 50p and £1 (larger towns Like Truro, Falmouth, Penzance and Newquay). We also looked into the effect of those areas that are currently paying 20p. It was felt by the Panel that the increase to 50p should be phased in over 3 years this was to be done in Gunnislake, Millbrook, Callington and Liskeard to ease the effect on the towns.  Saltash and Torpoint were also treated slightly different because of their closeness to Plymouth. Their charge was 30p for the first hour with no staged rise.
The charging period was also looked at and most areas saw a reduction in the charging period. In most areas an extra 3 hours are made free. For example Helston/Porthleven would see a charging period of 9am till 4pm. Instead of 8am till 6pm. In the larger towns like Falmouth, Newquay, Penzance there would only be an evening charge in the summer only. The other times of the year it would be free from 5pm. This is again a change for the better.
Season tickets have I regret gone up. For a yearly season ticket it will cost 150 x the daily rate. In most places this has gone up, but this will be scaled in for the first year of 100 days then 150 days for the second year. This means you can park in 4 named car-parks all year, but only pay 100 days (first year). So in real terms you get 265 days free. To ease the burden of paying for these permits, a monthly payment system will be introduced in addition to the weekly, 3, 6 and 12 monthly payments.
Tourist will be able to buy a weekly ticket for £30 to park in all long-stay car-parks. This was asked for by business organisations and those in the tourist trade.
As you can read there have been some improvements to the parking charges. It’s not an exact science, and can be still be tweaked before it’s implemented on April 1st 2011. Quite a few of the longer hour charges have gone up, but we have tried to keep them as low as possible.
If you feel strongly on any of these issues, then please respond during the public consultation. It would be great if you could say why and how you would improve the current charges. It would be better than just saying “don’t like it”.

Drinking and Crime – A link?

I sit on the Licensing Act Committee and I am currently the Vice-Chairman. Its role is to make sure the Licensing Act 2003 is implemented and those premises and people who are covered by it adhere to it. Click here for the Act.
One of the roles is monitoring the effect of the late night economy and the impact on crime and disorder. We can, if needed, tackle problems that arise from premises that don’t adhere to the Act. We have some far reaching powers that can remove some, or all of premises licensable activities via means of a hearing. 
One of the powers we have is to introduce a Cumulative Impact Zone (CIZ). Currently 3 Towns have one of these. They are Newquay, Truro and Penzance. The Committee must review these CIZ every 3 years to make sure they are still working, or if they are still required. It’s not 3 years yet, but we have decided to review early to take into account some major changes that are coming to the Licensing Act (LA03) soon. We will also be looking into other areas to see if they require a CIZ. 
The Committee met on Friday and was presented with a report on these 3 areas and the issue of crime and disorder connected to licensable activities, namely drinking. There were some very stark figures that did in fact point to a problem.  In the report it showed that there was an increase in violent crime connected to alcohol in these 3 areas. With Penzance 14%, Newquay 10.6% and Truro15.5% increase.
Further detailed figures (2009/10) point out that a large percentage of violent crime did occur between Friday to Sunday between the hours of 8pm and 4am. You can see a direct link with the following data between closing, late night drinking and crime and disorder.
Penzance 49% of violent crimes occurred during this time, with a peak of 11pm on Friday and 3am on Sunday.
Newquay it was 51.6% with a peak from Saturday 10pm till 4am Sunday
Truro it was 45.9% with a peak until 2am on Saturday.
The report also covered the age and gender of who was a victim of violent crime
Penzance:  279 victims, 41.6% female, 59.1% male, 20.4% of these crimes were males aged between 15 and 24
Newquay: 234 victims, 33.8% female, 66.2% male, 32.1% of these crimes were males aged between 15 and 24
Truro: 160 victims, 41.3% female, 58.8% male, 25% of these crimes were males aged between 15 and 24
The report is very detailed and is a good source of data to try and tackle known hotspots. No one wants to stop people having a good time, but this problem does have a major impact on people living in those areas and resources by the Police and other agencies. In other words it uses up more of your Taxes to tackle this problem.
The Committee will undertake a full review of Cornwall and look at the best ways to tackle this issue. At the end of the day we can only do what the LA03 allows us. From my experience this Act has a lot of holes in it which hopefully will be address with the review (we hope).

I have also have to say the vast majority of Landlords and Owners of Pubs/Clubs do try and work with the Authorities as they don’t want the hassle of dealing with the nastier element of drinking. I believe we all have to work together to achieve this.

Poverty Panel – Why there needs to be a change

It’s not often that I attend a meeting and it having a hard hitting effect on me. As I have posted before (click here). A single issue panel has been set up to look at poverty in Cornwall. It’s going to look into child poverty in Cornwall, but it can’t do that in isolation. 5 Cornwall Councillors sit on this Panel, I being one of those Councillors.
I know were are not going to fully solve this issue, but what we are going to do is look into how Cornwall Council deals with this, and makes sure we work harder in trying to eradicate this. This Panel can only have an influence on Cornwall Council, but that could be improved. Currently 18.3% of our children in Cornwall are classed as living in poverty. (Please click Here and then click County for the full details from HMRC). Cornwall is by no means the worse. Greater London comes in at 30%, but  our neighbouring County, Devon is lower at 14%
The first few meeting are going to be evidence gathering. We are inviting different organisation that deal with this issue to come and present to us. That way we have a ‘big picture’ understanding on this issue. I have found that a lot of problems could be solved if there was better communications between different organisations. Cornwall Council has to hold its hand up on this issue too. From my experience Cornwall Council struggles to talk between different departments. Organisations and different depts are very territorial, especially when it comes down to funding.
At the first meeting we invited 3 different organisations. It was the presentation from John Ede in his role CAB that the figures of debt and poverty were most striking. He made the comment that if 100,000 people in Cornwall had Typhoid then people would move heaven and earth to solve it, but because debt and poverty is a dirty word it’s kept under the counter. That comment really hit home.
Lot’s is already being done. Excellent work is being undertaken by Cornwall Works. They can be found via .  I hope this Panel can make a difference, even a small one would be an improvement.

Here is Cllr Chris Ridgers blog on this issue. He is the Chairman of the SIP looking into this.

Can’t have your cake and eat it?

You may have guessed that I am a firm believer in keeping people informed. As Chairman of the Parking Panel I have led by example. Namely, making sure people are kept informed on the process of the car-parking review.
It’s not been an easy task in doing this review. I guess it’s like being the England football manager in that everyone has a view on what’s the best line up. The Panel and my roles are making sure we come up with something that is workable from all those views. On the 6th October the Panel meets to finalise the work carried out before it is put out to the public for their views. After that, it comes back to the Panel for its final recommendation to Cabinet.
It’s often cited that backbench Members are kept in the dark. Only the other day I myself complained on my blog. So I made sure that I did not fall foul of not consulting. For one, my Panel has always been open to non-members to attend. Sadly again not many have, but those who did, I made sure they could put their views across.
The other way I did this was by a short questionnaire on the latest recommendation that the Panel had made before it goes out for public consultation. I wanted Members to have a say. It would give the Panel an indication if they were in support of these recommendations or not.
Out of 123 Members that are currently elected to Cornwall Council only 64 of those Members did reply by the closing date. The list is (HERE). 4 others also replied, but their responses came after the date for submission. So let’s be fair and say 68 did bother to reply. I am sure there were others lost in the post. Is this good that only 55.28% of elected members replied to a very important and emotive issue? I have the full list of who said what on the questionnaire/letters. Sure many did not agree with the current proposals, or sent in detailed responses. I am pleased people did. I would rather have that, then no reply.
My point is how can Members complain about not being kept informed, as when they are asked for their views and points, just under half don’t reply. Maybe one reason is that they are so happy with the Panels work they don’t need to reply as they trust the Panel to do the work right.
I have to say when you are asked for your comments please, please reply, as one day they might feel they don’t have to consult. 
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