Highways – Let’s Say Thank You

Even Blind Pew would have noticed the snow and cold spell that we have been subjected to these last 4 weeks. I was trying to find how long ago we had weather like this and came across a reference (click HERE) going back to the 1600’s. Of course, those Northern climates get snow every year and lots of it, but it is fairly rare for Cornwall to get a huge dusting of it before Christmas.

Cornwall Council is responsible for over 4,530 miles from major principle roads, to narrow country lanes. In other words, all roads in Cornwall apart from the A30 and A38. That is a lot of roads to cover with 24 gritters. Last year (including the cold spell in Jan) Cornwall Council spent an extra £500k on salt and grit. The average salt usage in the previous last 4 years was 5,500t, last year it was 18,000t. That is a huge increase in tonnage compare to the previous years.

So far this year Cornwall Council has used around 8,000t of salt compared to last year, and has spent an additional £200k having undertaken more pre-salt treatments. In 2009 this was 18, to date it is 48. Of course in an ideal world all roads would be salted, even the narrow back lanes, but this is just not going to happen unless we at least double our fleet of gritters and spend more money on salt. So let’s stop for a minute before we demand all our drives to be cleared as I doubt many will be happy to suddenly find we have a ‘winter’ tax added onto the Council Tax bill to pay for this.

What we should be saying is well done and thank you to all those in the Highway Department who have worked around the clock trying to clear the roads, and acting as quick as possible to each case. I for one have seen far more gritter lorries trundling around our roads than I can remember. So from me, I would like to say a big thank you to all those in Highways who have worked so hard in keeping our roads open. Maybe people might like to write a letter or two to this department to say thank you. It will make a nice change from the ‘My road is this.. etc’

Of course maybe if we do not want to spend more, or have a ‘winter tax’ then maybe every citizen could help out like the picture below (Disclaimer – I am joking)

Section 106 – Monies Owed and Paid

In August, (Click HERE to refresh yourself) I blogged about the amount of money that was owed to Cornwall Council by various companies and developers by means of Section 106 orders. So I enquired as to the current state of these obligations. These are the responses I got from the 3 Planning Areas and are from May 2010 to the present date.

East
Admin fees received: East 1 £4950.00 – East 2 £3750.00 – Total £8,700.00
Admin fees outstanding/due: East 1 £1750.00 – East 2 £1500.00 – Total £3,250.00
Obligations paid: East 1 £100,133.11 – East 2 £64,340.68 – Total £164,473.79
Obligations outstanding/due: East 1 £15,070.00 – East 2 £0 – Total £15,070.00

Central
Admin fees received: Central 2 £5,575.40 – Central 1 £22,545.71
Admin fees outstanding/due: Central 1 £200.00 – Central 2 £4,750.00
Obligations received: Central 1 £66,072.08 – Central 2 £1,530,312.64
Obligations outstanding/due: Central 1 £188,732.60  Central 2 £139,756.38
Case with litigation: – 2 Amount outstanding £65,000.00

West
No details received as yet.

I would like to thank those Officers who sent me these details, and more importantly the work they have done in chasing up all the outstanding payments. I was told that after I blogged about Wainhomes and the amount they had outstanding, a cheque suddenly appeared for near the outstanding amount. My only concern is as with the August details, the West Area has no firm details, or it just could be a case of them not being sent to me.

Pedestrian Refuge – Boating Lake, Porthleven Road

It has been quite a few months since I last posted on this subject; mainly because I had been working behind the scenes with Highway Engineers to come up with a plan that works, and more importantly, have the money to pay for it. I am happy to now announce that I do have a scheme, and the money to pay for it from my Members Highway Grant.

As anyone who knows this area the crossing is going to be situated between a large free car park and Coronation Park which includes the well used Skate Park, Children’s Playpark and Boating Lake. I had hoped that this was going to be a full pedestrian crossing with either lights, or beacons, but due to the location of the crossing it would have just been unaffordable due to the utilities that would be required. In the end I opted for a refuge type crossing, rather then bin the whole idea. I feel some sort of crossing is better than what is currently there, which is nothing.

Below are the drawings of what is planned. The date for all this work to start is mid January and it is hoped to be completed within a few weeks after that. Of course, this date could slip right, but I am hoping the weather will be kind enough for this to take place in January.

Proposed Scheme:

Scheme with road markings:

CCTV – Helston Say No

Here is yet another post on CCTV; this one is a follow on from where I last left off about the contributions from the 11 Town Council’s in the West and Mid of Cornwall. Last night, at the monthly meeting of Helston Town Council, they discussed their contribution towards CCTV. During the discussion it came to light that the Town Council was not aware of the latest Cabinet meeting, or the proposals surrounding CCTV.
During the debate, reference was made to the other Town Councils that had been asked to contribute. It was said during the debate by the Town Clerk, though I can’t 100% confirm it is correct, that Penzance, Falmouth and Redruth had all said no, with Camborne asking for more details before they decided. That is a lot of towns to say no, especially as it was only discussed at Cabinet a couple of days before. A question is how much Cornwall Council knew of the reluctance to paying before this was presented to Cabinet.
In the end, Helston Town Council passed a motion that they would not contribute to this scheme because they felt that they would not pay more for a reduced service. So if the other towns I mentioned have indeed said no, then the likelihood of any monitoring of CCTV is very remote.  I wonder how the news of Helston Town Council no vote will be received at Cornwall Council? 

Maybe the question is now; what is the point of having CCTV if it is not monitored?

Cornwall Council’s Grant from Government – Figures and Percentages

Over the last few weeks Cornwall Council’s Budget has been subject to claims and counter claims on the merits of going early, waiting, or just ignoring it and hopefully it will all go away in the morning. I have myself pondered these merits (except the last one) and would have personally liked to have waited till the Government released the details before making the decision, but that was not my choice.

Last week, the Government did release those figures, as with all announcements from Government, it is about as far away from plan English as you can get. Most mortals just want to know how much it is, not some complicated formula that would have a maths prodigy scratching their head. This meant that us Members who asked how much the settlement is, got the reply “It’s complicated and will get back to you in a week or so” 

Yesterday at Cabinet, those present were handed a piece of paper with those settlement figures, or should I say, what finance had interpreted as to what the Government had said.  This, depending on your standpoint, (as I mentioned in my first paragraph) was either “We told you so”, or silence.

Currently, 2010-11 we receive from the Government £325 million in various grants. The predicted budget as voted on last week by Cornwall Council made the predicted settlement to be £270.7 million. That is a reduction of £54.3 million or a 16.7% (for those who like percentages) from what is currently received.  The provisional settlement after the maths prodigies had finished is £271.3 million. That is a drop of £53.7 million or 16.5%.

The difference between what was predicted and the provisional figure is 600k. If these figures are correct, then hats off to those in finance for getting so near. As I have said before, if there is spare money, then this should be reassigned to the most needed areas of the Council.

CCTV – The Hand Moves Closer to the Off Switch

I only blogged about this subject yesterday, but after what happen in today’s Cabinet meeting I thought I had to add to it. As I had pointed out before, the current operation and more importantly monitoring of CCTV in the Mid and West of Cornwall requires 11 Town Councils to contribute around £110k per year.  
The case for this was presented to Cabinet, so far so good. That was until the Chairman of the Communities OSC, Judith Haycock, said what this Committee had recommended following two inquiry days was not what was presented today. I having attended all those meetings agreed with her and awaited the explanation. That explanation was rather woolly in my opinion.
This whole scheme rested on the Town Council’s signing up and more importantly handing over the loot. A question was raised about what would happen if those Town Councils had already set their precept (budgets) and had made no allowance for this additional charge. I raised a further question asking if they had already set the precept could they either defer payment, or split it to take into account the problem of precept. This was met with a slight nod and murmur from those in charge of the purse strings. 
It was when Julian Germans (Cabinet Member) asked if any of those 11 Town Council had said no to the proposals. The answer that came made everyone present look up with shock. One Council had said no. it was suggested by another Member that another had as well. 
So if they (the authors of the report) knew that one, possibly two of the Council’s had said no, then the first part of the recommendation falls, that is even before a vote is taken. The recommendation quite clearly states that if all 11 Council’s don’t sign up, then its good-bye CCTV monitoring. 

Cornwall Council Web-casting – Is Anyone Still Watching?

The Web-casting Working Group met today to look at how things are going, and to prepare a report to full Council in February. Whilst the viewing figures will not give concern to the makers of Coronation Street they are still pretty impressive in Council terms. 

These figures are that are the total of live and archive viewings for 2010

Council (main meeting) 3rd December – Total =2920
Cabinet 17th November – Total = 661
Cabinet 27th October – Total = 5915
Council (main) – 7th September – 216 (live) – 473 (archive) Total = 701
Council (main) – 27th July – Total = 2445
Council (main) – 15th June -Total = 14715
Council (main) – 11th May -Total = 10992

It is hoped that other meetings could be web-casted when this report with any further recommendations are presented to Cornwall Council. I really believe in allowing broadcasting of our meetings has made the Council more open and accessible.

Parking Charges – The Recommendations to Cabinet

Today’s meeting of the Parking Panel was the culmination of over a years worth of work. As with anything that covers parking and charging it is slightly emotive to say the least. I won’t go into all the details on the merits of what was put out during the consultation because everyone has their own opinion. I will just cover what was discussed today and the results of those discussion.

Before I go on, click HERE for the Agenda. Worth a read to familiarise yourselves before you try to understand what I’m about to talk about.

Groupings: Nothing really changed in the proposals that were consulted on, and presented today. There was a case made by a few of the Councillors present to move Penzance from its current group into group 6. The merits of this were discussed, but when it came to the vote it was decided to keep it in group 8.

Hours of Charging: Nothing was changed in this as it was felt that most areas would see more hours that were free of charging. Helston and Porthleven for example would see 3 hours free that has been previously charged.

Tariffs: This area was the concern of a few Councillors, mostly from the South East part of Cornwall. In a previous meeting special treatment was given to the areas of Gunnislake, Liskeard, Callington and Millbrook for the first hours charge. In the end a compromise was made; instead of this being phased in over 3 years, this would be two. 30p first year, then 50p second. A vote was taken and this was passed. Saltash and Torpoint had cases made for them due to their closeness to Plymouth. This again was voted on and it was decided that the first hour charge would be 30p.

Season Tickets: Another area that had raised concerns from the public and Members. This was due to the completely different policies from the old District Councils. Some of them charged for a years permit equivalent to 59 days of daily tariffs, other areas charged 200. What was decided was the policy would be for a yearly ticket would be equivalent to 100 days first year, rising to 150 in the second. Yes in a lot of places this would rise, but I still think you only pay for 100 to be able to park for 365 days. The alternative was to remove them completely. The numbers that could be affected are around 1000 people.

Reserved Spaces: Now this area caused real concerns, not by Members, but the public. The Panel had asked for a ‘Market’ valuation to be completed on these spaces. That in itself caused many questions as to the criteria for this. Some areas would see a rise from £450 to £1000 after this valuation. I felt (and had the support of the Vice-Chair) that we would change this proposal as I felt it were unfair. I proposed that those areas that were paying the ‘current market value’ would see no rise.  The other areas that were proposed to see a massive rise, sometimes a doubling would only see a 10% rise on there current values. For example Castle Green, Helston would see only 10% and not the rise to £250 from around £64

All these and the other issues will now be presented to Cabinet for their approval. They can of course change all, or any part of these recommendations as my Panel is an advisory only.

CCTV- Cabinet and Flicking a Switch to Off?

Reading though the Cabinet reports before the meeting tomorrow I came across the item Agenda on CCTV. Click HERE for that document. I have also blogged about this before HEREHERE and HERE.

Now I might have missed the point, but previous meetings on this subject had made it perfectly clear that CCTV would not be switched off. It was only when I came to read the Cabinet report that it does say it will be switched off if certain things are not done. The proposals in the report requires £110k in contributions from the 11 Town Councils. If they don’t get this by means of written confirmation from those Councils, or that no payment is received from them after the letter, then the CCTV will be switched off.

Don’t believe me, or dont want to click the link, then here is the wording of the recommendation.

Recommendation:

1. Approval be given to undertake a procurement exercise for the provision of CCTV monitoring services to be provided at the three current CCTV centres in Hayle, Truro and Newquay that reflects the budget the Council has allocated for this service from 1 April 2011, the authority to tender to be conditional on financial contributions being secured (paid or a firm written commitment given) by 17 December 2010 from all of the eleven councils as referred to in Appendix 1 to the report and totalling £110,000;

and that in the event that not all of the £110,000 financial contributions are secured as referred to in recommendation 1 or if any commitment to any of those contributions is withdrawn before having been paid it is

Further Recommended that:

2. The procurement exercise be discontinued; and

3. Following 31 March 2010 no Cornwall Council CCTV funded monitoring will take place

So as you can read, if the Local Town Councils don’t stump up the loot then it is going to end up with the flick of the switch to off! My question is, how many of Cornwall Council Members know this could happen?

Car Parking Charges – Consultation

After a years work that looked into many, if not all aspects of car-parking, the Parking Advisory Panel will meet tomorrow to discuss, amend and change any points of the Consultation before they recommend it to Cabinet in January. Everything is still up for discussion and nothing has been set in stone by this Panel. There was always a danger that no matter what this Panel did, the Cabinet could change any, or all of the recommendations. I hope they don’t, as my Panel has spent many hours working on it to make sure it is right. That in itself has not been easy, as many people have their own opinions on how it should be done. Some have real merit, others are only fit for the back of a fag packet.

I am pleased to say that this subject has been the most publicly consulted area undertaken by this Council. I have made sure that there has been many chances for people to make comment officially, or unofficially during this process. The last consultation that finished a week ago had an excellent response. Listed next are the numbers and other details as to who did respond.

Total Public Responses: 1010
Town and Parish Responses: 40
Organisations: 17

Cornwall Councillors: 17
Members of Parliament 2 (Sheryl Murray and Andrew George)
Community Network: 1 (Penzance)

I believe this is a very good response from the public. It is a shame that only 2 out of a possible 6 of our MP’s did respond. As to why only 17 Cornwall Councillors responded that could be explained that I did consult them by means of a Members Consultation, so they may have felt that there was no need to do another. It is also a pity that out of 270 Town and Parish Councils only 40 responded, but again this could be explained as they had also been previously consulted by a personal consultation just like the Cornwall Councillors.

Overall it has been interesting to read all the responses and will look forward to the debate from my Panel and other Cornwall Councillors who attend the meeting tomorrow.

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