On Monday the 4th July at 8:30pm, Panorama will be running a program hosted by Tom Heap called Why I Hate Junk Mail? Why am I blogging about it, well I will be on that program. The program is about the amount of junk mail we receive though the letterbox and the cost of disposing it, which is met by the tax payer.
Lance Kennedy who’s responsibility covers Community Safety has told Members of Cornwall Council of a change of heart by Devon and Cornwall Police on Anti Social Behaviour (ASB) calls/complaints.
The Police, as from the 20th May 2011 would only give log numbers for live (as in happening) ASB complaints. All other historical, or past events would not be given numbers. These past events would just be passed to the local beat managers.
Now, following representations all ASB calls will now be logged. This is a great change to the system as without logs it is very hard to build up a pattern of complaints if there is no evidence. I would urge all people who are subjected to ASB to call the Police.
Please please unless it is a emergency call the non-emergency Police number on
There is an interesting item (one of many) on the forthcoming Cornwall Council meeting. One that has caught my eye is the recommendation to change how surplus land owned by the Council is deposed of. Item 12 on the Agenda on page 99 gives the full details.
In the report it says:
With a significant disposals programme having been achieved during the 2010/11 financial year and another large number of programmed disposals for the current financial year it is important that the decision making process is streamlined so as to avoid unnecessarily taking up Cabinet time with reports requesting permission to dispose of surplus assets.
There is also the possibility that devolution of services may result in disposals to, for example, parish and town councils and it would be more efficient if decisions on the transfer of less significant properties could be made without referral to Cabinet.
The wording which I have highlighted also caused me concern as my worry is there could be an excuse to not to bother with putting it to Cabinet, and public scrutiny, because the sale could be very controversial. It could be conveniently used to off load something, especially as the financial limit has also been raised to the following:
(i) In paragraph 5.1, increasing the financial limit for capital and revenue payments and receipts for officer decisions to £1,000,000 for capital and £500,000 per annum for revenue; and
(ii) in paragraph 5.1.5, limiting the discount that can be allowed by the Director for Resources in making a disposal decision to £250,000 in relation to capital and £250,000 per annum in relation to revenue.
There is also a huge potential for less Local Member involvement in any disposal of assets. This has happened before when sales have only come to the attention of the Local Member when it appears in the Cabinet Report, or worse, in the local press.
I am all for less bureaucracy and the streamlining of how the Council carries out its business. But, at the end of the day elected oversight is a must, and it should not be watered down to stop awkward questions being asked.
It was also agree in principle that the Tourism Panel and VCP should meet for regularly as in the last two years today was the first time both panels had met. This would work as it would have those in the industry who know the business and those in the business of politics singing from the same hymn sheet.
Alex Folkes who is also on the Tourism Panel has made comment about today’ s meeting HERE
I am a firm believer of ‘Open and Transparency’ in Local Government and have pushed at many doors to make the Council more open and therefore better understood by the people of Cornwall. I blogged a few days ago about an incident at Cornwall Council’s Cabinet where those not on the Cabinet were barred from seeing certain information. This information was in reference to Equal Pay Claims and the Monitoring Officer, who I have great respect for gave advice that because this information was so sensitive it could not be given to those outside the Cabinet.
Ok, I can completely understand his advice, but only to a point. Personally I do not want access to the complete report, as to be honest there is no need. What I should and have been pressing for is a ball park figure of the liabilities that Cornwall Council faces in a worst case scenario. The simple reason is if it is a large amount this could then have an effect on the budget and/or the services we provide. As a back-bencher this information is important and therefore should be provided.
So my best attempts using various bits of legislation have failed. I have though managed to get the answer that any money will be made available from the reserves. My worry is the possible settlement for equal pay claims could be rather large, or otherwise we would have been told.
This whole issue is frustrating not only because I believe we could be facing a rather large settlement, but for me once information has been restricted once, it is very easy to use it again. It is like the thin edge of the wedge.
Lastly, the most worrying aspect of it all is not just the money, but the fact of being an equal opportunity employer is finding itself being taken down this course of action in the first place.
In just over two years of Cornwall Council there have been two by-elections and two deflections to other groups/party. One by-election was due to the sad death of a Councillor, the other was in part to the criminal conviction of another Councillor.
I have blogged before about Councillors crossing the floor, or changing parties/groups whilst in office. The last blog was about Neil Plummer. The latest defection or what other may say liberation concerns Jan Powell. Again, for the record I thought and still think Jan did a fantastic job as Chairman and before that as a member of the Health and Adult Scrutiny Committee. I was most surprised that she was removed from that Committee by the Leader of the Conservatives. Details are still sketchy as to why, and I doubt we will ever find out the true reasons.
Anyway, I still believe that if you cross the floor you should stand in a by-election. People do vote for people because they stand under that party’s banner. Crossing the floor to a ‘rival party’ is for many is just too much. I will say many people do vote for the person before party, so there is no exact science on voting.
However, how can you be absolutely certain you have the complete support of your electorate if you change sides? Unless you contact everyone you don’t. You may ask a few people what they think, but this is hardly a full survey. In fact the only way you can be sure is to re-stand and let democracy take its course.
Of course you can disagree with my view (many do), and no doubt the whole strange concept of being and Independent and in a ‘group’ will be raised. But, people have in fact voted for me as an Independent (twice); so I will take comfort in that. If I did decide to change from being an Independent I would stand in a by-election. That way if I retain the seat, I have the support of the electorate. It would be the same if someone decided to go become an Independent from another party – By-election.
At the end of the day Jan’s move is further heartache for the Leader, but a coupé for Jeremy Rowe’s new leadership, which he has blogged Here.
Now the question is will Jan be placed back onto the Health OSC to rub salt into the wounds of the Leader, and if further barrels of salt will be poured over the wounds if she is re-elected as Chairman of the OSC. No doubt lots will be discussed between now and the next OSC as to who will stand for the role of Chairman.
Here is a handy link to the current property that Cornwall Council has for sale or lease. Might be of interest to a business looking for a premises
The Leader of Cornwall Council has decided to send another letter. This time it is to the Editor of the Daily Telegraph, and it is in reference to their article on Credit Card spending. It seems the Leader is still miffed about this article and feels Cornwall Council got slated wrongly, even though the Council supplied the information in the first place.
Here is the very letter that has been sent to the Daily Telegraph:
When did FOI become Freedom of Misinformation?20 June 2011Dear SirAn article in your paper criticised Cornwall Council for using “credit” cards and for spending council taxpayers’ money on inappropriate items. Both statements are wrong.The Council does not use credit cards. These are purchase cards which save an average £33 per transaction. Over the past two years we have saved £2.8 million of taxpayers money – the equivalent of employing 70 children’s social workers, running two primary schools, eight leisure centres or 24 average sized Cornish libraries for a year or maintaining our rural road network in
. Far from being criticised for being the highest spender, Cornwall deserves praise for being the best in this area. CornwallYour article suggested that Council staff had wasted money eating in Rick Stein’s Seafood restaurant and on lavish Council trips abroad – wrong again. The payment to Rick Stein was not for a meal – but was part of the Future Jobs Fund project, a Department for Work and Pensions European funded scheme to provide jobs for people in . The much criticised foreign travel related to educational visits involving teachers from schools in Cornwall which were fully funded by the British Council. CornwallI am also extremely disappointed that you chose to use information you knew to be wrong. We informed the journalist the day before you published the article that the costs of foreign travel and meals were expressed in local currency and not sterling but you still chose to publish inaccurate information.I have been a loyal reader of your paper for more than 30 years and am disappointed you decided to publish misleading information which unfairly damaged the reputation of local government in general and in particular. Such action does not meet your normal high standards. CornwallI am also concerned that having championed open and transparent government in and provided you with our data without trying to hide anything, this has been abused. Dealing with FOI applications has cost the Council £339,000 over the past two years – money which would be better spent on essential services for the public. Your action means that we will now have to put additional resources into this process to ensure that the public are protected from such Freedom of Misinformation. CornwallI hope you will now take this opportunity to put the record straight by printing this letter.Yours sincerelyAlec RobertsonLeader Council Cornwall
There is however a word of caution and a quote by Mark Twain sums it up: Never pick a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel