Porthleven’s Fore Street Pavements

The current state of Porthleven’s Fore Street has been highlighted by a few concerned residents. For anyone who knows Fore Street, the pavements along this stretch of road are almost a history lesson in their own right. They date anything between the turn of the 20th century right up to the 21st. Out of these concerns, I asked if Cornwall Council’s Highway Dept would meet me on site to discuss these concerns.

At the bottom of Fore Street, outside Boots, the pavement is quite badly damaged. The reason for this damage is because HGV’s park on the pavement which damage the slabs. It may seem obvious, but pavements are not designed for HGV’s to park on them. The Highways Officer has agreed to look into the costings of replacing these slabs, most probably with a more tarmac type of surface. The Officer has also agree it would be pointless to redo the pavement, then a HGV comes along and ruins it again. So, as an added measure, a couple of metal bollards will be installed to deter HGV’s along the pavement.

The pavement outside of Boots

The pavement outside of Boots is not the only concern that has been raised.  The other stretch of pavement has a historical connection to Porthleven, and it is probably one of the earliest pavements in Porthleven that has survived. The cobbled part of the pavement has become very hazardous because it is so uneven, and when wet, it is very slippery. I have myself witnessed people slipping over on this stretch of pavement.

However, any change to this pavement could raise objections from within the community. I want to avoid that, but something has to happen to make this stretch of pavement safer. Therefore I have asked the Highways Dept to look at various options for this stretch of path. It was interesting that whilst we were having this site meeting people gave us their views as to what could be done. This ranged from covering over it, roughing it up, levelling it out, or doing nothing.

At the end of the day much will rest on how much each option will cost. If the argument is to make it safe, then it might have to be one of the cheaper options. The problem will be convincing this is the right option. I did learn today that this type of pavement was very common in Cornwall. The stones used as cobbles were in fact ships ballast.

The Cobbled part of Fore Street

My Councillors Community Grant Fund

Each Cornwall Councillor has £2195 to spend each year on community projects/groups. It is not a huge amount of money, but it can, and does make a difference to those who receive it. Unlike many other forms of grant application this process is rather simple, and a group/organisation only has to fill in an easy to fill in form.

The way I tend to administer this fund is to give smaller grants instead of a few large ones. I feel this is the best way to help more people with the limited money available. One of the only stipulations I have in applying is a group or organisation has to have a connection to the area I represent. I know there are many great national and county-wide projects that need funding, but I believe the money should be spent locally to the benefit of the community.

So far, grants have been awarded to the following groups/organisations.

  • Citizenship for Life program – photo-frames for the young people’s certificates: Cost £119.88
  • Porthleven Residents Association – Start-up costs: £200
  • Friends and Residents of Bulwark Group (resident Association) – Running costs: £250
  • Helston’s Gorsedh Kernow 2011 – Toilet Hire: Costs £180
  • Helston Skate Day – Event costs: £200
  • International Schools Theatre Assoc ISTA Porthleven Festival – Sponsorship for two Porthleven primary children to attend: Costs £150
  • National Coastwatch Institution – New sign for tide times and weather information: Costs £200
  • Porthleven Food and Music Festival – Event costs, equipment hire: Costs £300
  • Porthleven Judo Kwai – New suits for children: Costs £250.76
  • Porthleven WI – Jam and Jerusalem – Jam making machine, jam jars and lids etc: Costs £250
  • Porthleven/Guisseny Twinning Association – Running costs: £250
  • Helston Youth Cafe – Event/running costs: £150

As you can see, a lot of organisations/groups have had small but important grants. I still have a little money left, so if you would like to apply drop me an email/phone call and I will send you the forms. If there is not enough to go around this financial year, I will get another £2195 from the 1st April 2012.

Cliffs Fall onto Porthleven Beach

Just over a week ago, a few hundred tonnes of cliff collapsed on to Porthleven beach roughly 150m east of Blue Buoy Steps. The first I knew about it was the morning after when the owner of the land (land above cliffs) contacted me raising his concerns, and the possible danger to the public. I contacted the relevant officer at Cornwall Council who came down and inspected the landslide.

Out of that initial inspection it was decided to arrange a meeting with the relevant people and agencies. This included myself, the town council, Cornwall Council, the landowner of the cliff-top area and the owner of the beach, The National Trust. That way, the best course of action; to either prevent further landslides; and more importantly, protect the public.

These cliffs have a long history of landslides, though luckily not too frequent but frequent enough for Kerrier DC to build a series of concrete sea-defences along this area. Sadly, the sea-defences did not extend this far because of limited numbers of buildings. This of course has changed due to a few crazy planning decisions like Carn Del being given planning permission despite massive opposition to it. To this day I am still shocked planning permission was granted to buildings which some are no more than 10m from the cliff edge.

This meeting took place on Wednesday, and out of that meeting it was decided to erect a series of warning signs at the various access and exit points alone this stretch of coastline. Cornwall Council even though it is not the landowners of the beach will be placing warning signs at Blue Buoy Steps and the Slip near the town council offices.  The plan is then to sit down with The National Trust and see if any permanent solution can be found to reduce the risk of a massive landslide.

Looking at the area today it was apparent to anyone looking at the cliff face other parts are looking less than secure. The worry is this could go at any time with either a strong sea conditions, and more interestingly, strong easterly winds. A local resident who has lived along this stretch of coast for the last 80 odd years informed those present that these cliffs are more prone to collapse when there is a combination of strong sea conditions and easterly winds.

My message to anyone walking along this stretch of coastline which is not covered by the sea-defences is to stay well, well away from the base of the cliff.

Pictures below will show how large this landslide was even after all of the earth and smaller rocks have been washed away by the sea.

Leader of Cornwall Council Bans Twitter

Tweeting and blogging is not everyone’s cup of tea. I find it a good way to keep people informed about my role as a Cornwall Councillor. I use both to explain decisions made at Cornwall Council. Thus giving the public a better understanding on how the council works, and the role undertaken by a Cornwall Councillor. The use of Twitter is allowed in Courts, Parliament, and many news and TV programs. It is now more common to hear a presenter at the end of their program to say ‘follow me’ or use a ‘hashtag’  for updates and stories.

The council and its leadership make it known to anyone listening that the council is open and transparent. In many areas it is, and officers really push the social media agenda to the next level. However, many Councillors see social media, especially twitter, as the equivalent of people being told the world is not flat.

Today, at Cornwall Council’s Cabinet, the Leader of the said council, and with no legal explanation, banned the use of Twitter and ‘blogging’ during the Cabinet meeting. I asked the legal officer (outside of the room) on the legalities of this action because I do not believe it has any legal grounding. I got  no defined answer to my question, and there was no way of raising this concern in the meeting because I have no automatic right to speak at a Cabinet meeting.

The excuse ruling for this Stalinist action is some tweets were un-constructive (see official excuse here). This statement from the council opens up further questions as who are the ‘censor police’, and what is acceptable, or not. Councillors are covered by the Code of Conduct rules so any inappropriate behaviour is covered there. Granted, as few tweets from all the tweeting councillors are said with a little bit of humour, this I believe gives any discussion a more personal feeling.

A new media policy, which is meant to make the council more open, was in fact used to make it less open in the very first meeting after the policy was introduced.  I believe in one action, Cornwall Council via its Leader, has put the council’s social media reputation back by a year.  There are already concerns within the media and broadcasting world that this new policy would not look out-of-place in North Korea.  Today’s actions have added to this concern.

Will this  policy be used again if the leadership hears something against the corporate view. Will the censor police be mobilized to shut-down any dissenting voice? Hardly open and transparent is it. Various platforms of social media talked about the stupid decision made today. Jokes and comments were made about this whole episode, none of them good.

I feel so strongly about today’s  ill-thought out action and unwarranted ban, I have ‘un-followed’ Cornwall Council’s official Twitter account and I urge you all to do the very same until reassurances will be given this Stalinist, and backward thinking action will never happen again.

 

 

 

 

Bus Routes Saved – For Now

Cornwall Council’s Cabinet has stepped back from the brink of disaster with a massive change of heart in the proposals to cut the funding for the Concessionary Fare program. The previous proposals were to cut the funding from the council to the bus operators for each journey undertaken. This was to be reduced from 73.5% of the cost to 50% of the cost of the journey. This would have had a huge impact on certain bus routes, with many disappearing.

Currently, there are 147 local bus routes in Cornwall. 52 of them operate commercially, with no support from the council. 31 of these routes operate because of a 100% subsidy from the council, and 64 operate with a part subsidy. It would have been the 95 routes that would have been affected with any cut in funding. That would cause massive concern to the 126,000 pass holders in Cornwall.

At today’s Cabinet (webcast) it was decided £1.2m would be approved for both 2012/13 and 2013/14 financial year to continue the current service. This met with widespread support from both Cabinet members and other Councillors present. It is only two years because the re-tendering process for most routes is planned to take place in 2014.

Also in todays recommendations a letter would be sent to the Secretary of State asking for a change to the Concessionary Fares scheme. The letter would include a request for Cornwall to be a ‘pilot’ area for a flat rate charge to be introduced per journey. The reason for this idea is because of budget pressures and cuts in funding from Government have made the scheme very expensive. Currently it is against the law to charge for any journey under the scheme.

This idea of a flat rate charge is a very interesting one, as from the public feedback, and from people I have spoken to agree a flat rate could be charged. However, it is the amount of that charge which will be more relevant to any support for it. It has been banded around a 50p charge could be implemented, but this is not a confirmed charge.

A danger though, with any additional charge there will be those who cannot afford that charge. One of the previous Governments good ideas was to introduce this scheme, as it has without doubt, helped people to feel less isolated. The sting in the tail is that no matter how good a scheme is, someone still has to pay for it.

Still the Cabinet, with pressure from Councillors, bus operators and the public, have made the right decision today. So, well done!

Olympic Torch Route – All Hush Hush

You would almost have to be clinically dead not to know the Olympics are being held in the UK this year. It is also well know that a torch will be travelling the length and breadth of the UK in a build up to the grand (and probably very expensive) opening ceremony.

Cornwall has been selected as the first landmass in the UK to receive the torch. Depending on your viewpoint this is being seen as a blessing or a curse. The planned route has also caused outrage in some areas of Cornwall; because the torch will not being going though certain logical areas.

The town of Helston has been selected as one of those areas who will receive the torch. I am disappointed Porthleven has been missed out. As I see no logical reason as to why it has because it is, basically, on the route to Helston (turn right at stop-gate instead of going straight on).

Because part of my division is in Helston, and I am very keen for Porthleven to be included in any of the celebrations, I am part of the working group looking at events in Helston. This is great, because a lot is planned during the day and early evening. However, arising out of this, it seems the actual route and timings of the arrival of the torch are top-secret.

No-one outside of  a small group of the local town council knows the actual route and timings of the route. Those in the local council have had to sign a confidential agreement before they were told. I am struggling to see the rational to this because you would think it is in the best interest of the Olympic organisers to have as many people, and events going on along the route.

Being on the working group, but not knowing the details, makes organising anything almost impossible. How can I expect anyone to take part, or put on events if no one is allowed to know the rough route and timings? All I have been told is the date, and that it’s going through Helston. Worse is when those who do know keep saying “I can’t tell you those details” or the old line “If I tell you I will have to kill you.”  Though the latter comment was said slightly tongue in cheek.

The more I get involved in trying to do something for the area, the more I get disappointed in the process and overt obsession with secrecy for the Olympics. I have been told there is ‘intelligence’ that there might be demonstrations to the Olympics, so this is the reason why hardly no-one can be told of the timings.  However, details will be released two weeks before the event. So, if you were going to wave and anti-Olympics banner, two weeks is enough to make any banner, and plan where to be…

Let’s hope the organisers wake up and smell the coffee, or they might find a lot more disillusionment in these Olympics with no one bothering to take part,  or trying to make this a day to remember.

 

New Start for Porthleven Residents Association

I have been working with the Porthleven Residents (Coastline Housing) Association for the last year. Their opinions have been valuable in achieving a few projects that I have been pushing in Porthleven. The main one was helping me in securing £5500 from Coastline Housing which enabled me to carry out the parking improvements along Gibson Way. Without this extra funding I would never have been able to fund the whole £14,000 out of my budget.

On Wednesday evening, the association held its AGM. Posters were placed around the town encouraging people to turn up to this meeting. With any public meeting you never know how many people will turn up. You hope many, but this is not always the case. I was pleased to see over 35 people turn up at this meeting. Ok, it is not hundreds, but it is not only about numbers. It is more important for those present being willing to step forward and take part in the running of any group that is key to it being successful.

I am pleased to say this group is not about moaning, but offering ways to solve problems in a positive way. It is easy for any group to turn into nothing more than a talking shop, but I don’t think this group falls into that category.

After a new committee was formed, it was felt the name of residents associations should be changed to a more welcoming, and inclusive title. After a short discussion a new name was decided. This new name will reflect the aims of the group, and from now on will be known at the Porthleven Community Group.

It was felt the name ‘residents association’ can put people off from taking part. This I can understand because the common (and wrong) perception is residents associations are full of jobs-worths. This is far from the case from any of the associations I work with.

The aims of the group are simple. The core aim is getting people talking to one another, either in raising single points, or getting the various organisations in the town to work together for common causes. It also wants to be able to feed in its thoughts to the town council. It does not just want to be a ‘lobby’ group, but it also want to be a social group by undertaking social events that anyone can turn up and join in.

In my role as both Cornwall Councillor and Town Councillor I see many groups all trying to do wonderful things, but sometimes they do it in isolation. I think these new aims of the community group are perfect. Often in Porthleven there are various groups all trying to improve certain aspects of life in Porthleven.  A community group like this could be used as the vehicle where all these groups get together, and see where they have common ground.  This in turn could help me press Cornwall Council for funding and improvements as it would show it has wide-ranging support.

Can you spare a few hours and help out? If so, the next meeting of this group will be at 7pm on the 22nd February at the Public Hall. I hope I will see you there!

Lights, Cameras and Action

Cornwall Council is often criticised for falling to do something, or not meeting people’s expectations. I have often criticised the authority for this, but also I have given praise where it is due. At Tuesday’s council meeting there was an item on the agenda which Cornwall Council should be congratulated on.

This was on allowing media organisations to film and record (subject to a few rules) all council meetings. This is a huge step in the right direction in make the council more open to the public it serves. It all started awhile ago when I put in a motion to allow the webcasting to film the main council meeting. Without the support of Jeremy Rowe, Andrew Long and others, this motion would never have been passed. Webcasting now includes Cabinet, Strategic Planning and other important council meetings.

Now from the passing of the recommendations at Tuesday’s meeting, all future meetings can now filmed and recorded. This is good, because the cost of recording the meetings will be met by these media (BBC, ITV etc) organisations, and not the council. More importantly, it makes all meetings now more open and accountable to the public. Then again, I don’t think any media organisation will be there to film all meetings, or the whole meeting either.

However, it did not meet universal approval. There are many Councillors who think that recording any meeting is not constructive. I am not sure of why they would think this, but I have a few ideas.

In allowing media organisation to film and record meetings, Cornwall Council is taking the lead. Many other local authorities allow webcasting of their meetings, but only a handful of authorities in England and Wales allow the recording of them by outside media organisations.

So, well done Cornwall Council for taking the lead, and more importantly, setting the standard.

Diamond Jubilee Party Planned for Porthleven

A month ago, Porthleven Town Council formed a small working party to looking into the feasibility of holding a Diamond Jubilee party for Porthleven. The working party is being headed by the Deputy Major, Sue Johns along with other Councillors (including me).

The working party met for the first time last Friday, it had also invited representatives from the Public Hall Committee, Harbour and Dock, Porthleven School and the organisers of the very successful Unity Rd Royal Wedding party. The initial meetings aim was just to get the ball rolling on looking for a basic ideas and various locations to hold this event. Yes I know not all groups in Porthleven were initially invited, but they will be invited to a public meeting in February.

It was thought after looking at various locations the location of this ‘whole community event’ was going to take place on The Moors playing fields and will take place during the daytime of the 5th June. The plan is to hold a massive picnic/bring your own food type of event either on tables and chairs (if we can get enough), on blankets, or people bringing their own tables and chairs. The park will be decorated with bunting and flags.

Some of the other ideas thought considered, but not confirmed, were:

  • Jubilee King and Queen
  • Jubilee Mugs for Children
  • Traditional games like tug-of-war, egg and spoon and sack-race
  • Exhibition of pictures and films of past royal and community events

A public meeting will be held in Porthleven’s public hall in February (date and time to be confirmed) when it is hoped lots of people from the town will offer help their support for the event. Whilst the full day’s programme has not been decided, it is hoped at the public meeting, that other groups and organisations will offer help, or hold events during this day

Porthleven is lucky to have a community that is willing to invest time, energy and enthusiasm to create events that help make the town a fantastic place to live, work and visit. It is hoped that the people of the town will once again get together so the towns Jubilee Party can become a day to remember for everyone who was there.

So, the motto for this day is:

‘Come along and be part of it’

Councillors and Allowances – That Question Again

Today, at the monthly meeting of Cornwall Council, the emotive subject of allowances raised its head again.  This is not the first time this subject has been discussed, but when it has, it turns into a political football with the two principal parties at Cornwall Council trying to out do each one another on being aghast at any mention of allowances being raised.

It may seem like turkeys voting for Christmas, but due to the current rules, Councillors in all parts of the country have to discuss and vote on the allowance they receive as part of their duties.  It is a ridiculous situation to continually happen, but until the rules change, there is no other option.

This time the agenda item was slightly different, because the main thrust of today’s debate was on the allowance for the next council in 2013.  The current basic allowance is £12,300 and change.  This allowance is also subject to Income Tax and National Insurance.  At the inception of Cornwall Council the allowance was estimated at being around £18,000.  This did not happen, because the figure was worked out on Cornwall Council having 83 members and not 123.

The first part of the recommendation was to form a fully independent review panel (IRP) to look into the various aspects of a Councillors role. It will then present its recommendations as to what it thinks is a reasonable allowance to the council.  From my experience of being interviewed by a previous panel, any allowance will factor in at least 1/3 of the role being voluntary and not receiving any payment.  After what seemed like a long debate, this part of recommendation was passed by a large majority of those present.

The second part, and the more controversial element was to ask the IRP to look at the current Special Responsibility Allowance (SRA) and report back to the council in March. This fast-tracked review would primarily looked into the SRA of the Cabinet Support Member (CSM). Currently this position does not receive any SRA.   However, this subject has been discussed before, and rejected by the council. Many today felt this fast-track review was another attempt to get this SRA through.

Points were made that this SRA should be included in the main review. Other points were raised that while staff are being given pay-freezes it would be wrong to award a potentially large allowance while others were being asked to tighten their belts.  More points were raised that the current CSM’s do a great job and should receive a SRA.

I can sympathise with the last point, and feel if the role of CSM was better thought out, and not a knee-jerk reaction to the recent ‘problems’ within the Conservative Group, things might have been different. After all, two years again the idea of CSM’s was firmly rejected by the Leader of Cornwall Council.   Again, after a long debate, a recorded vote was taken resulting in this part of the recommendation being rejected by 57 against, 45 for, with 3 abstaining.

The third and last part of the recommendation was to send a letter to the Local Government Association (LGA) setting the case that the Councillors allowance be independently determined which in turn is binding on the council and for the Government to change the law to enable such a procedure to be introduced in England and Wales.

I believe the LGA should and must do this because the same issue that Cornwall Council face on Councillors allowance is replicated up and down the country. With the LGA setting the allowance, it would stop the political and at times petty point scoring when it comes to allowances. It would also stop Councillors having to vote on this subject which I believe would be better for the publics viewpoint.  After a shorter debate than the previous two points a vote was taken, and it was passed to send a letter to the LGA.

What do you think is a reasonable allowance that encourages all parts of society to become Councillors, and not face a financial penalty in doing so? You only got to look at the current make-up of Cornwall Councillors to see it is largely made up of the more ‘older’ members of society.

I believe a good council is made up of Councillors from all walks of life, age and ethnicity. After all, that is a truer representations of Cornwall.

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