Porthleven Community Group Holds Successful Coffee Morning

The Porthleven Community Group held a very successful coffee morning on Saturday, 29th September. It was great to see and talk to so many people who attended. The cakes on offer were made by the group, and both the cake and tea were free to everyone. That way no-one feels left out.

For me, when I talked to various people the hot topic was on the proposals for Shrubberies Hill. I am slightly worried on so many rumours that are circling in Porthleven that are not true. I did my best to explain the facts on both sides of the arguments, so people can decide either way if they want to support, or not.

There was some fantastic raffle prizes kindly donated by the businesses of Porthleven, and this raised £64! So well done. In fact well done to all of the group who gave up their time to bake, help out etc. And to all who turned up making it a very successful morning.

The groups Facebook page is HERE  for more details on their activities.

The large selection of cakes!

Group members and coffee morning guests

Helston Social Media Surgery

Last week, Cornwall Council held social media surgeries in various locations in Cornwall. It would have been great if it was on a larger scale, but you have to start somewhere. I was pleased Helston Library was selected to host one of these events last Friday.

You never know how many people will turn up, especially as these surgeries were being held in the daytime. At first me, @Donna_Sharpe and @MattBond1 thought no one would turn up as a good 20 minutes had passed without anyone coming in. Like all Geeks, we spent the time talking about our various phones, apps, and other social media related things.

However, it was great when people did indeed turn up and wanted help. The first couple who turned up wanted to learn more about Facebook because they keep hearing  ‘look on our Facebook page’ for more information; and many of their other interests are online. The team were more than happy to show them everything they wanted to know, and how best to access Facebook and various other things.

The last person of the day wanted again to know about Facebook. This time though, they did not have an account, and they were very worried about security and thought everyone would be able to see what they were doing. So the team set up a Facebook account and explained the various safety features and restrictions you can have on social media sites like Facebook.

From the feedback we received I hope Cornwall Council and myself will be able to hold more of these surgeries at different times, as there is a real need by people for helping various online content, especially as more and more government agencies and local government is being placed online.

If anyone would like more help and lives in Porthleven and Helston I would be more than willing to come and answer any questions you have on social media.

A bonus from holding the event in the Library is people then went on to sign out various books on social media, and the three of us (re)joined the Library!

My twitter is: @CllrAWallis

Shared Service Takes a Torpedo From Finance Portfolio Holder

They say a week is a long time in politics, the way things are going at Cornwall Council it probably feels like a lifetime. Today, Jim Currie, Cabinet Member (and Deputy Leader of Cornwall Council) that includes finance, torpedoed the already badly damaged ship that is the Strategic Partnership for Support Services (shared services) with a withering email sent to all Councillors.

With so much at stake, the email could not be more perfectly timed. With RCHT meeting today to decide if they would join the partnership and Tuesday’s possible release of the Invite to Tender the support services ship looked, despite coming under intensive fire from Councillors, the public, Unions and the media to be limping into the port that is privatisation. Councillor Currie, has struck with devastating effort worthy of someone from the Silent Service.

In the email Jim Currie gives his critique of the proposals:

The JV process has been described as a year and a half of smoke and mirrors (and secrecy) sorting out £22m a year contract followed by a smash and grab raid of a few weeks imposing a £436 million a year contract for procurement. I would agree with this description since I was on leave when it happened.

The correct procedure to challenge the Cabinet decision on JV was a call-in by Scrutiny. Indeed there are 7 situations that can each trigger a call-in and this decision had six of them. Unfortunately the Single Issue Panel consisted of the main players from Scrutiny who were baulked by competitive dialogue secrecy and the speed of the procurement extension to the contract. The reports to Cabinet were excellent but done in record time. Procurement which is 95% of the Equity was not identified.

The promise of jobs in six to seven years time indeed may well happen. Unfortunately, information freely available to all members would indicate a distinct possibility that each job could cost the Cornish taxpayer one million pounds. At that rate the jobs will continue to happen so long as members push up Council Tax as their main involvement.

Not a jury in the land would endorse the annual delegation of twice the size of all Council Tax revenue being described as a purely executive (Cabinet) function.

The Competitive Dialogue process has been backed up by secrecy, loads of anecdotal comments including filibuster and threats of legal action but no real evidence. Unfortunately it takes ages to filter out the direction of travel so members are getting a kicking if they venture into the minefield.

As you can read, Jim Currie does not mince his words in the e-mail, more so as Jim probably knows most about the proposals than 90% of the Council.

What will the Leadership do now? Will they man the lifeboats and let the shared services venture sink beneath the waves to an inglorious end, ablaze? Let’s hope so, for the good of Cornwall.

 

Shared Services Petition tops 4200

Two weeks have passed since the shared services petition started. And who would have thought it would have attracted so many signatures in such a short space of time. When the original motion supporters started the petition, we knew it would go pass 1000 signatures, and confident to reach 5000 in a month or so. However, the speed in which we have passed the initial 1000, and now we are a hairs-breath away from the 5000 has staggered me.

At the time of writing, the number of signatures on the ePetition is 3781. This is amazing in itself, but this does not include paper signatures. As for those, a rough guess (from the feedback) the paper version has attracted over 700 signatures. One paper petition has, 502 signatures which I now have been sent. That is truly amazing and shows real citizen power at work.

These 502 signatures have been collected by one couple (thank you Sally and Bob) so outraged by the proposals on shared services, they took to the streets. Not only have the collected an amazing number of signatures, but they have also kept a record of how many have said no. This is 27.

Even though the numbers of signatures on the ePetition has slowed down, I am still getting daily requests for details on the ePetition, but also the paper version (sent two out today). The magic number of 5000 is within sight, one last push and we are there. This I believe will show the Leadership the public are not supportive of these plans.

It is not all good news as a key (and worrying) date in this fight is the 27th September. This is where the RCHT board meets to discuss if they are to be part of the partnership. I was hoping this meeting would be public, but from the agenda I have seen, it looks like this will be held in closed session. Which is very disappointing.

And next Tuesday (2nd Oct) is possibly the day when the Invite to Tenders (ItT) is issued by Cornwall Council. I hope it is not issued, especially with everything else that is going on. However, it could be as the CEO, Kevin Lavery can issue the ItT after consulting the relevant Portfolio Holder’s and Leader. Not as it should ‘permission of the’ Portfolio Holder’s and Leader!

The fight continues……

Citizenship for Life and Habitat for Humanity

The visit after Emmaus, the Citizenship for Life group visited a run down complex of flats in Southwark, London. They were in a very poor state of repair, even though they were owned by the local authority. Habitat for Humanitydecided to act (with the consent of the LA) and do something about this. After all cheap local needs housing is in dire need in London, just as it is in Cornwall.

Chris, the Foreman

The cost of renovating and putting a building back into use is expensive. Sometimes too expensive for a local authority to do single-handedly: My view is there is no excuse for a local authority to allow a building to fall into this state. The way Habitat for Humanity works is using volunteers from CEO’s of international banks, to a person with a little time on their hands carrying out jobs to help bring a building into use by doing a lot of the work, but also using qualified tradesmen for those jobs that cannot be undertaken by volunteers.

This is a great concept, as it keeps the cost of renovating down, and therefore the cost of selling down, or keeping the rent low via a registered social landlord. No one is forced to work, so the organisation has no problem with motivating someone who might have been sent there as some sort of community payback.

Like the previous visit to Emmaus the students got a lot out of the visit, and saw when people are willing to give a few hours of their time, something great can be accomplished. With so many empty and derelict houses in Cornwall, maybe something like the program Habitat for Humanity would bring a few more houses back into use?

The Citizenship for Life Students and mentors having the project explained

Citizenship for Life Students visit Emmaus

The Helston based Citizenship for Life program is now in its second year. Building on the success of last years program, 12 more young people are taking part. This year it includes schools from the Lizard and Falmouth/Penryn area. Like last year the aim of the program is to inspire, motivate and allow the participants to experience different aspects of life and work in and outside of Cornwall. Each participant has a one-to-one mentor drawn from business, local government, military, public sector and volunteers.

During the twelve month period the program runs, the participants in the program visit various places. The recent visit was to the homeless charity, Emmaus.  The motto of Emmaus is certainly thought-provoking, and makes it clear the charity is not about handouts. The often easily solution, but does not really solve the issues of homelessness. That motto is proudly displayed on the wall in the centre:

The UK patron of this charity is Terry Waite. Terry made himself available throughout the visit and was on hand to answer any question the young people (and adults) asked. The informal, but very powerful way he spoke of Emmaus and his past experiences certainly made a huge impact on everyone due to the responses everyone gave post the visit. It really made them think about homeless, and how they could easily find themselves in the same situation during their lifetime.

We were shown around the centre, by a few of the Companions, who had come to the centre when life was at rock bottom. They all said how much it had changed their lives, and how now they are standing on their own, in their own place and feeling part of society again. This was a very important message, as if you want someone to be part of society, they have to feel they are.

Emmaus is not about handouts, as when you become a Companion you have to stop claiming the dole. You also have to work, in either the shop which sells new and second-hand items; or doing something in the community. The work you do is also paid; with some of this pay put aside for you for when you have got your life heading in the right direction and helping to you get started again.

The young people when asked about the visit gave some truly remarkable answers from what they had learnt at Emmaus. Here are some of their responses:

Jennie – “I know of a homeless man in Helston and I used to think it was his own fault that he was in that situation, like a drug or drink problem, but I now actually wonder why he is homeless and if he is okay. I have learned not to stereotype anymore.

Hayd’n – “In the media and on the streets you only hear or see the bad things about homelessness. Homeless people have a hard time and its easy to see why they would choose a life of crime, it’s easier! Emmaus made me see the good things and how they can help homeless people change and do some good with their lives.”

Rhys – “Before this trip I knew that making fun of homeless people was wrong but before today I did not know how much homeless people do within Emmaus and how much they want to get back into ‘normal’ life.”

I have to say, the visit to Emmaus is one of the most thought-provoking I have ever done. The visit and listening to Terry Waite and the Companion’s made you sit up and take notice of just some of the problems in our society.  The model of the organisation is different, but from what I saw it really works. I summed it up when asked about the visit:

“Emmaus gives self-esteem and respectability back to homeless people; soup and a roll are great, but you need more than that to integrate people back into society”

If you can take a little time to have a look at the Emmaus website, and see if you can help in anyway

Terry Waite, Companions, Staff, and the Citizen for Life young people and mentors

 

No Confidence Motion on Leader of Cornwall Council

Things at Cornwall Council are likely to get very interesting in the next week or so. The reason for this is 41 Cornwall Councillors have put their name to a no-confidence motion on the Leader of Cornwall Council.

Now this has been submitted, an emergency council meeting will take place on the 16th October at New County Hall, starting at 10 am. It will be simply a yes or no vote. If the vote goes against the leader, then he is automatically removed as leader, and a new leader has to be in place by the end of the day. It will then be up to the new leader to pick his cabinet.

That does not mean the cabinet will automatically change, as it could stay the same. I will imagine a lot of arm twisting and talks in quiet corners will be taking place in the next few days.

Social Media Surgeries

Cornwall Council is taking part in a national social media campaign between the 24th and 28th September at various locations around Cornwall. Sadly, it is not being held in that many places. But the reason for this is these are ‘testing-the-water’ events. As if successful, they will be held on a more regular basis and more inclusive locations

I feel like I am preaching to the converted, as if you are reading this, you are probably proficient in the use of social media. However, I am sure we all have friends and family who runaway screaming when you mention social media. This might be through choice, but in a lot of cases it is not.

Social media can be a powerful tool, and is becoming an everyday part of life with the likes of blogs, Facebook, and Twitter. The Government has recently made it easier for ‘citizen journalist’ to get access to council meetings and report directly from them.  Social media is also a good way to keep people and groups informed. I know I can get an important message out very quickly via social media.

The aim of the surgeries is to introduce people to social media. These will be held in four locations and they are being held at:

  • Monday, September 24, Wadebridge Library 5-7pm
  • Tuesday, September 25, Launceston Library 5-7pm
  • Wednesday, September 26, St Austell Library 5-7pm
  • Friday, September 28, Helston Library, 12-2pm
I shall be in attendance at the Helston Library to help offering help and advice (like pitfalls). There will also be Cornwall Council officers there showing how social media can be used to contact the council.
For those who know what the hell I am talking about in the world of Twitter, there will be a 12-hour Tweetathon on Thursday September 27th in line with a national day where local authorities will be tweeting. The official hashtag is #Ourday Cornwall Council will also  be using #CCDay.
My Twitter is @CllrAWallis
And the poster:

 

 

2500 Petition Signatures in a Week to Stop Shared Services

I hope readers of the blog will not tire from the subject of stopping shared services. I feel this subject is really worth repeating because if it goes through, it will change how Cornwall Council provides services.

The ePetition has in a week, attracted 2500 signatures. This is halfway to the magic number of 5000 for a debate to happen at the full council. This does not include any paper petition signatures that have been collected ether. As for those I have sent out (on request) 15 of these paper petitions.

First the democratic majority of Cornwall Councillors showed they were against the Partnership for Shared Services, but now and more importantly, the citizens of Cornwall are showing they are against with so many signatures in such a short space of time.

I feel and so do many other people who have contacted me that democracy has been undermined with the original Motion being so quickly ignored. I have been taken aback with the emails and phone calls I have received on this subject. People feel they elect someone to do their best for their community and when they then find out their democratic representative is powerless; even though a viewpoint has been expressed and voted on.

The Government, Local Authorities and town and parish council’s all try to get people in standing for office and taking part in elections by voting in them. But why should they now, when the recent debate and vote has shown the elected majorities view is ignored; with the real power in a few hands. How is that good for democracy? Simply it is not.

I have seen and understood the frustrations town and parish council have when dealing with the bigger cousin authorities. I saw the struggle and arguments between the District Council’s and the old County Council. Now, I have seen the Cabinet system that is simply not engaging with its full council. For instance, one senior Councillor said to me telling his colleagues ‘ignore the council at your peril.’ I think that peril is now very apparent. Something has to change, and change fast.

The executive system, more commonly know as the Cabinet system was introduced to speed up decision-making, and stop the often long and bureaucratic old-style committee. In parts it has worked, but it has also undermined democracy itself with putting too much power in too few hands. The Cabinet system could be better if the scrutiny function could do more than just make recommendations. However, it cannot and adds to the flaws in the system.

I have blogged before about Cornwall Council undertaking a Governance Review. At the start of the process it was pretty balanced on the Cabinet verse the Committee system. Now that feeling has swung firmly behind the Committee system. While the Committee system is not perfect, it does give greater accountability and inclusion in any decision-making process and policy.

So sign the petition not just to stop the privatisation of council services; also if you believe in democracy, and want to place that democratic power back into the hands of all Councillors, who are directly elected by you, the people

The Petition is HERE:

Porthleven to trial seagull proof bags

A trial is about to take place in Porthleven to provide certain streets with a free seagull proof bag. This is something that I have been working on for months, and I am now very pleased it is starting. These bags will hold two or three black bag and I am told are completely seagull proof if used correctly.

The town council is fully supportive of this trial and has helped me decide on the streets who will be part of the trial. 300 houses will be taking part, and I hope if the trial is successful, these bags could be in use throughout Cornwall. However, they might not be free, as someone will have to pay for them.

One of the ideas is Cornwall Council use its buying power to buy 1000’s of them, they can then sell them on at costs to the town and parish council’s who could either give them away for free, recover the basic costs, or add a small percentage onto the cost of the bags to help pay for other green projects.

I still don’t understand why people won’t just buy a cheap dustbin. The do come in various sizes, so even if you have a limited space to store the bin I am sure there is a size for you. Maybe these easy to fold-away bags will overcome people’s reluctance to buy a dustbin.

The area that will be included in the trial are:

Thomas Street, Thomas Terrace, Holmans Place and Bickford Crescent

Detail on how the trial will work will be delivered to those areas taking part in the next few days (week).

 

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