Budgets

As I said it my previous post the other important item on the Agenda was the Budget for 2010-11. Now i wont go into great detail on this as most of the work on this has been carried out over the last few months.

It was only to be expected in the two main parties that make up Cornwall Council did their normal blame game and point scoring routine. A few of the Councillors still left in attendance asked a few questions, but considering most of these had been dealt with previously there was no killer questions delivered.

An interesting point in the budget was on Highways. It looks like each Divisional Member might (here’s hoping) be allowed to spend £8k on Highways projects in their areas. Now I welcome this as it give us local Councillors a chance to do a highways project in our areas that would not be normally done during routine operations.

A point was made that £7m is being but aside for restructuring. I am led to believe this is includes Staffing. No details were given, but it was said about future redundancies. 

Budgets are always difficult to deliver especially in tough economic times. Lets hope we don’t stay in this tough time for long or things might just get a little tougher for all of us.

Vision Impaired Plan

After a busy week I had two meeting that I needed to attend, sadly they were at the same time and in different locations. One was Cornwall Sea Fisheries and they other was Licensing Act Committee. Considering I am the Vice-Chair of the later I thought it be prudent I attended that one. Most of the meeting was taken up with various procedural matters during Hearings and the way the Panels are set up.

Luckily I was kept informed what was going on in the other meeting by the power of Twitter. Alex Folkes and a member of the Twitter Gang kept Tweeting information (His Points).  So even though I could not be there at least I was able to keep abreast of what was going on.

Another meeting I would love to have attended was the Public Meeting in Wadebridge. This meeting was called by the Corp Resources OSC. This was about the possible selling off of some of Cornwall Council surplus buildings. (I have posted before on my views on this).

This building is one of the most modern buildings that Cornwall Council owns. The argument is that this building is underused and should be shut down and sold off. They want to move the staff to a new building in Bodmin (not built) as part of the centralisation plan, AKA “Vision Plan”. Now all well and good, but I still don’t understand why you need to sell one building that could be used, and build another one less than 6 miles away.

We are told the land is worth £10m and the new building will cost £12m (that’s if the build costs are even within budget!),so we are already £2m down.  The whole plan does not make sense. The Local Councillors are trying to save this building and I at this point fully support them. Here are the links to their blogs Cllr Scott MannJeremy Rowe.  They as local Members can explain it better.

Now you could wonder why I am blogging about something that is not in my area, or even close. I am blogging because my area could be effected when other areas are looked at. The current plan is for 3 “Hubs” Camborne, Truro and Bodmin (not yet built). I do worry what will happened for the Public and the Staff who may have to travel great distances to go to one of these Hubs. Its called a “Vision”, but in its current format I am more inclined to call it the “Vision Impaired Plan”

The Debate Pt 2

Allowances, always a tricky subject, even trickier when you have to justify it to the general public. Today at Full Council this subject was up for discussion post an independent review. They recommended that due to the nature of the workload there should be a increase in the basic allowance from just short of 12k to 14,600k. Roughly a 20% rise.  
I have blogged  before on what I think. I will spare you from me repeating myself. I will just give you the link for you to refresh yourselves. (Debate Pt 1).
Anyway, 3 hours were spent discussing this. I threw in my 10p’s worth along the lines of ‘if you want younger people involved you will have to make the allowance attractive to them so they can afford to live’. It seemed to have hit the note with others (Jeremy Rowe) who like others had some sympathy with my points.
I feel that people may have been inclined to accept the recommendations if the current economic situation was better, and we were not about to have a General Election.  The Liberal Democrats and the Conservative Parties are both fighting for hotly contested seats here in Cornwall and were not about to give the other side any opportunity for points scoring.
 Part of the recommendations did say that we may look at this again a year or so. What should happen is allowances awards should be made by a independent panel and taken out of the hands of the Councillors who at the end of the day will be seen as voting (or not) for a pay rise themselves.
I am sure this issue will keep coming back because Politics gets involved. I do wonder sometimes how much a hindrance Politics is, and how much it slows down any decision.

Tough Choices

Thursday was once of those days. I had Health and Adults Scrutiny Committee, a Public Meeting in Penzance and a Town Council Meeting in Porthleven. I shall start with The Scrutiny meeting.

This meeting only had one item on the Agenda. Support previous Councils (Cornwall County) decision to move Upper GI Cancer treatment to Devon. This is a rare form of Cancer that effects roughly 120 people in Cornwall per year. With approximately 25 of those needing surgery. The Primary Care Trust (PCT) certainly came in numbers. They gave a well presented argument of why this should be moved. It went along the line of a centre of excellence. They did state over and over this move was not for financial reasons. (maybe state this a little to much).  The choice we had to make (a very difficult one) was should we endorse this move or not. After over 2 hours of discussion we came to a view.

A proposal was made by Mario Fonk to refer this decision to the Sec of State of Health for his ruling along the lines of not enough information was available when the previous decision was made. I, after careful thought, agreed and seconded his proposal. Services like these should be kept in the County and not transfered to another areas. You have to think about the after-care, the families of those who are effected and more importantly keep services in Cornwall!

BBC News Link

I think its a slippery slope when you allow services to move out of the County. More importantly, because the geographical nature of Cornwall. We don’t have the luxury of being surrounded by other Counties with similar services.

Singing at Council

Today was a first. Singing after Prayers (not everyone agrees with Prayers at the meeting). What did we sing? Trelawnay’s Army. Was it a good idea or not? (you can answer that).

I am no way, in any form, a singer. I would not even make the worst singer category on X-factor because I am so bad. It seemed from looking around the Chambers today others felt slightly odd to be singing this song. I think, as one Councillor pointed out from the back, that it was his first time ever to sing this song without a pint in his hand.

Maybe if we sing it at every Full Council people will feel slightly less ‘odd’ singing this song in a formal meeting.

It is a great song, but maybe only has true meaning if you are Cornish. Or maybe this song should always be sung with a pint in your hand. Let me know.

A Meeting Of Two Sorts

Full Council today. The monthly bun fight over at the Ivory Towers. It can be quite an affair, so you never know how it will turn out as each one is different.

Firstly, I had an Independent meeting. Sadly it seems less than a third of the Indies turned up. It started late and went down hill from there. I guess that was due to me. The reason for that was I happened to mention to the others that I was negotiating something (can’t say yet) that would bring a percentage of money from something (I know I am being cryptic, sorry).

One of my fellow Councillors, who shall remain nameless, complained it was not right. Well sorry Mr. other Councillor. If I am willing to go that extra mile to get something for my area (subject to the written agreement) then don’t get all uppity. As you WOULD do it (and I believe they try). The world does not revolve around their (large) area. I, by this stage, had had enough and gave that person both barrels and then walked out.

Maybe I should not have walked out, but nothing winds me up quicker than a cheap clockwork toy then when people take this stance. The people of my area elected me and I work for them, but I do understand the strategic nature of my job. Its a hard balancing act to do both well. No other Councillor is going to tell me that something that will have a benefit in my area is wrong. You can jolly well Foxtrot Oscar, in military terminology, if you think otherwise. That’s all I am going to say on this matter.

As for the other meeting; it was rather tame by its normal standards. There was still the normal blame game going on between the Yellow and Blue Parties. Some people do have very short memories when it comes to who first implemented certain ideas. I guess that goes with the territory, as we all know there is a going to be a General Election within the next 6 months.

One Portfolio Member did not answer a question that well (I’m sure she meant well). I have to say the question was a little loaded; answer yes or no and you could find yourself regretting saying either several months later. I guess that’s politics. I can understand now why MPs when being interviewed don’t like to say yes or no, as they know later they will be hung-out to dry if something happens that contradicts their original answer.

After the meeting I had lunch, did some ringing and admin, then drove home to pick up my son from school. My only other decision of the day is going to be what I am going to have for supper.

A Panel of Single Issue

The first meeting of the Single Issue Panel (SIP) which will look into the safeguarding issues that the Ofsted report identified. The Directors, The Deputy and the Portfolio holder of this department were present.

I have to say, Mr No Nonsense and his side kick (another plain speaking Northerner) answered the questions lobbed at them with brutal honesty. This was refreshing. We can all criticise with ease, but I for one thanked them for their honest answers, and the approach they are taking to sort out this ball of chalk we have within Children’s Services. I did also say I knew where all the unused swords are kept just in case they were needed.

I do, with sincere honesty, look forward to working with these two “lads” in the future. I think they are the right ones for this tough, and sometimes thankless, task.

I guess time will tell.

Not A Happy Bunny

I said at the start of the week that it started off good with the nice letter. Well, its Wednesday and its gone down hill quicker than a Swiss skier.

There I was sitting eating my breakfast with the news on. Still half sleepy i was shocked to hear Cornwall Council is going to have Government intervention to ‘help’ the Council get Children’s Services right. It seems the Council has decided to brief the BBC before those who are elected to the Council.

How can the Public have any confidence in the Council if those who they elect to make sure its run for the greater good are not even warned, consulted or even given the ‘heads up’ on this shambles. 

What halfwit (and yes i am annoyed) decided to keep this information secret from the Councillors? I have this morning sent an e-mail the Leader and Chief Exc of the Council demanding answers.

I am now in the process of collecting some more swords because I am sure there is going to be a few people who fall on them, or if not,  pushed on them.

A Step Forward

On Tuesday I was sitting on the Children’s, Schools and Families Scrutiny Committee over at the Ivory Towers. As you are probably aware, Children’s Services got well and truly spanked on it’s recent Ofsted inspection and report (it didn’t just drop the ball, but lost it). The then Director did the honourable thing and fell on his sword, and rightly so.

After the dust had settled, and the blame game had stopped, a new Director (interim) has been appointed. This was his first time attending this Committee and he may have thought he was in for a bit of a grilling on the way forward or previous actions.

From what I saw and in the way he answered the questions he certainly has a John Smith No Nonsense approach to the Service. I have a feeling we are finally (and with much relief) sorting out this mess once and for all.

If not I am sure another sword can be found.

Public Questions A Thought..

There I was today attending my First Health and Adults Scrutiny Committee, not sure what to expect as this was the first one I had attended, not being a Member of said Committee.

During this, members of the Public are invited to ask questions (those that had been submitted in writing beforehand). These can be on the issues that this committee covers, but can’t be on certain personal cases.

There were 8 questions in total, and well founded ones at that. What was difficult to understand was when a response was given, most of them would not accept the answers.

Do we now live in a society that we must have the answer we want, even though that answer is not right or correct? It would be easy to pander to the crowd and just give them the answers they want to hear, but I believe this is not the job we are here to do.

I welcome good honest questions, even tough questions, but beware what you ask, as sometimes it’s not the answer you want to hear!

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