How Should Helston Spend The Supermarket Money?

Last Tuesday evening I attended along with several other members of the public, and my Cornwall Councillor colleague Judith Haycock to listen to Helston Town Council discuss how they are going to spend the money handed over to the  town council as part of the planning approval for Sainsbury’s and Tesco new stores.

This money totalled £800,000, with each supermarket stumping up £400,000. This money was to be used to mitigate the impact on the town centre from these two new supermarkets. Part of the money is set aside for the employment of a Town Centre Manager. This leaves roughly £255,000 for ‘public realm’ work.

Now this is where is all get’s slightly tricky, as the town council has until July 2015 for Sainsbury’s and November 2015 for Tesco to spend the money, or this money is returned to the supermarkets. Also adding to the situation is up to Tuesday night the town council could not decide how this money was to be spent.

The brief for Tuesday meeting was to come up with schemes, which could be costed, and then see if £255,000 would cover the scheme. However, this simple brief had the habit of going around in circles for a couple of hours. Worse, the public was not allowed to speak during the meeting to offer ideas. One member of the public did write in to suggest and idea, but as this was not discussed, I have no idea what the idea is. I really think the town council missed a trick in not allowing the public to speak. After all, if  someone takes the time to turn up to a meeting that is discussing something that will affect them, then they should be heard.

In the end these ideas were put forward:

  • Coinagehall Street pavements and kennels;
  • Reduced improvement scheme at Horse & Jockey (Click HERE for the link to those details part 3, page 29)
  • A long-term scheme that included making Coinagehall Street one-waywith a turning space at the bottom and additional parking, restricted traffic movement at the town end of Church Street, and improvements to pavements and street furniture to the same standard as recently introduced in Redruth and Camborne.

Ideas not taken forward:

  • Improvement to steps near the museum
  • New toilet block at the Monument
  • Public ‘art’ in areas of the town centre
  • Used for Match-funding by the Town Centre Manager
However,  not all the schemes would be classed as public realm work, and the money could not be used for those. The scheme in question is making Coinagehall Street an one-way and restricting traffic at Church Street. Even though this issue was pointed out repeatedly to the council members by a senior Cornwall Council planning officer, and the town clerk they were still included in ideas for costing.  I am really struggling to see why the town council included them if this money cannot be used for those ideas/schemes. After all money has to be spent on costing any scheme, and as we know, these costs are not cheap.

So what do you think of these ideas? Do you have any alternatives that could be submitted? If you do, then I suggest you let the town council know before it is too late and this money is spent. As one Councillor at the meeting said “If we get this wrong, we will be hung-out to dry.”

 

Helston Town Council at War

For anyone who knows me, they will know I am not easily shocked. However, from what I witnessed at the recent Helston Town Council meeting has left me shocked and disgusted. A town, or parish council first duty is to the public they represent. Sadly, Helston Town Council has failed to do this fundamental duty due to the civil war now engulfing this council.

Helston’s Guildhall

Instead, they have engaged in petty point scoring, spitefulness and acts of shameful self-importance. If many members of this council spent half as much time with trying to improve Helston instead of tearing strips out of each other they actually might achieve something.

Last Thursday I sat through over two hours of the worse council meeting I have ever been to. It is also the first time I witnessed members of the public stand up and call for the entire council to stand down because they are a disgrace. Even an ex-mayor turned up to tell the assembled council how badly they were behaving.

Once the public had their say the council literally turned on its self when discussing two agenda items. Those being the re-discussion of if the council should let Helston’s Twinning Association use the guildhall for free and the no-confidence vote on the current mayor.

The twining vote was being reheard because two councillor might not have adhered to the Code of Conduct for Councillors. This is still being investigated, so no ruling has yet been made to establish if any breach took place. The last decision in October was the twinning association could use the Guildhall for free.

This time however, the vote went the other way, but worse, a the motion put forward that no group or organisation would be allowed to use this public building for free. I feel this was a truly wrong decision. After all a building of this nature belongs to the people, and a town/parish council are merely custodians, not owners.

You would think it would not get any worse; it did, with  the no-confidence motion. This really descended to a new low. Granted, there was one or two notable exceptions who did indeed keep their dignity, but the rest, well…… To be honest I am not going to say much more on this, I could, but it would just make me angry again on what I had witnessed. In the end a vote was taken and the no-confidence motion on the current mayor was carried six votes to four (two of the four votes were from the mayor and deputy).

The mayor said he would not stand down, but indicated he would reconsider his position in January. For those who are saying the mayor lost the vote, but can still be mayor? I’ll explain there is no rule anyone has to stand down if they lose this type of vote.  Now, after two hours I really had enough,  and left the meeting.

Should the current town council stand down like many who attended the meeting called for? The simple answer would be yes, but would this achieve anything? Why, because would anyone actually stand for the vacant position; or would you just get the same people back because of the lack of interest? Last night 35 members of the public turned up at the meeting. This is out of a population of over 10,000. In fact in council terms 35 people attending a meeting at the same time is a packed house.

At the time of writing there are two vacancies on the town council. Let’s hope there will be an election. To make sure there is an election the rules state you need 10 people on the electoral register of Helston to write to Cornwall Council’s electoral services requesting an election. If not, these two places will be filled by co-option.

Will there be an election and more importantly, anyone wishing to stand for that election?

Should a Town Hall Be Free For Community Groups?

As the Cornwall Councillor for both Porthleven and Helston South I have a unique insight into two local councils. In Helston there has been a ‘slight’ issue on the use of Guildhall by a certain community group for free.

At Helston Town Council the question being raised is should the Twinning Association have use of the Guildhall for free whilst others have to pay for it? My view is all community groups should be able to use a public building like a town hall for free. After all, this building belongs to the people, and a town council are just the custodians of that building. However, if a group is of a commercial nature there should be a charge, it does not have to be market rates, but some sort of payment.

In Porthleven the town council allows, on request, community groups to use the town offices for free. These groups are not there for profit, but the good of the community. So they should and are allowed to have access to this public building. It is a small meeting room, and if a larger room is required the Public Hall offers larger spaces at very reasonable prices.

Whilst a town council take priority over the use of a building, it should be made available to others that benefit the town. Again in Porthleven, the council kindly allows me to use the office for surgeries and other meetings. It also allows the local PCSO to hold surgeries every Monday morning. This is a good way of using a public building for the public.