The Dangers of a Missing L

Typos, the bane of one’s life. I think we have all suffered from them at one point or another. Some like me, probably more than we would like. I have recently made a rather ‘excellent typo, Andy‘ as said by the Mayor of Porthleven in reply to an email. However, this typo is not in the same league as one last year printed in the Helston edition of  The Packet newspaper, who missed a very important vowel out of the Countess of Wessex. I will though spare her blushes and not mention her name.

My typo was about an email reminder to all members of the Porthleven Diamond Jubilee working party of a forthcoming meeting. The email is as follow’s:

Hi All,

Just a reminder for the Porthleven Jubilee meeting that is taking place on Wednesday 25th at 7:30pm. Location is the town council offices (back of cock tower)

See you there.

Andy

As you can imagine I have had many  responses about the missing L, who all found it funny, and no doubt will remind me many times at tonight’s meeting. You got to laugh, especially at yourself now and again.

 

 

Transparency Begins With Oneself

The first thing a politician must do when making a mistake is to admit it and deal with the consequences face on. Two years ago I failed to pay my council tax on time which led to court action. While I cannot change what happened; I would have paid if I could have.

Like many people in Cornwall I was faced with the problem of juggling mounting bills with a limited income and at that time I chose to pay for essentials such as rent, electricity and food. Council tax at that time felt like a lower priority less immediate debt. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, sometimes choices have to be made and I made that choice of not paying. I will have to live with that.

I became involved in politics because I wanted to make a difference to the lives of people in Cornwall. I try and solve some of the important issues that never seem to go away. While no one forced me to become a Councillor, I did not realise the financial sacrifice I would have to make.

Some people criticise the allowances given to Councillors – but the facts are that I do a full time job for a basic allowance of £12,200 a year. As well as this amount being taxed, there is also a lot of other councillor expenses involved in which I have to meet.

I would not be a Councillor now if it was not for the extra allowance I now get for being Chairman of the Parking Advisory Panel. This extra money has helped greatly, as without it I could not afford to be a Councillor. Even with this extra allowance money is still tight, but I manage, just.

Does concentrating on the essentials and not paying on time make me a bad person? I hope not and I ask people no to judge me too harshly. It does however make me human and shows that being a Councillor does not exempt me from facing the same day to day struggles as everyone else.

Having struggled to keep my head above water has allowed me to empathise with people who are struggling themselves and who have come to me asking for help. I have never criticized anyone for struggling to pay their bills and have used the experiences I have faced to solve problems. Much of the work I have done in tackling the issue of child poverty has been taken from my own recent experiences.

Some may argue that I should not be allowed to remain in office because I have not paid my council tax on time. Again, I hope that this is not the case. While it is true that I did not pay on time, I subsequently paid the full amount and, since then, have not missed a payment. I could have chosen not to come forward and hidden behind the data protection act, but failing to own up to my actions is not my style and I wanted to put the record straight. I have made a mistake and I am sorry for my actions.

Over the last two years I have done my best to serve my community. I thought hard about whether to resign. I wrote a resignation letter, but a friend ripped it up and said don’t be stupid, you work hard. I have also been told by other that I should stay and continue to work hard on behalf of local people. It is good to hear this, but I still made the mistake; which I have always regretted.

When I contacted the Packet on Monday they were shocked I had chosen to come forward saying no-one else had got in touch to admit even receiving a reminder letter. I could not of course ask them to kill the story, but rather to allow me to explain why I did not.

While I am not proud of my actions, Like many people my choices were the result of financial necessity and not because I wanted to avoid paying my council tax. Sometimes you have to deal with the issues you would rather not face.

I have no idea what the future faces me at Cornwall Council. The people I represent may well call for me to stand down. If they do, I will have to deal with that. I hope they accept my apology and allow me to continue to fight for them. After all isn’t it best to have someone who understands their issues and difficulties rather than someone who sits in an ivory tower?

I hope this statement allows you to have a better understanding why I did it.

Consultation Or Just A Sop?

Can you have a consultation process if the decision has already been made? This is just the question that needs to be answered following an email sent to all Councillors ‘asking’ for their ‘views’.

The views sort were those on the future of four panels; those being Parking, Planning, Waste and the Newquay Airport Development Panel. As any follower of this blog will know one of these panels, the parking one, was terminated (though denied by the leadership) on the first of April and I only found out on the fourth by accident.

The words of that consultation go as follows:

“There is currently a review of Cabinet decision making taking place and a report will be considered by the Cabinet at its next meeting on 20 April. Part of its consideration relates to the future of the existing Cabinet Panels (Newquay Cornwall Airport Development Panel; Parking Policy Advisory Panel; Planning Policy Advisory Panel and Waste Development Advisory Panel).

It would be helpful to receive Member feedback on this issue in terms of the effectiveness of the existing arrangements or the potential to adopt alternative working practices such as informal working groups set up by and to support individual Cabinet Members and/or referring issues to the appropriate Overview and Scrutiny Committee prior to Cabinet consideration.

In view of the timescales involved please can you feedback any comments/views on this issue by Friday 15 April in order that the responses can be assimilated and circulated at the Cabinet meeting”.

So what is right, the email, or has no decision really been taken? Jude Roberson has covered this subject too, and from what I read is equally perplexed.

I will though ask for the details of the responses, as from what I have been copied into and told, there is great support for not only keeping the Parking Panel, but the three other panels as well. But, if there are many Members who say the panels should go, who am I to argue with that? Equally though, if there is support for them to be retained, then surely they should stay? That answer should be made on the 20th of April.

My Members Question and the Response

My first Members Question to full Council was directed at the Leader of the Council. I blogged before about my concern as to why so many senior officers went to the LGC awards (HERE), and why the Leader sanctioned this, or at least didn’t say something to reduce the numbers. I might have understood if they took lower tiered staff in reward for their hard work, but they didn’t.

In response to my question I received a rather curt reply along the lines of yes, it fails the ‘tabloid test’, but it was still a really good idea for everyone to go, because it gives Cornwall national recognition. As well as we should be proud of being nominated for ‘Most Improved Council’. Also thrown in to the response was it only cost £500 to attend.

The Leaders comments received a round of applause from the Tory faithful (at the moment), which I felt I had to respond by saying “it is nice to see the Tory Party now fully supporting the Leader”. This was in response to the cloak and dagger, rumour and counter rumours of a challenge to his leadership (read more about it from Jeremy Rowe and Graham Smith). My comment raised a cheer and laughter from certain quarters of the chamber. I could not help but notice that my comment received a few smirks from the blue side too.

As part of the procedures on questions a Member is also entitled to a supplementary question which mine was as follows-

“Does the Leader still think it is appropriate that during austere times with pay freezes and redundancies, several already highly paid Officers should attend an awards ceremony at the expense of the Cornish Tax Payer? Bearing in mind it is not only about the financial costs, but you as the Leader in allowing these Officers to be away from their primary function at Cornwall Council and much more importantly, the negative perception this sends out to both the public and members of staff?”

I received no answer to my supplementary question apart from “I will get back to you in writing”. This is hardly in my opinion an answer. Let’s hope I do get that answer, or at least the simple yes or no to it.

You may think I am a killjoy and should not complain about people attending functions like these, especially if they cost the tax payer very little. My real point to all this is the message it sends to public who are worried the service they currently receive from Cornwall Council could be cutback, or completely stopped.

The staff must also feel aggrieved because many at Cornwall Council are having to re-apply for their jobs, or don’t know if their job is still going to be there in 6 months. Try telling a member of staff how good it is to be nominated for an award of Most Improved Council when they don’t know if they have a job. To them the nomination will seem like a cruel joke.

Many Councillors including myself reluctantly voted in favour of the budget in January and last October on the understanding that we as Cornwall Council run a tight ship in order to benefit the public. We (and I use the collective we as after all I am part of the Council) must do much better in these difficult times.

They Have Let Me Loose With a Weekly Column!!

About 14 months ago I started blogging, not a natural writer I at first struggled. I can now say I really enjoy writing and it is even more heartening to know people read what I write.

Just over a week ago I was contacted by the Packet Newspaper to see if I wanted to write a weekly column in the Helston and Lizard edition of this paper. At first I had the same thought and reaction as when I first started blogging, but then I thought why not, if it helps people understand what I do then what have I got to lose? I guess time will tell!

So this week on page 59, my first column was printed. It is less than 500 words, so I can’t bore you all to death with my drivel. If I do bore you and the sales of the paper drop, then no doubt I will be back to only blogging.

(signed copies always available)

A Car for Every Season

As the title says, I am not having much luck with cars this year. This weekend car number three was wiped out by another drink driver (or as the Police would say alleged). This is the second car to have met this fate this year alone.

I was fortunate to not have been injured and instead only had to endure the massive inconcenience that is dealing with insruance companies (who I must say have been efficient), the police, recovery companies, vehicle hire company and so forth. I think I was dreaming of, “to hear the menu again press the hash key” in my sleep last night, coupled of course with a mix of Vivaldi for good measure.

Nevertheless, it unfortuntely does bring the serious issue of drinking and driving to the forefront again. We are approaching the time of year when the police messages and advertisments will be common viewing, often needing to be more ‘hard hitting’ than the previous one. I am not going to write a lengthy blog about the dangers of drinking and driving because we all know them, and there is the point. Why then in the space of a few months have I had two motoring incidents involving drivers over the limit? Is it that people are still not getting the message, or have I merely been very unlucky?

Cornwall Council – Children in Need Event

Cornwall Council is a firm supporter of Children in Need. It annually holds a ‘Council’s Got Talent’ competition, Many will argue that the word talent is being stretched to breaking point. Anyway this even is held during the lunch period as not to impede with work. This year more people entered, and from watching it, more of the ‘having a laugh’ entries entered. Again, as last year, a couple of hundred of pounds was raised for this great cause.

Last year I was part of the fantastic act called the Cross-party Dressers. We decided to reform in the guise of the Spice Girls. Of course you could not tell the difference between the real group and us. if all else fails in politics I am sure we will have firm bookings as a look-a-like act. Below are pictures that may require a little warning to those of a sensitive nature.

The ‘Spice Girls’
Left to right: Cllrs Andrew Long (sporty), Scott Mann (posh), Jeremy Rowe (ginger), Steve Double (baby) and Andrew Wallis (scary)
Of Course we were ‘robbed’ of the win, but the winner really did have talent singing and playing a guitar. 

Blogging – One year on

Today the 1st November is exactly one year on since I started blogging. When I started I never really knew how people would react to it, or would even read it.  I can honestly say I have been surprised in people do read it and more importantly comment on what I write. I know the blog has not been met with universal approval. Some have taken objection to what I write and how I write it. I am sorry they do, as I don’t write it to offend, but to give some insight to what I do on a day by day bases.

In the year I have posted 228 articles covering all sorts of topics. The blog has been visited and read 13889 times. Most hits have been via my Facebook page, but other more random and obscure searches via Google that included the words ‘Councillor, Cornwall, Parking, sex’ all in one sentence (strange but true). I have regular readers from the US and Ukraine.  

I can honestly say I do enjoy writing it, and more importantly very happy with people reading what I have to say. So here is to another year of blogging!

Thanks again for reading.

Another Motion

I am involved with another Motion to Full Council. This time I am the seconder, and Andrew Long of Mebyon Kernow fame is the proposer. This Motion has support across all the Parties. The point of this Motion is firming up how the meeting of all 123 Cornwall Councillors should be conducted.

In the past this meeting has not always run as smoothly as a lot of back-bench Members have liked. In fact it has been said that this meeting is pointless due to all the major decision are made by the Cabinet. The only real exception to this is the Budget which Full Council gets the final say. The reasons are because this is the type of Council we have to have due to the rules laid down by Government. It is hoped by many Members that Mr Eric Pickles will change the rules and allow the Local Authority some scope to adapt these rules somewhat.

I have been slightly saddened that this Motion has been subject to some obstacles being placed in front of it. But due to the commitment of those who are supporting it, we have overcome this resistance, and pressed on to get it on the Agenda.  Click HERE to read the details of this Motion. I hope this Motion will be debated by Members as after all this is their meeting.

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