The new Porthleven Town Council

Thursday evening, the newly elected Councillors of Porthleven Town Council met formally for the first time. I was very honoured to be elected Mayor of Porthleven and Bev Plunkett was elected to the office of Deputy Mayor. I would like to congratulate all those now in office who are very keen to do their very best for Porthleven.

Your Councillors are:

Bev Plunkett (Deputy Mayor), Daniel Williams, Mike Toy, Alan Jorgensen, Liz Lane, Naomi Osmond, Mark Adair and Tom Harrison.

My first role in office was to thank all who had served on Porthleven Town Council since the last election in 2013 and May 2017. The former Councillors are:

Sue Johns, Liz Lane, Brian Michael, Julia Schofield, Robyn Davies, Sally-Anne Nieuwoudt, Dick Powell and Trevor Toms. And the two former Mayors of Porthleven, Barbara Powell and Mark Berryman.

I am very much looking forward to working with my fellow Porthleven Town Councillors over the next few years.

 

Porthleven has a new Town Warden

Porthleven has been without a Town Warden since Rod Barnes retired. This is a hugely important role and therefore, Porthleven Town Council was very keen to replace Rod.

From an advert placed, five candidates applied and all were interviewed. The field of candidates was strong, but the three person panel of the Mayor, Cllr Bev Plunkett and myself appointed Carol Jewell to the post.

I would like to congratulate Carol on her appointment to this position. Carol will be an excellent Town Warden. I would also like to thank all who applied and made the panel’s decision a tough one to make.

Carol Jewell – The Porthleven Town Warden

Do you want to be Porthleven’s next Town Warden?

Porthleven Town Council is seeking a new town warden after Rod Barnes retired. Rod did an excellent job as Porthleven’s first town warden, but we need someone to fill those boots.

The role will undertake regular patrols of the Town in order to ensure it is a safe and clean environment. The town warden will assist visitors with information about the facilities within the Town. The warden will keep the streets litter and graffiti free, will deter anti-social behaviour and support enforcement officers as required. The warden will work with the
police to reduce crime and the fear of crime and work with the emergency services
and others to maintain a safe environment.

Main Objectives:
1. To patrol Porthleven to:
a) Ensure the Town is as clean, green and safe as possible.
b) Identify potential problems.
c) Get to know members of the community and respond to their enquiries and
problems.
d) Encourage responsible behaviour of people visiting the Porthleven.
2. To provide information to the public that will enable them to get the most from their visit to Porthleven. This will include giving directions, information about amenities, shops, food
outlets, licensed premises, car parking, public conveniences etc.
3. Assist with Town events, as directed by the Town Council.
4. To help keep the streets and roads clean and tidy through regular litter picking, weeding,
graffiti and fly posting control.
6. To carry out condition surveys of Council owned furniture, buildings and areas.
7. To undertake training to issue Fixed Penalty Notices for dog fouling / littering offences.
8. To ensure the Council Chamber / Offices are clean and presentable.
9. To complete any minor repairs / decorating as directed by Town Clerk.
10. To conduct daily checks on all public conveniences and report any issues to Town Clerk.
11. To liaise with the local Biffa Street Cleaning Team to ensure a clean and safe environment for both residents and visitors to Porthleven.
12. To liaise with the local Police Community Support Officer to report any problems within Porthleven.
13. To undertake any other duties appropriate which contribute to the general objective of the post.

The Town Warden will be expected to wear a uniform, provided by the Town Council, at all times when on duty and protective clothing when necessary and to:
a) Ensure safe working practices in accordance with guidelines laid down by the Health and Safety Executive.
b) Attend training courses and meetings when requested.
The job involves regular evening and weekend work.

The Town Council reserve the right to complete a Criminal Records Bureau check. No formal qualifications are required for this post although, good communication skills are necessary. A good geographical knowledge of Porthleven is also essential.

Any successful candidate for the role will be expected to work at least 20 hours per week and will be paid £9 per hour. It is a permanent position.

Anyone interested in the position will need to contact the Town Clerk for further details at porthleventc@tiscali.co.uk or 01326 573154 (please do not send a pm via facebook) Deadline for submission of completed applications Friday 24th March.

Porthleven Town Band moves a step closer to having a permanent Bandroom

Porthleven Town Band has wanted to have its own bandroom for many a year. Its current location in the shipyard is not ideal for their needs. The problem has always been where could bandroom go, as the Band owns no land.

Over the last several years – in my Cornwall Councillor – role I have been trying to help solve their problem. There has been a few options for a permanent home, but until now, those options have not amounted to anything.

This got me thinking as I knew the Porthleven Gig Club wanted a more permanent home for its gigs, but funding was always an issue of how to pay for it, and the Cricket Club wanted electric power to their club house. I thought of one option that would solve everyone’s want. That option is to use the Amenity Area. However, there was another option of using part of Moors which was put forward by the Harbour and Dock Company.

For those who do not know, the vast majority of the Moors playing field is owned (held in Trust) by Porthleven Town Council, with a small part owned by the Harbour and Dock Company (from the river to the upright stones for net drying). The Harbour and Dock Company wanted to use its part of the Moors to build a building for the band, however, it would need the town council’s permission to use its part of the land as the building requires a large area.

My problem with using the Moors to build on is this is a well used play area. Whilst the band do need a home, I think it would be wrong to place a building on this area. It also would totally change the feel of the area as the proposed building for the Moors is rather large.

A further problem with the Moors and placing any type of building in this area is it is in a high-risk floodplain with a high water-table. To mitigate against this would require the building being raised high off the ground. This would result in any proposed building looking more like a three-story building. Again, the size and scale of this would have a negative impact on the playing area. There is also no parking. The following picture is the building concept for the Moors.

Concept design of a band-room on the Moors

As I said beforehand the solution to everyone’s problem is to use the land which is commonly known as the Amenity Area along Methleigh Bottom. This sits between the Cricket Club and Methleigh Meadow. I had this area transferred from Cornwall Council to the Town Council  a few years ago a for £1. This site fits the bill on many fronts as it is out of the flood plain, it has a footpath leading to it and has ample parking. It is also in the ownership of the Town Council.

Both options were put to the town council as both require council consent for the land to be used in this way. I am very happy to report the Town Council unanimously granted permission for Porthleven Town Band to take their option for the Amenity Area forward and start the process of planning that will enable the plan to move from a concept to a design that can be submitted to the planning authority. It was taken on board that the new building will have something for the Gig Club.

Concept design of the building for Porthleven Band at the Amenity Area

The Town Council did not support the idea to build on the Moors playing field. Therefore, this does not go further than a concept. Even though another party might want this to happen.

It is a good choice to use the Amenity Area as I believe this is the best option as it will not only benefit the Band who find a permanent home, but also Porthleven Gig Club who gets proper storage for their gigs and will be able to use the facilities in the new building (subject to agreements between the parties). The Cricket Club will also benefit, as the band will bring electric power into the site which means the Cricket Club can connect to it. As previous to this, the costs of putting in electricity was several thousands of pounds.

It is a win, win, win for three community groups.

Porthleven to have its own Youth Worker

Back in 2016, I put forward a request to Porthleven Town Council to look into the feasibility of Porthleven having its own Youth Worker to help engage with young people. The principle of this was accepted, but could not be taken forward until the budget had been sorted.

I am now pleased to say, from April, Porthleven will have two Youth Workers initially for one day a week to work with Porthleven’s young people in a variety of ways. This Youth Work will be delivered by the experienced young people organisation Penwith Community Development Trust who are also delivering two days of Youth Work at the Furry Youth Cafe in Helston.

Derek Thomas MP for West Cornwall visits Porthleven Town Council

Last Thursday, the Member of Parliament for West Cornwall, Derek Thomas visited the members of Porthleven Town Council. Since I have been on the town council, this is the first time a MP has visited a town council meeting. The aim of the meeting was to meet the town councillors, and to see what help they need in achieving the council’s priority and any ‘wants’ it may have.

Derek Thomas, MP for West Cornwall in talks with Porthleven Town Council

Derek Thomas, MP for West Cornwall in talks with Porthleven Town Council

During the discussion, councillors raised the issue about telecommunications and how Porthleven has been plagued with intermittent services; mostly from one provider. In responding to this, Derek said he would personally take it up with the provider.

An aim of Porthleven Town Council is to look at creating a footpath between the town itself and Penrose. This had been looked at previously, but an agreement could not be found between all landowners. Back then, there was also a pot of money for new footpaths, which was used to add a few paths in and around Penrose. The Council asked Derek to see what Government pots of money were available for such projects.

Support was also asked for the regeneration of the Bickford-Smith Institute by the working party in its fundraising ambitions and any funding bids. The more support the Council has in any funding applications, the more chance it has.

A final point I raised is in reference to community policing. This is not about having a go at front-line officers, but the way information to Town and Parish Council’s has stopped. In the past a police officer or PCSO would attend a meeting to give a report on the last month, and for those present (both councillors and the public) were able to put a series of questions to the Police. However, now Council’s are told to go to the Police website. This website has some great information, but sadly, and this is the flaw, it is at least two-months out of date. This is not only a concern of Porthleven Town Council, but other Town and Parish Councils too. Derek said he would take this up with senior officers.

I am pleased Derek turned up, and hopefully those issues raised the town council will be taken forward.

Government set to cap at least seven of Cornwall’s Town and Parish councils Precepts from 2017

I have received news today that from a technical guidance issued by the Government it is minded – which basically means it is going to do it – to cap town at least seven town councils in Cornwall from 2017. With a further threat of all Town and Parish Council precepts if there is a too large of a rise in the precept.

Since 2012/13 the Government has applied a core Council Tax referendum principle of 2% on major authorities, such as Cornwall Council. If an authority wished to increase its Council Tax above that level (excluding the Adult Social Care precept that was introduced in 2016/17) it would be required to carry out a referendum of its residents. A referendum of this sort would cost in excess of £750k to hold. So the likelihood of holding one is slim.

In the past these referendum principles have not been applicable to local Town and Parish Councils, although the Government has always indicated that it would keep this under review.

Nationally, the increase in the average Band D Council Tax levels set by Town and Parish Councils in 2016/17 was 6.1%, which was markedly higher than in previous years. One of the reasons for this increase is  these Town and Parish Councils have taken on more services and responsibilities like in Cornwall due to the staggering cuts to local government funding. In Cornwall the increase in these precepts is around half of the national average. As follows

2011/12 2012/13 2013/14 2014/15 2015/16 2016/17
Parishes 2.3% 3.9% 5.2% 4.3% 3.3% 6.1%

Due to the larger increases in Town and Parish precepts, the Government has now indicated that it is minded to apply the referendum principles to ‘higher spending’ Town and Parish Councils in 2017/18.

A higher spending council is defined in the consultation paper as one whose Band D charge in 2016/17 was higher than £75.46 (equivalent to the Band D charge for the lowest charging District Council) and which had a precept in 2016/17 of more than £500,000.

Such parishes would face the same referendum principles as shire districts; increases of less than 2%, or up to and including £5 on the Band D charge (whichever is higher).

However, to make things more complicated (as anything to do with tax and the Govt is), the Government has also said that it wants to ensure that parishes continue to have the flexibility to be able to take on responsibilities from other tiers of local government.

Therefore a degree  of complexity has been added to the proposal; in that the referendum principles would not apply where there has been a transfer of responsibilities and where the following three conditions are satisfied:

  1. The parish council and a principal council covering the area of the parish council have each resolved that a particular function carried out by the principal council in relation to the parish council’s area in the financial year 2016-17 is to be carried out instead by the parish council in the financial year 2017-18;
  2. The parish council and the principal council have agreed the reasonable cost of the exercise of that particular function in the parish council’s area by the parish council in the financial year 2017-18;
  3. That the agreed cost, if collected by way of the parish council precept, would take the parish council over the threshold of a 2% or £5 increase on the previous year.

Using the 2016/17 precept information, eight of the Town Councils in Cornwall would be affected by the above proposal. These are: Bodmin, Bude-Stratton, Camborne, Falmouth, Newquay, Penzance, Saltash and Truro. As far as I can tell, Helston with a precept of £303,691 would be excluded from the cap, and therefore, Porthleven would be excluded too.

Importantly however, it should also be noted that the final two paragraphs of the consultation paper state:

A large proportion of parishes are modest in size – for example, around 4,000 parishes have precepts of £25 or less. However, the Government is aware that increases in these precepts continue to concern local tax payers and is therefore prepared to consider extending referendums to all parishes.

Which basically means you raise the precept too much, and we will cap you.

The consequences of capping are huge. As Town and Parish Council have been taking on services  for Cornwall Council to safeguard them rather than see them close. I know local council’s have not always like taking on services, but they have taken a more pragmatic approach rather than losing a service. Like in Porthleven; where the town council now owns and runs the public toilets and all green spaces (which it does not already own).

Of course, the Government is saying it is consulting, but from my experience of the Governments consulting it should be interpreted at a ‘heads-up’ we are about to do this. This heads-up consultation lasts till the 28th October 2016 – just over three-weeks away.

Rod Barnes, Porthleven Town Warden set to retire

I think the majority of Porthleven know of Porthleven’s Town Warden, Rod Barnes – also known as ‘Barney’. Rod has been in this post for over 10 years and has carried out his role in wind, shine, rain and snow.

Sadly, Rod has submitted his notice to Porthleven Town Council as he wants to retire. His retirement date is set for 12th November 2016

I want to pay tribute to Rod for his work over the last 10 years. Rod does more than just empty the bins and tidy-up. He is always willing to step up and help and go that extra mile. Often out of his core hours to carry out his duties. He often gives his time for free to help out during events in Porthleven. He has been a real asset to Porthleven Town Council and Porthleven. I for one will miss seeing Rod around Porthleven with his yellow shirt and hat.

We should all approach Rod, shake his hand and say thank you for all he has done between now and his retirement day. Good luck Rod, enjoy your retirement. I will certainly buy you a pint or two on your retirement!

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Rod ‘Barney’ Barnes, Porthleven’s Town Warden

 

The possible future use of the Bickford-Smith Institute

At June’s Porthleven Town Council meeting, the Institute working group shared with the wider membership of the town council their proposals for the future use of Porthleven’s most iconic building. These proposals have taken into consideration the feedback from the open day with the aim on to how best how to renovate this iconic building.

 

As you see from the pictures above, this building has a lot of potential. However, due to the sheer scale of money needed which will be in excess of £600k, and may be closer to the £1m mark, the working group have put forward what will be seen as a controversial use. Namely to turn a part of the building into a holiday let. The part which is a proposal to turn into a let is the former caretakers home – which currently home to the town clerk’s office and the council meeting room.

The principle behind this is because whilst some of the money needed to renovate this building will come from grants, not all the money will be found this way. This means the town council may have to take out a loan as part of the project. Of course, this loan has to be paid back, and instead of just adding the repayments to the town council precept ie. the tax payer, the proposal is to turn part of the building into a holiday let to give an income to repay any loan or costs for renovation.

 

I am not part of the working group, so I have had no input on the direction, but for me the renovation and preservation of the building is paramount. The sheer scale of funding needed has I believe pushed the working group into looking at the holiday let option. The question is, is this the right option?

As I said before, I want the Institute to have a long future, but I am not sold on the idea of turning parts of the building into a holiday let. Holiday lets are a controversial subject in Porthleven. So is it right for the council to turn part of its building into a holiday let? Maybe instead of a holiday let, income could be raised renting it long term? 

However, is the holiday let option the only one that will give enough income to pay for/support the Institute for its renovation?  After all, the majority of the building will still be used for the community. Any idea including holiday let, long term rental or other business use will have to be costed to make sure it stacks up. Only then will there be a firm idea of what works and gives the income needed. 

Furthermore, I was disappointed in the update did not confirm a place for the snooker club, which I believe they should be part of the institutes future. Rather the update said:

“The consultation to date indicates that there is a call for a Snooker Club in Porthleven. The Working Party recommends that consideration be given to the Snooker Club in order to arrive at an amicable solution, with the possibility of relocation being discussed, and further meetings and consultation will be undertaken”.

The important part of all this is the proposals shared at the meeting are not set in stone. There will be a further round of public consultation where people can have a further say. So a lot can and no doubt will change from now and the final plan.

New Ping-Pong Tables for Porthleven

Anyone who visited the Moors playing field yesterday would have noticed two Ping-Pong tables. These tables have been bought by Porthleven Town Council with support from my Community Grand Fund. The tables have been bought for community use.

One table is an outdoor table, and will be located on the Moors. The other more suited to indoor use.

These tables are here due to Cllr Robyn Davies’ hard-work. Robyn should be thanked for this work in securing these two tables. Rumour has it there will be a Mayor / Deputy Mayor match in the not too distant future…

PingPong

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