Full Council – Budget

It was always going to be a long day over at the Ivory Towers; it was after all Budget Day. It all started at 10:30. The Chairman opened the procedures and made reference to Twittergate. She did tell us off, not for Twittering, but for a few of the comments that were made.

I have already apologised to her personally for any offence caused. I reiterated my apology to her in today’s Council. It was also refreshing  and welcoming to hear that she would allow the continuation of this form of Social Media in Council meetings. It is for those Councillors to use it where appropriate. I am planning with the help of cross party support to make a motion at the next full council to allow Web-casting, Live feeds, film and other forms of recording to be allowed in future meetings. I will be talking to my other like-minded colleagues for support on this matter.

The main and most important issue of the day was the setting of the Budget. The Leader of the Council outlined his case for the Budget. It was followed by the other Party Group Leaders. Not all the other Group Leaders were indeed in favour of the proposed Budget and certainly made their case as to why this was a flawed budget.

Sadly, later on the old blame game entered the debate. I for one have never liked this behaviour. It seems childish and achieves little. What happened in the past happened, let’s move on and think of the future, not the past. Just before One o’clock the Chairman put to the Council as to if we should go to the vote. A vote was taken on going to a vote (I know, sounds silly). The Council voted in favour to go to the vote on the budget (It still sounds silly).

This causes some uproar from some of the Councillors who felt the debate had not gone on long enough. I have to say in the Chairman’s defence she allowed lot’s of speakers to go way, way over the 3 minutes normally allowed for a Councillor to make their case. Maybe if they kept within the rules, it might not have taken so long and allowed others to speak.

A recorded vote was taken. The Council voted in favour of accepting the 2.9% raise on the Council Tax. How did I vote? Well, I am not one normally to sit on the fence, but this time I Abstained. Why? Well, I felt that I could not vote in favour or against this because I felt that I did not have a lot of the finer details in the proposed Budget. I was also unhappy with the Fortnightly collection element. (no decision has been taken on this – yet).  Part of the budget I agreed with, but there was also many items I did not. I am not in principle against the Budget, but I think it would be a dis-service just to merely vote in favour of something I don’t fully agree with (or vice-versa).

We then broke for lunch.

Twittergate Pt2

I can’t believe the media coverage we have got on this. To be on the front page of the WMN and other papers is one thing. Then to find it being on BBC spotlight that very night after the story “broke” (it was a week after it had happened).

Today it went even further. It was being discussed by Chris Evans for a short period on his morning show and then, whilst Mr. Blair was going his Inquiry thingy we were the most read news item on the BBC web page, with the Inquiry second. (this did change by the afternoon).

A sort of no-news story get this coverage is surprising. I personally have taken on board a lesson learnt from all this. I shall now Tweet during Council meetings where appropriate and with serious points (well I might lob in the odd bit of humour). I am not going to stop, as I fundamentally believe this is a good way to communicate to those who know little about local government or wish to be kept informed.

I have had some very positive feed back from people, and I have had some negative. It’s all about a learning curve. I am human and not a robot. If people want a robot then I not that sort of person, nor will I ever be. I believe in what I say and do try and do the best for my community and Cornwall. Hopefully with this interest people will learn more about Cornwall Council and the Councillors.

It would have been nice for the report to cover all my Tweets as I generally do only keep to the points while in Council. I guess those who now follow me have found that out. Social Media is new to a lot of local Councils. Why, well generally most who held this position were older. Some of us are a lot younger and embrace this sort of tool. I am sure when computers first came in the younger ones (who are now the older ones) embraced it, whilst there then older Politicians thought no good would come of it.

I have taken on the points from various sides. I would love for you to keep tabs on my via my blog or Twitter.  If not, I am still more than willing to chat with anyone face to face. At the end of the day I am working for you, but remember I am only human and sometimes will be prone to the odd mistake.

I am going to post a few links on what others are saying. I have not found a blog that is negative to this issue, but if you do, then i will happily link it.

Here is Cllr Steve Doubles final thoughts on the subject His Views

One from the Editor of the Cornishman: Her Views

Anyway please (if you like) follow me @CllrAWallis and find out what I do

Parking Panel and Twittergate

Thursday started off with a bang. I made the front page on the Western Morning News over Twitter. I have blogged before that I use this medium to communicate. Sometime we have a bit of humour, but generally we use it to good measures. My only other point in this whole issue is surely there is more news worthy stories to cover than Twitter.

A more important role I had to day was as Chairman of the Parking Panel. Today’s major business was on the consultation of proposed Car Parking Charges and the changes to the fees. It’s never an easy task (blogged before) to even please people on this issue.

I have already said from the beginning that I want to make a Policy that’s as cheap and fair as possible. Not an easy task. The proposed increase was a blanket 5% increase to the nearest 10p. The debate was taken up in the morning with the work program for the next 14 or so months. This is going to looking into Parking from bottom.

The afternoon was the debate on the Consultation. It was a good debate with many points. The main points discussed and voted on Disable Parking, Fees and the discount card in two former Districts.

  1. What came out of it were those cars that are DVLA exempt Tax or mobility converted cars would be able to park for free in all Cornwall Council Car Parks. Those other Blue Badge holders would have to pay.
  2.  The parking discount schemes in the two former District was to be removed
  3.  Fees for the first hour parking will be fixed at the current levels and all other charges will rise by 5%

Now this might not please people, but I can assure you that my Panel will be looking at these issues again with the hope (sorry to repeat myself) to make it as cheap and free as possible in the future when i have been able to give this subject a full review.

These recommendations will be made to the Cabinet where they will decide if my recommendations are fully accepted.

For the record, I did not Tweet during this meeting. This was because I had the more important job of chairing this important meeting.

Twittergate

In this week’s Cornish Guardian the Twitter Gang has made page 14 with the whole page devoted to us. Now I believe they trivialised this subject and not concentrated on the main points, engagement with the General Public.

Yes sometimes we do have some light hearted banter between each other, but we do transmit a lot of information from the meetings we are in attendance. I relayed the major points from the Special Cabinet Meeting on the Route Partnership Link and the Budget. People find it difficult to find out what going on in their local Council and if this helps them getting a better understanding then I am all for it and will continue to Tweet during meetings.

As with any technology that’s new or misunderstood people can get the wrong idea of how it works. The same was said on the Internet and Mobile Phones. I am of the generation that has grown up with the technology. I still remember my first computer in the 80’s with some fondness, the BBC-B.

I am sure we (the Gang) will get a lot of criticism on this press article, but how much will be from those who understand the technology? My guess it will be from those who have never heard of, used, or even tried Twitter (or other Social Media).

I will continue to relay information were possible. It does not impede my work as a Councillor in meetings. So where is the harm? I see more Councillors leave the chamber during the discussion for a short while and still vote. Has anyone made a full page article on that?

Here are some links from the other Cllr’s who Twitter
Cllrs
Steve Double

Jeremy Rowe.
Alex Folkes

Also, here is the link to the article online with the comments from the Public (Press Article)

Now if you do want to try this form of communication or “follow” me. Here is how. @CllrAWallis

Twitter, Blogs and Cyberspace

Back to County Hall today (seems I never get away from the place). This time is was for Corporate Resources Scrutiny Committee. I am a non-member of this Committee, but considerings it’s about the Councils assets its important to know what’s going on  (you never know what building is going to be sold off next). It also covers other important items such as the functions of Communications

Item 9 on today Agenda was on Social Media and its use within Cornwall Council. This is a draft document and needs to go through a few more tweaking process before it becomes Policy. Here is the Draft Policy (Draft Policy).

I welcome this as I am one of those who use many different types of Social Media from Facebook, Twitter, Blogs and Texts to name but a few. I believe this is a good way to communicate and we should fully explore its use within the Council, and with the Public. Even though I am prolific user of this type of communication I still think meeting face to face can’t be beaten.

One of the future plans could be the use of Web Casting. I am not sure who will watch a full Council in action, but I believe if it gets more people involved and interested in what happens in Local Government then that great. (still has to be cost effective).

I made a comment at this Committee that this is a step in the right direction, but we still  not even got electrical power points in the various chambers to enable us (cllrs or public) to use laptops. If you want to cut down on the printing cost and read the Agendas via WiFi or on laptops then give us the basics. Just imagine how much money could be saved if we went paper less where possible.

I think The Comms team of Cornwall Council have made an important step. This is due to Annie who has worked really hard on getting this out of the starting blocks. I still find the whole process of getting this Policy implemented  as slow as “Dial Up”, but at least we are heading in the right directions.

Here are other links to views on Social Media  Cllr’s Jeremy Rowe
Alex Folkes

I am pleased that Cornwall Council is looking into this. Even the “Twitter Gang” that were present today got excited on this plan, but there was a moment of panic, when during this item Twitter could not be accessed for a while!

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