Hospital Fetes, Tombolas and Lucky Dips.

Saturday was a big day for me. My first official opening of an event since getting elected to Cornwall Council. The event was the Helston Community Hospital Fete. This is where the staff of the hospital raise money for patient items; things to help people who have the misfortune of being admitted, make their stay a little bit more comfortable. Really the Government (all are to blame) should provide adequate money for this, but they don’t.

The staff give their own time to do this. Over the last few years £10,000 has been raised. Saturday’s event raised nearly £1,500. All from the sale of brick-a-brac, tombolas, lucky dips, teas and cakes. Without hard working and dedicated staff who go that extra mile, there would be no extra money.

If you are visiting, or are in hospital and feel like moaning about the state of the NHS, don’t, just pause for a minute and think. It’s the staff who give up their off-duty days to raise money for the benefit of us all. It’s certainly made me willing to wait that extra time to see a nurse or doctor.

Herding Cats

Those who stand for election under the Independent banner have a tough job. They don’t have a party machine to help them “knock” and “walk the streets”. Most will press gang family members into helping. It’s a lot harder when the weather is poor.

There are 32 of these individuals elected to Cornwall Council. We sort of join together to make some sort of lose group with no real ideology like political parties have. We elected a leader. His job is a difficult one, and to be honest we can, at the end of the day vote, say and do as we please as we have no political masters.

Today we had an “away day”. I was not at the beginning of it due to the fact I was with the SIP. It was interesting, as we did one of those modern brain storming sessions with a board and a few marker pens. It proved we do have some similar issues in the group like, cheap housing, infrastructure, schools and transport. The trick is, how to present that as a voice and not just a bunch of squabbling individuals.

We are elected to do the best for our communities, sometimes that’s very hard if you are just one voice out of 123. Sometimes it’s worth having just one large voice (32) helping your cause.

At the end of the day, we vote how we feel is best. That is the privilege and curse of being an Independent (no political party to hide behind).

The best way I can describe our Group is like someone trying to herd cats. Bloody difficult, but if there is a nice treat (for our community) offered we may at least drink from the bowl at the same time.

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.

Doing It Live

I did a radio interview with a very popular BBC current affairs in Cornwall. The presenter has a reputation for being direct and to the point. I received a call this morning asking if I would speak and answer questions about the decisions that the Parking Panel has made.

Again, I stepped up to the plate. If you make a decision you should stand up and defend that point. I find it difficult to understand when someone who has made a choice that will affect many people will not be open to public scrutiny or answer difficult questions.

I hope I batted well. The presenter did bowl all different types, but I don’t think he took my wicket. The crowd (not hearing it, but told) were a mixed bunch, some support, some along the lines of “who in the hell is this?” and those who might not agree, but kind of understood the method.

Call me nuts, but I even gave my own number out (presenter said could he). I said if someone wants to talk to me about the issues, then ring me and I will listen. It’s of fundamental importance that if you are in a position that affects many, then you should be accessible.

Licensing Hearing

One of my other jobs is Vice-Chairman of Licensing Act Committee. When the need arises we hold a hearing when a licensed premises either has a review or objection to a Grant of Licence.

Today, in a Cornish western town, I had to do two. Two other Councillors sit with me in deciding what course of action is taken after we hear all the evidence (and generally there is loads). Today you could have used the paperwork as a door stop. The police had brought the reviews because there had been many and on going breaches to their licensing conditions. Sometimes people just don’t get it that they need to adhere to the conditions. They are not imposed just for fun.

The police barrister outlined his case in typical quick lawyer fashion, getting down to the points with professional zeal. The owner then had a chance to state their case. I have to say it would be easier if those who have to present their case would do it in a clear fashion. Today was not one of them. I had to request that this person to get to the point several times.

In the end we considered suspending their licensing, but we decided to impose more conditions that will, I hope, solve the ongoing problems (we live in hope). I am not sure if they were happy, but they would have been a damn sight more unhappy if we had removed their license as they would then not be able to trade.

The point is, if a condition is placed on a licence, then please, please stick to it. If not, it gives the area a bad name and can blight those who live near these places.

The Way To Finish A Day

Last meeting of the day was at a Resident Association Committee. A really nice bunch of people who try and do the best for their area, with probably little thanks or understanding for all the hard work they do.

I was there to give them some good news. I have managed to get all their railing painted. I have done this by using the Community Payback Scheme and a local business has given the paint for almost cost. The residents pay for the paint, I pay for the labour, and a business is helping the local community. Win, Win, Win!

How did the meeting end? Well, with bubbly and cake! I wish I could say it was laid on for me, but no, it was for a couple who are part of the Committee who were celebrating being married for 50 years!

Being thanked for sorting out the railing with cake and bubbly is one of the best ways to finish off a very long and tiring day.

I Have Drunk From The Chalice

Today was the second meeting of the Parking Panel. No matter what way you looked at this, there were going to be some very tough choices. Some might say “I am glad I am not making those choices”. Again, like the Taxi Policy there were 6 different Parking Policies and all of them different. Life is never easy post merge.

I, personally and as Chairman of the Panel, did not like the new proposed parking charges. In some areas there could have been a large, and I mean very large, increase. I thought we were going in the wrong direction and felt we could do better.

Sadly it all comes down to a numbers game. We have to raise a certain income from the car parks because we have to fund services, not to mention we have to give Central Government a huge slice of it from taxes raised. In return they give some, but sadly not all, of it back.

So here we were at the cross roads of doom. Accept the report and be ready to be strung up at the nearest tree, or throw the proposed charges out through the proverbial window. What did we do? Well, we lobbed them out of the window. I, and my panel, felt that we should look at this in great depth and consult everyone before we decided (a novel idea in Local Government).

We now have many months to give this subject our full attention because, as I rightly pointed out, parking could (and I think does) affect all the people in Cornwall (that’s over 550,000 people to pee off). We will look into reduced rates, charging, season tickets, pre-paid, Oyster Card type ways to name a few, but I can 100% assure you that we will leave no stone unturned or question unanswered. We have to make a policy that’s fair to everyone in Cornwall and easy to understand; impossible task?

There is a sting in the tail (as there always is). We had to raise the charges across the board. 5% was the total. You might think: “robbing gits, how dare you?”, but a 5% raise is better than a 20%, 50% or 300% raise that a lot of car parks were going to get.

I might add, I don’t blame the Officers who came up with the proposed charges. They were told they had to raise a certain income. It’s hard to keep prices down when you are told you have to raise a certain amount.

So today did indeed drink from the Chalice, it was not sweet tasting, but it didn’t kill me either. I guess there is always another day though.

Six or One

Six or One is the question. What am I on about you ask? Well, its to do with the Current Licensing Policy on Taxies. We currently have six different Policies on Taxies. Today the Miscellaneous Licensing Committee discussed the future. Their choices were keep the same (some may say unfair/fair policies depending what what old district you are from) or have one Policy for the whole of Cornwall.

I would be interested in hearing people’s views on this matter, as the full Council will have to make the final decision at a future Council meeting. The recommendation from the Misc Licensing Committee was that it stays the same. Is that right, wrong or don’t you care as long as you get into a Taxi that wont rip you off and deliver you to your chosen destination?

Considering I will have to vote one way or another I would be interested in what you think we should do. After all it is a democracy and I believe everyone should be listened too (even though we might not always agree).

At the moment I am sitting on the fence (shockingly, yes I am) as I can see merits in both. Don’t worry I won’t be sitting on the fence at the final decision, you can be assured of that, but it would be nice to hear your views.

Working Together

Most of my morning was taken up in a meeting of the Loe Pool Management Forum. This is a non Council body that I attend in my role as the Local Member (this whole area is in my ward).

It was so refreshing to see some high powered people attend this meeting from the EA, National Trust (whose land it is), South West Water, Cornwall College, Natural England. These weren’t just the soldiers, but the experts of the relevant agencies in Cornwall (throw in two doctors to boot). Helston and Porthleven Town Councils were also present, but if they were like me, they were a little lost when they started to speak in more technical terms of micro-bio-what-not’s. (Ihad to ask a few times for certain elements to be placed in English.)

I was really pleased to see all these agencies working together to improve this area so people now, and future generations, will enjoy this area. The plans they propose will be a fantastic for this area. Other areas might get the “green eyed monster” effect. Did you know this area has a small Hydro-Generator powering equipment in this area, I didn’t. I learnt of ways of harnessing power from small water courses. Inspiring!

I look forward to more of these meeting and hope I learn a great deal more.

A Nice Thought

I was sent a link today from someone on Facebook. Not sure what to expect, I clicked on it anyway (risky sometimes in todays age).

After what seemed like an age to start (speeds up if you place your mouse over the counter) I felt very humbled from what I saw. I would like to say thank you for the time and effort it must have taken to do that. It sure brought a smile to my face. Even my son commented with, I quote, “cool”

Thank you

Here is the link:

http://www.tackfilm.se/en/?id=1259247919907RA22

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