Licensing Hearing

Today in Penzance I had two Licensing Hearings to conduct. The first one was fairly simple and did not take that much time.

There other one was more serious. The Police had under the powers of the Licensing Act 2003 requested a review of a Licensing of a certain premises in Penzance. The Police had submitted evidence that this bar was in breach of its Licensing Conditions and that this place was causing a Public Nuisance and adding to Crime and Disorder.

The Police had brought its Barrister to lay out the Police’s case. The owner also has the right to defend it’s self against the charges. After both sides have had there say its down to the Panel to make its decision. The Panel consist of 3 Councillors who are trained in Licensing. I was the Chairman for today’s proceedings.

The Licensing Act 2003 can not be used as a punishment, but it must be used to uphold the 4 licensing objectives ( licensing objectives ). The Panel’s job is to make sure these are met with either the Removal, Suspension, added Conditions or no change to the Licence. All these must be relevant to the issues that have been raised during the Hearing.

After much discussion between the Panel Members we decided to add extra conditions and curtail the sale of alcohol and opening hours.  You can read more here from PC Lewis who attending this Hearing. (Licensing Update – Causeway Bar & Restaurant).

Licensing is a tough job sometimes. It can effect a lot of people, especially if there is a troublesome venue.

Cabinet (aka good ideas club)

Well today was the first meeting of the Good Ideas Club since the New Year. My main concern of the meeting was the plan to refurbish 3 buildings to the tune of around £12m and the possibility of “desposing” a good number of buildings to pay for this. The figure that’s been banded around is 80 down to 30. These are the administrative buildings and not the One Stop Shops.

Its proposed that there will be 3 administrative centres; Camborne-Dolcoath Ave, Truro-County Hall and Bodmin. For instance, it’s a possibility that 600 staff could move to the Camborne office. That’s a lot of people to move (and to be honest I am not sure where they would all fit).

I have no objection to this happening as long as A) It’s cost effective, B) there are buildings that are doing  duplicate work in close proximity, C) the service to the Public in no way suffers and D) full consultation (that means asking more than 10 people) HAS taken place. If all these reasons have been met, then I could fully support it.

What concerns me is that I as a Member of the Council have not been told of those that could be earmarked for disposal. Maybe its still early stages and they have not been identified, but I have the feeling some have. Another Councillor (Andrew Long) did say that before anything is even hinted at being sold off, then we should be fully informed as to why. I could not agree more. To many times I have read what’s going on in the press.

If I was a property developer I would suddenly be very interested in the Property Dept of Cornwall Council as I think in the near future we are going  to have an Estate Agent Dept.

The Debate

Today the Independent (not council) Remuneration Panel published its Report. The IRP has spent the last few months interviewing and collating data on what a Cornwall Councillor should be paid. This Panel has no connection to the Council.
Some months ago a questionnaire was sent out to all Councillors. Failing that copies were available from the Member Support Officer (Sarah) She is like a Mother. She will hear your moans, gripes and general inquiries. She listens like a mother would. Sometimes saying yes, good idea, but other times she give you that look like a mother would meaning “stupid boy”.
Sadly out of 123 Councillors, only 53 did indeed fill in an return this questionnaire. You would think those others would have taken the time to fill in something that will effect them. Maybe they don’t care, but I hope those who did not complete it don’t regret taking 30 mins or so to complete this.
Here is the report going to Full Council (Cornwall Council).
Now this was always going to be a difficult decision when it comes to money and you (The Councillors) are the ones who have to vote for it. I think this should be taken out of our hands with a fully independent pay/allowance body. That way it will be free from any Political influence.
For me this is my only form of income. Its a full time job for me. It does not give me scope to find other forms of income. I could work at night, but then I will never see my son who lives with me part of the time. All I want is a living wage. I think the small increase to £14k is justifiable.  Many others might agree or disagree. I will vote and will speak on this matter during the debate. I will give my reasons why I will be voting in a certain way.
Every member of the Council should have a free vote on this matter. Sadly I don’t think this will happen. I believe some people will try and play Politics on this. Maybe from their Whips, Leaders or the Party HQ.
Maybe if there was a living wage then more people would indeed stand for election. There are lot’s of younger people who would love to be involved, but just could not afford to do it. Maybe we should think long on hard on this. Serving the community should not be the exclusive right of the Retired or those of Independent Means.
If you look at the make up of the Council only a few are under the age of 40. About 3 under 30 (the youngest is 21) The rest I would call near or at the retirement age. Is this a correct reflection or the people of Cornwall? I for one don’t think so. We should do more to encourage people to enter Local Government, but if they can’t afford to even live, then we will never encourage people in. 
One thing that is going to happen is a lively and emotive debate.

Back to it

I for one has had enough of the snow. It was fun for a short period, but that novelty soon wore off. Today, Monday was my first chance to get beyond my town and carry out the job I was elected for.

First meeting of the day was to formalise the first Helston and Lizard Community Network meeting. That was to take place this Wednesday.  There are 21 Town and Parishes in this network, plus 7 Cornwall Councillors. Each of the Town and Parishes  will have one delegate on this network. So 28 people all with a voice. I hope it will work, but I have a feeling that trying to get 28 people to agree is going to be difficult to say the least. I guess time will tell. Sadly this meeting has been cancelled and  now rearranged for a later date.  Maybe a good idea considering only 3 of the 7 Cornwall Councillors were able to make this pre meeting anyway.

It was then over to Camborne to finalise the Agenda for the next Licensing Act Committee. I was there in my role of Vice-Chair of this said Committee. The purpose of this meeting is again to formalise the Agenda. All meeting have to be structured with Agenda’s. This gives a clear purpose to the meeting and allows you to make decisions in a logical way. Without these it would turn messy and I believe you would never get anything done. Also, as these meetings are Public we must inform them no less than 7 days of what’s going to be discussed.

So it was not an exciting or action filled day, but you have to do the groundwork before you have the debate.

Snow Snow Snow

Well I said at the beginning of the week it was going to be busy. How right I was, but not for the reasons I first thought. Instead of being busy with different Committees I have been busy with keeping warm, building a family of Snow People, sliding down hills on various homemade “sledges” and having a inter-neighbour snowball fights.

Yes, it would seem I have had a lot of fun, and to a point I have. Especially as my 7 year old was taking part with me as well. Now its not so good. The snow we do still have is more like ice.

People are finding it difficult in getting around. People are stuck at home. We always seem to struggle when we get a good dousing of snow. Is it because we only really get it bad every few years? I think its over 10 years since we had snow like this.

As for schools being shut. That’s all well and fine (not saying their wrong), but some people who have to get to work are finding it difficult to arrange child care and then having to deal with employers who are saying “you must get to work”.

The main roads are clear, but its the other roads that are not. I am not saying we should salt all roads as I don’t think that’s feasible. The question is, should we have huge levels of salt stockpiled every year just in case? Is that cost effective? If we got snow at this level more frequent, then maybe we should. (I hope we wont get snow like this every year). I have heard people trying to score political points on gritting. It’s a shame they do this as you have to ask yourself, would they do any better?

I liked the snow when it first came, but now I wish it now all went. I think I am going to be disappointed as from what I hear from those who do the weather guessing game are saying more is on the way!

Finally I would like to thank those in Highways who have worked tirelessly in trying to keep the roads open. Good work.

Back To It

Well I am back, sorry for the slight lull in blogging, but why blog when you have nothing to say!

Anyway I have certainly hit the ground running post break. First part of the day was taken up with Health Scrutiny.

As I have blogged before, I was against the Upper GI Cancer treatment moving. I have to say I was pretty shocked to find out that they had moved it anyway, and it moved on the 1st Jan. That’s before we were even officially back. What’s the point in Scrutiny when they just ignore its decision. Saying that, the PCT still has the final say and not Scrutiny. I personally (and why I voted against the move) don’t think it’s a good decision for Cornwall.

A few hours into this meeting and I had to leave. This was because some issues appeared that needed sorting out as my role of Vice-Chairman of Licensing and Chairman of Parking. Looks like I will be doing a Call-in radio program this Friday on Laurence Reed. I will be there for a couple of hours answering questions. It will interesting due to the nature of the issues surrounding parking.

What I would like to see from those who are saying charging and parking issues are wrong or unfair are feasible solutions. It’s ok saying you don’t like it, but why not come up with the solution. You never know we might even adopt it. It’s easy saying make it free, but the revenue from Car Parking charges pays for services. If we gave free parking, then it would be a minimum 6% rise on the Council Tax. Or even if we made it really cheap; what services would you like cut? You see the solution is not simple. Call it a challenge, but help me come up with a fair and cheap system for everyone to benefit from.

All in all a very busy day for my first day back. I think the next few months are going to be extremely busy.

Recycling How Easy Is It?

This is going to be my last Blog of 2009. Lots has happened, mostly good. I like to quote  a line from a film. “It’s been emotional”

Right, now onto the reason I am Blogging. Recycling, How easy is it really? I always tried to do my best, but previously I lived in a flat and really did not have room for all the containers. Now I live in a bigger place where I can stored the multitude of containers.

So as from today I am going to try and recycle everything. I want to see how much rubbish I can’t recycle. Already, I have filled one of those blue boxes to about half. One day and already half! Saying that, I have been grocery shopping.

So lets see how I on. I plan to monitor it for January and then evaluate it to see how I am doing. I may even weight it (sad I know)

Just to let you know. I live with just my 7 year old son (he is not here all the time) and me. So no huge family.

Happy New Year!

Out and About

I decided to go out on a Patrol with the CEO’s (Civil Enforcement Officer) in my role as Chairman of the Parking Panel. I thought it was a good idea to see what the ‘foot soldiers’ face before we came up with some new and wonderful way on this issue. At the end of the day they are the ones who are going to have to enforce these good ideas. So I had better go and see what they do.

One of the CEO’s called Emma agreed to show me around. Our route was in the centre of Truro. Out we went just before 10am. You might think it takes a special kind of person to do this job. They are. Not because they get satisfaction of issuing tickets, but they are able to resist cold like Polar Bears. Today was a cold one.

Emma showed my around all the problem areas and gave me some ideas on how they could be improved. Some of the historic problems probably aren’t solvable, unless you knocked the street down. I don’t think people would be happy with that. So certain areas would best be handled under ‘it’s not perfect, but it kinda works’.

Whilst out and about people came up to emma and asked various question as to where a certain shop is, or where they could park legally etc. Emma was a one person information booth. Happily giving out the advice when needed.

Generally most people Parked well and within the law. I thought it was going to be worse and  maybe it is elsewhere (will report when I visit other areas). Today I was only patrolling one area. What I did notice whilst I was out is that a certain group adds to a lot of  the troubles.

I may get some flak from this, but one group who seems to ‘add’ to the trouble are Blue Badge Holders. It seems (and i am far from accusing them all) because they have a Blue Badge they can parking anywhere they like. In loading bays, restricted zones and one car I saw just ‘abandoned’ on the pavement at the top of Pydar Street. I was surprised how big the problem was. Out of all the tickets issued (6 in a 2 hour period), one was for a non-badge holder.

One lady who is also a Badge Holder was parking in a loading bay whilst she went shopping. I know this because she returned laden with goods. She got issued a ticket and appeared just after the ticket was issued. She was not happy and called the CEO vermin with a few other choice mutterings. Emma did say she had been called far, far worse and with words that no person should ever say. You might think nothing wrong in parking there but those bays are there for a purpose. If the delivery trucks can’t park there, then they just park were they can and in return it causes more trouble. 

Over all it was refreshing to see those who had been issued tickets accept they were in the wrong and once Emma explained why. They seemed to accept it. Maybe it was because I was standing next to Emma and they had no idea who I was or what role. Emma did mention that people had accepted it more today.

I came away with a good picture of this area and its problems. Some I hope we can solve. Others I think won’t be unless we redesign Truro. All in all a good day, apart from losing the ability to feel my toes.

Out with the Police

Last night I had the privilege of being allowed to go out on patrol with the Police. Its called an Insight Patrol and its meant for us in Politics to see what the Police do in the real word and not what you see endlessly on TV.

An Officer (His name is Derick) was assigned to me for the evening and took me out on patrol. To be honest I was not there to see some Sweeney type ‘Cops and Robbers’ car chase or sliding over the bonnet in a Boyle style manoeuvre. I wanted to see what the real Police job was. You know, the day to day stuff.

I was not disappointed in what I was shown. It was real Police stuff. Some of it Crime Prevention in talking to those who had previous (like we know who you are, so don’t try it), Patrolling, talking to the Youth, visiting the ‘Boy Racers (and girl ones as well)and just being there as a presence.

We are quick to knock the Police, especially when we have been a victim of crime, but they really do care and want to help. I am more than happy to say that I felt proud to be out and about with the Officers from Helston as they showed a huge dedication to the job. They have a tough job to do, often thankless, but they still are able to keep their sense of humour even when the powers-to-be try and cut budgets and resources.

Thank you again

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