Parking, The Poisoned Chalice

Parking, the Poisoned Chalice of a Panel. No matter what way you look at this issue or deal with it, it will certainly pee some people off.

We met under the cover of darkness (yes, a night time meeting for those who think we don’t have them) and I was ‘volunteered’ for the position of Chairman(more like Press Ganged). As one who has never avoided the sound of the shilling on the drum, I accepted the position.

We discussed and sorted out the role of this Panel, and then looked into the detail of our role. It looks like we are going to cover all aspects of parking within Cornwall.

Hopefully we will get it right, as getting it wrong would be tragic for those in Cornwall. If that happens I will find out that drinking from this Chalice would indeed be very bad for my health.

A Step Forward

On Tuesday I was sitting on the Children’s, Schools and Families Scrutiny Committee over at the Ivory Towers. As you are probably aware, Children’s Services got well and truly spanked on it’s recent Ofsted inspection and report (it didn’t just drop the ball, but lost it). The then Director did the honourable thing and fell on his sword, and rightly so.

After the dust had settled, and the blame game had stopped, a new Director (interim) has been appointed. This was his first time attending this Committee and he may have thought he was in for a bit of a grilling on the way forward or previous actions.

From what I saw and in the way he answered the questions he certainly has a John Smith No Nonsense approach to the Service. I have a feeling we are finally (and with much relief) sorting out this mess once and for all.

If not I am sure another sword can be found.

A Town Council and Planning

I greatly admire Porthleven Town Council (TC), not just because I am part of it, but for the people who are members of it. These individuals turn up at least once each month for the meeting, in all weathers. They are not paid, they do this not because they like to be called Councillor, but because they have a sense of civic duty to the place they live (I am only speaking about Porthleven’s Cllrs). They try their best. In fact they have very limited powers, but the powers they do have they try to do what’s best for the Community.

The point of this blog is how Town and Parish Councils deal, and are dealt with on Planning. They are only Consultees (“we like to hear your views as long as they are the same as ours” type of thing). The Planning matter in question is a Grade 2 listed Building that, to be honest, looked like it was going to fall down anyway. The new owner applied and got planning permission to, lets say, make it look like it should.

Sadly an Accident happened. A JCB accidently knocked (I could repeat accidently alot) this unsupported building. The pre-commencement conditions did say that, before any work was to be carried out, the building should be supported. On another point, none of the Planning Conditions prior to commencement of work were even carried out (work that one out for yourself).

The TC were to say mightily miffed at what had taken place and thought Cornwall Council would act. Did they act? Yes they did. I have to say they did act pretty quickly on this matter but, and here is the nub of the matter, the Enforcement and Conservation Officers thought they had a case against the applicant. That was until the Lawyers got their hands on it. It turns out that there is some ambiguity on certain wording on the plans. (why didn’t they pick this up before approval!!). The advice (hahaha) from the legal bods was they might not win the case as they could not prove beyond reasonable doubt that there had been a breach.

Is that Lawyer speak for we won’t fight a case unless we are sure to win it? My point is why do those in the Legal world seem to only act if it’s a sure thing. How do they know they won’t win? You have to sometimes at least attempt to defend a point, or else it might give the impression you don’t care or you can do what you like.

As for the matter of it was Grade 2 listed. Well, if you speak to English Heritage who are the ones you would think would be miffed on this matter, their response was (this is going to make you laugh) “We are only really concerned on Grade 1 and Grade 2 star.” So you may ask yourself, what’s the point in having Grade 2 if they who take an interest in these matters are not bothered about Grade 2. To the layman you would think Grade 2 is important, but in reality it’s not. We might as well be done with it and have a system that the authorities would be willing to defend.

I think those in the TC would just like to be able to play with a straight bat. That way they might feel they are not just peeing into the wind.

Letters

Letters pages in the Press are always interesting to read, you hope someone may have taken the trouble to say thanks for the work, but really, it’s sort of have a go at you page. (Luckily not always directed at me.)

In today’s local paper I and a fellow Councillor seem to have attracted some attention from as far away as Sheffield. Personally I did not know my sphere of influence really stretched that far, but it must do for someone to comment from there.

There were two points to the letter. Firstly I mentioned in a previous meeting (Planning Procedures) that meetings should start earlier. Not as both authors indicated because I wanted to go home early or could not concentrate after 5pm, but so we could do more work as we would have longer Committees to do just that. Sorry if I got it wrong and you really wanted shorter meetings, but more of them.

The second point, and I believe the main aim of the letters, was the decision of the Strategic Planning Committee on the approval of two Wind Farms. Decisions like these are always difficult and not taken lightly.

It seems, and I maybe wrong (depends on what side of the fence you sit) that people say we must have more sustainable energy resources but (and I mean I big BUT) not in my back yard. This seems to happen in planning alot.

Should I respond to these letters? Well the answer is no. If they wished to contact me (my details are easily to find) then I would take the time to respond and explain fully, or answer any questions they may have. On both of these letters they got most of the facts wrong or took what I said out of context.

What I am trying to say is this: constructive criticism is welcome, especially if it enables me to do my job better, but if I do something that pleases you, or if I have done something right, then maybe drop me a little line to say thanks. Just getting one thank you means a great deal and shows I am doing my job right.

The Good Ideas Club

What is the Good Ideas Club you may ask, well its also known as the Cabinet of a Council. In Cornwall Councils its made up of 10 people who have certain roles (Portfolios) like those in a Cabinet of the Government. ( I won’t bore you on how it works as you may lose the will to live.)

So here we were today for the Monthly meeting the Club (I will call it by this name from now). Their agenda for this was long, a little too long in my opinion, but 10 am it started. They talked, a little too long some may say, about lots of issues, but the key one I am “blogging” about was on the “Call in” of the decision by the Club on the Council’s Severance Policy (I blogged about this a few days ago).

What would the Club do, would it take on the points from the Scrutiny Committee and look into its decision again? Did they? Did they heckers like! They made a statement along the lines of a teacher giving a gold star out to a child who did some good work, but then totally ignore the actual content of the work.

This was the first test on how the Club would react to a “Call in” and from what I witnessed did not make the right decision or even consider the points raised by Scrutiny. Others may disagree, but they aren’t writing this blog.

So, why am I talking about this, well the new Policy will have a direct effect on all staff who may have the misfortune of actually having to go though the ordeal of Severance. I don’t think the process and engagement of arriving at this conclusion was fully explored to its full potential. I have the feeling some staff will feel a little aggrieved.

I could be wrong, but that’s up for others to decide. I am just a Back Bencher who is not in the Club.

Rememberance

A day when the Nation remembers those who made the ultimate sacrifice and laid down their lives for the greater good (we hope).

War is not fun, it’s not how Hollywood portrays it. I know, I have seen first hand what War is, and does. It is not pleasant.

We as individuals gather on the nearest Sunday to the 11th November to pay our respects. It always fills me with a sense of pride how many people of all ages do indeed turn out, in all sorts of weather, to pay their respects.

Wear the Poppy with pride. The next time you see some old boy (and girl) in the street, remember, some 60 years ago they were fighting for the freedoms we now take for granted today.

I hope on the 11th of November at 11am we all stop what we are doing and just take a minute to think of those past and present who have, and might make the ultimate sacrifice.

A Multi Day

Again, I was in attendance at another Scrutiny Committee, but this one was kind of different. This was the first “Call In” By the Corporate Resources Scrutiny Committee on a decision that Cabinet had made on the Policy of Severance.

At the previous Cabinet meeting the plan was to harmonise the former 7 Severance Polices (old Councils). This had met with some resistance from various sections of the Council. In the end the Cabinet decided on a Policy of 1.75 x Multiplier (HR explained how this worked, but unless you are HR Bod it sounded like double dutch spoken underwater).

So, to cut the story short, as there were over 2 hours of chatting on this subject, it was decided to send it back to Cabinet to “re-examine” its decision. This is only a request from the Committee, as the Cabinet can simply decide (maybe foolishly) to go with its original decision.

I did ask the question why a sliding scales could not be implemented (the less well paid get a higher multiplier, whilst those who can afford the villa in a sunnier climate would get less). Again, the HR bod started to talk Double Dutch and I was unsure if he said yes or no.

I then had to dash to another meeting down in good old Camborne. Can’t say much on that one at mo, but I will do at a later date (keep the 12th of November as the key date).

Then it was off to Penzance for my final daylight meeting. As you may have gathered I am Vice-Chair of the Licensing Committee and in this role I was invited to meet the Penzance Pub watch. Considering I had, in the last month, suspended a Premise Licence and removed its DPS (the boss) I was not sure if I would be jumped, trussled up and placed on top of a pyre in lieu of Mr. Guy.

I entered what looked like a packed house, sat down and waited for my turn to speak. I got that chance at the end of the meeting. I won’t bore you on what I said, but it went along the line of “I am Andrew Wallis blah blah blah”. I then asked if they had any questions. Shockingly there were none. I am not sure how to take that, but at least I was allowed to leave and not get that hot feeling on the 5th!

The final meeting of this day was the PACT, How do you explain PACT you may ask. The answer is turn up at your next PACT meeting and find out.

Here ends my multi day.

Public Questions A Thought..

There I was today attending my First Health and Adults Scrutiny Committee, not sure what to expect as this was the first one I had attended, not being a Member of said Committee.

During this, members of the Public are invited to ask questions (those that had been submitted in writing beforehand). These can be on the issues that this committee covers, but can’t be on certain personal cases.

There were 8 questions in total, and well founded ones at that. What was difficult to understand was when a response was given, most of them would not accept the answers.

Do we now live in a society that we must have the answer we want, even though that answer is not right or correct? It would be easy to pander to the crowd and just give them the answers they want to hear, but I believe this is not the job we are here to do.

I welcome good honest questions, even tough questions, but beware what you ask, as sometimes it’s not the answer you want to hear!

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