Camborne Library Update

On Monday, Camborne Town Council held an extraordinary meeting to discuss the news that Cornwall Council officers had recommended that all Cornwall’s libraries were to be tendered for a third party to run them.

By the time of our meeting, all had changed. The Communities Committee at Cornwall Council rejected this recommendation and insisted that the council consider the many communities that had expressed an interest in running the libraries themselves.

Good for them – for all the cynics and nay sayers, out there, this is why we need councillors to make decisions.

There were many discussions at the town council, it was a long meeting and two members of the public turned up and sat through it.  And a Mr Hart, who came late, shouted at us all, called us a disgrace and then left. His beef is that the building belongs to the people of Camborne. Morally, I think we would all agree. Legally, this is not the case.

The decision of the council is to express an interest in running the library. We will also be surveying the residents of Camborne to find out their views and how much extra they would be willing to pay on their precept and whether they value the building as much as the library. We were all agreed that we must consult widely and only go ahead if the people of Camborne are with it.

We also need some firm answers to a lot of questions from Cornwall Council, so this will not be an easy or quick process.

Is Cornwall Council prepared to offer anything toward the running costs? It would be unfair if Camborne paid entirely for its own library, accessible to anyone in neighbouring parishes but in other towns, the library is still fully funded. In essence, we would be subsidising others.

Would other parishes be prepared to contribute?

Will Cornwall Council transfer the building to Camborne for a nominal sum?

What backlog of maintenance is outstanding on the building?

What exactly are the running costs? There are many vague areas and Cornwall Council’s own figures come with a warning that they are not to be taken seriously. Which is worrying, in my view.

One thing Camborne Town Council has to be clear about is exactly what the price tag will be in Camborne and whether people in our town will pay it.

What will happen to Camborne’s library?

Screen Shot 2015-06-13 at 07.14.03The latest indication is that all libraries in Cornwall are going to be put out to tender.  Labour councillors in Camborne are, to say the least, not happy with this and have called an extraordinary meeting of Camborne Town Council at 6.30pm on Monday 20th July.

Following a county wide consultation aimed at finding a ‘community led’ solution to cost savings, the recommendation to the Lib Dem/Independent administration at County Hall is to put the lot out to tender, turning their backs on councils like Camborne that have expressed an interest in running their own.

Yet again, Cornwall Council has spent its scarce cash on a pointless exercise to ignore what everyone asked for and suspicion grows again that this has all been hi jacked or was a cynical sop to the public.

Three years ago, the council – led by the Conservatives and Independents – was preparing to outsource a huge chunk of services to BT – Libraries, One Stop Shops, IT, leisure, call centres etc.  After public and democratic outcry at the risks, this was reduced to one contract with BT for IT, which has failed to deliver and probably cost the council £millions.  Still, the council is blithely carrying on down the same road.

The rumour is that Tempus Leisure, the charity that runs our leisure centres is in the running. I’ve no idea of the truth of that and have nothing against Tempus but I do have a strange, old fashioned addiction to democracy and a knee jerk objection to these deals that emerge after consultations are ignored.

There are a lot of questions to be asked. It is not certain that running a library is something the Town Council should do or how it would work. Would the taxpayers of Camborne be expected to pay for the whole service or would Cornwall Council contribute? How would we ensure county wide coordination? What happens about neighbouring parishes, without libraries, who use Camborne? How important is it that the service is in the same building? How much extra would people in Camborne be prepared to pay on their rates?

Given our expressed interest in the library, we at least expected the chance to explore these questions. But now we have no idea even whether, when the service is put out to tender, it will be on the same basis as we have now.

It really is not good enough for a council that bangs on about devolution of power from Whitehall to itself, is again ignoring the people of Cornwall, on whose behalf it claims to want more power.

The Secret Deal for Cornwal

  Members of Cornwall Council are havingg a twenty minute peek at pink papers outlining what the government has called the Deal for Cornwall

We have been asked to stay in the chamber, if we need the loo, go before we see the document and not breathe a word to anyone.

I get the distinct impression that the overriding driver for this secrecy is to ensure that George Osborne gets to press release it and claim the glory.

Can’t say anymore. I’m looking at it but you can’t see it. There is nothing that needs to be in private session in my view. 

The Labour Group voted against holding the debate behind closed doors but all the other councillors voted for and defeated us. 

Cornwall’s Case/Deal Case/Deal Am I missing something?

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In the last few months, officers and committees have been working on a ‘Case for Cornwall’ that asks government to devolve more powers to Cornwall (and mainly to the council).

This has inspired enthusiastic demonstrations across the county, one or two small riots and packed public galleries in committee where it is being discussed.

*Just kidding* :-)

A few hundred people out of Cornwall’s 545,000 approx population have expressed a view, some of them a bit dubious about the whole thing.

Still,  tomorrow 122 councillors are summoned to Truro to vote on the various aspects of the case and whether we want it to go to government.

After that and the associated hot air, the Council will move to private session to consider the ‘draft Deal for Cornwall’, which government has sent to us and which our Leader is very keen to sign up to.

The draft deal is what the government is offering Cornwall in terms of devolution. (Are you still with me? If so, are you wondering why we are bothering with a debate on what we are asking government when they have already decided what to offer us? Me too.)

This draft Deal is confidential because the government say it is, so we will have to move into private session. The papers will be available at the meeting. The document is 21 pages long and we will have 20 minutes to read them before the debate and decision.

After that, the whole thing will still be confidential, so the people of Cornwall will not be allowed to know what is in the document.

You might think this is bonkers. I could not possibly comment.

Cornwall Libraries: has the Council lost the plot??

Steaming. STEAMING!

Cornwall council has been conducting a review of libraries with a view to saving money on library provision. This has caused unease for obvious reasons but many of us have gone along to consultation meetings and given our views. I bet anything that no-one mentioned shoving the lot out to a private contractor.

But that is what the recommendation is. HAS CORNWALL COUNCIL COMPLETELY LOST THE PLOT HERE?

The point of the review was ‘Ensure access to library and advice services across Cornwall though new community led models …while delivering £1.8 million (44%) savings.

Camborne Town Council has expressed our interest in running the Library, I believe several other local councils have done as well. Our community led interest has been kicked in to the long grass.

The recommended solution?

To formally tender provision of the whole service under a separate organisation

WHAT???

Yet again the council prepares to ride roughshod over local people while speaking pretty words about localism and devolution.

And if anyone is in any doubt about whether this is a solution worth considering, check out these links.

BT fined for contract fail

Mitie fined for contract fail

Peninsula Health quits

Still steaming and preparing to campaign for a community led solution. This is not the decision, this is the recommendation. Let’s make sure the Lib Dems and Independents at Cornwall think again.

Cornwall – case or basket case? 

It’s been a fun morning watching the Cabinet of Cornwall Council discussing the document ‘Case for Cornwall’. 

I’m a sceptic on several counts. Really not sure that the public really cares about devolution and more power for Cornwall. As Tommy Bray put it, rather bluntly, on the Lawrence Reed show yesterday ‘would you want to give that lot more power?’ Words to that effect anyway.

MK, the party that wants to make Cornwall a self governing nation, has come last in nearly every election fought in recent times. Except for one where they came second to last. They lost their deposit in every constituency in Cornwall at the last election – and those flag wavers of the ‘Assembly’, the Lib Dems were also seen off rather decisively.

So, where is the mandate? 

Looking around, the council seems to have gambled millions of taxpayers money on interest rates being high while they have stuck at the lowest rates in history for the longest time ever.

The Council has for many years made promises about devolution to local town councils but after much wrangling, it seems to come down to ultimatums along the lines of ‘We are closing that, do you want to take it over? You want to know what is costs to run? Sorry mate, we haven’t a clue.’ 

Probably not the most reassuring message and does not inspire to hand over more power.

Asking to take over more planning decisions when the Council is already five years late with its own Local Plan, which is supposed to inform local planning decisions, hm, seems a little dodgy.

So, I am watching developments with interest, particularly with regard to funding. More headaches, less money would not be a good form of devolution.

And in any case, this is Cornwall’s bid. Not sure anyone in Whitehall is listening. In a little while, I will be switching over to see what George Osborne is offering. It seems to be something very different on health. 

Not a great story here either. Cornwall has a wonderful NHS service much of the time. We also have a social care system that is close to collapse, the knock on effects of which are black alerts at our main hospital. The company running our community hospitals and services has thrown in the towel because it’s not viable. Everyone is talking about integration but they have been for the past decade and it seems to have made little difference.

We also have debts which are growing and a Prime Minister who recently declared we already get more than our share of funding.

I am more than a little suspicious of why the Chancellor wants to offload it. 

And whether I will gain anything more than a numb bottom at the end of this morning’s viewing.

The House of Lords scandal continues

It is June 2015. There are 786 Lords and Baronesses, appointed by government or there by birthright, who play a major role in government in the UK.

Some of them I know personally, they are Labour, hard working and I am sure would vote for the abolition of the Lords if they ever had the chance. No matter how good they are (and they are) at doing the job, this is not the way we (they) should be running the country in the 21st century. Is it?

In 1999, the Labour government reduced the number of hereditary peers entitled to sit in the Lords to 92.  This was supposed to be the first stage of reform that would make the Lords democratic and accountable. It all went pear shaped after that. (And peer shaped).

Whatever the reason, whatever the difficulty, it feels like someone is taking the p*ss.

Labour had never had a majority in the House of Lords, for obvious reasons.  The hundreds of hereditary peers who used to come racing up to the House of Lords from the country piles to block Labour legislations were a throwback and it was astonishing that this country tolerated it until 1999.   At least that is gone.

But instead of sweeping away the whole thing, governments since those first reforms have just tried to dominate it by appointing more of their own.  Labour has  212 peers,  the Tories have 228, Lib Dems 101.

So now the Lib Dems have only 7.9% of the vote, they still have 12.8% of the peers. Ukip on the other hand, gained 12.6% of the popular vote but have 3 peers or 0.38%.

Most peers (surprise) are men.  All the 26 bishops, of course. Disappointingly, Labour is slightly behind the Lib Dem on gender equality, giving up our hard earned place as the campaigners on this (just below one third), the Tories hardly bother with a fifth.

Before anyone starts wittering that it’s the best person for the job, just remember these people are appointed not elected. You’re saying that women are not as good if they don’t get the appointments. Go home and do some hard thinking.

Peers are appointed for life. So they cannot get kicked out. To reflect the now Tory majority, Cameron’s government will no doubt appoint another raft of Conservative blokes to increase their influence. It’s the only way to do it.

It’s not representative of the population, election results or anything except the desire of government to increase its own power.

At what point are we, the people who pay for this multi million pound house of privilege and unaccountable power, going to say ‘Enough’?