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Elections 4 May, 2013

Posted by Jeremy Rowe in News, Politics.
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The dust is starting to settle on a dramatic set of elections to Cornwall Council. The authority has lost some good people from all political groups and gained some interesting new faces in their place. The electorate have given those of us who remain a good deal to think about.

In terms of my own division I am truly grateful to the people in the seven rural parishes I represent for returning me as Councillor. It is one of the great cliches of elections, but it is genuinely a humbling experience being elected to represent your area.

As far as the raw numbers are concerned there are clearly interesting days ahead: Lib Dems 36 seats, Independents 35, Tories 31, Labour 8, UKIP 6, MK 4, ‘Unspecified’ 2 and 1 Green Councillor. If there’s any message at all in the midst of that it is that we will all have to do a lot more listening this time around.

Waste chaos rumbles on 19 April, 2012

Posted by Jeremy Rowe in Local Matters, News.
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Complaints from individuals continue to roll into me regarding missed rubbish collections nearly three weeks after the implementation of the new waste contract between Cory and Conservative-led Cornwall Council. The good news is that the majority of the complaints I have received have been dealt with after being referred to the relevant people. The bad news is that the problems show no signs of abating just yet.

It seems the main cause of the issues has been the moving around of collection staff who had previously been used to covering specific routes. Having been moved to another area, the staff – through no fault of their own – have had to learn the routes from scratch. This has led to the wrong vehicles being led down narrow lanes and some areas being forgotten entirely. It doesn’t appear that there has been any effective monitoring of this state of affairs by the Conservative-led administration.

There has been little response from the Tory leadership of the Council beyond a series of inadequate comments about “teething troubles”. Rubbish collection is the most tangible benefit people receive from their Council Tax and when this most basic of functions falls over people are justifiably angry. It boils down to a test of competence and the Tories are failing it badly.

I have written to the Leader of the Council and I reproduce the text below.

Dear Alec,

You and I are both aware that the new waste and recycling contract for Cornwall is a major undertaking. Everyone expected some teething problems in the form of missed collections, but trusted that these would be cleared up with a smile and an apology.

What has transpired in Cornwall since 2nd April is, I would suggest, of a different order.

Not only have there been thousands of missed collections, but the call centre has been jammed, thousands of homes have not received their new recycling containers, promises of action within 48 hours have been consistently broken, the wrong collection vehicles have been sent to narrow streets, lower levels of service have been imposed on residents without consultation or information and piles of uncollected refuse have littered our streets. In short, I believe that this entire transition has been mishandled.

Given the failures on this project, I would invite you to do three things:

First, that you and the council should stop pretending that these are only a few teething troubles and acknowledge that there are very large areas of Cornwall which have been failed by the new contract. Please issue a formal apology for these failures;

Second, we need to sort these problems out. I and my group have always been ready to assist in any way we can, but the pretence that there are no real problems and the lack of information is hindering moves to put the system right;

Finally, as a Council, we need to understand what went wrong. Was this a failure in preparation by either the Council or Cory? Why were so many collections missed and why could the call centre not cope? The latter is particularly important given that this is a service that we are considering selling to other public sector organisations. The waste and recycling service may be large, but it is hardly the only big contract let by this council. We need to ensure that the same chaos does not affect service changes in the future. I would therefore ask you to support my call for a full inquiry – led by the EP&E scrutiny committee – into the contract change and to ensure that officers and cabinet members make available any and all information requested by that committee.

Cabinet members are undoubtedly right when they say that there are aspects of the change which have gone extremely smoothly and we should recognise these successes. But we must also properly acknowledge the failings, apologise for them and ensure that they cannot happen again.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Best regards,

Jeremy

 

Changes to rubbish collections 26 March, 2012

Posted by Jeremy Rowe in Local Matters, News.
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As you may already be aware, there will be changes to rubbish and recycling collections in Cornwall from 2nd April and in many cases this will involve different collection days and different containers for recycling.

To find out how the changes will affect you follow this link and to find out your new collection day use the postcode checker on the Cornwall Council homepage.

St Eval Community Centre – Grand Opening 7 January, 2012

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Some time ago I wrote a post about the facilities the Americans left behind at Trevisker St Eval. I reflected at the time that it would be a tragedy if these buildings were left empty while the local community faced the closure of its Post Office, shop and community facilities.

Two years on, after an astonishing amount of hard work from members of the community, I was invited to attend the opening of new facilities – on the site of the former US buildings at Orion Drive.

No one should underestimate what an amazing achievement this has been for the local community. There have been numerous occasions when everything seemed to be lost and it appeared that St Eval might head the way of so many other rural settlements and fall into slow decline. The local residents had other ideas. Their determination has been outstanding. They have fought their corner with the Ministry of Defence, worked up business plans and put in the hard, unpaid labour to produce a social club, kitchen, meeting venue and a new Post Office. Most crucially of all, they have never given up.

There will still be many obstacles in the future, but the local community was proud to open the doors today. It is an amazing achievement with an incredible community spirit at its heart – local residents have every right to be proud.

(You can read more about the community at St Eval here.)

St Eval 8 December, 2011

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Britain’s first solar powered town? Episode Three 11 October, 2011

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Cornwall Council seemingly unconcerned about ragwort 19 August, 2011

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I took the photo above at New County Hall earlier today. As a snapshot I think it tells a tale about Cornwall Council’s approach to ragwort this year. The St Issey Division, which stretches from St Eval across to St Tudy, seems to be awash with the weed this summer. There is a difference of opinion as to how harmful ragwort actually is, but the authority nevertheless has a duty to remove it, particularly given the efforts most landowners go to to ensure that their land is cleared before the weed goes to seed.

Britain’s first solar powered town? Episode two 27 July, 2011

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Wadebridge Renewable Energy Network 8 June, 2011

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On the 23rd May the Wadebridge Renewable Energy Network (WREN) elected its Board of Directors, the next stage in the plan to make the town and surrounding area a national beacon for electricity generation and the reduction of carbon emissions.

I attended the event as an observer and was struck by the level of enthusiasm for an AGM which was essentially just a technical business meeting. Such a display of interest shows how much impact the dedicated group of people who have managed to lift this idea off the ground have had on Wadebridge and the communities around it.

The board of twelve which was chosen at the AGM represents an excellent cross-section of skills and very much looks like a team with the talent to make the Wadebridge Renewable Energy Network a tremendous success. In addition to Stephen Frankel and Jerry Clark – pioneers of this idea – the board members also bring expertise in the fields of planning, accountancy, local government and good old fashioned life experience. They also included Wadebridge Town Council’s youngest ever member, Harriet Wild, who will be leading the group’s efforts with young people. The future looks very bright!

You can read more about WREN at their website here and the excellent Wadebridge People site will continue to give updates on this and other stories from the town and the surrounding parishes. (Thanks to Shayne House for the photo at the top of the page.)

New Cabinet Member on board for St Eval 3 June, 2011

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This morning I had a highly encouraging meeting with Ray Tovey, the new Cornwall Council Cabinet Member for Localism. Ray has been highly respected across the political divide throughout the two-year life of Cornwall Council and personally I was very pleased at his elevation from the backbenches.

While I can’t necessarily go into the details of the meeting between Ray, Network Manager Sarah Sims and myself, what I can say is that I was very impressed by his early grasp of the situation in St Eval with regard to the threat to community facities and his willingness to think creatively to advance the aims and objectives of the community. I feel sure that he’ll be a great asset to St Eval and that he will be able to take a good look at the potential within the ‘Localism agenda’ and hopefully move things in the right direction.

I’m more than happy to put on record that, in appointing Ray to the Cabinet, here is something that Alec has done right.

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