Update from your Cornwall Councillor, Sue James

Posted on: 29th July 2013

Since I last wrote I have continued to attend briefing/ training sessions and begun to attend the committees I have been allocated to. A further development is that I have been allocated to be one of Cornwall’s representatives on the Police and Crime Panel and have attended the first meeting. The issues that are brought to my attention locally are far ranging and whilst I would like to report all to you, particularly where I feel I have made some contribution to getting a better or more timely outcome, people come to me ‘in confidence’ and I do not plan to breach that. I will try to give a flavour of general local issues or County issues that reach into our community. I also want to highlight some of the ways you can engage with staff and councillors to improve our community and decision making.
At the Homes and Communities Portfolio Advisory Committee we agreed that members needed to understand the current Homechoices register and social housing allocation arrangements. This will be a priority area for us to review and improve and will link with the concerns that people have brought to me. Some feel that as a local person their needs for housing are not being given enough attention. Others are anxious about the label ‘affordable homes for local people’ believing there is not sufficient weight to the needs locals and they worry that people will be drafted in from outside the Parish or County. Others do not believe there is a need for housing locally unless we create more jobs. This links to my role on the planning committee and the evidence is strongly put that we need more housing to meet the needs of people with a local connection but the challenge is finding the right places to build where we will not destroy what is special in our area. As one councillor recently said (not too sensitively) we all seem to agree that we need more housing for local people but we always disagree over whether each site suggested is a suitable one.
I will not say too much about Pensions Committee other than I was elected as the Vice Chair and there are considerable responsibilities attached to being on that committee. Regulations aimed at bodies controlling pension funds quite rightly require that we must demonstrate our competence to be in charge of a Local Government Pension Fund. I will therefore have to undertake training and assessments to ensure that I am competent to carry out this role.
At Full Council, some of you may have read that I proposed a motion, passed unanimously, to put a shot across the bows of Government that we want to keep the control of our local Fire and Rescue Service, here in Cornwall. An idea has emerged that control of our Fire and Rescue Service should pass to the Devon and Cornwall Police and Crime Commissioner and I will be doing all I can to oppose that. This leads neatly on to my attending the Police and Crime Panel which has the role of scrutinising the work of our Police and Crime Commissioner. At the first meeting I gained support for adding that we would look closely at what the Commissioner and his team claim in expenses, whilst we are looking at what staff appointments are being made and what consultants are being paid for.
I want to encourage all of you, with access to the Internet, to go on the Cornwall Council website (cornwall.gov.uk) and click on the link on the left hand side labelled ‘report it’. All those annoying things that you feel some-one should know about and do something about have a simple way that you can report it in so whether you have noticed some Japanese Knotweed, a dog walker who never picks up after their dog, problems with our gullies and drains or obstructions or hazards on your street or roads, then report them in. I counted 36 categories of problems you can report in this way and a link to make general compliments, comments and complaints. Next month I will provide details of how you can influence what local taxes we pay and the services the money should provide.
Community Chest – I also want to make you aware that I have £3,000 that I can allocate to local projects that will improve the lives of people living in St Just and Pendeen (I cannot support general running costs of groups). Details are on the Cornwall Council website under ‘Community and Living’ and then follow the links to Community Networks then West Penwith. Alternatively, come along to meet me for an informal chat. I will be at the Centre of Pendeen on the 3rd Saturday of the month and the British Legion in St Just on the 4th Saturday of the month, both days between 11 and 12.
You can also email me on cllrsuejames@gmail.com or sjames@cornwall.gov.uk (latter one best if I am likely to need to involve other councillors or staff).