Sunday, 27 October 2013

My monthly report to St Enoder Parish Council

My latest report to the Parish Council was for the period 19th September – 18th October. Submitted at the last meeting on 24th October, it was as follows:

1.         Council meetings

I have attended a range of meetings over the last month. These included: Environment, Heritage and Planning PAC (and an associated informal meetings plus three pre-agenda briefings/meetings); informal Homes and Communities PAC; informal Reputation and Performance PAC; Constitution and Governance Committee (and an associated informal meeting); briefing on emergency management; budget consultation meeting at Roche; and a meeting about the future of the Council’s St Austell offices.

2.         Improvements at Indian Queens School

Some three months ago, the Schools Minister David Laws announced that he had sanctioned investment in eight Cornish schools though its Targeted Basic Need Programme. This fund specifically supports the construction of much-needed new classrooms in schools experiencing massive pressure from the number of children in their communities that need school places.

Taken together, the Council’s eight applications had sought a total of £18.8 million. The Council was informed by the Education Funding Agency (EFA)  that all eight applications had been approved, but a subsequent announcement from the EFA has recently confirmed that Cornwall Council has only been allocated £7.8 million – some £11 million less than in the applications.

Cornwall Council is seeking a dialogue with the EFA, pointing out that the reduced allocation could undermine the school improvements, and asking them to reconsider the extent of the grant allocation.

The planning permission for the first two new classrooms for Indian Queens School has been granted (phase 1), but there are now a lot of meetings taking place about how to proceed given the large shortfall in funding for second phase of the overall project.

I will report back, when I know more about how the unitary authority and the School will be proceeding.

3.         Indian Queens Victory Hall

I am pleased to be able to report that I have been able to assist the Hall Committee in getting their recent grant from the Clay Country Local Action Group increased by £5,000. The main part of the grant was used for a new floor and it also funded a new kitchen which will be fitted in the near-future. The extra money will be used to purchase new chairs for the Hall.

However, the Hall Committee has to spend the grant by the 31st October and needs assistance with its cashflow. I have requested an agenda item on this meeting, which suggests that we agree a short-term loan to the Hall Committee to allow them to take advantage of the improved grant offer.

4.         Flooding problems at St Dennis Junction

I am also pleased to announce that officers at Cornwall Council have confirmed that, following investigative work, they intend to undertake improvement works at St Dennis Junction, in order to prevent flooding in the future.

The confirmation was as follows:

“We have had the drainage system surveyed in the area and whilst there was no evidence of a blockage that may have contributed to the recent flooding, the pipework is aging and is showing signs of cracking and movement.  With this in mind, it has been agreed that there would be benefit in replacing the pipes and upgrading them in size to provide additional capacity and flooding resilience. 

“Additionally, we propose to provide a trash screen at the entrance to the first pipe outside ‘Lyndale’ as it is considered that the main flooding problem here is related to the blockage of the system by debris/vegetation etc. washed down to the point of entry into the pipe during periods of prolonged rainfall.

“A detailed scheme is still to be drawn up but is likely to include a combination of the above and potentially an additional outfall if considered necessary and if sufficient funding is available.

“Funding has provisionally been allocated to this scheme for the current financial year and I am confident at this stage that it will proceed.  However, as with all programmes, should funding be reduced or overspend be experienced on other projects or priorities change, the scheme could be at risk.  That said, if the scheme does not proceed from the current financial year budget allocation, then subject to confirmation, I would expect it to be rolled-over to next year’s programme.”

5.         Budget cuts

There have been a range of meetings to consider how Cornwall Council cuts £44 million from its 2014-2015 budget, in order to cope with reductions in funding from central government. I understand that services under threat include the Claybus (mobile library and one-stop-shop) in our area. I fought hard for three years to get this service and I am doing all that I can to lobby to protect it.

6.         Patching works through Fraddon and Indian Queens

Further to the update in my last monthly report, I have made further complaints about the poor quality of the replacement linings where the patching works were carried out along the old A30 through Fraddon and Indian Queens, etc.

I have had it confirmed that the Council plans to surface dress this section of road in the early part of next year and does not wish to redo the double yellow lines until after then. I am using the officer’s call for a delay in order to push for all lining in the Parish to be repainted in 2014.

7.         Double yellow lines / parking enforcement

As promised, I have also continued to make representations to Cornwall Council about double yellow lines in St Enoder Parish, the need to review coverage of these lines in certain areas, and the provision of parking enforcement. This also follows the report produced by the Parish Council on this issue.

I am struggling to make much progress, as shown by the most recent correspondence I have had (via the Network Manager) from a senior officer in the parking enforcement team.

“As I have explained before, the areas in which enforcement is being requested are not part of the priority enforcement routes when we took over the responsibility for parking enforcement from the Police, and I have previously clarified the criteria of those routes.

“In the days of Restormel Borough Council, ad-hoc visits were carried out on an ad-hoc basis, as at that time we could provide them within the budgetary resources that we had.

“However, as Councillor Cole and all Councillors are aware due to cuts in Central Government funding as an Authority each Directorate is tasked with savings and efficiencies due the reduction in available budgets. It is now being discussed that one of the options for the future of Parking Operations, including enforcement, is the possibility of outsourcing.

“We are therefore required to demonstrate how we can be more efficient as well as reducing costs. This could mean that the ad-hoc routes that had been added may be reviewed and any ad-hoc patrols potentially reduced/removed.

“It is therefore regrettable that I will not be in a position to carry out any additional ad-hoc patrols in the interim, and indeed the ad-hoc patrols that we have supplied in the past may well cease. There is still however the option available to the Parish & Town Councils of entering into a partnership working agreement to buy enforcement time – but my next paragraph regarding the quality of lines etc would need to be taken into account.

“Having said that the majority of comments in the paper you forwarded to me are with regard to the poor state of lines/markings of the restrictions on the highway, which could in themselves limit any enforcement.

“I am sorry that this may not sit well with Cllr Dick Cole and other Councillors in the Clay Area, but the Council faces many difficult decisions in the future, due to the pressure of budgets and the financial resources available.”

8.         Flooding issues at Trevarren

Further to my last monthly report, when I brought members up-to-date on my efforts to persuade South West Water to address the problems relating to the surcharge of waste from the foul water sewer onto the highway at Trevarren, I have sent further paperwork to SWW. It includes statements forwarded to me by some of the worst-affected properties.

9.         Incinerator “Community Liaison Group”

On the 10th September, I attended the second meeting of the liaison group, set up “to provide a link” between the developers (of the waste incinerator at St Dennis) and local communities / organisations. The Parish Council was represented by Donna Bennett.

The group presently comprises the three Cornwall Councillors for the divisions of St Dennis and Nanpean, St Enoder, and St Stephen; and representatives of the Parish Councils of St Dennis, St Enoder, and St Stephen. It is presently seeking nominations for six community representatives, and the group will then commence open meetings in the New Year.

10.       Youth Club

Following the decision of H2O to withdraw from running youth club sessions, I have been in contact with Cornwall Council and I have arranged a meeting with Council officers on Monday (21st October) to discuss what support the unitary authority would be willing to give to St Enoder Parish. I will give a verbal update at the Parish Council meeting.  

11.       Community events

I was very pleased to be able to open the 85th Indian Queens Music Festival and I also attended the thanksgiving service at Indian Queens Wesley Chapel, which marked the internal improvements to allow disabled access, etc.

12.       ClayTAWC

I also spent a significant amount of time at ClayTAWC (the Training and Work Centre for the China Clay Area) at St Dennis, which I chair. The focus has been on the completion of a “retrofit” of the old school building, which has been funded via grants of around £140,000.

13.       Inquiries

Throughout the last two months, I have also helped numerous people with advice and guidance on a range of issues.

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