Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Cutting CCTV to save money and raising tax for the sake of it...

Two really wierd, or at least where I was sat, proposals came to the town councils budget meeting tonight. One from the Liberal Democrats and one from Labour. I say wierd they did make sense in some way and were certainly defended as such. But their presentation and delivery did little to sell the proposals, both failed.
The meeting was dominated by a proposal by Ruth Lewarne and Jack Dixon to cut the funding for CCTV. There was initially some confusion as they wished to cut the infrastructure budget for CCTV and maintain the monitoring budget. I'm not sure whether the underlying thought was to not have to raise the precept or to scrap CCTV, either way it didn't work. But it was left to the town clerk to ask the obvious question of what would be monitored without infrastructure. After some head scratching, awkward glances and red faces thankfully Councillor Axford stepped in to tidy up the proposal into something coherent,  by suggesting the monitoring budget be moved to the devolution fund. Thus the motion was to axe CCTV and all of it's budget in Penzance. There was a long debate both about the pros and cons of CCTV and the deal we get. About Cornwall Council pulling funding completely, the poor state of the cameras and the digital upgrade to them which has long been promised but never delivered. 
The proposal was not supported by a majority of councillors and failed.  Ensuring the future of CCTV in the town. Although this is a story that will continue to run. There are discussions at the moment about the costs of infrastructure and maintenance, specifically about driving them down. But we almost faced the end of CCTV with no public consultation,  no consultation with agencies and voluntary organisations, businesses or anybody. Just one evening in January with little obvious regard than numbers on a sheet of paper.
The serious stuff aside Cornelius Olivier had his own peculiar say on affairs. He emailed a proposal to increase the precept by 5% (a further 5% equally 10% over all). To be put in the devolution fund,  that is the pot of money we hold to take over services from Cornwall Council. Nothing too out of the ordinary in that itself. But the Councillor for Penzance Central choose to only email the town clerk, not the chairman of the council (mayor) nor his deputy nor the chair of the Finance and Property Committee. Which was unusual to say the least and not I gather in accordance with standard practices.
This situation become all the more unusual as Cllr Olivier could not be present at the meeting, due to a problem with trains apparently. After a discussion about whether a motion could be brought to the chamber without the councillor being present. It was clear there wasn't an appetite to raise the tax without a clear reason. Nobody came forward to propose the motion, not even the other Labour councillor and it didn't proceed to the vote. To clarify briefly the general consensus of the town council there is a desire to take over services from Cornwall Council but not just the ones that cost money but also the ones that raise money like car parks. Or in other words no one seems to keen to raise council tax to pay for services people already pay council tax for.
It certainly was a peculiar evening, I'll save the ins and outs of deciding where a small grant increase should come from,  which already frazzled brains struggled to comprehend. But we got there in the end, see my last post for more on the budget.