Thursday, 25 April 2013

Full responses from Ian Thomas (Ind)

Reasons for standing

Why did you decide to stand for Cornwall Council in Redruth South division?

I have had a latent ambition to stand for Cornwall Council for a number of years and then, recently, I read an article which suggested that the community needed and wanted leaders who

  • could and would take decisions in the best interests of Cornwall and not of any political doctrine
  • make decisions based on common-sense and by taking the views of the electorate into consideration regardless of political persuasion
  • wouldn’t be afraid to ask questions, even tough and awkward ones, in overview and scrutiny panels
  • were prepared to take corporate responsibility for the Council’s decisions and their implementation without running away or burying their heads in the sand.

I thought for a moment … then said “That’s me!”

What qualifies you to be a good Cornwall Councillor for Redruth South?

I have been a Town Councillor since 2004, serving the Redruth South Ward between 2004 and 2007 and, likewise, the Redruth North Ward from 2007 until the present time.  I have also served the community as Redruth Town Mayor during the years 2010-2011 and 2011-2012.

This ‘apprenticeship’ has resulted in a very good track record of performance and delivery and I am renowned for listening, hearing and acting on the views of the people I serve.

I also have a thorough understanding of how a Local Authority works through both my service as a Town Councillor and Mayor and as an Officer of what was then the Cornwall County Fire Brigade and Cornwall County Council from 1987 until 2009. 

Views on Local Government & Democracy

Do you believe that Councillors’ allowances are too high, too low or about right?

This is a difficult one for me having been an ‘unpaid’ Town Councillor for 9 years and an individual who gives a great deal of his time currently and freely to working with a number of charities.  However, I’m a great believer in the saying that if a job’s worth doing then it’s worth doing properly!  I know that I will give 100% and do my best to do it right.  On that basis I believe that the allowances are slightly too low if anything, but in these difficult economic times we all must tighten our belts.  

Usually there is a low turn out at Local elections in Redruth. How do you think you could engage people more to get involved in local politics?

People are clearly disenchanted with national politics and politicians.  There is an obvious distrust, whether that be caused by the expenses scandal; the lack of clearly defined policy; manifesto changes or, maybe, even personalities.  I believe that distrust has fostered the apathy that exists and has worsened the situation nationally and locally.

I have a very strong view that party politics should play no part in the workings of any Local Authority.  I would encourage the local electorate to seize the opportunity of the local elections to elect community leaders who will listen and respond to the views and needs of the community in which they serve ... an Independent Council for Cornwall. 

If you are elected, how will you keep in touch?

I will keep in touch in a number of open and transparent ways, particularly by engaging with the community face-to-face and at every opportunity.  Some of these opportunities will be created through a regular ‘surgery’, home visits, social media and the publication of my home address, private telephone number and e-mail contact.  I will endeavour to continue my meetings and work with all of the community groups that I am currently involved with – by way of just one example ‘Friends of Victoria Park’.

Welfare Reform

The Government is reducing welfare benefits and the Council has decided to charge people who previously received Council Tax benefit. Do you agree with what they are doing? How do you think this will impact the community in Redruth South? What are your ideas for dealing with these impacts?

A number of matters ‘collide’ here, sensitive matters that affect not only Redruth South, but the whole nation. 

Clearly there is a need for Welfare Reform as none of us can live in an economic climate where, in effect, the country and, maybe, the Unitary Authority might be threatened by bankruptcy yet benefits are being given without a thorough assessment of need.  I believe that there is something morally wrong, if nothing else, living in a society where some appear to be claiming benefits and living the life of Riley whilst others struggle to make ends meet though in full and gainful employment and without such financial support. 

The dilemma I have is how do we protect and support those in our community who are the most vulnerable, desperate and in genuine need – I and you both probably know of families where the work ethic doesn’t exist and other families where everyone works and yet life is a continual struggle.

Am I in favour of some form of means testing, well, whilst I know it will make me unpopular in some quarters, on balance I have to say that I am. 

Priorities for Cornwall & Redruth

Are you satisfied with the way Redruth Town Centre is developing? What do you think could and should be done to invigorate the town?

Well the short answer is no, despite the incredible efforts of the Town Council, some of its Members and Officers.  Your Town Council has invested significant resources in both the post of Town Development Manager and in partnership with a number of other ‘good souls’ from the community by trying to promote the town and increase footfall by the building of the ‘Events Programme’ and other initiatives.

What else can be done?  My view is that the Unitary Authority should invest capital – maybe just a slice of what has been/may have been invested in Eden, Newquay Airport, the Stadium for Cornwall or Falmouth Harbour - in the Redruth Action Plan which they have previously adopted as the Strategic Development Framework for the town. 

Traders, businesses and the Chamber of Commerce should be encouraged, again in partnership with the Town Council, to participate more freely in the obvious development needs of the town.  Maybe, the business community should pursue the Business Improvement District (BID) scheme which has been successfully implemented elsewhere in the County and Country.

Other things to be considered are the cost of Car Parking and Business Rates which are both high and at an unacceptable level. 

What do you see as Cornwall’s main priorities over the next 4 years and how can Cornwall Council help to address them?

To grow stronger communities through the building of affordable homes to rent and buy, not only to meet local needs, but as a driver for employment, regeneration and the sustainability of communities.

To make further capital investment in the ‘Local Transport Plan’, connecting people, communities, businesses and services and alongside the roll-out of the Broadband Super Highway.

To invest in and promote the sustainable use of low carbon technology and our natural resources such as solar and wave power in an effort to reduce waste and greenhouse gas emissions.

To devolve some powers and responsibilities to the Parish and Town Councils with the transfer of assets, services and budgets as intended under the ‘Active Partnering’ initiative. 

Cornwall Council has frozen Council Tax again for next year and is plan ing to make some budget cuts in order to balance the books. This looks likely to mean reductions in some Council services and result in some job losses. Do you agree with the decision to freeze Council Tax for another year?

No!  This freeze in Council Tax will, no doubt, result in a further reduction in the scope, quality and frequency of services to the community.  It is also likely to cause the cessation/closure of some services and further job losses and redundancies.  More people on benefits, a greater loss of skills and experience and a bigger demand on the welfare and caring services which remain.

What do you consider should be the main principles underpinning financial strategy for 2014/15 and beyond?   

My starter for ten would be a zero-based budget approach.  I mean by this that rather than just adding inflation or growth to the previous year’s budget as a given, each service and budget manager should be required to identify the needs of the community and the service (quality, standards, frequency etc) before identifying by estimate the cost of the provision or supply. 

This approach together with an improvement in efficiency and performance could/would release financial and possibly human resources to be better utilized elsewhere within the Council.


Health and Social Services
There is a policy agenda to bring Social Care and Health services together. What do you see as the main risks and opportunities for Cornwall arising from this?

The merging of Social Care and Health Services may provide an opportunity to resolve the gaps between the two services which currently put the more vulnerable at risk.  A combined service and budget may provide more joined-up care across the hospital, mental health and care sectors.  The proposals could also see Cornwall Council being much more involved in making decisions about the Health Service and the possibility of Hospitals expanding into the community and potentially running some of our Care Homes.However, there is a risk that the clinical commissioning groups (the new bodies taking control of Health budgets) could be undermined with, potentially, some power being taken away from Doctors and Nurses.

Law & Order / Public Safety

What are your views on how policing works in Redruth South? How could it be improved?

Firstly, I have to say that I was totally opposed to the Police and Cornwall Council ‘pulling the plug’ on the very active and regular Redruth Partners and Communities Together (PACT) meetings.  These meetings were initially replaced by the ‘Have your Say’ postcard campaign and then by the recent (now annual) survey under the Safer Cornwall umbrella.  However, I await the outcome of the survey, its action plan and its implementation before making a final judgement.

In respect of Redruth South, I am aware that there are outbreaks of crime and other anti-social behaviour in, but accept the local Police statistics that it is not as prevalent as in the Town Centre or Redruth North.  I have a strong view that fewer numbers make it no less important though.

Also, it is evidenced that crime and anti-social behaviour create fear for the elderly and other vulnerable individuals and groups of our society.  The presence of Police Officers and PCSO’s on the streets and in the community fosters a sense of security whilst reducing that perceived threat and fear.  More importantly it reduces the frequency of such events and encourages the community to report suspicious individuals and criminal activity.

I would hope that in the near future I will be given the opportunity of meeting both the Sector Inspector and the Police and Crime Commissioner to raise both my personal and the community’s concerns over the reducing Police budget and the impact that this is having on Police numbers and their visibility. 

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