Councillor Notes May 2014
Recently I have had many enquiries about the 21% increase in the precept for Hunstanton residents, the increase is not really complicated, but in my view, this is the reason: Our rates bills will show NCC and Boro' rates - these remain unchanged as the national government has capped or frozen them, they can be raised but its difficult, grants can be lost and there could be the need for a referendum. The special expenses are also capped so they cannot be hiked. That leaves the precept, that’s the price that a town or parish’s residents spend specifically on their local resources. In the case of Hunstanton that’s the Town Hall the Community Centre the Tourist information Centre its staff and other local costs. These costs have gone up, more staff equals more pay and more equipment. There are other factors and this is a very simple explanation but that’s the gist of it.
Hunstanton now pays the second highest amount of domestic rates in the Boro' second only to Downham Market and much higher than surrounding villages; clearly this is something to be monitored and worked on. When the cap comes off the special expenses they could go up dramatically, and in my opinion, the more that the Town Council controls the less expense there will be overall, although 21% looks bad, it is a big percentage of a small amount. When special expenses are unfettered we could see some real money increases, dramatically effecting overall payable amounts.
I should like to report that four new councilors have been co-opted to Hunstanton Town Council. The four elected were: Glynis Thompson, Michael Ruston, Daniel Parton and Terry Light. There were seven candidates for the four spaces and I hope the three that were not selected will stand again, if not before, then certainly at the next full election in May 2015.
While on the subject I have recently read a report that states that the public believes that all M.P.s are, how should I put this, 'economic with the truth' with only 28% of us believing them. Local Councillors fair much better with 68% of us believing them. My response is always the same if you don't like what they do, you should do it yourself. More of that later.
The Incinerator has dominated my activities for many months now and I should like to thank a whole raft of people for winning this crucial piece of local policy, led by John Dobson (con) the all party gang of six has fulfilled its promise to get rid of the wretched thing. More comment on page 12.
Inquiry talk about the incinerator now abounds; my personal thoughts are that at this time we at NCC need to: (1) Conclude the legal side of the termination to the best effect for the county.(2) Do all we can to negotiate the best possible financial settlement for the rate payers of Norfolk.(3) Fulfill the requirement to supply the greenest and most cost effective method of disposing of the county’s waste.
Coastal erosion and flooding are now very much on the agenda, recently, accompanied by Andrew Murray of Hunstanton Town Council, I went to the operations room for emergencies at the Valentine Road offices in Hunstanton. Now I don't know if any of you knew that there was such a facility, but I can tell you that although a Town Councillor for nearly 10 years, 2 of which were as Mayor and Chair of the Hunstanton Town council, having now been a Boro' councilor for nearly 3 years and a County councilor for nearly 1, I didn't know such an office existed, what’s more I can't find anybody who did or does.
The idea that local people should be involved in any emergencies, all long the coast, seems to have been of secondary importance. In fairness I was told that Old Hunstanton Parish does have a plan and has been involved in the emergency process, however I can find no evidence of any involvement with any of the other parishes between Hunstanton and the Burnhams, something I intend to address with the help of those parish’s chairs. I have packs of literature that will enable communities to help themselves in times of crisis, these packs will be given out to the local parishes, if they want them, and they will in turn be used to create emergency plans in advance of any crisis that may occur.
The form of governance is ready for discussion or approval at County Hall, The cabinet system that helped to create the problem of the Incinerator and other major blunders was voted out last year and the new committee method is about to go live in May. The old governing party, that lost overall control at the last election, has done its best to stop this change and has dragged its feet at every opportunity; they even walked out of the working party that was providing the new system last December. Clearly they believe that they will be in power again very soon and they would prefer to have the cabinet system, as it is less democratic and more streamlined. I believe that we, the population of Norfolk should have the most democracy possible, but others don't think that way preferring the so-called efficiencies of the cabinet system. What do you think?
The next general election is in one year’s time. Some of my colleagues at County Hall will be standing as M.P’s currently sitting as County councilors they will, if successful, leave vacancies for their seats at County. All the Boro' Councillors will have to stand down for a general election, some will not stand again, leaving empty seats to be filled, Towns and Parishes will also be subject to a general election where all current councillors stand aside and start again, many will retire not to stand again. Generally speaking you must live or work within 3 miles of the Town or Parish you would wish to stand in, you can live anywhere within the Boro' or County to stand for them. The Towns and Parishes are not normally affected by political parties and are described as non-political, they generally use a basic committee system allowing good debate and free voting. Boro' and County are political and some find it easier to be a member of a party however you can stand as an Independent member. At Town or Parish as a rule you would get no stipend/expenses/salary whatever you want to call it and rarely if at all any travelling or other expenses. At the Boro' Council you are given, if successful, a basic stipend of about £5k P/A plus travelling allowances and some other expenses. At the County Council you would receive a basic stipend of about £10k P/A plus expenses. At the Boro' and County, if selected you would receive special extra stipend for more responsibility, so for example more money for being a committee/cabinet leader. Stipends are taxable at source. All details of these monies are available on the websites of the Councils. If you think its time you had a voice for your community please make a start, you can contact me, I will help all I can referring you to the right people if you want to join any political party or help steer you towards the Independent route if that’s what you want. Local politics is rewarding and satisfying. You now have one year or less to realise that you want to do it, get organised, possibly join a party, go out with leaflets to tell your story, be prepared to be rejected and win or lose. Don’t complain about what others do, stand for yourself, what have you to lose? Good Luck. My website will give more in depth information and views locally.
Homer House, 21 Austin Street, Hunstanton PE36 6AN