Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Visit to Royal British Legion HQ in Truro

Interesting visit. Many ex service people, mostly men, can find themselves homeless. Often down to joining the services because of difficulties at home and then when they come out to civvie street finding it hard to cope. Also the services can make their employees rather dependant and a bit institutionalised. It's then tough to try and cope with life on the outside. Single men are often the ones who become homeless because local councils find it hard to house families and single men are low priority. The RBL try and help these ex veterans with housing.

Monday, 16 February 2009

Super windmills at Carland Cross

Residents of St Newlyn East and Fiddler's Green are annoyed that no public meeting was held by Carrick District Council to outline the ScottishPower application for super turbines at Carland.

ScottishPower want to take down the 15 49 metres windmills and replace it with 10 100 metre super wind turbines. The site size would also be dramatically increased.

The biggest issue for me on this is that the local authority do not seem to have been prepared to allow local residents to air their views. Surely they have a right to ask councillors to listen to their objections at a public site meeting.

I wrote to Carrick Chairman Councillor John Dyer last week to ask him why no meeting with the public had taken place. A large application like this should, in my view, always have a meeting to allow local residents a voice.

Parking problems at Gloweth

A packed public meeting at Gloweth outlined the major problems local residents are having in their street. Students at Truro College and staff and visitors at Treliske Hospital are using the roads in residential estates to park their cars all day.

This is causing havoc in these roads making it difficult for residents and also causing real hazards in the event of emergency vehicles being called out. I used to live in College Way so really understand exactly how annoying this nuisance is. Cars are parked on pavements, front gardens being driven over and little thought given to local householders and children who live there.

The new park and ride costs £1 for the entire day. I would have thought this was the best option for those people who bring their cars into Truro every day. It is really unfair to clog up someone else's road.

When planning permission for these homes was given great care was put into making sure there were parking spaces for each house. The roads are the right width to ensure that cars would have enough room to manoeuvre but all of this is lost at present.

The Gloweth residents Association would like restricted parking ie between 11am and 3pm to stop people parking there all day. There certainly needs to be some action and soon!

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Elderly couple and insurance claim

I am absolutely over the moon that I managed to get DAS insurance to write off over 3,500 pounds they were demanding from a couple in their 80's. The gentleman was tearful when I told him the good news. This is what is really important making things happen that really matter to people's quality of life.

I am touched by the letter they wrote to me that said they could now sleep at night because I cared. It really does bring a lump to my throat. I was determined to win this case for them though because I thought of my own Mum and Dad and how worried they would have been.

Post office closures

The list of the Post offices scheduled for closure has now been out for a week. It has been really busy getting leaflets through the doors of those people most likely to be affected. Of course, as always it will be the elderly and most vulnerable who will lose out.

I have already held public meetings in Flushing and Truro - covering Flushing, Malpas, Uplands and Killigrew Street Post offices. Tonight I have arranged a meeting for Bar Road and Killigrew Street in Falmouth.

The post office has been systematically run down by both Conservative and Labour Governments. Under the Tory government 1992-1997 4 post offices a week were closed. It's interesting to see them campaign now locally to save them. Having been in politics in Cornwall for many years I have a long memory.

In reality it's probably true to say that it is the London centric view that Governments seem to take. Someone sits in a room and draws lines on bits of paper and says shut that. They probably wouldn't know how to get to Flushing so wouldn't realise that for a pensioner to go to Mylor Post office would mean a wait of 3 hours for a bus. And where would you wait in the wind and rain?

I have read up a lot on our policies and agree that in order to get the structure right (or more will be closing in the future) we must look at Royal Mail and sell some of its shares. That funding could then help restructure the post office network and allow some innovative ways of growing the business. Please read on below

Investing in the Post Office network
4.0.1 The investment fund that would be created from the sale of shares in Royal Mail will give
the Post Office the opportunity to enhance the branch network, open new branches and develop
new business.
4.0.2 The Post Office has already developed a number of commercial products for sale through
its branches, such as telephone services, insurance, travel services, internet access and even the
sale of flowers. These are welcome and since many have been developed in conjunction with
commercial operators, it illustrates the desire by many companies to have a presence in high
streets and town and village centres without having to maintain their own network.
4.0.3 One of the biggest growth areas in the mail and parcel market in coming years will be
the delivery of goods bought over the internet. Outside the Royal Mail Group, the Post Office
will be free to enter business agreements with other businesses in the mail sector. Branches could
act as mini-depots for the collection of parcels which could not be delivered for whatever reason
to the recipient’s home.
4.0.4 We further believe branches should be free to enter into business arrangements with other
firms on a branch by branch basis. This will require some degree of loosening of central control
by Post Office Ltd.
4.0.5 Nevertheless, we wish to see a number of changes introduced to ensure the vitality of the
Post Office network and to make use of the investment fund:
There should be a new statutory obligation on the Government to maintain the
network, recognizing its important social function. A framework for the network
would be set for a specified period of time - perhaps five years - which would set
out the number of outlets and service requirements.
Where there is a gap in the Post Office network, particularly in deprived areas, the
investment fund will be used to open new branches.
A wide range of services should be available in branches throughout the network.
These could include payment of vehicle excise duty, passport checking, bureau de
change, Government information services via computer terminals, banking and
other financial services, developing the police’s trial scheme (currently under way
in Norfolk and Scotland - reception points for reporting crime, anti-social behaviour
etc). Sub post offices could also act as agencies for the sale of tickets for bus and
train travel, theatres, cinemas and concerts and for adult education services. It is
entirely wrong that when the Government is preparing to open 70 new passport
offices across the country, Post Office Ltd, which wanted to bid for the contract, was
blocked from so doing.
Particular emphasis should be given to low income and deprived communities, with
the investment fund being used to support partnership arrangements between the
post office and local authorities and voluntary groups and to help provide
commercial services often denied to these communities. More use could be made of
the network for council and housing association tenants to report faults for repair
and to access other council services. Each branch could be the shop front for the
government and local councils in its community. Not only the police but also health,
social services and other public bodies could make themselves far more accessible
to the public via the post office network.
12 Securing Royal Mail and the Post Office
The investment fund could facilitate the training of existing and new sub
postmasters and postmistresses and the installation of new equipment for the
provision of new services to be rolled out across all branches wishing to provide
them, such as those activities carried out for the government.
The Investment Fund could be used to maximise opportunities that the rapid rise of
internet shopping has created and thereby attract a new group of shoppers to Post
Offices. For instance, an Ebay auction service similar to that in Germany could be
introduced. This would mean that Ebay would be accessible to even those without
computers. Customers will be able to bring objects for sale to the Post Office,
complete a form, and the goods then will be conveyed to a logistics centre for expert
evaluation before being made available on the internet. The customers will be given
progress reports on the sale of the item and, once sold, packaging, payment and
delivery to the buyer will be supervised by Post Office.
It is important to make clear that the investment fund would not be a panacea but it
would create a new pool of money otherwise unavailable to the post office network.
4.1 A one stop shop for public services
4.1.1 In addition to existing Post Office services, we believe the network should have an
additional main function as the shop front or one stop shop for public bodies and a point of call
for information on public services. Councils, police, health services and government
departments could operate government services from Post Office branches. In addition, there are
many quangos which could use the network to raise their profile and give them the opportunity
to have contact with residents, such as learning and skills councils and regional development
agencies. Indeed, the network could be tasked with the job of being the first physical point of call
for such organisations.
4.1.2 Examples of Innovative use of Post Office branches at home and abroad:
Devon County Council are considering Post Offices as locations for the ordering,
collection and return of library books.
In Norfolk, ‘Partners Against Crime’ helps deliver an increased police service to rural
communities by using a local Post Office. Norfolk constabulary has piloted eight joint
police and Post Office services, in both part and full time branches across Norfolk.
Services include: receipt of messages from the public; documentation and registration of
all property handed in; acceptance of payment for speeding and car-parking fines;
checking and recording driving documents; accepting and processing licences (such as
firearms licences); holding and handing out police information leaflets and offering
crime prevention products, such as burglar alarms. A 24-hour freephone kiosk outside the
branch provides a direct link to the police. The police visit the branch once or twice a
The ‘pub as the hub’ initiative with Shepherd and Neame Brewery in north Kent includes
a part-time provision of Post Office services within the pub, offering a full complement
of services.
In Singapore, Post Offices offer a diverse range of services including; insurance services,
drop off and collection points for IBM ThinkPad’s - computers and printers that need
repair, HP Print cartridge recycling programme, money orders, renewal of licences,
payment of fines and bills and gift wrappers for parcels.
Securing Royal Mail and the Post Office 13
Deutsche Post in Germany is to introduce an Ebay auction service in Berlin that will be
accessible to even those without computers. Customers will be able to bring objects for
sale to the Post Office, complete a form, and the goods then will be conveyed to a
logistics centre for expert evaluation before being made available on the internet. The
customers will be given progress reports on the sale of the item and, once sold, Deutsche
Post will supervise packaging, payment and delivery to the buyer.
Without the fund that we wish to create from the sale of shares in Royal Mail, much of the
investment needed for branches to develop new markets and products will not happen.

Sunday, 6 July 2008

Wet,windy and Wimbledon

Just finishing watching the amazing match between Federer and Nadal.  What fantastic players!  The stamina they both have and the mental power they must be using is awe-inspiring.

The weekend has been wet and windy pretty much all the time.  Julia Goldsworthy MP and I were both at Truro train station on Friday afternoon.  One of the first approved projects for the new Convergence funds are being spent on a Loop system to allow trains to run every 30 minutes between Truro and Falmouth.  This is a long overdue development to allow more regular transport between the two towns.

Earlier on Friday Sarah and I went out delivering some leaflets in Penryn until the rain stopped us!
Oh well it is July.

Saturday, 14 June 2008

Call centres

I visited an elderly couple this week. They are having problems getting their insurance company to pay up on a claim.  I read through the paperwork and as far as I am concerned the insurance company are well out of order and they are demanding money off them!  The gentleman cannot sleep and has already been in hospital for high blood pressure.  This couple are in their 80's. 

 I rang the insurance company but of course the person you want is never around - on a training course.  And no-one has bothered to ring back even though they said they would.  I expect it will be days before I get through and then they will say I can't deal with it.  

Call centres pushing you around from pillar to post.  The funny thing is they call it Customer service.  I like a real person on the end of the phone who is really trained to be able to answer the questions.
I am determined to help this couple though as it reminds me of my mum and dad and the sorts of problems they had.  It's really hard for older people to deal with stuff like this.