From new Mayors to broadband developments - one week is never the same!
It's been a hectic couple of weeks on the council.
Unlike many other areas, we did not have elections this year and pitiful life seems to be settling down now that everyone is getting used to the new make up of the council.
The Annual Council meeting went smoothly. Councillor Pat Jenner from Tintwistle was elected unanimously as Mayor and has already started on a busy round of engagements that will take him to Buxton's French twin town Oignies and Buckingham Palace in the next few weeks. Our new deputy mayor is Buxton's Tony Kemp who was also elected unanimously.
Perhaps unusually there has not been many formal council committee meetings recently - that does not mean it’s been quiet!
The recent meeting of the Derbyshire Economic Partnership (DEP) was certainly more lively than usual - with a frank exchange of views on all sides.
Let's look at the DEP first, held in the newly opened visitor centre at Hardwick Hall, one of many projects that benefited from DEP funding. Sadly it is no longer in a position to hand out grants as government funding has dried up, so it is trying to find a new role for itself. And it is hoping that local councils will all help by contributing another £15,000 towards the running costs of the organisation - that's on top of the £15,000 that councils like High Peak already contribute.
I am pleased to say that High Peak has led the way in asking what we would get for our extra money. Most other councils are now asking the same question and agree that until we have reasonable answer, we will not be contributing any more cash.
Most of us think that there is merit in joint working - and if we can come up with a way to share resources to benefit all - then we would happily sign up. But I have not yet been convinced that what we (ie borough and district councils) want and need this.
The other main topic under discussion was the roll out of broadband across the county as part of the government's plans to extend broadband coverage to the so-called white areas. These are largely rural areas where, if left to the markets, broadband might be able to reach.
I understand that some now feel this is not the best way to achieve better coverage, but let's leave that aside for now.
The government set aside £7.4m for Derbyshire, on the understanding that the funding would be matched locally, making a total pot of £15m. Derbyshire County Council was tasked with finding that match funding. It has set aside £1.1m in its own budget for the scheme, and agreed to underwrite (using its reserves if necessary), the remaining £6.3m.
It has also said that it expects all borough and district councils to contribute too, but has been strangely silent about how much it thinks we should chip in - or who else it is approaching for funding. It's recently published Local Broadband Plan was put together without my consultation - and it remains the only organisation (to date) apart from BDUK to have seen the plan!
Visit Peak District, the tourist board for the Peak District and Derbyshire, held its annual conference in Pavilion Gardens. It was interesting to hear about some of the new tourism related businesses springing up in the area, though I can't help but feel that there was something missing from the event.
Both of these organisations are under pressure because of budget cuts - just like local councils, on whom they have largely relied for funding. It is an obvious truth that when local council budgets are cut by £2.3m of two years, inevitably they are less able to contribute to.
30 May 2012
Last updated: 1st June 2012