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Sunday, 7 April 2013

Town and Parish Elections

The list of Town and Parish Council election candidates can be found here.

Several bloggers and social network users have commented on how certain councils have returned councillors unopposed so that the party political makeup of many councils across Cornwall has already been pretty much determined.

I can't help feeling that the lack of elections in these cases is a sad indictment on the way that our society values the Town and Parish councils. That not enough people can be found who are prepared to serve their local communities and that we celebrate at a party political level (and I think that all of us are guilty of this whatever political party flavour we are) when we should be questioning why there wasn't an election.

There are many  problems facing these second (in Cornwall) tier levels of local government.

The work that councillors put in is entirely voluntary so, even more than Cornwall Council, the councillors tend to be retired or of independent means. This, of course, means that while the councillors have a lot of 'life' experience it is often a 'privileged' experience. This experience also comes with an older generation's inability to completely understand the values and views of a younger generation.

Added to that the type of work that second tier councils do is not at all 'sexy'. As second tier councilllors we do not make decisions which will have a massive impact on the lives of people all over Cornwall. We deal with the more mundane everyday tasks.

At the same time second tier councillors can still draw a great deal of barbed criticism from the people they are working for - so why should anyone bother?

Well the fact is that the tasks allotted to Towns and Parishes may not be sexy - but they are essential. Second tier councils provide the glue which binds our local communities together. This is why there can be criticism of councillors - because, when it comes down to it, the 'everyday' decisions that we take are things which allow (or don't allow) individuals to enjoy their communities.

Without Town and Parish councils the organisation of community events and amenities would fall apart. As central governemnt looks to destroy the ability of top tier local government to do its job well by slashing funding, Cornwall Council is looking to save money by dropping its 'non-essential' community based services. The decision we have to make as commuities is whether to save, and perhaps enhance, our community facilities or allow central government to wipe them out in the name of austerity. In the coming years second tier councils will have major decisions to make. Will we allow our commuities to be killed off or will we fight to save our asets.

We need a wide range of town and parish councillors to face this challenge. We need maturity and experience but we also need to know which facilities are the most important across all community groups. We need ordinary people to come forward to do an extraordinary job.

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