Thursday, 7 August 2014

Chacewater have a right to be heard

Chacewater Parish Council are not alone in feeling that the administration of Cornwall Council has not made the good working connections with local councils as it would like to claim.
The manner of the complaint by councillors at Chacewater may have annoyed the leader but that does not detract from the genuine sense of disconnection with an authority seen increasingly as remote and manipulative.
Denying that problems exist will only deepen the divide between the current administration at County Hall and the towns and parishes. Cllr Pollard would also be better served by having a letter writer who avoids spin.  Cllr Pollard should be above that.
For instance, the staff reduction from 22,000 to 12,000 is totally irrelevant because it largely relates to schools staff, who are no longer employed by the Council because their schools have become academies. Talking about remaining staff being 6,100 excluding schools is not accurate either as a large contingent of Council staff now work for subsidiaries such as Cormac and Cornwall Housing.
Members of Cornwall Council from all sides admit that there are too many  "closed session" meetings and too many meetings where there is little or no substance to the agenda.
Planning is an important function of the Council and here again it is clear that Chacewater represents the views of many across Cornwall that the Council does not listen sufficiently to the views of local people.
With the budget challenges that Cornwall Council faces, one of the current administration's current objectives has to be working in a spirit of trust and cooperation with the many parish and town councillors across Cornwall who give their service to their communities as volunteers.

Friday, 1 August 2014

Wading through Treacle

As a lawyer, I am used to sitting in meetings. But in the private sector it does not make sense to sit about in meetings while everybody's costs run up.

There are simple rules. Only turn up for the part of the meeting that you are needed. Have joint meetings rather than go over the same ground over and over again. Use video conferencing. Have well thought out agendas...

I had one (building society) client that went through a period of having internal meetings with everybody standing up, to ensure that meetings were short and to the point . A bit extreme but Cornwall Council are way down the other end of the spectrum.

For example, the Chief Executive (on £165,000 per annum) was tasked by the administration to tour Cornwall to meet members locally to discuss the Council's Strategy. Then we all came in to hear what everybody else thought. Then we had ten meetings for different groups of councillors to ask for the information they would need to consider the Council's draft budget. Then we had nine meetings (fronted by the Chief Executive) so that different groups of councillors could hear the emerging strategy and give comments. Then there were nine focus groups to consider whether we needed to change the way in which the Council was governed. There will be ten meetings in September to consider the actual draft budget....

Recently, the administration at County Hall has been very miffed to be publicly criticised by Chacewater Parish Council. My own experience of town and parish councils is that their meetings tend to be workmanlike. Maybe the current administration could learn something from them?