Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Area networks

Today, I attended the second meeting of the Communities Overview and Scrutiny Committee. Three items were considered for further scrutiny (i) the Fire Service, (ii) a potential PFI bid for housing and (ii) Area Networks.

Unsurprisingly, I had a lot to say – particularly on the issue of affordable housing (more on that another time).

On the subject of the 19 Area Networks, there has been considerable informal debate by the members of the Council. The portfolio holder with responsibility says there is a commitment to the “Community Network Areas … as administrative areas” but some members appear less than supportive of the panels, that are planned to involve elected members and others, at the centre of the networks.

Some councillors appear worried that a large town would dominate rural parishes or indeed vice versa.

In the China Clay Area, we had a good Area Committee for many years and, for this area in particular, made up of numerous village communities, it is vital that the Network is allowed to function. A strong member-led panel in this area would be an important adjunct to what we do.

I believe there are many issues – but they are not to do with the principle of a panel. They are to do with the detail of how it would work, the links between the Cornwall Councillors, the parishes, etc. And most importantly, the main issue is the appropriate resourcing of the panel.

Take community funding as an example. Councillors have been allocated £2,200 each for a community pot – a total of £13,200 for the six councillors in our area for this coming year. By contrast, I have worked out that in the previous seven years, Restormel had awarded grants to community groups in our patch to a total of £357,000 – an annual figure of £51,000!

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