What do Cornwall Councillors do?
What do Cornwall Councillors do? That is a polite version of what I sometimes get asked.
It is a tricky question to answer and sometimes my reply depends on who is asking and whether I think they are really interested or whether they really mean “What’s the point of local Councillors?” Well sometimes I feel very like that Beacon at the top of Chapel Carn Brea – out on my own but striving to reach a high enough point that I can lookout for not only the people of St Just and Pendeen but also the people of Cornwall.
As Councillors we have to take decisions that set the direction of policy for things as varied as Adult Social Care to recycling, to housing and food hygiene or Fire and Rescue. If the Council has responsibility or does something then Councillors are involved in making decisions from how much money to allocate each department to selling buildings or setting rents for Council owned homes. We do not have an endless supply of money and we are not allowed to go into debt, like hospitals can. So often it is making very tough decisions of whether this is more important than that.
Obviously not all councillors are involved in every decision and the few Councillors in the Cabinet take more decisions and have a greater influence than the rest of us BUT, if something is important to our local community, as a local Councillor, we can get help and attention! St Just Library is a case in point. Government cuts are making it tough to run a library service in communities like St Just but I know that I need to work with local people and Officers in the Council to keep it running some how. It might have to change a bit but I am determined to secure a library service the community in the next decade will value.
Locally Councillors can be described as Community Leaders and I suppose that sometimes means getting involved in things that strictly speaking the Council is not responsible for but it is something important to a local community. I seem to have a few of those at the moment – the lack of burial spaces in Pendeen, the future of the Methodist Chapel in St Just, the Penwith Landscape Partnership project and The Tin Coast partnership. With the 2 partnership projects, I am now on the Boards taking the ideas forward that could have positive benefits to local people but I have been approached to be involved because I am a local Councillor not because I’m Sue James!
Planning issues can be a big issue and I think different Councillors have different attitudes to planning. Some get very involved in most planning applications in their patch, want to serve on local and strategic planning committees and are constantly in the planning department. I find planning a challenging and important issue but one that I choose to get involved in as little as possible. I attend most Town Council meetings and they discuss all local planning applications. There I can get a feel for ones that might be more contentious. I only get really involved if the planning officer is reaching a different conclusion to that the Town Council and/ or local people are reaching but even then, I have to have good sound planning reasons to seek to go against officer and other expert advice. Me or you ‘not liking something’ is not a reason to refuse an application any more than me personally ‘liking’ a proposal, is a reason for it to get approved.
I hope as so many things I’m involved in are ‘work in progress’ that this gives readers a bit of a feel of what I’m spending my time on. Take it from me though, this post just gives you a glimpse into the role of a Cornwall Councillor, there is much much more, some very interesting and some less so.
If you want to ask me a specific question on my role then email me or ‘like’ my Councillor Sue James Facebook page and post your question there. I also respond on Twitter @SueCllrsuejames