I've read a lot over the past few weeks about encouraging more people to stand to become Councillors and it makes interesting reading.
Cornwall Council have just held an event for people wishing to become Cornwall Councillors and a few people have written about the event. Here’s one Robs Cornish Blog.
Penzance Town Council has also held two events recently to encourage people to stand.
As reflected in Rob’s Blog there is a lot of interests in councillor allowances and you only have to read some of the comments on Social Media sites to get the impression that a lot of people think.
‘ all councillors are only in it for the allowances, the free food and what they can get out of it’
In fact, certainly at the Parish Council level nothing could be further from the truth.
I have said this before and will say it again Parish Councillors (In general) do not get an allowance, and certainly not on Penzance Town Council. Limited expenses are available, in 14 years I'm unaware of any councillor claiming them. So in the 14 years as a councillor I have received £0 for my work as a councillor.
We do not get free lunches and the only thing we get out of it is the satisfaction of doing something for the community in which we live.
At Penzance Town Council we do not have, tea, coffee or biscuits at meetings, the last time I had a ‘free lunch’ was from a development company/Cornwall Council at a all day consultation, which was open to all, you only had to turn up at 9:30 and be there until 4:30 to get your free sandwich and cup of tea.
As a Parish council we have no statutory duty to do anything, with the delivery of all services the duty of the principle council, in our case Cornwall Council.
We are only consultees on planning issues (often very late in the day), with our comments only taken into consideration.
Anyone who thinks we can stop or conversely start planning applications is very much mistaken.
Penzance Town Council meetings work on a cycle of 6 weeks, in that the 4 standing committees, General Purposes, Finance, Penlee House & Park meet every 6 weeks, with the Planning Committee meeting every 3 weeks, at the end of this cycle there is a full Town Council Meeting, in addition we can also have Special Town Council meetings as required to discuss single issues of urgency. All these meeting are open to the public, why not come along and see what we really do. A list of meetings is published here…
As a councillor you sit on two of the standing committees of your choice, so an average councillor would be expected to attend 3 meetings every 6 weeks, it’s these meetings which make up our attendance record.
But only a few councillors are average, we also have working groups, small groups of councillors who meet, very often with groups and individuals from outside the council, to organise or progress town projects.
Let me give you an example:
Penzance Christmas Lights Switch On and Market
This was an initiative brought to the town council by me two years ago, to create an event around the Lights Switch On, we had a small sum of money from the Christmas Lights budget.
The working group for this consisted of two town councillors, me and Cllr Jan Ruhrmund with a member of staff from the Town Council doing the admin.
Also invited to join the group where:
Brenda Lemon : Penzance Farmers Market.
Penzance Chamber of Commerce.
Causewayhead Traders Association
Wharthside Shopping Centre
Andy Hazlehurst : Golowan
This group met 6 times on the build up to the event, discussing what could and couldn't be done, how we were going to organize what was required.
On the day Cllr Ruhrmund and I were in attendance for the whole day to ensure that everything ran smoothly.
Other working groups of councillors meet to deliver less obvious projects around the town.
In addition to the above Councillors are asked to become the Town Councils representative on numerous other groups/organisations in the area, attending their meetings, assisting them to progress their ideas and reporting back to the council on the work of these groups.
From the above you can see that being a Town Councillor can be quite busy, but also very satisfying, in fact all we are is a group of unpaid volunteers but unlike most people who join a community group, say the Rotary Club, every four years we can be asked to leave, mostly by people who have no idea of what you do.