Advice on how to create a Plastic Free community, the challenges and opportunities of taking on devolved powers and on how best to promote the work of local councils was given to more than 70 councillors and clerks at a conference organised by local council clerks and West Cornwall MP Derek Thomas.
The first West Cornwall Town and Parish Council conference at Ludgvan Community Centre was suggested after Mr Thomas met with several clerks earlier in the year with the aim of supporting councils as they take on ever greater numbers of duties and responsibilities.
Speakers included marketing guru Sue Bradbury, Delia Webb from the Cornish Plastic Pollution Coalition and Superintendent Sara Crane, from Devon & Cornwall Police, Dan Strickland from St Ives, who is helping to spearhead the town’s Plastic Free campaign, and Cornwall Council Neighbourhoods portfolio holder, Cllr Edwina Hannaford.
Delegates were particularly interested in Cllr Hannaford’s perspective on the current programme of devolving powers and responsibilities – like the running of public toilets and libraries – to parishes and towns.
She said that Cornwall Council was committed to “enabling and empowering local people, local councils and the voluntary and community sector to play an active role in making decisions that affect them and in delivering what their community needs”.
She told delegates that Cornwall Council was dealing with more than 300 ‘complicated and unique’ devolution projects – and around 45 at any one time – but had received praise from Local Government Minister James Brokenshire as being a council that led the way in how to tackle the issues.
Nevertheless, in the question and answer session, councillors expressed concern that the aspirations and priorities of individual towns and parishes as expressed in their Neighbourhood Plans were being ignored and that the devolution programme was forcing unpaid councillors to take on ever greater and more onerous duties.
As well as the conference, delegates were also able to browse and talk to people at an accompanying Market Place of stands and stalls, ranging from the Environment Agency and Highways England to Age Concern UK and the Penzance Memory Café; members of the public were also invited in to visit the Market Place in the afternoon.
Summing up the conference, Mr Thomas said: “I was delighted that so many people were able to take the time off to support this event and I hope everyone was able to take something from it.
“There is no doubt that smaller councils are being asked to take responsibility for a growing number of services for their local community but without always being given the resources or support to carry out that extra work.
“I hope this conference has provided councillors and clerks with some excellent advice from a range of expert guest speakers and, just as importantly, given them the chance to network with colleagues in neighbouring parishes on how they are dealing with the challenges.
“I’m very grateful to all our speakers who spoke with authority and entertainingly on their topics, none more so than Delia Webb who was inspirational on the benefits of ridding our environment of plastic; I’d also like to thank our sponsors – Western Power Distribution, Post Office Ltd and Metro Rod Cornwall – who supported the event so well.”