This seems like a natural point to start this blog, at Newquay Town Council (NTC) we’ve just held out annual meeting – it’s basically Civic AGM with lots of essential business that marks the transition from one Civic year to the next. The election of the new Mayor and their Deputy is one of the first orders of business followed by the selection of councillors to various committees and the election of the Chair of each committee, I’d thrown my hat into the ring to be considered for Chair of the Planning and Licensing (P&L) committee and had prepared well for the expected contested election up against one of my colleague councillors. Preparing for these meetings is a huge task when taken seriously, ploughing through 600+ pages of documents as well as the nerves that always come with putting yourself forward for election aren’t necessarily two things that complement each other!
At our previous meeting I’d pushed hard to hold our annual meeting, coronavirus regulations mean councils don’t have to hold them this year but I firmly believe that it’s important for local government to be seen functioning as normally as possible, facing and overcoming similar challenges that the people we represent are facing every day is important, it not only shows we are genuinely in it together but gives us a better understanding of those challenges first hand. It’s fair to say NTC has reacted well to the Covid-19 emergency, but I thought it was time for us to move from a solely reactive phase and become proactive, for that reason I’d also proposed the creation of a regeneration working party to look at cross community issues and how we help to get Newquay back on it’s feet from the effects of the coronavirus. Working parties shed the formality and minuted nature of normal council meetings and enable a much more fluid approach to issues.
So back to the annual meeting where there was a lot of heavy line by line checking of stuff and thankfully few political shenanigans, as the sole Labour voice on NTC I can sit back and watch some of the Liberals and some of the Conservatives trying to knock lumps off each other, the unfortunate upshot being that my opponent for Chair of P&L was knocked out of the contest by a motion that was a thinly veiled attack on the committee. I didn’t like winning by default in this situation – especially as I take the time to prepare well and canvass support so I was disappointed not to be able to make my pitch and I was even more disappointed for the shabby way my opponent had been treated, I’m genuinely upset that he’s decided to resign as a councillor altogether.
I’d felt the need to challenge for Chair of P&L for some time, we do suffer because of the public’s general perception of ‘planners’ based largely on misconceptions and assumptions, it’s a perception I don’t agree with and one I’m going to challenge. Planning and Licensing is often people’s only experience of interacting formally with Town Councils and anecdotally members of the public seem to have a more positive view of our committee than they do of wider planning in general, a view I hope to build on to protect and improve the image of the Council and those members and officers who fulfil this busy and visible role. The Written Ministerial Statement on Planning stated that “The Government expects everyone involved in the planning process to engage proactively” and that’s what people are going to see. There are opportunities for us to be much more on the front foot than we have at some times recently, I’ve been very visible supporting council policy and supporting my colleagues both on P&L and on the wider council during some very difficult exchanges on social media in the last few week. Sadly and not unexpectedly some of the exchanges descended into outright homophobia, I dealt with them and received some welcome support from another councillor – the immediacy of social media seems to have increased the ability of unpleasant people to say unpleasant things.
That’s about it for my first councillor blog – this one has hopefully started to set the scene and the rest will keep people informed as the story unfolds.
Stay safe, be well.
Newquay Town Council
This blog will be created by members of the Exec committee on topics of interest to the St Austell & Newquay Labour Party