Unfortunately our recent result in Gover, St. Austell, has alerted me to a blind spot we may have in our ranks. We lost the recent election, to the Conservatives, by 5 votes and, in our analysis, it was clear at least a dozen of our members didn’t make it to the polling booth. Believe me, I don’t want to point fingers, I can understand; more often than not life gets in the way of all our best intentions. Traditionally turn out has always been low at local level and until this year I will admit to being ignorant. I didn’t even know there was a Town Council.
It was a branch meeting, listening to reports from our colleague Stuart, that I first started to understand their significance. Since then I’ve run for Cornwall Council and joined both my Local Town and Parish councils and here’s a little of what I’ve learnt:
Town and Parish Councils are important as these are the most local branch of our government. In my limited experience these councils are either undersubscribed or a 'club’ of the people who can traditionally afford the time. I’d probably never heard of St.Blaise because they haven’t had enough councillors sign up for an election in ten years.
Currently, we're all suffering the perfect storm of austerity, localism, Cameron’s ‘big society’ and apathy. More and more local services are being pushed down hill onto local councils without any of the funding to go with it. For example St. Blaise has just acquired a park and St. Austell has taken on their library. Unfortunately it's looking like Par might lose its library although efforts are being made to save it. Where it's the case Cornwall council is capped as to how much it can raise its council tax, it is not the case with precept of town and parish councils. Last year St. Blaise raised its precept 9%.
At local level it's quite often the case that councillors of all parties work together for their communities. The politics of local council is quite often less binary than that of national politics; you’ll find everyone is there for the same altruistic reasons. (You will also notice in your area of 3000 or so people its the same 100 faces that seem to work in the community.)
Even when a member might find themselves on a council in opposition to their fellow councillors stance I believe it's still beneficial for the community for someone to be there to scrutinise and raise concerns.
I’m pleased to say that across the constituency we have a growing number of members on councils and I’m pleased that Newquay Branch has decided to contest the seat in Treviglas. I’m sure we’ll all pitch in! Remember all the data we collect for this election will help us win this seat at the next general election!
This blog will be created by members of the Exec committee on topics of interest to the St Austell & Newquay Labour Party