The LGA held this year’s events at Colwick Hall which is located just a couple of miles or so south east of Nottingham city centre next to the racecourse.
The venue wasn’t really very rural, but having overseen the organisation of numerous conferences over the years I know how hard it is find a venue and location that suits everyone and fits the bill. Nevertheless wherever the location, the conference provides an opportunity for councillors (Tuesday), and both councillors and officers (Wednesday), from rural principal authorities to come together to share experiences and discuss common issues.
NALC was part of the small exhibition at the conference, which also included ACRE, Co-operatives/Plunkett Foundation (on a joint stand), KidsOut, Leicestershire Rural Partnership, The Rural Media Company and Rural Solutions (who were also the conference sponsor, but last to have their stand set up on Tuesday morning!).
Our job at these kind of events is to promote NALC and local councils, and some of our important initiatives such as QPS and NTS in particular.
There are always a number of familiar faces at conferences like these, many of whom always pop over to say hello and update me on their work with local councils in their area. This is helpful and gives us a feel of how things are working down on the ground. The health warning is that you only hear one side of the story, but to be fair a lot of delegates did genuinely support local councils (many were local councillors themselves!) and were very positive about working in partnership and enhancing the role of local councils.
The highlight on the morning of the first day was being kicked out of the main room (which also housed the exhibition) by the Conservative Group on the LGA! Everyone deserves to meet behind closed doors now and then, which is fair enough. The other Party Groups also had meetings at the same time.
Following the Group meetings, and a plenary session on the Sub-National Review, I attended a workshop on the Councillors Commission report. The speaker was Councillor Marie Jenkins from Teignbridge District Council in Wiltshire. I’d met Marie at an IDeA workshop on councillor support a few months ago. And as she is one of the few younger councillors in the country (she is 24), I was keen to go along and hear her thoughts on recruiting and retaining younger councillors.
The average age of those attending the workshop (not including Marie and I), was probably about 60. This was one of issues highlighted by the Roberts Commission, but unfortunately the discussions that followed didn’t focus on what councils can do to get younger people involved. Some delegates were keener to talk about increasing their allowances!
The programme on the second day included plenary sessions on immigration and integration, low carbon economies, climate change and an interesting final thought for delegates provided by Paul Kingsnorth, an environmental journalist and author on valuing our countryside and its rural communities, which was based on his recent book ‘Real England’, which I thoroughly enjoyed.
As usual the return leg home is never as straightforward as the outward journey. An incident somewhere on the line beyond Leicester meant our train was re-routed, only then to be re-routed back again. The joys of rail travel.