For the last few years our chairman has attended and contributed to the annual conference of the National Association of Councillors. This year Ken and other senior elected members had other commitments so I was more than happy to help out with the session on the recent community empowerment white paper. There were quite a few councillors from local councils at the conference, which was great, so it was a good opportunity to catch up with them.
Opening the conference Friday evening was Councillor Peter Mole, general secretary of NAC. Peter is also a cabinet member of Gateshead Council. He provided an introduction to the theme of the conference, community empowerment and the role of local councillors, which would be discussed further through the course of the event. The member of parliament for Bournemouth East, Tobias Ellwood was also scheduled to address delegates before dinner but unfortunately sent his apologies at the last minute.
The Sustainable Communities Act was the subject of the first session on Saturday morning. Steve Shaw from Local Works, a coalition of over 90 national organisations campaigning to promote the use of the Act, provided a summary of the Act and how it would benefit local communities. In my presentation I gave a summary of the implications of the recent white paper on community empowerment and what this means for local councils. In the discussion that followed an issue that kept cropping up was local government reorganisation which is affecting councillors and our own local councils in different ways. We are currently partnering with CRC on a project looking into the impact of new unitaries on local councils and effective relationships between the tiers. This will report early next year and I’ll post more on this project soon, including the current literature review.
I must thank NAC for their warm and kind hospitality extended during my attendance at their conference and look forward to discussing how we can development our relationship further in coming months.