Councillor Training and “The Big Society”

As a District Councillor (and Parish Councillor) you do get the opportunity to do quite a lot of training for the job (or role).  Some is compulsory, such as planning, while other sessions are voluntary.  As a newly elected Councillor I have decided to do as many of these as possible as obviously I have a lot to learn.

Today I attended a course on influencing decision makers, now interestingly who are the decision makers, those who have been elected or the community as a whole?  A lot of todays thinking is about “localism” or alternatively “The Big Society” and the course was very much about this and how the community should be making decisions.

Does the District Council have a top down approach, “We will tell you what we are doing”, or is it more of a bottom up one of the Community telling the District Council what they want and the council facilitating it?  Unfortunately todays course was rather premature as the Coalitions “Big Society” is not yet formulated into Policy so we have only a vague idea of what it may contain.

However I am fairly sure it will be more the community driven way of thinking; telling the District what the Community wants rather than the top down approach of recent years.

The challenge is, as always, in our communicating fully with the community so they know what they are able to do and how they could organise themselves to do this.  One way may be the Parish Plan approach, which we are doing in Hullbridge now, but, whatever it is, it will allow much more involvement by the community.

There are concerns that this approach may be a way of meeting budget shortfalls either at County Council or District Council levels and I too share them, however there is a lot to be said for people deciding locally what they would want for their community rather than it being decided by a few people with little connection to the area and local people dealing with local issues sits very comfortably in the middle of Green Party Policy.