More than 100 town and parish council representatives converged on County Hall in Morpeth yesterday to take part in the first annual town and parish council conference.
Rooms and corridors were buzzing with talk of local parish issues and ways in which joint working between the local councils and the county council can be enhanced and built on for the future. Things that matter to local people were top of the agenda at the event where over a third of all 148 town and parish councils in the county were represented.
Key issues to arise from discussions included developing better understanding of council service standards in local areas; ideas for an annual ‘walkabout’ in each parish each year with a senior council official; and better communications both between the two levels of local government and between departments within the county council.
Barry Rowland, executive director of local services at the council, rounded up the day with a summary of the issues raised and committed to addressing these and using them to help shape joint working over the next twelve months. He pointed out that the council has an established locality team which is dedicated to communication and liaison between parishes and towns and the county council, and that they should be the first point of contact for resolving any outstanding issues.
The conference was closed by Coun Kathy Graham, civic head of Northumberland County Council, who is also chairman of the town and parish liaison working group.
She said: “I would like to thank each and every representative for giving up their time to come along to the conference today, and hope they found it useful and enjoyable. I would also like to thank all the council officers who have arranged and managed the event and coordinated sessions. I look forward to us continuing this dialogue through the working group, and hope that these reps and more will all come along with the same enthusiasm next year.”
The revised Northumberland Town and Parish Charter and Action Plan was officially launched at the conference and a market-place session saw departments from across the county council share information about their services with town and parish councillors
There was a demonstration of a new online hub dedicated to town and parish councils. The resource is providing information specifically tailored to local councillors and parish clerks, drawing together links to existing content on the county council’s website as well as other useful information.
Coun Grant Davey, leader of Northumberland County Council also spoke at the event and answered questions. He said: “A number of town and parish councillors and clerks have travelled a long way to be with us today and we are very grateful for their attendance and input.
“We recognise the vital role that town and parish councils play in the lives of Northumberland’s diverse communities and will be taking all comments and views into account for future collaboration. By working together we can deliver more and make significant improvements to the economic, social and environmental well-being of all communities.”
A number of other organisations were also represented at the conference, including the Northumberland Association of Local Councils (NALC) and Northumbria in Bloom.