#ThrowBackThursday – County Council Elections 2017

It doesn’t seem possible but it is 6 months since the Warwickshire County Council Elections. The number of Councillors reduced to 57 from 62 following a boundary review and the results saw 21 new Councillors join Warwickshire County Council.

We asked new and returning Councillors to let us know how they were feeling 6 months in.

Councillor John Holland was re-elected and has enjoyed watching plans he made before the election being put into practice and move forward.

Councillor Judy Falp is one of the new, independent members of the Council and says –

“What an interesting six months. Many new faces to get to know, lots of training opportunities and my first over five hours meeting! I am pleased with the results I have been able to achieve for the residents of my division. I am yet to make my maiden speech at full council but I am almost certain that will soon be rectified. Thanks to many for making me feel welcome but especially democratic services for all their help.”

The Democratic Services team has enjoyed working with new and returning members and is looking forward to what the next 6 months brings.

Helen

Warwickshire hosts regional conference!

ADSO East and West Midlands Regional Conference, 3 July 2015

“Looking Ahead” was the theme for this year’s regional conference for the East and West Midlands branches of the Association of Democratic Services Officers. Democratic Services – as the core facility that underpins local authority governance and decision-making – has to be a flexible and adaptable service to effectively responds to local and national political agendas. As “geographers of the political state” Democratic Services staff have to be one step ahead, constantly horizon scanning and ensuring that robust governance and decision-making continues as their organisations transform and reshape.

The regional conference was hosted by Warwickshire County Council and included plenary sessions from David Carter, Monitoring Officer at Warwickshire County Council, and John Gregory, Grant Thornton, on the future of local government and democratic services. Simon Goacher, from Weightmans LLP, provided an update on recent case law affecting the sector.

Action shot

The event, which was sponsored by Audiominutes, Astech and Modern.gov, attracted 50 delegates from across the Midlands. In addition to the plenary sessions, there was a strong focus on the development of practical skills and knowledge. Delegates had a choice of three workshops which reflected the other theme for the event: working in a hung council (facilitated by Janet Purcell, Warwickshire County Council), combined authorities and new models of governance (James Doble, Cherwell and South Northamptonshire Councils) and career development (Laura Latham, Stockport CCG and Sarah Cottam, North East Derbyshire District Council).

Mala Mistry, Solihull MBC said: “I thoroughly enjoyed the ADSO Conference and came away feeling refreshed and re-energised. The plenary sessions were informative and interesting and there were lots of opportunities in the workshops and throughout the whole day to discuss a wide range of issues that we as Democratic Services officers are all grappling with at the moment. A very worthwhile event which I would completely recommend.”

For more information about the Association of Democratic Services Officers, visit the web page: http://www.adso.co.uk/

 

 

Councillor Question Time – Local Democracy Week

It was Local Democracy Week  last week. One of the key aims of the week is getting young people involved in democracy. Warwickshire VOX and Members of the Youth Parliament are elected each year by young people and do a great job of representing the views of young people and campaigning on the issues that matter to young people in Warwickshire.

We’ve blogged here before about Councillors engaging with VOX and MYPs, and we thought we should build on the success of our previous events.

We thought it would be great to bring together the VOX and MYPs and some of our Councillors for a Question Time event – putting our Councillors on the spot and giving VOX and MYPs a chance to hold them to account – any they really did!

We selected four Councillors from across the County to form our panel – Alan Farnell (Leader of the County Council), Richard Cheney, Mike Gittus and Tim Naylor.

The MYPs and VOX didn’t hold back on questions – about cuts to the  youth service, transport to sixth forms and colleges, careers advice in schools, and the minimum wage for 16 year olds.

We had a good debate online with some of the young people  as well, who were reporting on the event as well:

The event went really well. In listening to the young people discuss issues with the Councillors you could see that they have a lot in common – both are elected to represent the views of others, and campaign for the issues of local people.

I’m confident that we’ll be blogging on here soon about the other ways our Councillors will be engaging with young people about the issues they face, and how the Council can try to address them. If you’ve got any ideas about how we can do this – leave us a comment below!

Decisions, decisions, decisions…

We blogged recently about the government’s drive to localism, which is aiming to put power back in the hands of local people. But power is nothing without information…

…which is why we’re now publishing all of the Council’s proposed decisions online.

For the first time, we now have a live list of all the decisions and reports due to be considered by Elected Members over the coming months – fully accessible to the public.

By publishing this information live on our website, we are promoting a more open and transparent County Council that encourages residents to engage with us and get more involved in decision making.

Crucially, it also allows residents to see which decisions are due to be held in private, and gives them opportunity to challenge us on why those decisions can’t be made in an open public meeting. We think the Secretary of State would approve.

So where is it?

The decisions list is available on our Council and Democracy pages and is accessible to everyone. It can be sorted according to your preference, making it easy to find the information you’re interested in.

For example, if you want to know what’s likely to be on the next Cabinet agenda, simply sort the list by “Meeting Date” and scroll down to the Cabinet section. Or if you want to look for decisions related to the Fire Service, sort the list by “Group” and scroll down to the Fire and Rescue Service section.

Please do let us know what you think.

Do you think the Council is open and transparent?

Are you able to find the information that you need from us?

What else could we do to make things more accessible?

Could you run a Local Authority service better?

A recent change in legislation allows local people to challenge the Local Authority on who runs local services. It’s called the “Community Right to Challenge”. But what’s it all about?

The term “localism” has been pushed very had by the current government. Ministers have made changes to all sorts of legislation with a promise to “hand power back to local people”.

For example, just last week at Conservative Party Conference, the Home Secretary spoke about changing the law so victims of crime can choose the perpetrator’s punishment.

The biggest push for localism, however, has come from the Department for Communities and Local Government – the people in Westminster who essentially tell Local Authorities like us what to do.

The Secretary of State, Eric Pickles MP, has been quick to drive through the Localism Act 2011 (you can read a Plain English guide here), which promises to give local people power over their communities. The Act allows people to:

  • shape their local development plans
  • call a local referendum on certain issues
  • bid for the ownership and management of community assets
  • get involved in the delivery of Local Authority services

This last bullet point relates to a particular part of the Act called the “Community Right to Challenge”. It allows people to express an interest in running a Local Authority service in a different or more effective way. If this expression of interest is accepted (as you’d expect, there are various criteria to be met), the Local Authority must then open up a tendering exercise for that service.

The Community Right to Challenge came into effect over the Summer, and Warwickshire County Council has recently published its guidance and timetable. This page also includes contact details, so you can get in touch if you have any questions.

Everything we do is Democracy – but this is Local Democracy Week

This week (15th – 19th October) is European Local Democracy Week. What does this mean?

Here at Warksdemocracy we help support your local County Councillors in their roles as your representatives and community champions, so that they can represent your views and deal with residents’ problems.

But our job is also to help you get directly involved that the decisions that affect you – whether by coming to meetings and telling Councillors directly, signing a petition, or writing to your Councillors to let them know your views.

All of this happens every day, and we regularly have public questions at meetings and have plenty of petitions submitted, both traditional paper and via our ePetitions facility

Local Democracy Week is all about making that extra push to get people involved in the decisions that affect them, with a particular focus on young people.

We’re taking the opportunity to let members of the public know about the various ways they can get involved in the work of Council.  Nearly all of the Council’s meetings are held in public, and you find out about future meetings, and download past reports and minutes here.

Before making any major decisions, the Council consults local people first.  All of the current consultations can be found on our consultation pages. You can also sign up to receive emails when consultations are launched.

We’ll be blogging more about Local Democracy Week as the week goes on, and tweeting from our public meetings this week. In the meantime you can find our more information about Councillors, Petitions, Elections and Democracy on our website.

Getting to the heart of young people’s issues

Young people discussing their concerns with Councillors

Warwickshire has a vibrant pool of young people engaged in politics and democracy, with lots of ideas and issues they want to see addressed. They now have a clearer route into the County Council to raise awareness of those issues…

Last night, two of our leading County Councillors met with Warwickshire VOX (Local Youth Councils) and local Members of the Youth Parliament (MYPs) to gain a better understanding of the issues that matter to young people. The idea was to:

  • Establish a dialogue, so that communication between Councillors and young people is better
  • Listen to issues of concern for young people, and how Councillors can try to address these concerns
  • Work out how young people can be more involved in decision making in Warwickshire

We’re pleased to say the meeting went really well. MYPs and VOX members really got their concerns across to the Councillors on a range of matters, including:

  • Youth unemployment
  • Bus services
  • Negative stereotyping of young people in the media

Councillors valued the opportunity to hear first-hand accounts of the challenges being faced, and have now committed to meeting formally with VOX and MYPs every term to try and address them.

There is also a commitment to getting young people more involved in Council decision making and scrutiny. We’ll keep you up to date with how this goes.

As always, we’d welcome your views on this story – or any other Council matters. Please get in touch via email or Twitter, or post a comment below.

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