What it means to be a My Community Champion

Posted on the 24th November 2016

rob-andrewRob Andrew, head of Cornwall Council’s localism team, Vice Chair of Feock Parish Council and My Community Champion discusses what it means to be a My Community Champion.

So what does being a My Community Champion mean? Is it a 9-5  job or is it something more? To me, it is much more. As well as promoting the principles of localism and community empowerment in my work for Cornwall Council, particularly in the devolution of service and assets to the 213 town and parish councils and the myriad of community groups in Cornwall, it is also an ethos I follow outside of work.

As head of Cornwall Council’s localism team I oversee Cornwall Council’s devolution programme, which is one of the most ambitious in the UK. We have just agreed a large phased devolution package with St Austell Town Council which includes parks and open spaces, play areas, public conveniences, highway verges, community buildings, a library and two car parks.

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In 2013, I was persuaded (it didn’t take much) to stand as a candidate for my local parish council, Feock Parish Council. There were 26 candidates for 14 seats as there was a strong local feeling that there was a real need for change. Fortunately, I was elected and have been the Vice Chair for the last three years. This has been a very exciting period for the council. We had 11 to 14 new Councillors and it was a very steep learning curve for us – we had a few trips and falls along the way – but we have managed to deliver a number of major projects for the benefit of the local community in this time including:

  • using Our Place funding to develop a local community transport scheme which is now self-financing
  • we are in the final stages of our neighbourhood plan
  • we have introduced a participatory budgeting scheme to administer £2,000 of annual grants
  • we have attracted grant funding to develop an ambitious programme of local circular walks
  • we have undertaken a major refurbishment of a local play park
  • we are playing a leading role in negotiating Section 106 funding for open spaces linked to a major development
  • to cap it all in 2016 our Clerk, Debra Roberts who had no previous parish council experience was named Clerk of the Year by NALC.

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But we are not resting on our laurels, we realise that public service spending is under severe pressure and that we need to do more about the health and wellbeing agenda, so we are currently looking to:

  • take on some green space from the Environment Agency to promote walking and install gym equipment
  • develop community hubs in each of the three villages in the parish to help bring older, isolated people together on a regular basis.

So to me it’s not a day job, it’s a way of life, and it is very rewarding!

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