“We need smarter, more connected local government.” That was a key message in Eddie Martin’s Vision for Local Government in Cumbria key-note address to local Councillors at CALC’s 38th AGM 2012, held at Carlisle Racecourse, on Saturday 10th November. In a lively and stirring speech that was well applauded, the Chair of Cumbria County Council candidly clarified the need for further ‘profound changes’ in local government and that our first priority will be Cumbrians’ “health, well-being and quality of life” while addressing the “iniquitous waste of resources”. Eddie described Cumbria as big, mostly rural and sparsely populated and reasoned that government here is perforce very different from that of Manchester or Birmingham and that Westminster needs to recognise this. CCC employs 8,500 staff and provides no less than 822 distinctly different functions. There are 239 Parish Councils and 269 villages and 310 schools in the county.
Budget Squeeze Will Drive Rationalisation – Parish Councils Will Be Important Organs Of Change
In the four years 2011-2014, CCC will be cutting about £115 million from its budget, this is necessary to reduce current debt levels of about £350 million, and he reminded us that local Councillors should be active in seeking avenues for improvement for our communities and to exercise new powers from the Localism Bill to benefit our communities. That’s what the powers are there for. He warned us that over 300 people died of hypothermia in the county last year and that Cumbria saw the highest number of children in care here this year, 620. There are people in fuel poverty and suffering food scarcity, there’s a dearth of private sector employment.
He said that Community-Parish Council relations are improving and reminded us that Local Councils have more power to affect some changes in our communities than our MPs do, and should employ creative and unorthodox approaches to help their communities where appropriate. Indifference and lack of imagination must not prevent us from being part of the revolution.
He praised the Hub coordinators as exemplars of community leadership in “making a terrific contribution” helping drive progress in developing fast broadband communications infrastructure and he advocated unitised services as a means of cost control, citing joint waste disposal as an example that could save about £8 million.
A lot of money has already been saved by better fiscal management and by bringing services in house and off-contract, in some cases this has allowed extension of services that would otherwise have incurred additional costs.
The introduction of Snow Champions (Click link to download PDF) is one example of how Community/Civic volunteering can help improve quality of life and well-being in communities.