Just completed the LGA leadership awards in Warwick. Apart from all that we learn to make us better at our job of being a councillor we do make some excellent contacts. My course meant I now have close contact with about 20 leaders from across the country, plus more at the graduation. This contact is sustained by being members of a closed internet group who all know the others.
The photo on my facebook shows just six of these, all leaders or cabinet members from South Gloucestershire, Mansfield, Wellingborough, Colchester, Elmbridge and Plymouth. Even in the few months since doing the course’s these contacts have been useful for bouncing ideas and learning from what others do. The time spent together means that a trust is built up and these contacts are permanent.
For most of us, when we are first elected, we are a bit naive, we undoubtedly have some issues we are passionate about but every councillor says “it is a massive learning curve” or something similar. Well I have been a district councillor for 14 years, and a parish councillor for 12 before that, and I can say the the eleven days I have spent away on this course and the 3-4 months in between sessions doing homework, have combined to make me a much better councillor for my ward and my district. The actual work of being a councillor is much more complex now that when I was first elected. To fully carry out our representative work as councillors and get the best we can for all those we do represent. We should all of us be encouraging our councillors at all levels to learn more.
To those who are critical of this training I would say, do you really want your local licensing application dealt with by untrained people? Do you really want the planning application next door to be considered by a panel who have little or no understanding of the issues or the legal processes? Do you really want the way the council tax pound is spent to be decided by those who have no understanding of local government economics? I am certain that the answer to all of these is NO.
So all councillors need to be trained for the work they must do in the ward, and specifically for the work they do for the whole council. Of course we all bring our own skills to the council chamber, but since being elected I have attended many training sessions, most of which cost little or nothing. Some do cost a bit, but all are assessed for their contribution to the working of the council as a whole. Councillors do training in their own time, and do not get any extra allowance for doing so. Central Government chips in amounts to support the upskilling of the whole of local government and some training is supported by the LGA. Breckland has a small budget for councillor training and this is closely monitored and we all have to apply if we want or need to draw from it.