CORNWALL Council is set to freshen up its community network panels to give them an enhances role and encourage more members of the public to get involved.
The panels were established when the unitary Cornwall Council was formed in 2009 and were aimed at bringing together different organisations and individuals in the local community.
The 19 panels are made up of Cornwall councillors, parish and town councillors and other local stakeholders with a view to sharing information and ideas and raise issues in the local community.
They were aimed to deliver localism and give Cornwall Council a presence in local communities after the scrapping of district and borough councils.
However since their formation they have attracted criticism from some who say they have been ineffective with some suggesting they have become mere “talking shops”.
As a result Cornwall Council has carried out a review to see whether they can be improved – the review involved asking parish and town councils for their views as well as Cornwall councillors.
Some of those who responded to the review suggested that the panels should be scrapped while others suggested that if the panels were given a budget to spend in their local area it would increase their power and influence and make them more effective.
Cornwall Council’s Cabinet received a report on the review last week and agreed a number of steps to improve the effectiveness of the panels.
These included having at least one formal meeting a year and ensuring that all meetings are open to the general public.
Councillors and officers have also said that they will consider whether any budget can be provided to the panels in future.
During the Cabinet meeting there were varying views from councillors with some saying that they found their own area’s panel helpful while others said they were ineffective.
Jeremy Rowe, Cabinet member for devolution and localism, said: “The review has shown that the panels are all operating in different ways. While we recognise that all areas are different and one size will certainly not fit all, we need to ensure that there is a consistent basic standard.
“The recommendations from this review, which include the need for all panels to hold at least one formal annual general meeting each year, and for their meetings to be open to the public, will help us to achieve this consistent standard. Panels will then be able to develop their own ways of working based on these principles.
“We want to empower and encourage communities across Cornwall to work together to develop local solutions to the issues which are facing us. Local communities need to play a part in the governance of Cornwall and community network panels will help to achieve this.”