Residents’ groups will be given a more prominent role in a key St Albans City and District Council committee that oversees green spaces, playgrounds and other community assets.
The City Neighbourhoods Committee (CNC) makes decisions on important policy and financial issues involving eight wards in St Albans that do not have a parish council.
It has responsibility for a wide range of facilities that also includes small parks, allotments, war memorials and public toilets.
The CNC is composed of Councillors, including at least one from each ward, and representatives of Residents’ Associations.
Decisions are intended to be made by consensus through discussion with only Councillors being allowed to vote if agreement cannot be reached.
The CNC has a budget that is funded through an element of Council Tax known as “special expenses”.
Councillor Chris White (pictured) held his first meeting as the new CNC Chair last month and now plans to make three main initiatives
He wants the co-opted members of the Residents’ Associations to have a more powerful say on the CNC’s work and decision making.
In another move, he plans to undertake a detailed analysis of the budget to ensure there is greater clarity about its resources over the next three years.
He is also to initiate a review of spending with a view to identifying priorities and gaining more value for money.
Cllr White said: “I have reached the conclusion that some major changes are needed in the way the CNC operates to raise its profile and make it more effective.
“In particular, I am keen to ensure the members from Residents’ Associations are at the very heart of all that we do.
“I want them to feel they are contributors rather than spectators and will be encouraging them to be as active as the constitution allows.
“The whole point of having co-opted members from community groups is to find out what is happening at the grass roots, so their voice must be heard and acted upon.”
Cllr White is also undertaking a budget analysis and said: “I want the CNC to have detailed information about what resources we have and what are the demands upon them.
“We need to know the precise cost of maintaining and improving our community infrastructure, so we can make a decision on whether we need to raise the special expenses precept or keep it at the same level.
“I will be also looking to improve the way the Committee’s work is monitored by giving CNC members a greatly simplified action tracker at its quarterly meetings.”
Cllr White added: “Closer scrutiny of spending is another key area for us. One of the CNC’s concerns has been value for money with members often surprised by the amount we are paying for things.
“I will be working on how to improve the way we examine our spending as well as identifying where our priorities should lie.”
The eight wards the CNC has responsibility for are Ashley, Batchwood, Clarence, Cunningham, Marshalswick South, Sopwell, St Peters and Verulam.
The next meeting of the CNC is at 7pm on Wednesday 26 September at the Council Chamber in the Civic Centre, St Peter’s Street. It is open to the public and will be available to view on a webcast at https://stalbans.public-i.tv/core/portal/home