A Yuletide Message from the Mayor

22nd December 2021 in Council News, Featured, Local News

Cllr Jonathan How shares his message of community spirit and the important work of individuals in the Parish

I wonder how many new year resolutions you’ve set for yourself. Perhaps you want to lose weight or drink less alcohol – they’re the perennials!

But how about adding “getting involved in my local community” to the list? After all, there’s a lot that needs doing. From serving food to homeless people to joining one of the twinning associations; and from gardening work to mentoring.

Despite lower levels of wealth people often felt more secure in the past – perhaps because they sensed that they were part of something bigger.

Twenty-first century communities are often fragmented making people feel isolated and defensive, with little sense of ‘belonging’. This in turn makes it harder to safeguard physical and mental health.

Mayor of Penzance - Cllr Jonathan How
Mayor of Penzance – Cllr Jonathan How

“Our local community has a thriving voluntary sector”

Getting out and meeting more people through volunteering is definitely a way of addressing the so-called ‘epidemic of loneliness’.

Our local community has a thriving voluntary sector. But quite a lot of it is made up of ‘micro-organisations’ that are run by just one or two people! 

All of them are worthwhile causes and have a great idea but frequently they simply lack the skills and numbers to achieve their aims. All too often the people involved burn out because they just don’t have any energy left or feel completely unsupported.

If you’re aware of an organisation whose existence you appreciate it’s all too easy to say: “I’m glad that someone’s doing it already because that means I don’t have to take it on”. Don’t assume that it will always be there – it needs people like you to put in time and energy to ensure its continued existence.

So instead, approach the people involved and ask if there’s a way that you could fit in – perhaps with a particular skill that you can offer; or perhaps just doing grunt work!

This kind of thing is important to Penzance Council because we regard facilitation of community-based groups as a key part of our role.

We frequently give small grants to voluntary sector organisations that operate within the parish. But it’s public money and we need to know that it will be spent wisely and that the group is not going to fizzle out six months later!

The way of the future is that many more services will be provided by community-based groups rather than local authorities. People doing things for themselves rather than expecting the council to do everything for them. The reason for this is obvious… there’s a limit to what councils can achieve given the funding constraints under which they operate.

“ask not what Penzance can do for you but what you can do for Penzance”

hands connecting jigsaw pieces

To make all of this work there’s going to have to be some major skill-building in the voluntary sector and many more ‘ordinary’ people are going to have to step up to management tasks within community groups. This is going to need development work, confidence building and training.

Perhaps this new year could be the start of your own involvement in one or more such organisations.

To paraphrase John F Kennedy: “Ask not what Penzance can do for you but what you can do for Penzance”.

But of course the important thing to be aware of is that you’ll need a strategy to carry your resolution past January 31st.

Because that’s the date when cold turkey usually kicks in.

Before you know it you’ll find yourself craving an evening in with yet another Netflix box set rather than that pesky committee meeting!

Not sure where to begin? Volunteer Cornwall is a great starting point: www.volunteercornwall.org.uk

Close up of two people holding hands

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