Could you be part of a citizens panel?
What if a group of ordinary people were given a safe space, key information and expert facilitation to discuss and decide on important issues affecting their community? What would be their recommendations? And what would be the response of their elected representatives?
To find out the answer to those questions, Penzance is to have its own citizens panel on housing and low pay. The project is being run by Cornwall Independent Poverty Forum, which works at a local level to address issues of low pay, poverty and homelessness.
“High rents, low pay, and second homes are enduring features of Cornwall’s popularity as a holiday destination. Locals welcome the jobs that tourism provides but struggle to make ends meet given the seasonal nature of the work” said Andrew Yates, the chair. And he added “We also know from our own research that eviction from private rental accommodation remains the biggest single cause of homelessness in Cornwall. Seasonal work with its variable hours is likely to be a factor in this”.
The citizens panel will listen to a range of speakers, ask questions and assess evidence. They will then deliberate among themselves in order to arrive at a set of conclusions and recommendations based on what they have heard. Elected representatives will also be invited to speak.
“The process is as important as the outcome,” said Gavin Barker, the volunteer project manager, “it is about putting ordinary people in the driving seat and allowing them a real say. It is similar to a court jury process that weighs evidence before arriving at a verdict but with one key difference: the aim is to understand an issue in depth and propose solutions rather than to blame or finger point”.
The citizens panel will run for five sessions over 5 to 6 weeks. At the end of it a report will be written setting out the recommendations of the citizens panel and this will be submitted to elected councillors at Penzance Town Council and Cornwall Council. It will also be submitted to Derek Thomas MP and local political party branches. A full response will be asked for in each case.
For more information and to apply to be on the panel, go to the Penzance Citizens Panel website.
For further information, contact:
Gavin Barker, Volunteer Project Manager, Citizens Panel 07717 297 932 [email protected]
Andrew Yates: Chair, Cornwall Independent Poverty Forum [email protected]
Paul Green: Project Manager CIPF email@example.com