£4.3m boost 'puts communities in control'

THE government has unveiled a £4.3m package it says will help improve services for local communities.

Extra funding would see at least 100 communities deliver local services that focused on local priorities and reduce costs, it said.

Expansion of the 'Our Place' programme builds on the Neighbourhood Community Budget Pilots that have helped change local service provision in 12 areas over the past four years.

The 12 pilots range from inner cities and suburbs, to housing estates and small towns. They have seen the public, private and voluntary sectors worked together to tackle issues of concern to local residents.

Work undertaken in the 12 pilot areas is detailed in the Our Place! summary report published on Tuesday (9 July).

In the Devon town of Ilfracombe, for example, "One Ilfracombe" is working with its district council to transfer a £1 million budget, alongside an aligned budget from health, Jobcentre Plus, police, fire, housing and councils to work with the private sector and community to improve the health, economy, and living environment for local people.

Communities Minister Don Foster said the government knew more communities wanted to adopt similar measures.

"Neighbourhoods are the building blocks that make our communities tick and by putting them at the heart of decision making they are improving not just the quality of services, but also making them more responsive to local needs.

"We know there's a real appetite out there for people to volunteer and for local government, the voluntary sector and business to actively engage.

"And as the 12 pilot programmes have proved with a bit of support, encouragement and advice, community-led approaches can successfully tackle local issues and deliver real results.

The extra £4.3m investment would help build a "popular movement" towards of a new way of working, said Mr Foster.

"Handing control of local public services over to local communities who know their areas best can deliver more and better for less."

It would also help create more resilient and involved communities and build neighbourhoods that were better places to live.

The government says schemes such as the 'Our Place' programme are about enhancing and complementing formal arrangements.

It says they look beyond government action and instead focus on the role communities can play in tackling the issues that matter most to them.

Local Government Association chairman Sir Merrick Cockell said: "Giving local areas more say in how public services are designed and delivered improves those services and saves money.

"This approach is already working in a number of areas across the country on issues as diverse as promoting healthy lifestyles and tackling antisocial behaviour.

"The expansion of the programme to new areas is welcome."

In addition to supporting another 100 neighbourhoods to get started, the expansion of the Our Place! programme will set up a network of champions drawn widely from the pilots and from all sectors, to provide peer to peer support and advice.

The new £4.3 million investment sits alongside a further £350,000 support for the existing pilots, to help accelerate and enhance the implementation of their programmes.


Sign up to our newsletter to receive all the latest news and updates.