Councillors have given their approval to County Council plans to make localism work in Worcestershire.
The Act Local framework has been produced by officers and members at County Hall following a three month consultation earlier in the year when local district, town and parish councils, community groups, residents and businesses throughout Worcestershire were asked for their views on what localism meant to them. It included them outlining their appetite for getting involved in delivering some services in their local area.
The framework was approved at a Full Council meeting in County Hall today (September 13) and provides more details on how the county council intends to make localism work throughout Worcestershire. In time the council will be developing what it's calling the Community Offer, which will highlight services which could be delivered by or in partnership with other organisations or local people. It also highlights the importance of the role of local councillors as the 'go to person' in a community, identifying groups or people who could take on service delivery and supporting and enabling this to happen.
Although to be viewed in the current financial context, Act Local is also about delivering better outcomes for residents and communities who could benefit from services being delivered by local people who have a better understanding of local needs. It pledges to deliver bespoke community solutions to issues rather than adopting a 'one size fits all' approach.
It will also mean significant changes in the way local organisations interact with the county council. But while representing a cultural shift in relationships between different organisations and residents, the council is also keen to stress that in many ways Act Local is about building on what is already being done.
For example the Parish Lengthsman scheme is signed up to by over 90% of parishes who arrange for low level highway maintenance work to be carried out in the local area.
Father and son team Philip and Simon Skeys, Parish Lengthsmen for nine parishes in Worcestershire, said the scheme helped solve local problems quicker for local people: "One of the biggest positives about our work is being able to get started on a job without delay – if we see something that needs doing we can just get on with it there and then. As we are doing work, whether it is cutting back an overgrown hedge that's encroaching a footway or clearing a drain on a flooded road, we get to know people and they get to know us. Not only is it great to get praise and feedback from local residents, but by being out in the community it means that people approach us with ideas and suggestions about work that can be done to improve the parish that they live in."
The Act Local document is also clear that given the unprecedented financial challenge – the county council has to save around £90million over the next few years – some services could stop or reduce unless local people or groups step forward.
Cllr John Campion, Worcestershire County Council's Cabinet Member for Localism and Communities, said Act Local represented real opportunities to change the way services are delivered: "I am delighted Council approved our vision for localism which presents us with a real chance to support local communities better by working with them to deliver what's really important. Localism isn't new but I believe that in the past it's happened in spite of the county council; Act Local is about the authority playing a fuller part in improving services in villages and towns throughout the county. I also hope it will inspire ideas and empower local people to get on with doing what's right in their communities, rather than waiting for the county council to do it for them. Greater involvement will also strengthen local democracy as more people will be involved and immersed in local issues."
For more information, and to read the Act Local document, visit www.worcestershire.gov.uk/actlocal