On Thursday night at Felixstowe Ferry Golf Club East Suffolk Council held a meeting for invited community leaders to officially unveil a new innovation to create something called Community Partnerships.
Not surprisingly, when the councils of Waveney and Suffolk Coastal were amalgamated, concerns were expressed about the 55 Councillors having to cover larger geographical areas, more Town and Parish Councils and more people, and hence becoming disconnected from the local populous.
Hence the ESC have decided to split the area into 8 Community Partnerships, each chaired by a Councillor and made up of ESC Councillors for that area, representatives from Parish Councils, and representatives from community groups and youth groups – although how these are to be chosen at the moment is not clear.
The idea of the Partnerships, according to the Counci,l is to ‘bring ideas to life by taking a solution focused approach to local priorities.’
Using data and local insight the CP’s will decide what the priority needs of the area are and hence where to focus resources.
The fact of the matter is – the Council has quite a lot of money to distribute from the New Homes Bonus – a levy charged to builders and developers to offset the damage they cause and the impact they make to the environment. And with three big pots of government funding recently going to Lowestoft – the most deprived area now in our larger region – there is probably a real concern by ESC that funding should be seen to be fairly distributed.
The CPs will ultimately decide how funding is allocated against local priorities. The very first formal meetings will take place from January 2020 and each CP will have a £10,000 budget in 2019/20 before receiving £25,000 per year for the next three years to be spent on one or more agreed priority. There will also be a Strategic budget of £150,000 in 2019/20 and £300,000 a year for the next three years, overseen by a Community Partnership Board that includes the chairs of all eight CPs, that CPs can bid into.
The first step was to hold informal ‘workshops’ with community leaders – hence the meeting at the Golf Club on Thursday – where we were bombarded with many facts and figures about spread of age and ability, social isolation, number of people exercising , frequency and location of bus routes to populous etc – some of them surprising or possibly downright inaccurate – and then asked to discuss what we thought the priorities for our area should be. There was then a chance to write down suggestions for projects and stick them on post-it notes to a large chart on each table.
There was then a voting process at the end – but no specific projects were voted on. The three broad priorities picked out of the hat were: Community spaces, social isolation and education – which between them could cover practically everything!
Formal meetings will begin in January – and I think its very much a case of ‘watch this space’. There is funding to be had – but how any decisions will be made as to its allocation remains at the moment rather vague.
CPs will be supported by a range of ESC staff, including from the Democratic Services, Communities, Communications, Economic Development and funding teams
The chair for our area is Cllr Mark Jepson. If you have any projects falling under these broad headings I would urge you to contact him and suggest that they be part of the discussion at the first formal meeting in January.