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New plans for neighbourhood working

York city council

11:01am 27th February 2012

Members of City of York Council's Cabinet will consider plans to work alongside residents to improve neighbourhood working at a meeting on 6th March.

Following the government's Localism agenda, and the council's own commitment to become a Cooperative Council, the authority is proposing a series of changes to the way services are currently provided at a neighbourhood level. The aim is to work more closely with local residents helping them to shape their own areas and neighbourhoods, and developing local solutions to for the things that matter most to them.  

Councillor Sonja Crisp, Cabinet member for Leisure, Culture and Social Inclusion, said:

"We are committed to improving the way we work with local communities to deliver local services that meet the needs of individual wards. However, we recognise that some areas of the city need increased resources to help tackle inequality in our communities."

Following a pilot, which took place in Acomb, Dringhouses / Woodthorpe, Holgate, Micklegate Rural West, and Westfield wards earlier this year, a number of proposals are being put forward:

  • Introducing Community Contracts which will focus on residents' priorities for their area, whether around the economy, employment, community safety, or the environment and stipulate the services local communities can expect to receive.  They provide data against which communities can measure service delivery and will record what is expected of local communities.
  • Action Plans will help residents to hold the council to account on how it is delivering against the Community Contracts.
  • Working with the CVS to develop a volunteer database and a corresponding volunteer opportunities database to link residents to the volunteering opportunities that suit them.
  • Locating staff within wards, making them a 'hub' for local information so they can work more effectively with communities.
  • Introducing Facebook and Twitter and regularly getting messages out into the community.   

Under the proposals, the new model of Neighbourhood Working will be:

  • Led by ward members.
  • Be flexible to suit the needs of different wards.
  • Provide for integrated partnership working at ward level.
  • Recognise that some wards have greater needs than others.
  • Deliver efficiency savings.

In its interim report, the Fairness Commission recommended that ward budgets are not continued in their current form.  In order to provide improved scope for Ward Members to work with their communities and to shape service delivery through Community Contracts it is proposed to replace ward budgets with a new ward credits system. 

This system will have four components:

  • Each ward will have an allocation to use to commission local voluntary and community organisations.
  • There will be a pot to support those voluntary sector organisations that provide services to more than one ward to provide services that meet the ward priorities.  It means these organisations will no longer have to apply for a number of individual ward committee grants.  
  • It is not intended that this fund would be open to Council services such as Street Sport; however, it is proposed that in the first year only, whilst the Ward Credits pot is being established, Council services are allowed to bid.
  • A "credits pot" will be created.  Ward credits will be allocated to wards with the highest levels of deprivation to support delivery on the Ward priorities.  
  • Street Environment budgets will remain available to address environment related priorities identified within wards.

In order to create a cost-effective system it is proposed that ward committee meetings are reduced to three per annum. Ward members will be able to hold additional more informal meetings such as Councillor / Resident focus groups that they will lead themselves.

The council is also proposing to improve the way it communicates with local communities, improving the frequency of area based communication and increasing the use of web and social media to help residents gain a better understanding of what services are available locally and how they can get involved.

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