Anyone (anyone??) folowing the @heglat Twitter feed will have noticed a fair bit of action last evening centred around the hashtag
#neighbourhoodsbtn. Here’s what it was all about… The Green Party manifesto for Brighton & Hove included a commitment to:
“Offer local people a greater say in designing, delivering and monitoring local services by giving them power to set up local neighbourhood councils with devolved community budgets and decision-making powers.”
and yesterday evening marked the formal start of this process at a mini conference “Community & Neighbourhood Decision Making” hosted by the Brighton & Hove Community & Voluntary Sector Forum (CVSF) and addressed by Cllr Ben Duncan, Cabinet Member for Communities, Equalities and Public Protection.
Cllr Duncan opened the procedings, clear that this initiative was all about trying to reinvigorate grass roots participation and deepen local democracy, as well as (hopefully) arriving at better decisons around neighbourhood service delivery; all good motives – though a bit thin on detail. Next up a couple of other speakers: one from Bevendean LAT and one from the council, giving an idea of the potential benefits and pitfalls of this notion.
We were directed to consider some case studies. These included – at one end, authorities substantially empowering neighbourhood councils to drive service delivery in their areas – in the middle, the simple ‘top slicing’ of a percentage of the highways budget and enabling residents to prioritise it, and at the other end a ‘neighbourhoods lite’ version; setting aside a community pot with residents voting on how it should be spent as an excercise in participatory budgeting.
After that, a lively discussion – and here are some of the issues noted:
- What is a neighbourhood? Will areas be ‘self defined’, or based on wards or perhaps other features?
- How will people be involved in making decisions? how will the neighbourhood council be selected/elected and how representative will they be?
- Volunteers and community groups are hard pushed as it is – will there be any extra resources?
- What sort of scope will groups have? see case studies above
The general mood of the event was one of enthusiasm and interest, and the feel was that those present bought into the concepts of deepening local democracy, and greater community involvement, but there is a way to go before we order the passport control booths for the bottom of Southover 🙂 One thing we can be sure of though – the current boom time for public consultations is not yet over: expect a questionaire.
In the meantime; anyone who wants to know more – here are some links: