Agenda and minutes
Venue: Virtual Meeting via MS Teams
Contact: Leslie Ashton
Webcast: View the webcast
Declarations of Interest
There were no declarations of interest.
The minutes of the meeting held on 21st January 2021 to be confirmed as a correct record.
RESOLVED: The minutes of the meeting held on 21 January 2021 were AGREED as an accurate record.
This is an opportunity for members of the public to put a question or raise an issue of concern, related to Communities and Localism. Where possible, the relevant Cabinet Member or Senior Officer to which the question/issue is directed will be present to give a verbal response. Members of the public will be invited to speak for up to three minutes on their issue.
Two questions have been received as attached. Responses will be received at the meeting.
There were two public questions which were both answered by the Cabinet Member for Communities and Public Health.
Cllr Jon Harvey, Buckingham Town Council asked how the Community Boards would be evaluated to which the Cabinet Member explained that the Boards remained in their early stages having formed eight months ago, the same time that the Council’s new Localism team started. Regular meetings with Community Board Chairmen, Vice-Chairmen and Co-ordinators had been held and their feedback acted upon. A more thorough review exercise to gather feedback was now being undertaken to capture what has been done well and what areas could benefit from improvement and towns, parishes and partners would be invited to be involved in this process.
Cllr Mark Cole, Buckingham Town Council queried the voting rights of town and parish councils at Community Board meetings, highlighting the important role towns and parishes plays in devolution and encouraged a greater role to ensure town and parish council’s voices were fully heard. The Cabinet Member explained that Community Boards were very different from the former County Council Local Area Forums (LAFs) and the Council was seeking to emulate the models used by Durham and Wiltshire where there was much greater community involvement. The Council had recently drafted a town and parish charter to encourage greater partnership working. The devolution work had not progressed as hoped due to priorities being focused on the Covid response. A team continued to work on devolution and some pilot projects had commenced. The voting arrangements had been agreed by Cabinet, with the board budgets being far greater than LAFs, this decision was made so that the Council took responsibility for ensuring tax payer money was used effectively. Local input remained very important when taking decisions and many Boards hold informal votes to understand how attendees feel about certain decisions. Community Board governance and processes were being reviewed and town and parish council views would be taken account of.
The Chairman thanked Cllrs Cole and Harvey for their questions.
For the Chairman to update Members on Communities and Localism scrutiny activities since the last meeting.
The Chairman updated that the Inquiry Group’s report on the effectiveness of community grants during the Covid-19 pandemic had been presented to Cabinet on 2 March by the Chairman and Cllr P Cooper. The Chairman thanked all Members of the Inquiry Group, the Cabinet Member and all Members who attended an inquiry session or answered the questionnaire. The Chairman also thanked partnership and VCS organisations and officers for their time and help to produce the report.
Community Boards: Review of the journey so far
The 16 Community Boards are a way of bringing the council, groups, organisations and local people together to look at local issues and find ways of improving them together. They started their journey in a pandemic which has been difficult to do, however this has been helpful for the emergency response.
Gareth Williams, Cabinet Member for Communities and Public Health - Introduction and launching during a pandemic: the Vision.
Claire Hawkes, Service Director for Localities and Strategic Partnerships – The journey so far
Arif Hussain and Anne Wight, Community Board Chairs – The role of the Chair
Amy Jenner and Jack Pearce, Community Board Co-ordinators – The role of the Co-ordinator
Gordon Elliott, Head of Service Partnerships and Community Engagement, Councillors Richard Bell, Brian Stephens and Rob Yorke, Durham Council - Experiences from Durham
Jenifer Cameron, Chief Executive Action4Youth and Vice Chair VCSE Recovery Board – Engaging with the VCS
The Chairman introduced a number of guests for this item that were in attendance to provide an update on Community Boards and insight into Durham Council’s devolution model. The presentations were as follows:
Cllr G William, Cabinet Member for Communities and Public Health
The vision for Community Boards was to improve outcomes for residents through ensuring strong connections between Buckinghamshire Council and its communities. There were six themes in the vision:-
· Dedicated local go to: championing the local area and being an ambassador of community needs.
· Collaboration: an ‘Everyone is welcome’ ethos with a range of people and organisations coming together to understand local need and explore solutions.
· Meetings: five public meetings per year with further work outside meetings.
· Activity: community taking ownership of activities including smaller initiatives as well as deep dives.
· Engagement: community conversations to empower local voices with the Board being well known in their respective areas.
· Impact: local data and intelligence to demonstrate outcomes for local people and leverage external funding.
There were 16 Community Boards across the county and each one determined their own priorities and took action accordingly with funds made available for local projects. The Council had allocated a budget of £3.9m across all the Boards and each Board had a dedicated coordinator. A service director would also be aligned to each Board. A review would be carried out during March to identify opportunities to refine the approach to Boards in future.
Claire Hawkes, Service Director, Localities & Strategic Partnerships
The launch of Community Boards had taken place in July 2020 during the pandemic. New staff had been recruited following the transition to unitary which had been difficult due to interviews and inductions being carried out remotely. The team had been proactive in embracing the cultural changes that the Communities Boards introduced and were looking to develop on lessons learnt after the first nine months. There were three localism managers to oversee the team with each having a core area of responsibility. New opportunities had been identified, such as virtual meetings and virtual working groups, which had been embraced and proved popular. One of the benefits of online meetings had been that they were available to watch on demand.
Across the Boards there were a number of common themes being focused on:-
· Environment & climate change
· Young people
· Older people
· Covid recovery
· Health and wellbeing
· Community resilience
Councillors Arif Hussain (High Wycombe Community Board) and Anne Wight (Wing and Ivinghoe Community Board), Community Board Chairmen
The High Wycombe Community Board had engaged with its community at the start of the pandemic and had been proactive in improving the area. Outside of the meetings, awareness of the Board had been raised and a network had been created between community groups and partners. Examples of this included visits with local businesses to encourage their involvement and seek feedback which had been met positively. The High Wycombe Community Board had worked with Public Health and the Council to address rising Covid-19 cases in the area and ... view the full minutes text for item 5.
Inquiry into the effectiveness of community organisation grants during the covid-19 pandemic
The Select Committee noted the inquiry report that had gone to Cabinet and the Cabinet’s response to the inquiry’s recommendations.
Date of the Next Meeting
Due to the Elections taking place on 6th May 2021, this is the last Select Committee meeting before the new Council. Dates of future meetings to be advised.
This was the last meeting before the local elections in May. The Chairman encouraged members to email him suggested items for the future work programme.