Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Neighbourhood management

North East Lincolnshire, through its Local Strategic Partnership, is establishing a form of ‘neighbourhood management’, which is as much about helping neighbourhoods manage the priorities of the local authority and others as it is about the local authority managing its neighbourhoods.

It is suggested that each of fifteen wards should have a Forward group, a forum in which Councillors and residents meet with those involved in things like local housing and police. The boundary of this parish corresponds closely to those of the Freshney and Yarborough wards. The active Freshney Forward group has featured in this blog before, and I’ve been talking again today with a Yarborough Councillor about how best to relaunch a Yarborough Forward group.

These fifteen wards are then grouped into five areas. For us, a ‘Central Area’ covers the centre of town with the urban area west and south of it (but not east of it, nor as far as Scartho to the south) including our wards and the Park, South and West Marsh wards. For each area, an Area Action Group, with both statutory and community representation, and with a chair seconded from a partner organisation, will meet monthly, and have some teeth.

The structure is thus proclaimed as ‘15-5-1'. Issues and priorities are fed up from 15 wards, analysed and acted upon in 5 areas, and thus provision in the 1 local authority is reshaped. The formal aims are that communities should have more influence on policy making, Councillors should operate more like community leaders, and those delivering services should be more coordinated and responsive.

But I do wonder a little bit whether the model should be something more like ‘100-15-8-1'.

The ‘100' is an approximate guess about how many genuinely local neighbourhoods there are in North East Lincolnshire. For example I’ve observed before that Freshney Forward has operated quite well as a sort of ‘Willows Forward’ for one third of the ward (which is where the energy and common purpose has been), but it has struggled to engage with Wybers Wood and Aylesby Park (except when there has been a single strong presenting issue), and seems not to have related at all to Great Coates (which has its own Parish Council anyway).

It seems to me that the Willows’ Tenants and Residents’ Association, the Willows’ Youth Centre’s Members Committee (with some members of which a group of us met last week), any Wybers action groups, the Great Coates Village Council, and the Whitgift Comprehensive’s Student Council might each be among the hundred groups whose concerns need feeding through the system.

The ‘8' is also a guess, but it does seem that five areas is too few, and our own Central Area is huge, with a population of about 55 000 (larger than a dozen cities in the United Kingdom), divided across what I’m guessing is at least thirty different local neighbourhoods whose concerns have had to be focussed down once already into five Forwards. I can’t quite see how a single Action Group can hold together the all the concerns of Great Coates and the town centre, the Willows and People’s Park, Laceby Acres and Nunsthorpe, but we shall see.

The picture is a recent one of the old Hope Street hostel.

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