At our Stepping Stones regional conference in London this week, Defra announced funding of £300,000 to NALC and ACRE in recognition of the importance of local councils and community action in rural areas.
This investment, for a range of projects over the next two years, is aimed at supporting the empowerment agenda at the local level in rural areas, including:
– supporting and promoting the Quality Parishes Scheme and National Training Strategy to develop the capacity, capability and skills of local council clerks and councillors;
– facilitating the uptake of professional training by clerks to smaller sized local councils through a bursary fund;
– developing a quality standard for county associations of local councils to deliver improved effectiveness and improve joint working;
– undertaking a national survey of rural community-owned buildings to update information around facilities, use, management and sustainability;
– developing a guide and training resource pack for local councillors to support good employment practice;
– widening and strengthening participation in the national community led planning network, to take advantage of best practice and research from around the country;
– enhancing the pilot demonstration strand of the Capacitybuilders-funded Collaboration Benefits programme, to enable more local communities to participate in testing out the value of the parish partnership model of joint working.
This latest round of funding, as a direct result of our lobbying at NALC, complements investment announced by CLG in November last year to promote the local council sector. It also strengthens links between rural community action and initiatives from both OTS and CLG on empowering communities to take a greater role in developing local facilities and services.
Huw Irranca-Davies MP, Rural Affairs Minister, Defra, said: “We all need to be able to influence the decisions affecting where we live. The role of the parish and town councils are critical in supporting rural communities. As the rural heart of government, I am pleased to announce this new programme of Defra funding to NALC and ACRE to help rural communities to make their decisions on the issues affecting them.”
NALC’s chairman, Councillor Michael Chater, responded that: “This latest injection of resources into national programmes to support local communities, democracy and empowerment is hugely welcome. As the smallest unit of electoral democracy closest to people, local councils play a vital and very effective role in putting power in the hands of local people, to make the key decisions that affect their communities. Defra have an enviable track record of supporting the first tier of local government and rural communities and we are delighted to have their support alongside that from CLG.”
Sue Shaw, chair of ACRE said: “This is very welcome recognition of the increasing need for local councils, local volunteers and community groups to work together in providing services and benefit to local residents. This portfolio of projects will definitely help to make communities more effective and show how, given appropriate support, rural community organisations can lead the way in demonstrating how to achieve genuine empowerment”.