Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Localism In Trafford

Regular readers of this blog (and as we're coming up to the 20,000 reader barrier, I assume there are a few who read regularly) will know that I've mentioned before about the fantastic work we help support in Trafford that contributes to wider social, economic and environmental improvement for local communities (obviously, if you're not a regular reader you might like to see the posts here, here and here). Of our £1 million plus annual spend, the vast majority goes through our five community panels. These consist of local residents who prioritise and select projects on the basis of their knowledge of what's needed locally.

We've been doing this localism, long before the Localism Act brought it to the fore and we've been making social impact long before the Public Services (Social Value) Act (for a guide to this read the excellent one produced here) made it mandatory for Public Service Commissioners to fully consider value as well as cost in coming to their decisions.

These panels have though, up until now, been working in their own way, without much contact with the rest of the borough's communities. It's encouraging to see that, as localism turns from theory in Whitehall to delivery on the ground, the existing structures that have been delivering on the ground are getting more support and being brought together. The recent Trafford Partnership event brought our community panel members together with many representatives of other local interests and it was great to see how some well-informed plans and common-sense ideas for priorities started to emerge.

As an aside, the event also marked the contributions of key volunteers and it was brilliant to see Mary Blackburn, one of our tenants, receive due recognition from Trafford's Mayor. Mary, "Scary" Mary as she asks to be known, has more ideas than your average Einstein and more energy than a windfarm. Of advancing years, her zest for life remains undimmed - and as a former professional wrestler, she's certainly a daunting prospect to those in authority who might choose to stand in her way.

The ideas from the Trafford Partnership Event have already been written up and our panels are looking forward to the challenge of delivering these new priorities. I spoke with our panel Chairs and Vice Chairs recently (well, actually, they wanted me to rehearse what I was going to say at their forthcoming conference - and I'm pleased to say I passed!) and they are incredibly pleased that their work has now been recognised and that they now count among the Community Leaders of our borough.

But that's not all that's happening to help make better local places. The Trafford-wide 100 days of Volunteering has seen unprecedented community involvement across the borough, the Council has announced its £200,000 budget for community groups and our panels are looking, excitedly, at how to distribute their £700,000 this year. It's not that austerity has gone away, but in amongst those difficulties, with renewed leadership, an increasingly engaged Trafford Partnership and some money with which to start to make a difference, there are some real signs that localism, at least in Trafford, has some kind of a future.

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