Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Where Darlington leads...

Thursday's Guardian has a piece about plans to introduce "direct democracy" into local council service provision. Town meetings and ballots will determine how the spending of some local cash is prioritised.

We've been ahead of the game on this idea in Darlington, where our "Let's Get Cracking" initiative allowed local people to determine the spending of £2.1 million on highways repairs.

A word of caution, however - the pilot cities (which will apparently include Newcastle) will have to think through how the so-called "hard-to-reach" residents will be heard. Despite our efforts to publicise LGC, it was clear that middle class residents were best able to articulate their grievances and potentially steer funding their way. There were some fairly significant gaps in the map of the Borough where no responses were received from local people, despite real need in these areas.

Employing a "champion" who liaised with local communities about LGC helped tackle this, and similiarly-imaginative ideas will be necessary if spending isn't to be sucked out of the most deprived communities.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Alan Macnab writes....

Nick.

You have stated "Despite our efforts to publicise LGC, it was clear that middle class residents were best able to articulate their grievances and potentially steer funding their way. There were some fairly significant gaps in the map of the Borough where no responses were received from local people, despite real need in these areas."

That may be true for LGC but for sporting facilities and community centres you have ignored those areas where there is a need for such facilities such as in Harrowgate Hill. The Council sold off the old Harrowgate Hill Infant School building for private development when the community wanted a community centre in that building. It would have served both Harrowgate Hill and North Road areas. Why?

It was also totally wrong that the Council decided some time ago to build a completely new sports centre at Eastbourne when the infrastructure and the need for such a facility was already there at Longfield School. Again why did you do this?

My point is it isn't always the articulate ones who get the cash for community projects.

ian holme said...

Nick,
Surely this "champion" must be the ward councillor, after all representing the community is the job they are elected to do. As most of these so called "hard to reach" areas are labour wards, perhaps these councillors need to think harder on their responsiblities.

Your comment on having spending sucked out of "deprived areas" is equally ridiculous, given the huge bias your council has towards these areas.
I have asked you before, without answer, what dbc does for hurworth for instance, in terms of faclities for young and old?
We dont have the fantastic play areas we see scattered throughout the town, nor council support for the community centre.

Seems like you just yet again want to prioritise your heartland wards.

Ian White, Grange Trustee said...

Yes , Wheres the play area fence at the Grange? those 6-8 weeks that were indicated are flying by without any updates from the relevant department. I realise this is not down to you Nick but
will we need a death before our fence arrives?

Anonymous said...

These proposals stink. How's about neighbourhood assemblies, elected by the community, who would decide how to spend cash? This could be organised by the councillor, would reflect a diversity of opinion, and could strengthen communities