Partnerships urged to involve local people

The voluntary and community sectors were urged to take an active
role in the renewal of their neighbourhoods at the official launch
of the community empowerment fund last week.

Head of the Neighbourhood Renewal Unit Joe Montgomery told
delegates at a national conference for the community and voluntary
sector that it was crucial for neighbourhood renewal plans to be
developed in partnership with the people living in the 88 most
deprived areas in England, not imposed on them.

Money from the £36 million fund, first promised in
January’s neighbourhood renewal strategy action plan, is now
available from the regional government offices to support the
involvement of community and voluntary sector organisations and
community members and residents in the renewal process and the
development of Local Strategic Partnerships (LSPs).

LSPs will implement the national strategy action plan at a local
level, bringing together all public services and the business,
community and voluntary sectors to identify communities’ top
priorities and needs and make major decisions about funding.

Montgomery told his invited audience from the voluntary and
community sectors within the 88 most deprived areas: “We need all
your help as midwives to give birth to these LSP babies.”

He said the new community empowerment fund should be used to
help make communities aware of the opportunity they have to
influence services, to pull together the views of the community and
voluntary sector and those of community members and residents, to
pay for surveys and meetings and to facilitate the selection and
participation of community and voluntary sector members of the

The money – at least £300,000 for each of the 88 most
deprived areas over the next three years – will initially be
administered by a single lead voluntary or community organisation,
or group of organisations working together. Regional government
offices will oversee administration of the fund.

Lead organisations will need to demonstrate that they have the
support of other voluntary and community organisations in the area
and “the capacity to penetrate hard-to-reach groups, including
ethnic minority and faith communities”, said Montgomery.

Up to 50 per cent of the first year’s fund allocation in each
area can be used to pay for the initial development of community
networks and to begin a programme of community and voluntary sector
involvement in LSPs. Lead organisations should agree a spending
plan with government offices to cover this development stage.

Ideas from delegates for effective use of the fund included
paying residents and community members for their time, and
providing support in the form of child care facilities, training,
or transport to meetings.

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