In the first phase of Democracy Matters, people told us they wanted to see a real shift in power in favour of communities. This should provide autonomy to make improvements and reimagine how a range of public services work in their area.
When deciding to establish new community decision-making bodies, each of the three communities also had to decide what these should do. A new legal framework had created a number of powers which these new bodies had the right to take on, including:
- A general power which allows the community to act – this is designed to support creative responses to local issues which other parts of government might find difficult to do. Funding is key and can be raised locally or secured through agreement with public sector partners.
- Specific powers to take over decision-making responsibility for a range of functions where equality duties can also be met. Examples of this might include, but are not restricted to, taking control over, recycling, management of green spaces, the design of employability programmes, and out of hours health services.
- Power to direct associated budgets. Fernshill has protected funding for a number of local community organisations. Christietown recently redirected part of the mental health budget to better target children and adolescents.
- Power to employ staff to undertake administrative and specialist roles, such as community development. The Haven shares a community clerk with a neighbouring area, who manages service contracts and organises annual community events to discuss progress on community plans.
- Power to enter into collaborative arrangements with neighbouring communities to take over services where economies of scale can be achieved. Christietown is already in discussions with Preventionburgh next door about pooling resources to take on additional powers and budgets over areas of public health.
Q1. How could your community use these types of powers to achieve its ambitions, now and into the future?
Q2. What other powers should be added, and are there some which should be retained by existing decision-makers?