The Local Government Association (LGA) has awarded a £50k funding boost to help develop innovative new Local Community Networks (LCNs) in Somerset.
LCNs promise to set a new standard for keeping a large unitary council embedded in the towns and villages it serves.
The grant is to develop LCNs and deliver new ways of working prior to April 1, 2023 (Vesting Day), when the unitary authority officially begins.
Some of the £50k will be used to facilitate three community-led LCN pilots which have been established in different areas of the county (Frome area, in Exmoor and in the Wincanton area). They are bringing public services together with local people and other community organisations to explore opportunities around children and families; health and wellbeing; and local street scene and highways matters in the first instance.
Councillor Faye Purbrick, Somerset County Council, Cabinet Member for Local Government Reorganisation (LGR) and co-author of the single unitary business case, said: “This is a big vote of confidence, by the Local Government Association, in the innovative approach being developed in Somerset. The money will help us prove and develop the concept of LCNs, alongside our partners and communities, and deliver the ambitions and opportunities of a brand new Somerset Council for our residents, communities and businesses.
“The LCN pilots are crucial, enabling us to test new ways of working without dictating the terms to communities. Instead, we’re giving them power to make their own decisions and a formal place in the structure of the new council, guaranteeing their ongoing influence. This is another big step forward building on the approaches pioneered by other unitary councils. We are learning lessons all the time, helping to build a new council that’s better at thinking and acting locally.”
The grant will enable the pilots to explore how some of the grant can be used to leverage match funding or other resources, and some of the finance will be ringfenced to support voluntary sector engagement.
The grant is made through LGA administered Improvement and Development Agency for Local Government, (IDeA), which is backed by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) to support local authorities in England.
From 1 April 2023 there will be a single point of contact, which will help end confusion, avoid duplication and make it easier for residents, communities and businesses to interact with their council. This new approach is estimated to free up £18.5 million every year to be re-invested into local communities and high-quality services.
For the latest news and updates about the new Somerset Council, and the LCN pilots, visit www.newsomersetcouncil.org.uk