An invitation to groups and communities in County Durham to get more involved in or even take over some local services has resulted in enquiries ranging from libraries to Streetscene services.
The ‘Ask’ campaign was launched in February by council Leader, Cllr Simon Henig, and has generated interest and questions from communities, the voluntary sector and local town and parish councils.
The initial offer was made via presentations to these interested groups, via the authority’s 14 Area Action Partnerships (AAPs) and County Durham Partnership Forum, as well as online.
Initial expressions of interest were requested by the end of June and these are now being studied by the council to see how they might work.
In addition the ‘Ask’ offer will now remain open for the foreseeable future and a framework for supporting groups or organisations wanting to take over local services or assets is being developed. Potential funding streams are also being explored.
It’s an approach the council has significant experience in, having successfully transferred five leisure centres in 2011-12.
Then in 2012-13 an ambitious review of community buildings saw the authority invest £2.2m and provide a support network enabling dozens of community hubs to be transferred into local ownership.
Cllr Henig says it’s an approach that offers real benefits at a difficult time: “Delivering and defending frontline services while making savings of £224m means we must consider new ways of working in partnership with communities.
“However it is also crucial this is approached in a sensible and managed way so that it results in services and buildings which are affordable, cost-effective and sustainable.
“I am pleased to see the range of responses we have had and to extend the offer to talk to us for the foreseeable future. There are real benefits to both residents and the council in pursuing this approach.”
The next steps will be to progress the expressions of interest which have been received and to develop a supporting information pack for all those groups and organisations wanting to find out more.
Funding options will be pursued and updated presentations will be made via the AAPs, to interested town and parish councils and to voluntary sector organisations.
Cabinet members will be asked to note the scheme’s progress when they meet at The Glebe in Murton next Wednesday (10th September 10).