People are being invited to have their say on proposed changes to the way in which Durham County Council works with residents, communities, councillors, and partners.
The council’s existing community engagement arrangements have been in place since 2009 and are centred on the county’s 14 Area Action Partnerships (AAPs).
The AAPs bring together local people, councillors, businesses and the council’s partner organisations with a focus on improving life in their respective areas.
Since their inception 14 years ago, the AAPs have provided funding to more than 10,000 community projects.
But in light of the significant changes to local and national policies in that time, the council commissioned an independent review of these arrangements last summer.
While the six-month review recognised the many strengths of the AAPs, it also resulted in a number of proposed changes, including changes to how community engagement arrangements are structured and how funding is allocated.
The proposals include:
• replacing AAP Boards with community networks, which would meet every two months and be open to all rather than having a core Board membership
• focussing community network meetings on themed activities including environment and climate change, the economy and community safety
• considering options for the geographical boundaries of each community network
• making it simpler and easier for people to apply for funding
• introducing a new “Community Chest” fund offering discretionary grants of up to £300 to support smaller scale activities
• creating a new community network team to encourage even more people to get involved in community action
Cllr Elizabeth Scott, Durham County Council’s cabinet member for economy and partnerships (pictured above), said: “Last year, we commissioned an independent review of our existing community engagement arrangements, which have been in place since 2009.
“Like any of our services, it’s important that we carry out regular reviews to ensure they remain fit for purpose and serve our communities in the most efficient and effective way they can.
“A thorough review has been undertaken, with independent reviewers attending AAP Board meetings, and conducting surveys and meetings with elected members and council staff as well interviews and workshops with partners and key stakeholders.
“A particular focus of the review has been to gain a greater understanding of how communities can be more involved in influencing local decision making and determining local needs and aspirations and the work we need to do to support that.
“While recognising the many strengths in our current approach, the review has also proposed a number of changes for consideration. We are now carrying out a full public consultation to seek people’s views on the proposed changes.
“All views expressed will be considered before any decisions are made.”
The consultation period runs until 5pm on Sunday, April 23 ahead of a final decision being made by Cabinet in the summer.
For full details of the proposals and to take part in the consultation, visit durham.gov.uk/consultation.