Monthly Archives: August 2010

“More younger councillors needed, says Lib Dem” Swindon Advertiser

THE LIBERAL Democrat group on Swindon council have hit out at their political opponents saying they should attract more younger councillors.

The Lib Dems say the council has missed the boat by failing to put forward any changes to the council’s make-up to the Boundary Commission this month, which they believe would help to attract younger councillors.

At a meeting of a special committee last week the council responded to a consultation by the Local Government Boundary Commission on how many councillors there should be in the town. The committee voted that the current number of 59 councillors should be retained.

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Swindon Borough Council Budget plans

The huge financial challenges facing the public sector cannot have escaped anyone’s attention in recent months. What I hope is that everyone now realises that it will probably affect them or their families personally. It will mean big changes to the council services they use and, perhaps, take for granted.

So what do multi-billion pounds budget cut announcements actually mean for Swindon? In short it means £45 million pounds worth of reductions over the next three years or a 33% reduction in our current net budget.

If that were not challenging enough, we face an immediate pressure because some of the reductions in funding to Councils are being applied right now. For example, £1.4 million pounds worth of grant funding for the current year has been withdrawn immediately.

So, please take time to read what we say, because you might have ideas or practical help that you can contribute in return. We’re all in this together and we all need to understand the challenge.

To help get you started we have written some details about the recent history of the budget situation. Please have a read through this as it gives a crucial insight into the specific challenges we face in Swindon.

Roderick Bluh – Leader of Swindon Borough Council

“This is Swindon Summer 2010” Partnership Newsletter

Welcome to the Summer 2010 newsletter of the Swindon Strategic Partnership.

Summer Newsletter

From Sean’s blog

If you remember back to June, I being the cool young person I am, came up with a set of 5 aims by the pool of a Turkish hotel, of which to complete by the time I leave this job (–six weeks and counting). Number three last week moved that little bit closer to realisation:

“3. A community council for the residents of Kingshill/Western. Who are currently somewhat isolated from Eastcott or the struggling Railway Village CC.”

On Tuesday the 31st August, those who live on and the streets around Kingshill are more than welcome to come to a meeting at the Central Community Centre 7-9pm, to discuss the setting up of a resident’s group. So far this is being led by a resident called Nicky Sewell, and a lovely resident she is too. People in the are will hopefully receive an invitation this week, but you’ve been invited here too. So far the aims of the organisation are looking like being:

– Local information sharing, networking and issue-raising, to incorporate Neighbourhood Watch, Neighbourhood Policing Team, Councillor and Council input, etc.
– Lobbying/campaigning remit on issues effecting the area
– Encourage local residents to “Become better neighbours” – I know the Queens Park Community Council do Christmas hampers for the older residents/those in need, so maybe that, along with maybe free skill sharing/swapping/exchanging (e.g. less mobile neighbour needs help with the garden occasionally, use of local action teams to help them and others).
– Increase sense of community cohesion through safe and clean days, maybe street parties/picnics/open gardens etc.

We hope to discuss plans for this further at the meeting in a fortnight’s time, and so it remains to a case of hoping to see you there…

One such group further down the line is the newly created Swindon Back Garden, who had their press launch this week with the Swindon Advertiser and BBC Wiltshire Radio in attendance. The group were on top form, though I could only manage a couple of mumbled answers and a sound-bite as per usual.

Still. That’s two new community forums and I think one emphatic tick off for Aim #3.

Also this week was the annual Broadgreen Fun Day which came with its excellent timing. I’ve been meaning to do some more work in the area for a couple of weeks, and suddenly I had the whole community under the roof–excellent for making links and following up on resident’s problems. After so many times of bumping into him it was also good to have the chance to have a real chat with our MP, Robert Buckland. Though we were there to try and push a new scheme called Street Champions–think neighbourhood watch but for Streetsmart. Though we didn’t get much of a response so, this might need a little rethink…All in all, and despite the brilliant British Weather, I think people had a good day. I know the little boy who won a teddy almost as big as himself definitely did. Now, I’m not exactly a sentimental chap, but that made me smile a dopey smile.

And that, I think will do.

Back Garden interviews Mark Walker, Connecting People-Connecting Places

Q1 Back Garden, First can you tell us a little about yourself? How long have you lived or worked in Swindon?
Hi, my name is Mark Walker, I have worked for Swindon Borough Council for 18 years for Housing Services in several roles.  My substantive post is managing housing regeneration projects to its housing stock and other assets.  I volunteered to become a cluster lead to help improve peoples’ experiences and the services.  I have lived in Swindon for past 20 years as a local resident and user of Council and other services.

Q2 What is the Connecting People Connecting Places initiative?
Connecting People, Connecting Places is the Council and its public service partners response to locality working.  We want to help to provide an opportunity for local people to be able to influence their neighbourhood, their community, their local services.  We recognise that this will not happen overnight and we start at the beginning and we will work through a journey over a period of time to achieve this.  We also see this as an opportunity for local people to become more involved in their community, if they wish to of course, and have a voice.  Elected members are at the centre of this process and are central to the accountability of local services to local people and helping to shape and prioritise these in terms of where investments both tactically and strategically will be invested or not.  This is a move away from the existing structure and process of how the Council and its partners delver some of its current services and investments.

Q3 Does the Council have any objectives for the Initiative?
The Council objectives are to see the success of this way of being for its community, success will be determined by how communities feel about how decisions have been made and why.

Q4 How does it affect those of us in the Back Garden?
I think that members of the Back Garden are a community and you will be able to work with local partners and stakeholders to express local issues.

Q5 How do you see Back Garden and the existing Community Councils and Forums operating?
It would be great to see local groups / forums working in partnership to seek and deliver local improvements and promote local issues

Q6 The Police have been strong supporters of Connecting People-Connecting Places. What other stakeholders have supported the project?
Connecting People Connecting Places is not just a Council initiative, this is a partnership for all public service providers, which includes partners from both the private sector and the community/voluntary sectors.

Q7 Does the initiative reduce the role of ward Councillors?
Connecting People, Connecting Places as mentioned above is placing ward members at the centre of the process, which will help increase role of ward members as we move away from the wholly Cabinet structure of the Council.

Q8 How can residents influence Council policy on things that directly affect them?
I would suggest that local people feed their concerns to their ward members, some communities have been developing a community/neighbourhood strategy helping to articulate local issues.  Also local community groups can come together and say we can do this, how can this be facilitated/supported.

Q9 It is easy to concentrate on things that go wrong,  do you have plans to support the good things about living in Swindon?
We always try and celebrate success and positive outcomes, we will use our pathways to promote this, we would also welcome other networks to promote and celebrate success.  I would welcome community thoughts on how this may be improved

Q10 Finally in 5 years time what do personally hope to see develop from Connecting People Connecting Places initiative?
Hopefully the name Connecting People, Connecting Places will not mean much to people, I would hope it is embedded in our services and community and it is just the normal way of being for us all.

Back Garden
Thank you Mark

Local democracy and the recession

An extract from Sean’s Cluster blog. If you haven’t already done so sign up to his blog to receive emails when new material is posted, and of course do that with this blog too!

“If you saw the local paper last week, you’ll understand that SBC is currently in a bit of a spin.

For the whole week, there were a series of talks in the Wyvern theatre for council staff, delivered by the CEO and the Chief Finance Officer Stuart McKellar –and the message was quite grim. For all the efficiency cuts that have already taken place, when central government announces the amount of the annual grant it gives Swindon in the Autumn, it is likely to be far, far less that what has already braced itself for. In essence, SBC has the next year to come up with a way to do what it does now, but for much less money.

To this, Leader of the Council Cllr Rhod Bluh and Deputy Leader Cllr Gary Perkins, spoke of ‘One Swindon’. This is talked to be new mid-term strategy for the council, and one to replace the 50 promises. The relevance here, to this particular blog/catch-up is the way that Connecting People Connecting Places is lined up to be the method of delivery for this idea. For more on Swindon Swindon Cabinet Report 21-7-10 given to cabinet”