Joint Press Release from Devon County Council and High Bickington Community Property Trust
A Boundary Committee Submission from the MCTi Partnerships of Mid Devon posts 22 Sept 2008
Submission of the Mid Devon MCTi groups to the Boundary Committee in response to their consultation beginning 7.7.08
I write on behalf of the Mid Devon Market Coastal Towns Partnerships and Groups.
Within the proposals put forward by the Boundary Committee in July, we strongly favour a unitary Devon over the subsidiary proposal for two unitaries (Exeter-Exmouth and the rest of Devon). We feel that there are substantial additional financial costs and significant adjustments in working practice both in the changeover to a two unitary authority and in the future administrative costs of running two unitary authorities compared with the costs and adjustments required for a single unitary authority for Devon. Devon County Council already provide 85% of the services to local communities.
We also feel that there is a symbiosis between Exeter and the remainder of Devon (economic, organisational and social) that is of mutual benefit to both parts and which would be lost if the two unitary solution were taken forward. Much of the voluntary sector is supported on a county wide basis, with local groups tailoring their work to the needs of the local community.
If the single unitary proposal becomes a reality, local community groups developed in association with the MCTi process together with other established community groups in the locality have much to offer in assisting the development of Community Boards and most particularly Community Forums. It is this area of the main proposal that most closely concerns us, and we are keen to ensure that these would be truly inclusive of local communities.
We feel that much work needs to be done to ensure that this aspect of the proposals has real effect at the local level, taking into account that the capacity of local community groups to assist with or lead will vary from one area to another. Our market town partnerships would actively wish to be involved with the development of these proposals in the run up to the changeover should this happen.
The local MCTi groups are currently represented and active on the Mid Devon LSP supporting local projects that bring practical local community benefits. We would like to see a clear intention in the proposals for Community Boards and Community Forums that Market Town Partnerships and associated Social Enterprise groups are included in the detailed proposals to develop Community Boards and Community Forums and would undertake to work actively to ensure that these are inclusive and reflect local community needs and wishes.
The view from here….
The Devon Towns Forum
Community led Planning whether we are thinking about Market Towns, Parishes or other Communities is simply about people coming together in an organised way to help shape the places in which they live and work. However, this requires a lot of joined up thinking and commitment not only on the part of individuals within a community, but also from the agencies and supporting organisations like the Devon Towns Forum.
With the completion of the Market and Coastal Towns Initiative and the winding-up of the Market and Coastal Towns Association in June this year the Devon Towns Forum will continue to offer a dedicated network for all of Devon’s Market Town Partnerships and their hinterland. In fact a key role for the Forum over the next three years will be to support engagement between the partnerships, the agencies and in particular with each of the Local Strategic Partnerships.
In addition to helping support these important links the Forum will, of course, continue to provide its established range of services including: its conferences, seminars and training opportunities; all of which incidentally are provided free to Devon’s Community Partnerships and their supporters.
The Forum believe that by working closely with partners like the Community Council of Devon, Devon County Council, the Devon Association of Parish and Town Councils, Devon Renaissance and the Devon Rural Network, to name but a few, we are able to complement the work of our partner organisations without duplicating services and remain efficient, flexible and extremely cost effective.
Today, the Devon Towns Forum recognises that it is just one part of a much larger team that exists to help and support all recognised forms of Community led Planning. Although the Forums roots can be traced to the early days of the Market and Coastal Towns Initiative, things have now moved on and we welcome anyone engaged in Community led Planning to use any of our services or attend our events.
In fact well over a thousand people from every part of Devon have already benefited directly from the Forums services ranging from: Conferences, Seminars, Funding Advisor Training, Provision of Websites and Webmaster Training, Sponsorship and much more. Recently the Forum has supported a renewed focus on Devon’s Coastal Towns through a joint partnership initiative called Creative Coasts; which is already producing excellent results.
The Devon Towns Forum is a user led organisation employing one part-time facilitator and is managed by a dedicated Board made up of members drawn from Community Partnerships who also act as local area representatives. Currently based on the district areas of Devon, the Forums Area Representatives will help the different partnerships and groups keep in touch and support engagement and representation with each of the Local Strategic Partnerships.
A main event in our calendar is the AGM and Reception. This years special guests included Stephen Wright MBE Regional Director of the South West Acre Network who spoke of the need to value Community led Planning and Cllr. Brian Greenslade, Leader of Devon County Council who referred to new challenges and opportunities such as the proposed development of Community Boards based on the 28 Market Towns across Devon and the ongoing need for Communities to engage with the agencies as part of that process.
The Forum also recognise the need for Communities to keep their Plans up-to-date and register them on the new Communities in Action database specially set up for Devon’s Community Plans and Projects to be seen by the widest possible audience. So, whatever administrative arrangements are developed the Devon Towns Forum will help to ensure the product of Community led Planning is available and used to its best effect.
The Devon Towns Forum is supported by the South West Regional Development Agency and Devon County Council to assist Devon’s Community led Planning Partnerships and to work with other organisations and agencies. The Forum is also part of the newly formed South West Market and Coastal Towns Network and works at every level to influence and promote the work of Community led Planning Partnerships. Why not check out the Forums Website from time to time and to be sure you are making the most of Devon’s Market Town Forum you can also register your contact details for automatic up-dates, information about special offers and news of our events.
For more information contact our the Devon Towns Forum facilitator Paul Delahoy on 01805 624874 or e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or check out our website at www.devontownsforum.org.uk
Honiton MCTi Chairman is voted Citizen of the Year 2006 by the Rotary Club of HONITON
The award is in recognition of Bob’s devotion to the best interests of Honiton, now and in the future, and his tireless work to achieve those interests.
Bob became Vice Chairman then Vice President of Honiton’s Chamber of Commerce and recognised the future value to the town that the Market and Coastal Towns Initiative (MCTi) could bring and enthusiastically pursued this.
As Chairman of the MCTi Steering Group he led the activities up to the production of the Honiton Strategic Plan. He is now Chairman of the Honiton Development Trust which, as the successor to the MCTi Steering Group and will continue with the implementation of the plan.
Bob also chairs the Honiton Joint Police Action Group and is Vice Chairman of the Devon Towns Forum.
The Rotary Club of Honiton recognises that Bob Buxton is a great example of the Rotary Moto of Service Above Self and on behalf of all at the Devon Towns Forum we couldn’t agree more; well done Bob.
Making Assets Work
Information from the Quirk review of community management and ownership of public assets
Posted by The Devon Heartlands Community Development Trust
Much is said about the need to develop a sustainable Community Asset and the Quirk report on the transfer assets to Community Ownership makes interesting reading. The following article was submitted by DTF members from the Devon Heartlands Community Development Trust in Okehampton:
The Quirk Review was launched at Burton Street Project (a development trust in Sheffield) on 15 May 2007.
In his report, Barry Quirk, the local government ‘efficiency champion’, provides encouragement to can-do town halls and community groups. He says there are no substantive barriers, that risks can be managed, and that when asset transfer is done properly the benefits outweigh the risks.
He recommends a major programme of awareness raising and capacity-building, and also recommends that councils and other public bodies take a more corporate approach to their overall asset portfolio and their relationships with the community sector.
He does not recommend new legislation, along the lines of the Community Right to Buy that exists in Scotland, at this stage, and he does not make recommendations on the level of finance required. Nevertheless, DTA believes that this is a landmark report which will boost transfer of assets to communities in the coming months and years.
At the DTA conference in September 2006 Ruth Kelly announced a review to identify barriers to greater asset transfer from local authorities and other public bodies to the community sector, and to find ways to overcome any barriers that were identified.
Ruth Kelly promised that the review would consult with agencies such as DTA and report to herself and Ed Miliband, in time to influence the recommendations of the three year comprehensive spending review.
Barry Quirk, Chief Executive of Lewisham Council and the local government ‘efficiency champion’, was appointed to lead the review. The other members of the review team were Stephen Thake from London Metropolitan University, and Andrew Robinson from CCLA Investment Management (and also a DTA Special Advisor).
The main conclusions are as follows:
The public benefit needs to be clear
‘Assets are used in service of an array of social, community and public purposes. Any sale or transfer of public assets to community ownership and management needs to realise social or community benefits without risking wider public interest concerns and without community purposes becoming overly burdened with asset management.‘
Benefits can outweigh risks
‘The benefits of community management and ownership of public assets can outweigh the risks and often the opportunity costs in appropriate circumstances.’
Risks can be minimised and managed
‘There are risks but they can be minimised and managed – there is plenty of experience to draw on. The secret is all parties working together. This needs political will, managerial imagination and a more business focused approach from the public and community sectors.’
Ownership brings greater responsibility but also greater freedom to exploit the potential of assets
‘The stake that community-led organisations have in particular assets extends from short-term management agreements, through to leasehold ownership on leases of varying lengths and freehold ownership. It also stretches from small volunteer-run village halls and community centres to multi-million pound, multi-purpose community enterprises. We recognised that the greater the stake, the greater the financial and legal responsibility the organisation takes on, but also the greater the freedom to exploit the asset’s potential.’
There are no substantive barriers
‘If there is a rational and thorough consideration of these risks and opportunity costs, there are no substantive impediments to the transfer of public assets to communities. It can be done, indeed it has been done legitimately and successfully in very many places.’
The key recommendations are:
“The publication of comprehensive, up-to-date and authoritative guidance on all aspects of local authority asset management, including within it detailed and explicit guidance on the transfer of assets to community management and ownership.”
“The publication of a toolkit for local authorities and other public bodies on risk assessment and risk management in asset transfer to communities.”
More access to expert advice
“Much greater access for local authorities and community organisations to expert advice and organisational development support relating particularly to the transfer and management by communities of land and buildings.”
“The smarter investment of public funds designated for community-led asset-based developments, where permissible, through the involvement of specialist financial intermediaries with expertise in the field and the ability to achieve high leverage ratios.”
“A major campaign to spread the word, through seminars, roadshows, training, use of the media, online and published information, and the dissemination of good practice, as well as promotion of “bottom up mechanisms” such as the proposed Community Call for Action and the Public Request to Order Disposal (PROD) scheme.”
“It makes sense for local authorities to develop a strategy for the use of their assets which is corporate across the local authority, and integrated with other public bodies locally, including particularly the National Health Service, the police and the third sector, as well as, where appropriate, approaching this task is through area property reviews, focusing either on a locality or on a particular type of asset. An important example of this could be for local authorities to work in partnership with the local third sector on a strategy for meeting the sector’s asset needs.”
The government will be launching its implementation plan, in response to the review, at the DTA symposium on 22 May in London.
The DTA has strongly welcomed the review. At a stroke it has demolished the excuses of do-nothing bureaucrats who have pretended for years that they do not have the powers, or that risks are too high, or that community asset ownership is not in the public interest. At the same time the report gives hope to those in town halls everywhere with a can-do attitude.
To place land and buildings in community hands is to provide the means for people to create profound and long term transformation in their neighbourhood. This is what community empowerment is really about. If anyone still doubts this they only have to look at our development trust members - we have £350m of assets in community ownership, driving change from the bottom up
An English version of the ‘community right to buy’ legislation that exist in Scotland is not recommended at this stage. This is a disappointment, but the review leaves the door open, acknowledging that ‘this might need to be revisited in the future in the light of experience’.
The review avoids a recommendation on the level of finance required, although it quotes the DTA’s estimate that an investment of £150m would lead to an additional accumulation of £500m of assets in community ownership in the next few years. The DTA believes that the £30m Community Asset Fund announced by the Cabinet Office and which will be launched by the Big Lottery Fund in the Autumn 2007 is a good start, but only a start, and that much more substantial investment will be needed in the spending review if the potential of the Quirk Review is to be fully realised.
Hugh Rolo email@example.com
Tony Rich firstname.lastname@example.org
Steve Wyler email@example.com
Visit the DTA website for case studies and other information www.dta.org.uk
16 May 2007
 In the 2007 elections in Scotland the three leading political parties all gave manifesto commitments aimed at extending asset transfer from rural areas such as the Highland and Islands to urban areas as well – indeed the Labour party promised a consultation on extending the legislation.