Conference explores ways of getting South Lakes communities more involved in local decision making

The Westmorland Gazette: Speakers at the Grange conference Speakers at the Grange conference

MORE than 60 delegates have contributed to a conference which explored ways of giving people a greater role in the delivery of local services.

The conference, held today in Grange-over-Sands, heard from community leaders how people living in South Lakeland can get more involved in local decision making.

Representatives from eight Local Area Partnerships (LAPs) from across South Lakeland were invited to the conference, held in Grange's Victoria Hall.

Speakers included SLDC leader Coun Peter Thornton, Dr Hugh Reeve of the South Lakeland Clinical Commissioning Group and Insp Paul Latham of Kendal Neighbourhood Policing Team.

They spoke of the challenges facing all services, from those delivered by local authorities to health and policing, due to tightening budgets and the need to be doing ‘more with less’.

They said it was therefore important for communities to understand and identify key issues and priorities in their local area that the LAPs could proactively tackle, either with support from other agencies or by developing their own projects.

Key note speaker Coun Sir Stephen Houghton, leader of Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council, told delegates that LAPs could help to encourage joint working and participation on local priorities.

He said it was important for local representatives to look at an ‘alternative version’ of how councils can work alongside the community to meet local needs.

The conference also heard from case study speakers who had been involved in successful projects in north Cumbria.

Dr Jim Cox of the Northern Fells Group explained how the organisation provided solutions ranging from lunch groups to village agents who negotiated reduced price heating oil deliveries for isolated communities.

Shirley Muir of Aspatria Rural Partnership described how the group had developed an action plan to tackle aims ranging from protecting the environment to promoting local tourism attractions, and Andy Lloyd, Community Land Trust Officer for Cumbria Rural Housing Trust, talked about how they had recently completed a scheme of 11 affordable homes in Keswick.

SLDC Leader Peter Thornton, said: “In the next 20 years local government will not be the same – it’s going to change. LAPs can be incredibly powerful things. Parishes need to speak up with once voice, they need to come together to get the money they need to deliver local services.

“LAPs can identify key requirements in their area and then come to the district council and we can help support them to access funding and advice to help deliver those requirements. “We are happy to look at any proposals or ideas brought forward.’’

The conference concluded with a lively question and answer session followed by group discussions.

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