It has been announced that the Community Right to Challenge will come into force on 27 June.
Under the Right, ‘relevant authorities’ (which applies to all local authorities) must consider expressions of interest by ‘relevant bodies’ – voluntary and community bodies, organisations set up for solely charitable purposes, parish councils, and by two or more employees of the local authority.
As DCLG say, this will allow people to drive improvement in their local services.
To connect all these acts of localism, the Department has started mapping ‘local projects that are making a real difference and keeping much-loved assets such as community pubs, local shops and post offices alive’. The map can be seen below.
View Communities in action – great examples of people getting things done in a larger map
About the map, Communities Minister Andrew Stunell says “The Communities in Action map will help by giving community groups, neighbourhood councils and others the opportunity to showcase what they do and provide inspiration to those who want to get more involved or to solve a problem in their area.”
The map is a good example of how online tools can help connect people and ideas. It is also supported by a new website communityrights.communities.gov.uk which will add a bit more convention and structure to the examples.
This is one part of what we at LGiU are calling Connected Localism.
We realise that across the country there many case studies and examples of local authorities doing innovative things.
The challenge, and one we are currently working with our members to solve, is how to bring these ideas, experiences, insights, lessons and results together so we can all learn from what has and hasn’t worked before.
Data mapping isn’t the complete solution, but these more digital-first, interactive efforts are certainly a step in the right direction.
**Update** On a similar line, a bunch of residents have set up the portaspilots.com website. It is an “unofficial record produced by us, residents of these places, about how the Portas Pilots have changed the places we love – and how that experience could help other places”.
For more information on how DCLG are looking to use new digital tools to improve their communications and interaction check out this interview I did with George Eykyn, Director of Communications, Department for Communities and Local Government.
On the new Right itself, LGiU published a member briefing last week. it concludes that
It is too early to judge whether the community right to challenge will have a major impact. There are of course immediate practical implications. Some local authorities may already be considering how to manage forthcoming procurement processes, bearing in mind that expressions of interest are possible in specific sectors. Others may be cautious about defining services that risk fragmentation if subjected to a number of differing expressions of interest. On the other hand, organisations that might be expected to submit expressions of interest are no doubt making a reality check on the implications for their own future and for the future of local services.
Process and policy issues may be better managed by setting a timescale for particular services, and allow councils to retain control of the agenda, although this has its own pitfalls. Some local government commentators have expressed concern about the administrative burden of mapping out services and preparing to process expressions of interest. Councils will certainly need to line up legal expertise and training for commissioning staff in service areas. Protocols and policy guidance will be useful. It may also be worthwhile ensuring procurement teams are briefed, as new obligations to have regard to social considerations will apply through all stages.
Though these are important issues, the regulations and guidance raise some more fundamental questions which are as yet unresolved.
LGiU members can access briefing on lgiu.org.uk.