Article date: 12 October 2017
Reading time: 7 minutes
Welcome to the third and final article in my trilogy covering Bexhill's important Community Governance Review. Granted, I can't say this trilogy will stir up excitement levels similar to movie trilogies like The Dark Knight or The Lord of the Rings. Nor can I promise that this particular article will give the nail-biting intensity of an episode of Game Of Thrones / Love Island (delete as appropriate)....
I’ve already written in depth about the Community Governance Review and why I believe that a Town Council could be a great thing for Bexhill. However, the word coming out of the review so far is that they want to engage more young people to have their say. And so, this article will look at what a Town Council might be able to do for its younger residents.
I appreciate that the words Community Governance Review might sound about as exciting to you as being invited to a Barry Manilow concert by your Aunt Maureen. However, stick with me and let me show you why this review brings opportunities and why young people should seize this chance to get involved. And at the end, you can then choose if you want to participate in the quick survey... or sit on the iron throne / re-couple. (for anyone who hasn't seen Game of Thrones or Love Island, these options won't make any sense!)
Let me begin with a question...
This is a reasonable question to ask. It's sometimes easy to feel disconnected from everything going on around you. Perhaps you feel like you don't have much of a stake in society. However, it is often when you feel strongly about something that it becomes interesting and opens up new opportunities for creative thinking. You are important and you can make a difference.
When you look at some of the great achievements being made for young people by Town and Parish Councils up and down the country, I’d suggest it’s worth spending a few moments to think about it. Young Bexhillians have an opportunity to decide whether they want to embrace the new powers being handed down to Town Councils by the government, to push forward with ideas for improving the town and to help save services they care about. This is a chance to make your voice heard.
Let’s look at some examples of the great work done by Town and Parish Councils around the country for their young people.
Frome’s Town Council has recognised the importance of working with and supporting its young community. They work in partnership with Frome College to deliver an apprenticeship program. Alongside that, they hold Youth Conferences and commission activities in parks and open spaces to help them better understand the needs and desires of young people. Frome Town Council also produced an in-depth report in order to recommend areas of funding specifically to protect important services and activities and to maintain the development of a youth voice in decisions that affect the young. (ref)
Take a look at Frome Active and you will see a shining example of how a Town Council can support activities for young people in and around their town.
Helston Town Council (Cornwall) was recently awarded runner-up in the National Association of Local Councils' 2016 Star Awards. Why? Well, it was commented that “Helston Town Council’s activities were a shining example of the direction taken by many local councils in looking to move beyond their traditional service delivery boundaries. Helston is the first local council in the country that has worked closely with Jobcentre Plus to support unemployed people in their community.”
Helston Town Council led a community-based programme to give jobseekers connections and support to take control of their future. It has proven so successful that it is being copied in other areas of their county.
In addition to this, Helston Town Council has been able to give small grant funding (something a Town Council can do) to important local clubs and organisations such as their Arts & Science Trust, Athletic Youth Football Club, local Foodbank and more. (ref)
The work of Falmouth Town Council was recognised in Westminster recently. They took on local services to save them being lost, developing an economic plan. In doing so, they helped save Falmouth Library, the public toilets, CCTV and youth services. (ref)
You may or may not be aware of the current issues surrounding the skateparks in Bexhill. They are falling into disrepair and are in desperate need of renovation.
In 2008, Syston town council engaged the youth of Syston in order to put forward plans for a skatepark. It is worthy of note that funding for the skatepark and the multi-use games area didn’t end up coming from local tax payers' pockets. Instead, it was generated from funds paid by developers to support community projects in exchange for planning permission (known as section 106 monies) and grant money from the likes of the Big Lottery Fund. (ref) They have since gone on to extend the skatepark and fund the further development of an old BMX track (ref)
Syston town council’s skatepark is not the only example out there. Desborough town council worked in conjunction with partners to develop a new £125,000 skatepark. (ref)
Sevenoaks Town Council has delivered numerous projects which have a strong social and economic impact, including establishing a job club to tackle unemployment; a youth café; supporting the town partnership Business Show and saving and reinvigorating the Stag Theatre as a local Community arts venue. (ref)
I could go into many more case studies of this type. These are examples that are replicated around the country - from maintaining and improving youth services to securing funding to refurbish and maintain playgrounds, playing fields, sports equipment, pools and parks. Indeed, there are many shining examples of Town Councils who pro-actively focus on setting up or supporting youth hubs or youth clubs.
It is important to note that a Town Council won't replace our district council. It will simply sit in a tier below it, taking over a number of the services that Rother District Council currently undertakes as well as exploring new opportunities.
Town and Parish Councils don't have to be weighed down with restrictions or statutory duties as a unitary authority does. In a sense, this allows it to focus on the "nice-to-have" things, such as those featured in the case studies above. For example, you might consider it a nice addition to have a bus service that goes to and from Bexhill and Sidley after seven o'clock. At the moment, comments suggest that young people often find themselves walking back from town in the dark in the evenings. So, perhaps a community bus service could be looked into.
It is important that we attempt to better connect and engage with Bexhill's younger generation and I believe their input should be highly valued within the future governance of our town. With the closures and states of disrepair of many activities that Bexhill's young people have come to enjoy over the years - the bowling alley, skatepark and Sidley Sports Ground, amongst others, now is the perfect time for young people to find their voice and work with us towards a better future for the town.
Everyone of any age, whether living or working in Bexhill, is able to express their preference. Click on the 'vote now' button below to go directly to Rother District Council's survey (it takes only 2 minutes to complete). Should you wish to vote for a Town Council, choose option two.
If you would like to read more about what each of the options entails, click the image below. This article has received positive comments from local councillors of all political parties.
Written by Alastair Hazell
With thanks to Jessica Lancod-Frost, Sam Coleman and numerous others.
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