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Localities set to lose funds and its chiefs
THE number of lead officers in a project giving ward councillors and communities more power in decision-making could be slashed in a dramatic U-turn by Swindon Council.
The seven Locality areas comprise councillors from two or three wards who set their own priorities and decide in consultation with the community how to spend their share of cash devolved from existing budgets.
In 2012/13, Localities had about £500,000 to spend in grassroots and neighbourhood grants, highways improvements, and Streetsmart operational hours, with achievements including the new pedestrian island on Kingshill and plans for a road safety scheme in Lansdown Road, Old Town.
Swindon Council agreed a Lib Dem motion last month to reduce the planned cut in the £800,000 Localities budget by £61,000 to “ensure seven Locality lead posts remain and that these posts are linked to the existing Localities”.
However, the special committee – a cross-party group of olitical leaders – will be asked on Monday to agree to clarify this “as the intention is simply that each of the seven Localities have a designated Locality lead, rather than there be seven separate individuals designated as Locality lead officers.”
The council is consulting staff to restructure Localities and says the changes to the team, including the redundancy of Matt Gott, board director localities, will save £339,000.
Plans suggest that there will be 4.5 full-time equivalent Locality leads aligned to the council’s strategic projects, including the adults demand change programme, the strengthening families change programme, the Streetsmart change programme, and the economic growth, and leisure, libraries and culture change programmes.
Coun Russell Holland, cabinet member for Localities, said: “We had the funding cuts, we had to go through a redundancy consultation process so what’s happening exactly is being finalised still.
“If we reduce the number of leads, they would have to cover a slightly bigger geographical area but the actual effect for each area won’t be significant. It was never intended to be completely rigid.”
Coun Jim Grant, the Labour group leader, said: “What we would be looking for long-term is to have Localities as the non-parished areas of Swindon, the Locality leads for them, and for the parished areas to have their Locality leads as the parish clerk with perhaps support from the borough. So we are flexible at the moment how we go forward with Locality leads.”
But Coun Dave Wood, the deputy Lib Dem group leader, said: “No-one has said it can be done differently in a way that could deliver the same level of service.
“Until such time as I’ve been convinced of that, I think we have to keep seven different people to seven different roles.”