Agenda item

Community Fora (Agenda item 10)

Report of the Deputy Chief Executive.

Minutes:

The Member Development & Scrutiny Officer presented the report.

 

The report drew Members’ attention to Community Fora and the Task Forces that had been established.

 

The initial Community Forum in the District had been established in Thetford in 2008, followed by one in Attleborough earlier this year.  The intention behind the establishment of these Fora was to institute area based working through community focus.

 

The issue surrounding these arrangements was the role of the Fora and Task Forces; how they fitted into the existing Breckland meetings and informal groups were unclear. 

 

The introduction of the Councillor Call for Action might be seen as another route which partly duplicated the work of the Fora.

 

The Task Force meetings were not open to the public but partner/agency attendance had been consistently good since their formation.  It was intended that further community fora be rolled out to the three remaining towns in the District (Swaffham, Dereham and Watton) by the end of this year.

 

Was the format of the Fora and Task Forces – which were essentially the same in both Attleborough and Thetford – the optimum approach?  A “one size fits all” arrangement might be challengeable and different models adopted elsewhere might be worthy of consideration.

 

Were the range of representatives from agencies on the Task Forces appropriate or complete, and were the voting arrangements reasonable?

 

The Member Development and Scrutiny Officer felt that now would be a good opportunity to look at what the Task Forces had achieved and review these bodies before the others being planned were rolled out.

 

The Chairman believed that there would be three more fora introduced in the near future.  This was an opportunity to look at best practice and try to bring together all these various strands to the benefit of the community.

 

The Sustainable Communities Manager stated that it would be advisable for Members to establish what was working and what was not working in Thetford and Attleborough before the Council rolled out any more.  Both Task Forces were always well attended but had no delegated powers or budgets.  He provided details of the membership and who could be invited, and also highlighted the successes made by them.

 

He agreed that there was a need to look at links with Scrutiny and the Councillor Call for Action.

 

A Member expressed his concern about rural areas not having any connection with the towns and believed that it would be a good idea to have some kind of rural forum.   He mentioned the area committees that Inspire East had set up and felt that it would be a good idea to have a chat about getting something up and running for rural areas sooner rather than later.  In response, it was agreed that the Sustainable Communities Manager would look at what Inspire East had done to address such communities.

 

A Member was unsure where these organisations sat and how matters from these fora were reported back to Breckland Council.  The Sustainable Communities Manager said that he would check whether the Minutes were sent out to the press and public. 

 

The Chairman felt that the above questions were appropriate.  He explained that the Moving Thetford Forward Board was a very wide ranging organisation that had a huge amount of work to do with having Growth Point status.  However, this type of organisation was not going to be needed in other market towns.   The Task Forces consisted of elected members who should be able to drive policies through.  The Task Forces or the Councillor Call for Action did not have and would not have any budgets.  The issues came from single interest groups: for example the Thetford Task Force was set up in response to a public meeting called by the Thetford Society, and the Attleborough Task Force started with a small number of land owners.  The Thetford public had become involved and improvements had occurred as a result.  He felt that if the Council was considering moving forward with the three remaining market towns then it should have a member led group to work with officers and consider the local issues in which of the towns was chosen next.  The towns relied upon the villages surrounding them so these should not be ignored. 

 

It was agreed that a Task & Finish Group should be set up to look at the issues surrounding these fora.  The membership should consist of one member of the Overview & Scrutiny Commission and a wider invitation be sent out to two non-executive members.

 

RESOLVED that

 

(1)         a Task & Finish Group be set up to undertake a full and formal scrutiny review of the arrangements concerning Community Fora and Task Forces in the round;

 

(2)         Mrs. S.M. Matthews be appointed as a member of the Group; and

 

(3)         the Member Development and Scrutiny Officer be authorised to invite nominations from two non-executive Members of the Council to complete the  membership of the Task & Finish Group.

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