A public consultation on the development of Local Community Networks (LCNs) launched this week. It will run for six weeks until Monday October 17th 2022. I’ve put together some key points, which I hope helps lead you into the consultation process.
LCNs will be Committees of the new unitary Somerset Council, with formal decision-making powers and influence. They’ll be supported by dedicated officers and managers.
It has been proposed that LCNs will meet six to eight times a year, with locally led groups pursuing their goals between meetings.
LCNs will influence the budgets and policies of the Council. The new administration will continue to review budget options to strengthen the ability of LCNs to support fairer, greener and flourishing communities in Somerset.
Assets and services cannot be devolved to LCNs as LCNs are Committees and are part of the Somerset Council. Where Town, City and Parish Councils and local communities wish to take on council assets or services, because it makes good sense to do so, this can be considered, and LCNs could be a forum for facilitating this discussion.
In-person engagement sessions will be advertised on the LCN consultation website. However I can highlight: 22nd September: 10-4pm, Mendip District Council for my Mendip South Communities.
As part of the online consultation survey (you will need to register and log in), you will see 3 options.
Proposal A would have 18 LCNs
Proposal B would have 17 LCNs
Proposal C would have 10 LCNs
To help assess the proposals, we looked at a range of factors, to enable comparisons to be drawn. We tried to think about where people live, work, go to school and access services including health. In all cases we kept to parish outlines as close as possible. The things we considered:
• Population – we looked at how balanced the population numbers were in each LCN, how important or not is it that they have similar numbers of residents in each area
• Geographies – how similar in size of area they were, and their distribution/spread across Somerset
• Electoral Divisions – the number of Unitary Electoral divisions, and how they split within, and across, LCN boundaries
• Deprivation – using indices of multiple deprivation, we looked at how the most and least deprived areas were distributed
• Community Facilities, e.g. Libraries – we looked at where these were situated
• Health – fit of Primary Care Network (PCN) boundaries to LCN boundaries (PCNs are explained further down in the FAQs)
• Secondary School Catchment Areas – we checked how these were split in relation to LCNs, recognising schools are often at the heart of communities
• Travel to Work Area – we looked at their alignment to LCN areas
• Current Local Plan Geographies – we looked at their alignment to LCN areas
Some of the potential roles are outlined here:
• A Local forum which provides a time for discussion, listening and a mechanism for action, consultation and oversight. A community voice.
• Bring together Somerset Council, partners including Health, Police, Parish/Town and City Councils, voluntary organisations and communities to work together to achieve local ambitions and improve outcomes for residents.
• Identify local issues and priorities through the use of data and evidence.
• Act as committees of Somerset Council, providing a local contact point for areas.
• Promote active community decision making, provide a focus for local engagement and a way to engage all people.
• A forum for engaging with council processes through new digital means.
• Explore how best to support Planning and Licensing decision-making.
• Provide information to support Asset of Community Value panels, which consider applications to give communities rights to buy or bid for council-owned assets, such as buildings or land, should they be offered for sale.
• Access to and administration of local grants.
• Enabling local activities which reduce the number of residents reaching crisis, in any form.
• Promote and prioritise minor highways road maintenance and services at a local level.
• Supporting Parishes to work together including across LCN boundaries
The new Council Executive believes in enabling local decision-making and is prepared to put planning and licensing back on the table for discussion as our Local Community Networks develop after vesting day.