Reaching the hearts of herefordshire


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Reaching the hearts of herefordshire

  1. 1. Reaching the heartsof HerefordshireRestoring confidence in rural democracy
  2. 2. Contents4 Introduction5 Foreword6 Executive summary7 The politics of place10 A simple method14 Local politicians listening to the heart of their community16 Communities totally at the heart of their place18 Public service managers listening with their hearts20 Rural solutions to rural challenges22 Restoring confidence in rural democracy24 Conclusion25 Places for real: Appendix 128 What works and what doesn’t: Appendix 2
  3. 3. ForewordTackling the unprecedented national debt will be a hugechallenge for all public services for years to come.Effective engagement with local communities of interacting with the people we represent.will be crucial in the nation’s recovery.We are facing a crisis of confidence in Devolving power to local authorities isour political system. An imbalance of only half the story. There is now a greaterresponsibility and power between ‘Whitehall’ expectation than ever before for councils toand local authorities needs to be addressed make sure they are listening to and acting onby moving decision-making and influence the wishes of local people. That’s the local communities. Shifting power in this The Herefordshire approach puts localway is an essential change because we councillors at the heart of the engagementknow many people have a desire to get process. It is essential that public services,involved at a local level to affect and shape the community and the voluntary sectorthe things that matter to them. Centrally join forces to tackle local issues together.inspired solutions and diktats often fail to Through this approach, we hope to learndeliver where it matters – on the ground, even more about councillors’ connection withwhich is understandable – how could central communities and what matters to them.bureaucrats possibly know more about whatis happening in a community’s back yard Bob Neill MPthan the community itself? Parliamentary Under Secretary of State Communities and Local GovernmentFor many people, local councillors arethe first point of contact with services andtherefore it is with them that we have thefirst opportunity to demonstrate what realengagement and involvement can achieve.Up and down the country I have comeacross some fantastic examples of councilsand councillors effectively involvingtheir communities in the running of theirneighbourhoods. We are already good atunderstanding, supporting and representingpeople. Nevertheless, we should always beready and prepared to learn about new ways4 Reaching the hearts of Herefordshire
  4. 4. IntroductionHerefordshire’s residents are rightly proud embarked on the Reaching the hearts ofof their towns, villages and hamlets, each Herefordshire programme.of which has its own unique history andrich traditions. Like all rural communities, Councillor Roger Phillipspeople here are resourceful and have always Leader, Herefordshire Councilknown and supported their neighbours.The best councillors know most people andmost of the things that are going on, butoften find it hard to make practical thingshappen. We find ourselves faced with urbansolutions that often don’t meet the real ruralchallenges in housing, planning, transportand infrastructure.With the reputation of national politics andconfidence in public services at an all-timelow and the need to make drastic spendingcuts at the forefront of politicians’ minds,the connection with our communitieshas never been more important. Publicservices in Herefordshire are well-placedwhen it comes to these connections. Forexample, Herefordshire Council and NHSHerefordshire (the local primary caretrust) are pioneering closer partnershipworking, with a single chief executive,integrated senior management and excellentrelationships with other public service,community and voluntary sector partners.Local councillors need both ambition andsupport if they are to make localism evenmore effective: ambition to reach sharedsolutions with their communities for whatare inherently rural issues; and supportfrom public service managers to makethis happen. It was with this aim that we Reaching the hearts of Herefordshire 5
  5. 5. Executive summaryReaching the hearts of The approach to the programme was simple and consistent. The process need take noHerefordshire longer than ten weeks from beginning to end. The themes, which varied locally, included:Reaching the hearts of Herefordshire isa politically-led approach that connects • what can communities do to sustain rurallocal councillors with their communities. enterprise?Politicians are of their place, recognisethe resourcefulness of rural communities • how can we work together to achieveand know their electorate well. If given shared solutions?support they can work with local community • how can we create a thriving community forleaders to save money and to convene young people?public services around what matters most Reaching the hearts of Herefordshire hasin their communities – and in so doing already generated many solutions to therestore confidence in rural democracy and challenges faced by rural communities,strengthen local society. and these are now being developed. TheseMany of the Total Place pilots have focused on include investing in broadband infrastructure,thematic areas and involved political leaders celebrating volunteering, combiningand portfolio holders, which can leave other community and public service assets andcouncillors feeling disconnected. Democracy changes in how the council approachesthat is firmly rooted in the councillor’s place – housing, planning and transport.his or her ward – becomes every bit relevant As this document explains, if you areto citizens and communities. interested in using this approach yourThe focus of the programme was to purpose needs to be clear. You should alsostrengthen the fabric of local society through: expect resistance from all sides when youplacing councillors at the heart of the first start out – community trust is hard tocommunity; helping local public services, earn, and for good reason. Planning andthe community and the voluntary sector to celebration of what is already working will paywork together; empowering communities to off. Also note that communities are fed updo more for themselves; and encouraging with over-consultation, and that expectationspublic services, and crucially local people, to around more funding need to be managed.take practical action. By building a connected Mari Davis and Councillor John Lambnetwork of robust local societies at ward Advisers, Local Government Leadershiplevel we ultimately lay the foundations forsuccessful Big Society.6 Reaching the hearts of Herefordshire
  6. 6. The politics of placeWhen Herefordshire first embarked on makes service redesign a local reality thatReaching the hearts of Herefordshire there makes sense to those who are part of thatwas determination that it would take a community.Total Place approach. And a commitmentto ensuring it placed politics and local Why politics needs to be atcouncillors firmly at the centre of the initiative the centre of the approachrather than, as has happened in some areas,around the margins. The row over MPs’ expenses has damaged both the reputation of politicians and theTotal Place is an initiative that looks for ways public’s confidence in the political systemin which a whole-area approach to public more broadly. The fact that councillors wereservices can lead to service improvements not in any way a part of this debacle, whichand cost reductions. Redesigning public was a Westminster issue, has not preventedservices so that they work together in a the electorate from tarring us with the samedifferent way – with service users always at brush. The good news, however, is that localthe centre of things – can achieve efficiency politicians have a significant advantage overgains while making life easier for residents. their central government peers.To date, most pilot projects have taken athematic approach. This usually involvescouncil leaders and executive portfolioholders agreeing a strategic approach butunfortunately, this also excludes manyfrontline councillors, who are left with thefeeling that Total Place is distant from theplaces that they represent. It’s easy then forthem to feel disconnected from the initiativeand to see it as irrelevant to their work.But when Total Place starts with and isfirmly rooted in the places that councillorsrepresent, it becomes both relevant andincredibly valuable. Building it up from afoundation in frontline wards acknowledgescouncillors’ role at the heart of their localcommunities and galvanises that communityand the public services that support itto work together in a different way. This Reaching the hearts of Herefordshire 7
  7. 7. Local elected politicians stand at a crucially Many residents expect that councillorsimportant place in times like these. They can use council resources to fix particularhave one tremendous advantage over problems in their wards, but this onlynational politicians, which is that they are works so far. What we do know is thatfundamentally in and of their places in a in these wards – and particularly in ruralway that Westminster politicians rarely can wards – there is also an effective self-helpbe. Councillors live and work from day to infrastructure consisting of local people. Thisday among the people who elected them. presents a great opportunity. If politiciansThey do not spend the working week in the stop to think about the people who live andcapital, but in the villages and towns where work in their wards, they will start to seetheir voters do. They are not parachuted that there is a massive untapped resourcein through selection contests open to of expertise, ideas and the potential to getnational party activists, but are chosen things done. Very often the only thing that isfrom among local people who are active missing is someone to focus that potentialin their communities. Councillors share and bring people together as a potent forcethe experience of people who voted for for change; the local councillor should be thatthem. They are rarely full-time politicians; person.even among leaders of councils runningvery large organisations, it is common to How this approach changesfind teachers, community workers and the role of the councillorbusiness people who balance their politicalcommitments with a working day leading This approach changes the traditional roleordinary lives. The summit of their ambition of the local councillor into one that combinesis to lead and serve in their places, not that of facilitator, networker and fixer andto play on the distant Westminster stage. places him or her at the centre of communityThey are rooted in their places. They engagement. It provides frontline councillors,connect with what parents, entrepreneurs, some of whom feel that the cabinet modelNHS patients and care users feel about of governance leaves them with little to do,those places in a way that MPs and with satisfying opportunities to make a realministers with two (and more) homes and difference by championing or convening localworking lives do not. initiatives.Who’s in Charge? As an added benefit, ward councillors whoA manifesto for a new politics LGA, 2009 work closely with their communities will raise their political profiles and are likely to see their efforts rewarded at future elections.Local councillors come into contact with And it is not just individual councillors whovoters far more frequently than MPs do. will benefit politically from their hard work onThis gives them a great opportunity both to behalf of residents: it will also help to restorestay in touch with what people are thinking public confidence in politics. Given that localand to demonstrate why they came into government needs to attract more skilledpolitics in the first place – usually for the people to serve as councillors, demonstratingsimple reason that they wanted to make a just how effective a councillor can be is likelydifference. to help persuade other active community8 Reaching the hearts of Herefordshire
  8. 8. members to put their names forward forelection to office.On top of this, local councillors will also havethe opportunity to play a role in reducing thenational debt by cutting costs – somethingwhich local government will have to findever-more creative ways to do. Engaging thecommunity at ward level to help define whatreally matters to them and to identify ways ofdoing things differently and at no extra cost isthe way forward. Reaching the hearts of Herefordshire 9
  9. 9. A simple method -far-reaching consequencesOne of the most impressive and powerful Next, nominate a director or other seniorfeatures of Reaching the hearts of manager to support each place. He orHerefordshire is the way in which a simple, she will act as a liaison and ensure that allstraightforward process – summarised relevant services respond to any issueson page 13 – can have far-reaching raised during the programme duration. Youconsequences for the local community and should also identify learning facilitators –local democracy. Indeed, the entire process people from partner agencies who will listenneed take no longer than ten weeks from to the personal stories of people attendingbeginning to end. And, while it is important to events and feed what they have learnt intotake a consistent approach across different the system.locations, there is enough flexibility in theprogramme to allow the details to be adapted Identify a themeas required. The councillor or councillors should meetInitial conversations with the director and walk or drive around their chosen locality. This is an opportunityThe starting point will be scene-setting for councillors to share their knowledge of theconversations between the leader, cabinet, place, its people and its assets. It should alsoscrutiny, chief executive and management enable them to identify the theme or issueteam to agree the purpose and the scope that matters most in their community, as wellof the project. Having a clear, focused and as organisations and individual communityeasily-expressed purpose is critical to the leaders who would be willing to get involved.programmes overall success.The next stage involves discussions withpolitical group leaders, local partners andcommunity and voluntary sector agenciesin order to build mutual agreement. This isalso the time to encourage councillors fromall political parties to volunteer. Make surethey realise that they may have to work inpartnership with other councillors, as thelocations chosen for the programme will benatural communities that may not conform toward boundaries, which means that differentwards may be grouped into one place.10 Reaching the hearts of Herefordshire
  10. 10. Planning the first event The first eventThis first, small, group, will help with planning This should be held in the locality –the first event; they will also help to identify obviously – and will usually last for half aup to 50 invitees. Possible attendees could day. Conversations, which should be ledinclude representatives of the local chambers by the councillors and the director, couldof commerce; parish or town councillors; include: a celebration of what is working well;headteachers; local GPs or other healthcare the history of the community or an intereststaff; advice bureau representatives; and group; identifying the issues faced and whatpeople from the local information centre. solutions might be possible; agreeing actionsRepresentatives from relevant partner that can be taken together immediately; andagencies plus community and voluntary planning for conversations in the communitysector organisations working within and over the coming month.beyond the authority’s boundaries shouldalso be invited. Learning facilitators will be present to ensure that as many individual stories as possibleThis meeting, designed to plan the are heard and fed back into the process.first event, should be quite informal.The councillors, director and five or six It is critical that councillors and the directorcommunity leaders meet somewhere such keep a note of any immediate actions agreedas the village hall or a local pub to discuss at the event, and that they follow them upthe purpose and theme of the event. Groups appropriately.may well find that the original idea will berefined or even substantially changed at thisstage.The group should also identify the totalamount spent on the community by publicservices and voluntary organisations to makelinks between services and to start identifyingwhere public money could be spent moreeffectively. It is also useful to come up witha straightforward way to explain this to otherpeople – for example, a video can be veryeffective.Further planning meetings can be heldbefore the first event, if necessary. Reaching the hearts of Herefordshire 11
  11. 11. Conversations in the wider Moving forwardcommunity Build an ongoing conversation with theOver the following period, which can last up community by finding and agreeing ways into a month, community leaders and public which these local discussions can talk with a wide range of people For example, this might involve a small groupin the community. This could be organised of community leaders meeting regularly withthrough existing groups such sports clubs the councillors and the director to take theand parent and toddler groups, or held in specific theme forward and to ensure that theless formal settings such as the local shops, right actions are taken in the right markets and so forth. Ensure that As these conversations progress, considerpeople whose voices are not normally focusing on different themes and/or involvingheard get a say, for example by tapping different members of the community.into community leaders’ networks. Thedetail of the conversations will vary but all Finally, take everything that you have learntshould involve listening to a wide range of throughout the process and feed it back in toperspectives on what matters to people and the relevant public shared solutions might be developed.Planning the second eventDraw on the results of the first event and thecommunity conversations when planningthe second event. For example, you maychoose to invite different attendees, either toget different perspectives or to gain furtherinsight into issues raised at the first event.Second eventConversations could include: feedback onwhat has happened since the first event,including messages emerging from thewider community; the questions that needsolutions; and the identification of practicalactions, both short and longer term, that canbe taken forward together.12 Reaching the hearts of Herefordshire
  12. 12. A timescale for the process The four guiding principles of the process are: 1 Variable Week 1 Initial Identify themeconversations with councillor 2 Place councillors Week 2 at the heart of their Planning the community first event 3 4 Public services and community and voluntary sector 5 work together differently locally 6 Week 6 First event Empower and 7 encourage Week 6-9Conversations communities to in the wider do even more for community themselves 8 Week 8 Planning the second event 9 Do something practical – take 10 action Ongoing Week 10 Moving Second event forward 11 Reaching the hearts of Herefordshire 13
  13. 13. Local politicians listening tothe heart of their communityPutting the people back into Building a reputation of trustlocal politics “The debacle over MPs’ expenses and“When I first became a councillor I held the second homes has left public respect forfirm belief that people came before politics. politicians at an all-time low. The mistrustSome 30 years later Reaching the hearts of Westminster politicians is no doubtof Herefordshire has demonstrated that my affecting local councillors. And very oftenfaith has not been misplaced. It is also clear the council doesn’t do itself any favours,that something has been lost over the years either. Connecting with and listening toand there is a need for all of us – councillors, people in practical ways is far more likelyofficers and other service providers – to than other options to increase the regard ofremember that we must do things for people local people. Local politicians are very well-rather than doing things to them. We know placed to heal the reputation of politics in athat we can trust the heart of Herefordshire; democratic society.”now we need to listen to it.” Councillor Terry JamesCouncillor Olwyn Barnett Kington, Liberal DemocratMortimer ward, ConservativeA convenor of public services“Every bit of my role is about conveningpublic services in Bromyard. It is onlythrough real dialogue between the secondaryheadteacher, the family-centre manager,the leisure centre, our youth workers, andthe parish council that we can do thingsdifferently with and for young people in thistown. The councillor’s role as facilitator isnow as important as anything else we do. Itis about allowing people to work together fora common goal.”Councillor Alan SeldonBromyard, Independent14 Reaching the hearts of Herefordshire
  14. 14. Letting go of control Observing with eyes and ears“This is the most valuable thing I have been “I can stand up in cabinet now and say ‘theinvolved with since becoming a councillor. local people have said this’ – my people, theThe project has connected people in people I have lived among and representedcommunities to each other, encouraging for the last 20 years. I think it’s a string to myinvolvement and enabling the community to bow and I feel very privileged to have heardtake the lead in talking about the things that these things. Lots can come from it.”matter most to them. Influencing the waythat our local authority works has allowed Councillor Beris Williamsthe community to feel part of the decision- Golden Valley, Independentmaking process. Working in this way helps “Before this we had consultation fatigue.the community and council officers to This is a new way of thinking about how weresolve issues that arise from the perceived provide services and how we can listen tocontrolling way that officialdom works. It was young people in a different way. This givesgreat to see democracy working in the most young people and others the feeling thatrural parts of Golden Valley. By looking over they can do something for themselves withthe parapet we have found many people on support from us.”the same wavelength.” Councillor Alan SeldonCouncillor Philip Price Bromyard, IndependentGolden Valley, ConservativeManagers as the missing link“As rural councillors we are already well-known in our wards and connected to ourcommunities, but in the past we have feltunable to effect local change. This approachhas raised our profile in our wards andmeans that people will see us as able tomake practical things happen. The missinglinks were between the town, the council andits partners – it doesn’t work without officersupport.”Councillor Bernard HuntBromyard, Independent Reaching the hearts of Herefordshire 15
  15. 15. Communities totally at theheart of their placeCommunities are looking for a different “It’s the feedback loop people miss out on.conversation with their councillors and public You consult us and then we never hearservices: one where they are listened to and any more. We don’t see any actions as acan influence the agenda. Politicians of all consequence. If it can’t be done just beparties, searching for ways to make huge cost honest and tell us.”savings across the public sector, would dowell to turn to their communities to find shared A rich tradition of self-reliancesolutions. A vibrant participative democracycan prioritise the services that people want “For generations we have done an awful lotand see communities themselves taking more to be self-reliant in Mortimer Country and,responsibility. This in turn can only strengthen like many rural communities, we are proudour representative democracy. of this. We have excellent volunteers and village wardens, we know and care about ourEach councillor selected the particular neighbours and we have shown determinationcommunity members who they wanted to in raising funds for things that matter to involved in planning and attending the We also know that, as spending on publicevents. These are some of their responses: services reduces all the time, we are going to have to find even more ways to support ourConsulted to death own health and wellbeing. This might mean getting more people involved in supporting the“You seem to think that the more you young, the elderly, those who are ill or dyingcommunicate with us the happier we are with and other people with particular needs in ouryou. Not so. It makes us think something will communities. The pendulum has swung. Weactually happen and then it doesn’t, so we can’t expect it all to be done for us.”get really frustrated and can’t be bothered toget involved again.” The council really listened“Public services are bureaucratic and todayunwelcoming. There has been a feeling ofremoteness from the council and decisions “This hasn’t been about consultation orare made for people. Don’t do it to us, do it information-giving. The council really listenedwith us.” and we had a dialogue. We agreed the questions that mattered to us together and“Council officers need to understand what were then able to find shared solutions,is really needed in communities. Our which ultimately means our communityexperience is one of being told, not being will take shared responsibility for making itlistened to. Then you don’t feel you can happen – and of course that the solutions areinfluence the things that affect you.” more imaginative.’’16 Reaching the hearts of Herefordshire
  16. 16. “We have always been able to do thingsfor ourselves – what stops us is access toservices and funding. They need to giveus the right information, help and support.The community was galvanised and a newcommunity spirit emerged. Power to thepeople worked”.We can do things on our own“The Kington Blackboard (a communitywebsite) has been an amazing success andhas got us talking to each other in real time.Not that there is agreement – far from it – butall views are welcome. We don’t need thecouncil to do it for us. Reaching the hearts ofKington came at the same time and inspiredus to do a community newsletter. Face-to-face dialogue and social media went hand inhand.”Living side by side“Our communities are pretty cohesive andwe all know each other. That said, peoplesometimes resent newcomers – we can feelthat they treat us as country yokels and comehere to organise us. Some of them havedifferent cultures and don’t always fit. But,if we are honest, we acknowledge that theybring an awful lot to our rural communities,which can be insular and isolated. We knowwhat our communities need and they havethe experience and know how to make ithappen.” Reaching the hearts of Herefordshire 17
  17. 17. Public service managerslistening with their heartsReaching the hearts of Herefordshire is an Buzzing with ideas togetherongoing dialogue with communities, not aone-off event. It is a conversation that began “It is not often that you get everybodywith listening, not telling; it is a conversation together from many parts of Herefordshirethat encourages debate, challenge and the Council, the third sector and the communityemergence of shared solutions. There is to discuss the issues that real peoplemore to be done to connect public services in Herefordshire have. It was also anto their councillor, the community and each opportunity to celebrate the responsiveother at a local level. Doing so can radically community spirit in some of the very ruralchange democracy as we know it. parts of Herefordshire. The meetings buzzed with ideas and promises of engagement toSenior managers from Herefordshire Council ensure that solutions were delivered – let’sand NHS Herefordshire acted as lead do this again.”officers for each place. Representativesfrom the public services and the community Colette Colmanand voluntary sector working across Chief Executive, Age Concern HerefordHerefordshire were invited to each event. and LocalitiesLearning facilitators listened to and recordedindividual stories at the events. These are Actions speak louder thansome of their perspectives: wordsGet out more “This new approach to community engagement succeeded because it brought“It was a really good experience and gave together democratic representatives,me a very strong sense of why we are here community champions and those responsibleand what we are here to do. Hearing about for the provision of services in the local area.the little things that make a big difference in It maintained a positive focus by buildingcommunities and remembering that these on the strengths of the local community,things really do matter was very useful. A what is already working effectively and thegreater empathy can only make me better at aspirations that will motivate future job. A better understanding of rural needs The focus was on practical actions andcan only mean better services and savings developing the leadership for future activity.for the public purse.” Responsibility and accountability were keptDavid Powell at the local level, empowering the communityDirector of Resources, Herefordshire Council rather than just engaging with it. It worked well when focusing on one specific section18 Reaching the hearts of Herefordshire
  18. 18. of the community by ensuring that young vital if we are working towards a more equalpeople were included in and supported relationship – trust that is hard to earn andby wider local leadership but still able to can easily be lost if we don’t keep our side ofkeep control of their own agendas. A new the deal.”process of community development hasbeen established that we hope will provide a Geoff Hughessustainable way for communities to maintain Sustainable Communities Director,local leadership.” Herefordshire CouncilRichard Betterton Go with the flowHerefordshire Council for Voluntary YouthServices “I welcomed being in a position where the council wasn’t in control and we had to goIt won’t happen without with the flow. By listening and reflectingmanagers’ support back I think the councillors felt enabled and supported – and in turn I noticed they handed“Senior officer support is essential - it over power to the young people in Bromyard.just won’t happen without it. At one level, It’s a move away from informing, directingthis process is time consuming for us as and telling people. Potentially a challengemanagers. At another, can we afford not to my leadership instincts, but ultimately farto listen and have a more equal dialogue? more liberating.”Councillors are our most valuable resource in Michael Haingerural communities. They know what matters Director of Environment and Culture,and we need to hear this. As officers, this is Herefordshire Councilall about listening and hearing in a differentway. There is still a way to go for publicservices to work together locally, for us towork out what our role as senior leaders isand to create a can-do attitude throughoutthe council and the NHS.”Annie BrookesHead of Chief Executive’s Office,Herefordshire Council and NHSHerefordshireSpending power“We began the event in Kington with a DVDshowing public services and what was spenton each of them in the town – more than £20million per year. The impact was immediate.I think the community realised we did careand was amazed at how much was coming into the community. Our challenge together isto spend it on the things that matter. Trust is Reaching the hearts of Herefordshire 19
  19. 19. Rural solutions to ruralchallengesMany people living in the towns and remote infrastructure are complicated, it is a potentialrural settlements in Herefordshire are proud solution to many rural challenges. Access toto have families going back generations. services and information could be improvedPeople visit and choose to stay, attracted by and the need to travel reduced, makingthe rural area, safe environment, sense of working from home more realistic andcommunity and friendliness of the people. therefore also reducing carbon emissions.Yet rural living is not without its challenges,particularly at a time when public services Celebrate volunteeringare looking to reduce their costs and marketforces are reducing provision in market Volunteers are a vital part of increasedtowns. Hidden deprivation can disadvantage self-sufficiency in rural communities. Theycommunities that live in these areas. Access underpin many services, yet many volunteersto basic services can be poor, with large go unrecognised. Politicians should celebratedistances to travel to service outlets and their involvement while ensuring that thehigh delivery costs. The answer is for public support and infrastructure is in place toservices and communities to work together support them. Increasing the numbers ofto find rural solutions that are unique to each volunteers by drawing from a wider poolplace. Here are some of issues identified – especially of older and younger people –during Reaching the hearts of Herefordshire, could have the added benefit of reducingalong with potential actions to address these isolation and loneliness among people inchallenges. these groups.Invest in broadband Enterprise and businessinfrastructure Communities said that encouraging small business was an essential part of sustainingMost urban areas already benefit from rural living. Herefordshire’s proportionhigh-speed, low-cost broadband. In many of home workers is above the nationalrural areas there is no broadband service, average and it already has many world-classor, at best, a very slow one; there is little entrepreneurs. Support from the council iscompetition between providers to keep prices important to encourage more people to setdown; and mobile phones often have limited up and sustain business in the area.reception. Young people commented on thedifficulty of doing homework without accessto the internet, while businesses struggle to Young peoplecompete on a level playing field. Although Young people in Bromyard identified thethe issues around national investment in problem of the last bus from Hereford being20 Reaching the hearts of Herefordshire
  20. 20. at 6pm and the problem of access to things Bus services cover many areas, but theyto do outside the town. This issue is relevant are often limited, not well used and heavilyto the rest of the rural county as well. Ideas subsidised, which is not viable in the longto improve transport included using the term. Communities and transport providersminibuses which are owned by the schools working together can identify the routesand clubs with volunteer drivers; buses only people want to use and encourage greaterleaving towns when they are full; information usage. It is also possible for communityabout lifts being posted on Facebook; making transport to operate with smaller vehicles thatcycling safer; and having bus timetables that cost less to in with events. Providing information andPlanning and housing adviceAlthough housing-needs surveys show Very rural communities often lack access tothat communities want affordable housing the information and advice that they need toand want local people to be given priority, access the services and benefits to whichthere is often a minority voice that opposes they are entitled. This is because they dosuch developments. Many are in favour of not live near the council’s Info Shops or CABplanning policies that are flexible enough service centres, and transport is limited. As ato allow rural communities to continue to result of this programme, however, benefitsevolve with small-scale developments. staff have been working with Dorstone FrontClear communication will give communities Room in Golden Valley, a community meetingthe confidence that this is possible. The place, to help customers understand thedevelopment costs associated with small criteria for claiming housing and council taxhousing developments are often higher benefits. The aim is to improve benefits take-than those for larger ones in urban areas, up and to ensure people get the discounts toand delivery more complex, but community which they are entitled. This is an example ofsupport helps improve the chances of the council taking services to the communitysuccess. and delivering them in an accessible way. There is an opportunity to extend servicesAccess by using local facilities to create community access points.Most small communities are keen to maintainservices such as village halls and local pubs. AssetsPlanners can help to maintain such servicesby refusing change-of-use applications. The community and public services oftenHowever, communities working together to have a number of separate buildings, eachsupport and encourage the use of existing with their own running costs and staff. Afacilities, rather than travelling out of the ‘total capital’ approach is now being taken inarea, is essential. Herefordshire: all assets have been mapped and discussions are taking place with publicTransport services and communities to look at shared usage. This will improve local serviceRural communities that have access to a availability and benefit the public purse. Inshop or post office often still need to travel some instances it will mean transferringto local towns for other goods and services. assets from the council to communities. Reaching the hearts of Herefordshire 21
  21. 21. Restoring confidence in ruraldemocracy: ten lessons forpolitical leadersRecognise the managers. Give councillors the tools to be rural cabinet members for their wards, andresourcefulness of rural managers the time to listen to real people.communities Both reconnect with their hearts – the reason why many came into public service in the firstRural communities are already very place.resourceful; rural people have alwaysfound ways to support each other. They Prepare for austere timescan be even more self-sufficient when theircouncillors and public services listen to aheadthem and give them the support that they People know that public services are facingneed to make their ideas happen. Issues a period of austerity and that huge savingssuch as rural transport and planning need need to be made. With the MPs’ expensesrural solutions reached by members of the scandal still fresh in people’s minds,community, not urban blueprints imposed by being honest can increase the trust in andoutsiders. reputation of local councillors. Involved rural communities will have plenty of ideas aboutTake the town hall to the how to save money.village hall Value and make use of localIn isolated rural communities making yourvoice heard is not as simple for residents activistsas just dropping into the town hall. Local Everyone knows everyone in a ruralcouncillors represent their community to the community. Local activists will willingly targetcouncil, not the other way round, so taking and reach those people public servicesscrutiny into the village hall will aid politicians’ might struggle to reach – but they have to beunderstanding of what matters most to engaged and asked for assistance first.communities and will help them to involveresidents in getting it sorted. Listen to good old-fashionedCouncillors need support from gossipmanagers Rural councillors are totally of their places and live and breathe the fresh air – that’sRural councillors are the eyes and ears of why they were elected. Remember thethe community and are thus a most valuable chance remarks on the school playground,resource, but they need support from at the farm gate, in the pub, in the village22 Reaching the hearts of Herefordshire
  22. 22. hall. They can give genuine insight into what It’s never too late to learnreally concerns people: winning hearts isall about these conversations. Listening No one said it would be easy, but be bold.properly means that you will hear about the Councillors should be willing to experimentlittle things that, when sorted, can really and to accept that it’s okay to fail sometimes.make a big difference in communities. It’s a But they should experiment and learn withreturn to village politics. the community, not in a classroom. Getting it right is all about understanding yourself andKnit it all together how groups of people work best together: in community with each other.Knit together what wants to stay separate.That means using social media and face-to-face dialogue to help counter rural isolation.Unite newcomers and those who were bornand bred in the area – harnessing diversitycan bring growth.Respect the uniqueness ofrural communitiesThe one thing that all rural communities havein common is that they all do somethingdifferent. Respect the unique identities andthe histories of each community; each has itsown story. It is by doing this that politicianscan embrace an agenda beyond each townand parish, uniting around the issues thatimpact across the place.The politics of influencePoliticians have more influence when theylisten rather than trying to control. Ruralpolitics isn’t about communicating whatpublic services are doing, or, as a councillor,always doing things for people. People wantto be heard and know that councillors caretoo – if they feel this they may engage in thechange themselves. Reaching the hearts of Herefordshire 23
  23. 23. Conclusion and next steps“If we are going to achieve anything with this Finally, we would like to thank everyoneproject we now have to grasp it and lead it, who has been involved in making Reachingnot shilly-shally around.” the hearts of Herefordshire such a success, and wish others who take up the approachCouncillor Philip Price the same success in their own ruralGolden Valley, Conservative communities.Councillors engaging rural communities inreal conversations about local solutions tothe issues that matter most to them is theonly way forward. It’s the only way to achievethe savings necessary in public serviceswhile shifting power to communities. Supportfrom public services at a local level is crucial.Reaching the hearts of Herefordshire wasjust the start of the journey. We need tomake sure that the dialogue between council,community and public services continuesin the places where it is already underway.More localities will be invited to join theprogramme, including the first urban area,part of Hereford city.The dialogue needs to continue at all levels:with council and NHS management so thateveryone has a can-do approach to takingaction; with councillors, so that we canmake the most of modern ways of beinga councillor; with parish councils, so thatwe can work even more closely together;with partner agencies, so that we shareways to engage communities and so thatall managers understand the potential ofworking alongside local councillors; and withcentral government, so we can share ruralsolutions to overcome some of the barriers torural living.24 Reaching the hearts of Herefordshire
  24. 24. Places for realAppendix 1Herefordshire overviewFour rural communities volunteered to trythe Reaching the hearts of Herefordshireprogramme: the market towns of Bromyardand Kington and the remote rural areas ofMortimer and Golden Valley. Each chose arelevant theme to discuss at the events. Earlyactions have been taken in each place withlonger-term planning now underway. Reaching the hearts of Herefordshire 25
  25. 25. Mortimer Golden ValleyCouncillor Olwyn Barnett, Conservative Councillor Beris Williams, Independent, and Councillor Philip Price, ConservativeTheme: What can the community do tobe even more self-reliant in health and Theme: What can the community do towellbeing? sustain enterprise in the area?The five parish council groups were at Our goal was to find ways to ensure thatthe heart of the programme. The issues people in Golden Valley had the option toconsidered included access to a first stay in the area at all stages of their life, fromresponse scheme in case of emergency; first early education to work and then retirement.aid training; developing the village warden Jobs and enterprise were seen as a vitalscheme; support to children and families; and part of this. Discussions covered topics suchuse of volunteers. as encouraging and sustaining business; making decision-making and influence moreEarly actions local; ensuring housing needs are met;• The Red Cross is delivering first aid encouraging and sustaining farming; and training in Mortimer. ensuring that planning needs are met.• Youth services, community youth groups, the school, the parish council and Teme Early actions Valley youth project are looking at how • A Golden Valley youth forum has been the public and community buildings in set up on Facebook by young people so Wigmore can be better used for the benefit that those living in remote places can of children and young people. communicate with each other after school. • Benefit staff are working with Dorstone Front Room, a community meeting place, to raise awareness of the criteria for claiming housing and council tax benefits, and to consult on the quality of forms and letters issued to customers.26 Reaching the hearts of Herefordshire
  26. 26. KingtonCouncillor Terry James, Liberal DemocratTheme: Working together better to achieveshared solutions.The community wanted to build on its goodcommunity spirit and many active groupsby making sure that it gets the very bestfrom public services and that it has a strongvoice in what happens in the town andthe surrounding area. The conversationsincluded how to find out what matters tomembers of the Kington community who didnot attend the event; improving transportprovision; the importance of the local shopsand how to make sure they prosper; betteruse of buildings and money; and reducingenergy consumption.Early actions• Launched the Kington Chronicle ( a community newsletter in electronic and paper form that runs alongside a community website called Kington Blackboard (• Established the Kington Hub, which locates key voluntary sector organisations in one building.• Set up a small fund which the community can use for small local priorities such as Christmas lights.Reaching the hearts of Herefordshire 27
  27. 27. Bromyard Early actions • Young people, with adult support, areCouncillor Alan Seldon and Councillor running a monthly teenage disco in theBernard Hunt, both Independent local Falcon Hotel. • The new Youth of Bromyard (YOB) forumTheme: How can we create a thriving has held a number of meetings to explorecommunity for young people in Bromyard? issues that are important to young peopleIt is vital for Bromyard’s young people and to organise have high self esteem and a sense of • We have convened the youth service,belonging if the community is to build a schools, the Bromyard Centre, the Hopefuture for the next generation and continue Family Centre and the Conquest Theatreto thrive. Young people were involved in to meet each quarter, coordinate theirdiscussing a new youth club; a drop-in café; approach and look at how best to supportand improving transport. They also took the young people with projects.lead in a number of areas and helped topublicise what was going on.28 Reaching the hearts of Herefordshire
  28. 28. What works and what doesn’tAppendix 2Expect initial resistance Avoid formalityThis will come from political groups, parish Keep things as informal as possible. Peoplecouncils and communities. The best ways to might expect strict governance structures,overcome this are to listen; be prepared to long speeches and formal dress, but thesechange the focus; involve those who want to things all stifle debate and dialogue. Webe involved; concentrate on what is working; found that the best conversations wereand go with the energy. Any mistrust of public informal: chats in the pub or the schoolservices will have been built up over many library; conversations held around tables inyears and won’t be overcome in an instant. the parish hall over a cup of tea and some locally-produced food.Set clear objectives Celebrate what is alreadyKeep the purpose very clear and simple, and working wellrepeat it at every opportunity. If it isn’t clearthere will be confusion. It’s very irritating for communities when anyone assumes that they are not alreadyPlanning pays off active. If councillors make this assumption, it creates the impression that they do not knowIt may be a cliché, but it’s true, especially their community and its issues.when planning includes a cross-section fromthe wider group of people that will attend the Learn from failureevents. At some point everything will go wrong – it’sManage expectations virtually inevitable. Don’t let that put you off. Stick with it and work through the tensionThere isn’t any more money to go around together. Failure is our greatest teacher.and this approach won’t bring any, so behonest and say this upfront.Avoid consultation fatigueBe clear that this isn’t another consultationexercise – it’s a two-way conversation thatwill lead to shared actions. Reaching the hearts of Herefordshire 29
  29. 29. Use learning facilitatorsThey’re incredibly beneficial: they makesure that events and discussions are aseffective as possible. At events, some peoplewon’t connect with the theme, or will havea different story they want heard; others willbecome irritated and want to let off steam;and still others will have perspectives thatjust wouldn’t have been heard in a largergroup. Learning facilitators listen and recorda living story.Remember to enjoy yourselfIf the right people are in the conversation,real wisdom and solutions will emerge. Whatcould be more fun – or more rewarding?30 Reaching the hearts of Herefordshire
  30. 30. Local Government LeadershipLocal Government HouseSmith SquareLondon SW1P 3HZTelephone 020 7187 7388Facsimile 020 7187 7383Email The Local Government Group is made up of six organisations which support, promote and improve local government.Printed on 100 per cent recycledpaper using vegetable based ink.© Local Government Leadership, August 2010For a copy in Braille, Welsh, larger print or audio,please contact us on 020 7664 3000.We consider requests on an individual basis.L10-475