Agenda item

Draft Communities Strategy - Leicestershire County Council Collaborating with our Communities - Our Communities Approach 2022 - 2026

Mrs P. Posnett CC, Lead Member for Community and Staff Relations, has been invited to attend for this item.



The Commission considered a report of the Chief Executive which presented the draft Communities Strategy: Leicestershire County Council Collaborating with our Communities – Our Communities Approach for 2022 – 2026 for comment.  A copy of the report marked ‘Agenda Item 9’, is filed with these minutes.


The Chairman welcomed Mrs Posnett, the Lead Member for Communities, to the meeting for this item.


In presenting the report the Assistant Chief Executive confirmed the following:


·       The refreshed Strategy set out the Council’s planned approach to collaborating with communities.  It built on the existing strategy that had been effective in guiding the Councils work in recent years to support, strengthen and empower communities, in particular shaping the Council’s approach through the ongoing pandemic.

·       The new Strategy had been aligned with the Strategic Plan, covering the same period, and set out an approach that would aid delivery of that Plan.

·       The proposed approach was intended to support communities to achieve their goals through coproduction and collaboration and to help communities build back after the pandemic.  The Strategy had also therefore been aligned with the Council’s planned Covid recovery work.

·       The Strategy reflected lessons learnt over the last 18 months and took account of feedback from communities, partners and members during that time.


Arising from discussion, the following points were made:


(i)              Overall members welcomed the Strategy and supported its proposed approach.  Members felt the length of the Strategy was appropriate and found it easy to follow. 

(ii)             Members agreed that the pandemic had taught the Council and residents a lot about how the Council connected with communities, and what support it offered.  It also showed how communities themselves could come together without instruction to address issues locally.  Communities had worked very hard during the pandemic and it was important to recognise this and ensure the Council continued to support that activity as much as possible.

(iii)           A member commented on the importance of the priority ‘prevention.  As pressure on the Council’s resources continued, preventing and reducing demand would be critical. 

(iv)           A member raised concern that much of what was set out in the Strategy was similar to the Government’s ‘Big Society’ approach which did not deliver on the grounds it was impractical.  It was emphasised that the principal behind Big Society was to look at what communities could do for themselves.  However, the Strategy focused on and made clear what the County Council’s role would be in supporting and engaging with communities to respond to local needs.

(v)            It was recognised that communities were now being asked to do things that previously the Council would have managed/provided, but reduced resources meant this was no longer possible.  A member commented that whist frustrating for many, until the Council’s fair funding campaign was recognised and taken forward by the Government, the situation would not improve.

(vi)           A member expressed strong criticism of the Strategy and the Strategic Plan on the basis that, in their view, unparished areas and the issues affecting them were not being adequately represented.  It was argued that much information on which the Council acted was skewed in favour of parished areas despite the fact that 38% of Leicestershire residents (noting that this percentage differed from that suggested by another member under consideration of the Strategic Plan), did not live in a parished area.  By way of example, the member highlighted a recent County wide bus survey undertaken by the Council, the responses to which had been dominated by parish councils which the member argued distorted the issues drawn out from that consultation in favour of those  affecting parished areas.   Matters affecting unparished areas which were largely urban, with heavier traffic and with higher employment were different and the member expressed concern that these would not be adequately captured by the approach set out in the refreshed Communities Strategy and Strategic Plan, nor through the Councils consultation processes.

The Assistant Chief Executive undertook to consider if the balance in references to parish/town councils compared to other voluntary and community groups was correct, but commented that it would not be accurate to say unparished areas were not supported by this Strategy or the Strategic Plan.  Members noted that it had never been the intention that the Council would just work with parish and town councils on community issues; the Council had always and would continue to work with a wide range of voluntary and other groups that operated in those areas.  Further consideration would be given to making this clearer.

(vii)         The Commission sought reassurance that the Council’s consultation processes were full and proper, in particular with regards to the cross section of those consulted.  Members noted that the Council had an active consultation and engagement group that brought together officers from different departments, including legal services, to ensure consultations were undertaken in the right way, had the right capacity to ensure they would be effective, reached as many people as possible and specifically targeted those that might be most affected.  The Assistant Chief Executive further confirmed that the Council also undertook significant engagement outside the formal consultation process to strengthen the breadth of information it received.  The Head of Law also provided reassurance that the Council was well versed in its statutory responsibilities regarding consultations and there had been no legal challenge of the processes it had followed and the consultations it had undertaken.

(viii)        A member challenged how joined up departments were with the central Community Engagement Team when operational decisions were taken that might significantly impact an individual community, particularly given the disappointment and frustration these could generate.  The member referenced as an example a recent decision not to seek funding to support the extension of a footpath in their area which had caused some frustration locally.  The Assistant Chief Executive undertook to consider how cross communication around such matters might be improved but commented that the Outcome Boards established to have oversight of delivery of the Strategic Plan should help pick up and address such matters in the future.

(ix)           A member asked that consideration be given to how best to share more information with members, so they were aware of what was being put out to their communities.  As community leaders, it was highlighted that they too had an important role to play in building communication links with and signposting their constituents to the support available.  

(x)            A member suggested that there was some confusion around what services the Rural Community Council (RCC) provided for parish and town councils and how this compared to the support provided by the LRALC (Leicestershire and Rutland County Association for Town and Parish Councils).  It was noted that the Council provided grants to the RCC and LRALC and therefore access to some RCC services was available to all.  A member suggested this did not appear to be well understood and that greater clarity was needed.

(xi)           A member commented that volunteers played a vital role in communities and suggested that the Council could have a more ‘can-do’ approach to support them, noting that there might be risks and insurance implications that needed to be managed.



That the comments now made be considered a part of the consultation on the refreshed Communities Strategy for 2022 to 2026.


Supporting documents: