For: All residents of the Southern Wiltshire Community Area
Dear Residents and Partners,
Southern Wiltshire Area Board
I am very aware that there is still some unease and concern about what our Area Board ‘is all about’. As chairman I must take responsibility for that uncertainty but I must confess that my own thoughts are only just beginning to gel as a result of our first couple of meetings.
I wanted to share with you what is emerging in my mind about our future.
Firstly two things that I am determined our Board should NOT be about.
We should not be duplicating the work and responsibilities of Parish Councils and at all costs we should not allow the Board to become just another ‘talking shop’. We are there to improve things for the communities we represent.
So what ARE we about?
We must keep in mind that the creation of the Area Boards was a key component of the unitary council proposals. This new way of working was intended to ‘fill the gap’ left by the removal of the district councils and to provide a new way of engaging with our communities.
Something which has emerged very clearly from our first meetings is that we are a very diverse Area with several very different and self-contained settlements each with a Parish Council ‘doing its own thing’. Whilst there seems to be a reluctance to think about tackling issues on a community area-wide basis there is little doubt that there is a whole range of issues which are common to just about every settlement: youth provision and speeding to name but two examples.
The Board has the power – indeed the duty – to call to account WC and other service providers for aspects of service delivery which our residents feel are inadequate.
It seems obvious to me that we stand a much better chance of achieving solutions (or at least mitigations) of problems by acting together rather than each parish acting on its own (and doing much the same thing as the next-door parish). There is strength in numbers.
By tackling problems which are genuinely community area-wide at a community area level we shall be achieving things for individual settlements within the Area so it is very much in the interests of individual parishes to contribute to work at a community area level.
Let me say what I think is emerging about the role of the Community Area Board:
- The Issue system provides a mechanism whereby individual Parish Councils who have been working unsuccessfully to get a resolution of a particular issue affecting that particular settlement can enlist the dedicated aid of the Community Area Manager and the support of the Area Board.
- The Area Board provides a forum at which particular service providers can be challenged and called to account on issues of concern to all, or at least several settlements in the Area.
- It provides a focal point for groups of parishes and/or service providers and community groups to tackle issues which are multi-agency in nature.
The Working Party on the renewal of the Community Area Plan is likely to throw up issues which fall into these categories but in the meantime I plan to introduce “SPOTLIGHT ON” sessions into our proceedings where the Area Board spends most of its evening on a single issue of widespread interest or concern.
If you would like to suggest such topics please write to me. And also please write if you have any other comments or suggestions about the future of the Area Board.
By tackling issues at an Area level we can, I’m sure, make really worthwhile contributions to the well-being of individual settlements.
Chairman of Southern Wiltshire Area Board