Monday, 7 December 2009

Councils Crying out 'Community'

Community action is becoming a positive, immoveable force. Wedge has discovered some exciting initiatives springing up in local communities. Local residents no longer need to stand idly by whilst their high streets are overrun by corporate chains because they have the Sustainable Communities Act (2007) to draw upon. The Act is the first step towards building a bottom up democracy where local people can influence what happens in their own communities – providing, of course, that local authorities sign up to using the Act.

This Act means that councils will have more say in local decision-making. For example, once they have signed up to the Act they could appeal and decline the take-over of a chain supermarket in their local high street.

The original movers of the Act in Parliament and the campaigners believe that more strength has to be put into it to make sure that it is working to its fullest potential. The latest campaign by Local Works, a coalition group campaigning to promote the use of the Sustainable Communities Act, concerns the requirement in the Act of the publication of local spending reports since the public has a right to know how money is being spent locally. So Alistair Burt MP is on the case.

Alistair Burt’s office has decided to adopt the Sustainable Communities Act Amendment Bill as his Private Members Bill. He was drawn at number seven in last week’s Private Members’ Ballot, so he can introduce a Bill of his choice into Parliament with the idea of it being made law by the election. Wedge is very excited about the increasing advocacy for local communities.

To be a part of this exciting movement please come along to the free, public event, Parliamentary Reception hosted by NCVO: A New Form of Government: The Sustainable Communities Act. With free beer: kindly donated through SIBA - the Society of Independent Brewers. 6pm to 8pm, Tuesday 8th December 2009 at The Jubilee Room, Houses of Parliament (via St Stephen’s entrance on Parliament Square), London SW1A 0AA - nearest tube: Westminster.

There is another giant community-binding initiative growing as we speak. The Support Our Small Shops campaign (SOSS) is doing something amazing for the diminishing neighbourhood high streets in the London Borough of Richmond. SOSS is passionate about keeping local, independent high streets alive, by campaigning to change people’s shopping habits so they regularly use local shops.

These are our pubs, our grocers, our post offices; the little shops that keep the community blood pumping. The New Economics Foundation reports that 2,000 smaller independent shops per annum are closing. So SOSS is being pro-active, by using shop skeletons as pop-up shops for local artists to bring back some flavour and colour to the community. This will create vibrant spaces for artists to display their work and show how a derelict shop can be turned into a great retail space.

Not only are they breathing some life back into the community, but the campaign is also pushing for local schemes such as free 30 minute parking around local shopping areas, and to reintroduce the Civic Pride Fund to maintain attractive and vibrant high streets. SOSS is also petitioning to rid the borough of plastic shopping bags. Wedge applauds these schemes taking practical action and breathing life back into our independent, local high streets.

Voice your community spirit and take action now! For more information and to get involved, take a look at these websites:

Written by Lauren Ottaway

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