Page added on May 22, 2012
The Big Society has boosted existing support for volunteering in Leicestershire but more can be done, a county council scrutiny panel says.
County councillors have investigated the impact of the Big Society – a Government initiative, to help communities feel “empowered to solve problems in their neighbourhood, having the freedom to influence and discuss topics that matter to them”.
Leicestershire County Council is backing it through Big Society grants and grants awarded by its community forums.
A council scrutiny panel led by Richard Shepherd has set out its findings, in a report entitled, “Taken for a ride or taking charge? What is the Big Society and what should we be doing about it?”
The key findings are:
• Much voluntary action was taking in place in Leicestershire before the Big Society was launched
• However, the emergence of the Big Society has given an impetus and focus on further action
• The county council was quick to respond, by setting up a grant fund
Richard Shepherd says in his introduction to the panel’s report: “It is apparent that the county council will have an important role to play in helping people to help themselves; specifically, in ensuring that appropriate guidance, funding and training are made available to those individuals and communities who wish to seize new opportunities.
“The report recommends particular actions to help the Big Society approach succeed in promoting locally devised solutions to local needs, benefiting from local understanding, energy and enthusiasm.”
The panel’s priority recommendations are:
1. that a further £30,000 of funding is made available to support the growth of social enterprise
2. to produce a leaflet to provide partners, community groups and residents with more information about the Big Society and how to get involved
3. to map and promote existing support organisations
The report and its 14 recommendations will now be referred to the council’s scrutiny commission and cabinet, for consideration.
Deputy leader Nick Rushton, the council’s Big Society champion, said: “I welcome this report and am pleased that it recognises the council’s support for the Big Society. Along with my cabinet colleagues, I look forward to considering the report’s recommendations for further support.”
The other panel members were: Alan Bailey; Sarah Hill; Peter Lewis; Jewel Miah; Christine Radford and Peter Roffey