Democratising decision making and resource allocation is at the heart of the draft Croydon Charter For Community Control launched by CVA at a conference at Croydon College on 5 November.
The Charter follows principles adopted in other communities with varying degrees of success and was endorsed by Steve Reed MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government who was present at the Conference.
The Charter Principles
- Share power with the community
- Work collaboratively with the community
- Open up data and information to the community
- Share resources with the community
- Build on what exists in the community
- Intervene early in partnership with the community
The Conference was well attended and a lot of time was given to people explaining their project work supporting young people and families, particularly in the MyEnds partnership which has had significant funding, and is led by Anthony King. Several of the project activists describe themselves as business entrepreneurs involved in mentoring. MyEnds works closely with the police to build better understanding between young people and police officers.
While all the stories told were enthusiastically received by those attending they were largely from the Black Community of Caribbean heritage. There were no stories from the South Asian, refugee, disabilities, mental health, resident, parks and open spaces, or wider cultural sections of the community and voluntary sector.
What The Council Should Do
At the end of the ConferenceCouncil Leader Hamida Ali said that the principles are important for the future. She does not have to wait the outcomes of the CVA discussions. It is already Council policy to devolve down to neighbourhood level but so far it has not developed structures for each of the 16 Places identified in the Local Plan. Given its emphasis on neighbourhood delivery the Borough of Culture 2023 may be the key to bringing people together in such structures. Out of this may emerge new the establishment of Place Area Committees with devolved powers.
Ali should be making sure that the existing devolved structures are reactivated and new ones set up. Last April in my discussion paper on the Borough of Culture 2023 I proposed that the £5m Impact Fund should be equally divided between each of the 16 Places (£312,500 per area). Each area would have a Committee comprising Councillors and local organisations would have the authority to approve applications for cultural projects in the area, either by local individuals and organisations, or Borough wide cultural organisations offering activity in the area. Where existing devolved structures exist, even if on hold as in Norbury, it should be reactivated and given the Borough of Culture remit.
Action By CVA
CVA hold six locality area meetings from 10 November into January to discuss the draft Charter. See below. The final Charter will submitted to all Mayoral and Councillor candidates requesting them to commit themselves to the Charter principles.
CVA needs to do three things urgently.
- Rethink how it publicises its locality meetings, so that more organisations and activists know about them
- Make it clear which areas are in each of the 6 localities given the Council Local Plan divides the Borough into 16 Areas of Place.
- De-jargonise its papers.
Lessons From The Past
Even if the language was different, these principles have been argued for decades. e.g. Neighbourhood Councils, decentralised Neighbourhood Offices, Area Committees (e.g. Housing Action) in my case for nearly50 years.
Many local authorities have played lip service, but not devolve real power and resources, and have rolled back the structures when they have felt under threat. When the local authorities were given control of the funding of the neighbourhood renewal areas Community Empowerment Networks they shut down 87. Only Wandsworth survives because it was an organisation in its own right.
Aspects of the principles are supposed to be have been in the Council’s community and regeneration strategies but have been mere tokenism. Although not allocated any funds, a potentially effective grouping, the Norbury Regeneration Steering Group of Councillors and local residents and other groups, on which I was a representative, was moth-balled due to COVID, and lost its support Council worker. There is no indication of it being revived.
(Wandsworth CEN is shortly to celebrate its 20th Anniversary.)