The Stronger Somerset proposal sets out our vision for a new relationship to support stronger communities. We want greater power and control devolved to local people, making sure that public services are delivered in ways that address local needs.
We know our towns and parishes, and the city of Wells, are the places where much of community life takes place. Our experience through the Covid-19 pandemic has shown this to be truer than ever. There are many examples of places that have developed a sense of active community, where people feel they are part of the place they live, they take pride in it, have a say over what happens there, feel connected to one another, and are able to look out for each other and create the future they want.
These places work to ensure that people are not lonely or isolated, but active and included, and harness the contribution of all the people who live there, their generosity, ingenuity and enterprise.
The benefits are clear to see, places like these are more prosperous, more equal and their citizens need formal services less in their lives, or later in their lives, than in other places. We can see this in Frome for example, where isolated people who have health problems are supported by community groups and volunteers. The number of emergency admissions to hospital has fallen significantly. In a three-year study it was shown that while across the whole of Somerset emergency hospital admissions rose by 29%, in Frome they fell by 17%.
A further example of localism in action is the use of the Government’s Towns Fund as a catalyst to encourage local communities to come together to develop plans to help reshape towns and cities into places where businesses and communities can thrive. Locally-led proposals are put forward by Town Deal Boards with representation from local authorities, business, the local community, public sector partners and local MPs. In Somerset, Bridgwater and Glastonbury have each established a Town Deal Board, and have recently submitted innovative and ambitious investment plans to Government. These are examples of localism in action, which provide us with tried and tested approaches to developing a place-led vision, creating innovative plans and bringing often diverse communities together through collaborative working models which are easily replicated.
We will work with people at a local level to build strong communities across all of Somerset and we will invest to make this work.
You can view more detail about our plans to establish strong working relationships with localities and to respond to the ambitions of city, town and parish councils in our full proposal, under Community on p99