Somerset councils today set out their plan for developing new Local Community Networks (LCNs) – groups that will be established in every part of the County to support decision-making at its most local level.
Leader of Somerset County Council, Cllr Bill Revans, said: “Having inherited the agreed unitary business case, and the LCN model, we must now work with it, and make sure it supports our vision for a fairer, greener, more flourishing Somerset.
“We absolutely support a way of representing people more locally and acknowledge that it must be within a structure that Somerset can afford, as inflation impacts our budgets.
“We realise LCNs have been anticipated right across the County. Our plan is to support these new, effective Committees of the unitary Council with decision-making powers and influence.
“Communities deserve clarity on when key decisions will be made ahead of Vesting Day, (the first day in the life of the new Council). We are working at pace on the offer. We are feeding-in more options on geographies, on roles and responsibilities, and on timescales.”
Three LCN pilots continue to advance in Exmoor, the Frome Area and in South East Somerset:
- On Exmoor, a Highway Steward has taken up their post and we will be able to report early progress shortly.
- The South East Somerset pilot will meet next month for a third time, to discuss options for tackling rural isolation and improving wellbeing.
- The Frome Area pilot is focussing on better outcomes for children, young people and families.
An LCN development officer role has been filled to help the pilots as they progress, and to evaluate their work.
A timeline for LCN development is in place as follows:
- Consideration of role, geographies, governance and funding of LCNs – July 2022
- Refine governance and financial modelling, linked to Medium Term Financial Planning – July to September 2022
- Engagement and Consultation on geographies for LCNs – Autumn 2022
- Formal Decision Paper including a resourcing plan – November 2022
A plan on how LCNs are developed will go before the Local Government Reorganisation (LGR) Implementation Board on Friday, 29 July. The Board has responsibility to inform and act on behalf of Somerset County Council’s Executive, to ensure delivery of the new Council on time and to budget.
Cllr Revans concluded: “LCNs must be effective, affordable, and sustainable. They must suit our geographies and existing infrastructures, and be robust enough to give our communities real responsibility and access to their Councillors in the years ahead.”