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Suffolk: Localism scheme falls flat in county with no responses

08:35 25 April 2014

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles launched the scheme in 2012.

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles launched the scheme in 2012.

Archant Norfolk Photographic © 2011

Government measures launched as a “massive opportunity” for communities to protect vital amenities have received no responses in Suffolk.

None of the county’s local authorities have received any bids from voluntary organisations seeking to takeover services under the Community Right to Challenge scheme (CRTC) since its launch in June 2012.

Introduced as “another leap towards localism” by Communities Secretary Eric Pickles, CRTC was intended to transform the way local services are run by opening them up to the voluntary sector, putting control back “at the heart of our villages, towns and cities”.

In Suffolk, however, community representatives claim that while there are many “really active” organisations working across the county, their efforts have focused on protecting threatened services – such as youth groups and libraries – which has left little time to plan takeovers of others.

Christine Abraham, deputy chief executive with Community Action Suffolk, said the response had been “reactive rather than proactive”.

“We’ve got some really active communities in Suffolk who have made great examples of taking on services although they have not gone through the formal process of Community Right to Challenge,” she said.

“It’s not until communities are facing the threat of losing a service that they seem to respond.”

Despite the lack of uptake so far, Ms Abraham believes there is “some real potential” in the scheme and is planning an event later this year to raise awareness about its opportunities.

John O’Connell of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said he supported the Government’s drive to make services more efficient through competition, however he questioned whether a “fiddly scheme” was the way to achieve that.

Communities Minister Stephen Williams has defended the scheme as “an important part of the Government’s aim to build a fairer society by shifting power from Whitehall to councils and beyond, to citizens and communities”.

Mr Williams said that nationally more than 30 charities or social enterprises had so far placed bids to run local services, with “many more” being helped to develop ideas.

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