Big society plans for Essex town

A PIONEERING project which will provide an early test of whether David Cameron’s “Big Society” can work in local communities will be trialled in north Essex, it has emerged.

The scheme in Walton, which will see a local pre-school running a youth centre, is one of only three trials taking place nationwide commissioned by the Department of Communities and Local Government.

The project is being funded by a government grant of �25,000 and will involve Walton Pre-School working closely with Essex County Council (ECC) to see how the community can be better involved in the running of Walton Youth Centre Facility on Standley Road.

Cllr John Jowers, who is responsible for communities and planning on ECC, said: “I am extremely pleased that Essex was one of three local authorities in the country that were chosen to participate in this project.

“Although there were many voluntary and community groups which came forward with some excellent ideas on how they could work with us, Walton Pre-school was chosen as they can make significant difference to Walton Youth Centre which is owned by Essex County Council.”

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Jonathan Geldard, chairman of the Pre-School, said: “I am excited to be involved with this project with Essex County Council and central government. At the pre-school we are currently putting lots of thought to what we can do in order to make the Youth Centre a place for everyone in the community of Walton.”

The project is also overseen by the London-based think tank the Young Foundation, which highlighted some of the possibilities for new ways of working in a recent report, Public services and civil society working together. If successful, the ideas tested in this project could be rolled out countywide and even nationally.

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In June, voluntary organisations were invited to apply to join the project, and had to state what impact they believed they could make to their local community.

An evaluation panel of ECC officers, as well as representatives from the voluntary and community sector, the Development Trusts Association and the Young Foundation decided that the grant should be awarded to Walton Pre-School.

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