Community empowered to take over council services

New legislation, enabling community organisations to take over council services if they can deliver them more effectively, has provoked a mixed response from councillors.

The Community Right to Challenge scheme, outlined in the government’s localism act, is intended to provide the voluntary sector with greater influence over their community.

East Lindsey District Council, which is required by law to accept expressions of interest from parish councils or other community groups, considered the ramifications of the legislation during a meeting on Wednesday.

Portfolio holder for corporate affairs Coun Victoria Ayling, presenting a report on the scheme, said: “We don’t really know what the outcome of this will be - it’s a new piece of legislation.”

Several Labour councillors voiced concerns about the fragmentation of council services, which they feared could have unforeseen consequences.

Coun Laura Stephenson worried that important services, like the probation service, though not operated by ELDC, could be mishandled by the voluntary sector.

And Coun Sarah Dodds expressed concerns that private businesses could direct voluntary groups to submit an expression of interest and then make their own bid to run it during the compulsory tender period, which would follow.

Assurances were made by Coun Ayling that stringent measures were in place to ensure only suitable expressions of interest were considered to protect the services from entering the wrong hands.

And Coun Steve O’Dare felt that if an organisation were able to deliver a service more effectively than ELDC, it would better for the authority and the community.

Relevant bodies including voluntary organisations, parish councils, charitable trusts or a group of two or more ELDC staff can make submissions between March 4 and April 30.

No group may apply to take over responsibility for processing planning applications as it is a ‘function vested in the council’ rather than a service.

Submissions should be made to chief.executive@e-lindsey.gov.uk.

Guidance on making a submission can be found at My Community Rights