10:01 Friday 22 November 2013

East Cambs neighbourhood panel meetings to be scrapped

Written byJORDAN DAY

Cllr Richard Hobbs Cllr Richard Hobbs

Meetings which enable residents in the Ely area to speak up over local issues are to be scrapped.

For seven years, East Cambridgeshire District Council has run neighbourhood panel meetings in the region.

The meetings, which are held approximately four times a year, enable locals to meet with representatives from the council, police and local housing organisations to raise any issues or concerns they have.

But council chiefs say the meetings are no longer an effective way of engaging with the local community - and that they will be axed next March.

The decision has been made following a review of the panel meetings, conducted by district councillors, county councillors, police and Sanctuary Housing officers.

According to the review, the meetings were not achieving their original aims or being attended by many residents.

A report published following the review says the meetings were “using up significant resources from across all the organisations involved” and that the number of residents attending them had “continued to decrease”.

Council chiefs now want to set up new ‘Parish/Town Council Forums’ which they hope will be more successful, and further develop the use of the community website, ShapeYourPlace.

Cllr Richard Hobbs, chairman of the district council’s community and environment committee, said: “Neighbourhood panels were very popular and successful when they first launched in the autumn of 2006.

“They were a whole new way of engaging with communities which were really well received for the way they brought together all the bodies and organisations which worked for the benefit of an area.

“Unfortunately despite the efforts of many people this initial success has dwindled in recent years.

“In simple terms, with the availability of new technology people are engaging in different ways with the councils, the police and others which has left the panels behind.

“Our challenge now is to develop new forums which will better meet the needs of our residents and use initiatives such as ShapeYourPlace as a way for communities to raise issues throughout East Cambridgeshire.

“We will continue to do this work in partnership to make sure we harness the strength and ideas of our residents.”

The five neighbourhood panels will cease to exist on March 31, 2014.

The council has now started work to develop the new forums.

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