Big Society up and running already

I AM sure your readers will be well aware of the national coverage that the Big Society has received during recent weeks.

One report claimed local councils do not understand the concept of the Big Society, and I want to reassure our residents that is certainly not true as far as West Sussex County Council is concerned.

We know and understand it extremely well and I want to set out how we plan to support our local communities and their efforts.

But first, there is nothing mysterious or new about the Big Society – it may not have been given that title before, but it is alive and well and has been flourishing right across West Sussex for very many years.

It could be the villagers that joined together to keep their local shop open, or the communities that have joined forces to help establish “No cold calling zones” to deter unsolicited callers.

Or, perhaps the village where residents joined forces to form a consortium to drive down the costs of the oil needed to heat their homes or the parent-run primary school.

There are many, many, other examples of communities coming together to help themselves.

West Sussex County Council plans to move the Big Society agenda forward at a much greater pace over the coming months.

This is because we know there is a real appetite out there from people and organisations wanting to rise to the challenge of deciding what their local community needs and play a leading role in delivering it at the times they feel it is needed.

In the near future, we will have much more information about the advice, and support that will be available so that the county council can help act as an enabler.

There could be some money to kick-start a project.

The county council budget meeting on February 11 agreed a £240,000 Big Society fund and we will be publishing the criteria for use of this in the near future.

We are looking to make it easier, where the circumstances are right, to transfer one of our buildings into a community-run asset, thanks to a newly-adopted policy.

I am convinced that in West Sussex there are many areas where, by working together, we can turn what may appear to be a negative situation into something positive.

Louise Goldsmith, leader

West Sussex County Council