Every three months or so, I share my thoughts on local area progress with you as residents as your Big Local Rep and with the central team managing the national programme. Your comments and thoughts are always welcome.

The big picture

After ten years of resident led investment and change based on local needs and priorities, we are coming to the final stages of this ground breaking programme. News about the Community Wealth Fund does suggest funding will come to other areas but whether residents will be at the heart of decision making remains to be seen.

A few areas have now finished their Big Local journey, with evidence of having made a sizeable difference to both what has been done and how it has been done. Vital to success is that residents are in charge, willingly supported by a trusted organisation and a paid worker. The role of the local authority as enabler and trusted partner has helped add considerable value to the investment in some areas. Building community capacity for long term sustainability is one of the biggest legacies. Improving community buildings has also been important where these have been developed in harmony with local aspirations and are based on realistic plans for a financially stable future.

As areas finish, they can continue to draw upon the Make it Happen offer, covering:

  • Community engagement and volunteer management
  • Securing a community asset
  • Becoming a legal body
  • Mastering communications and storytelling
  • Climate proofing the BL plan
  • Funding and income generation
  • Engaging diverse groups of people
  • Measuring Change

And the next and final Big Local Connects event is confirmed for the end of October in Nottingham.

Make it happen

The two big milestones for Boston Big Local these last few months have been signing off on the current plan and having approved the new and final one. These successes are vital for the ability of the partnership to continue its investment strategy in responding to community needs and priorities. They are a great testimony to the continuing vision, dedication and commitment of the partnership and the close and sound working relationships with key partners.

2021-2023 plan review

Local Trust praised the review of the plan which ended on 31 March, focusing on the quality of data, information and feedback:

“It’s great that you updated your community profile. This has helped you to further your knowledge of the most up to date community needs. You have collected data on how many residents attended groups and activities, how many residents completed surveys and how many followers engage on social media. This recorded information is really good to track community engagement across your projects and contribute to your overall ‘Big Local story’ of achievements. You used a variety of methods and tools as part of your review, such as surveys, short quotes, and data from Local Insight. It is good to use different methods to gather feedback, to get a broad picture on how priorities are being met.”

2023-2024 plan assessment

Anne Sherriff was the assessor of the new and final plan, launched on 1 April. She congratulated the team on a strong and well evidenced plan and its recent successes.

“I loved your Monopoly and Trumps games and I am not surprised that they proved popular and you sold them all so fast. I was particularly impressed that you insisted upon authentic artwork, in order to create a true Monopoly game, not just something that looked a bit like one. Your use of the media to get your messages across has been both innovative and powerful.

As ever, I was impressed, too, that you have planned ahead for your legacy. This has clearly been years in the making and you have thought it through with care. Your attention to the detail of delivering your projects has been formidable, ensuring SLAs were in place and due diligence rigorously pursued. I know it hasn’t always been easy, especially at the beginning, but you show every sign of achieving your objectives and meeting your aims.

You work well as a team, and you have forged powerful alliances with the council, with Age UK and with your delivery partners. These relationships have been a key component in your success. You have clearly developed skills, which I hope you will continue to use in future activity.

Your commitment to community engagement has been consistent throughout the duration of the programme. You have remained true to what your community needs from their Big Local. You have shown determination in persevering, but also the insight to know when to stop. The Five Lamps’ day may come, but not yet.

I have enjoyed my visits to you over the last decade, and I wish you every success for the final months of your Big Local journey.”

Personal reflections on the new plan

I highlighted in the assessment process Richard Tory’s wonderful introduction and how it captures much of your bond, togetherness and achievements. I mentioned that the plan is built on a sound review and updating of the data and has the excellent mix of seeking to fund things the partnership know work as well as the more open community chest and events pots for new ideas. I highlighted the strength of governance and some notable recent successes. I indicated that the partnership had given good attention to closing down, communications, identifying risks and celebrations.

Looking back

Boston Big Local held its AGM and community meeting at the Len Medlock Centre in October, with key speeches from Michelle Sacks, Deputy Chief Executive of Boston Borough Council, Michele Jolly, CEO of Age UK Lincoln and South Lincolnshire and Katy Roberts, Boston Big Local’s plan co-ordinator. The meeting helped review successes over the last eighteen months and launch the development of the final plan due to start in April 2023.

The partnership continues to meet monthly, with great support from the plan co-ordinator and the Local Trusted Organisation, Age UK Lincoln & South Lincolnshire. Finances are reviewed each month and headline figures displayed on the spend barometer on the website. Quarterly reports from partners were reviewed in October. All were approved. These are posted to the website and form the evidence for stories of action and change and in newsletters, the autumn edition again being delivered to every household. The partners are the Stichers, Woodcarvers, Memory Lane, Samaritans, Boston Community transport, Restore Pantry, Boston in Bloom, LCVS environmental improvements and volunteering and the Borough Council with the play equipment and the beach event. Some questions have been addressed to one delivery partner. The partnership also approved a schools Heritage Project, led by the Chair, Richard Tory and based on reproducing and distributing to schools an old schools atlas published in 1939.

Looking ahead

The partnership launched the process of developing the new plan at its October AGM. It has now undertaken a partnership review and is half way through reviewing in detail its current plan. This will lead on to drafting the new plan ready for submission to Local Trust by the end of February. It is likely to be a one year and final plan with a budget of around £130,000, with the same vision, themes and priorities with a tapering of activity to reflect this final year.