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.

First, congratulations to Boston for gaining £21.9m from the Central Government’s Towns Fund. It feels to me like Boston Big Local, as a resident-led, bottom up initiative, helped greatly to identifying the range of issues and needs in the area that contributed to this successful bid.

A year into the pandemic, the loss and cost has been very heavy on us all. Spring brings hope. With lower infection rates, warmer weather and increasing numbers vaccinated, we look forward to our communities reopening and reconnecting. The solidarity and resilience of residents is inspirational. Boston Big Local has shown compassion and concern, responding to changing need, bringing its resources of people, partners and funding to support people and communities.

Local Trust continues to offer its support to the 150 Big Local areas across England.

  • Big Local Connects hopes to back up and running in person from 29th to 30th October at the East Midlands Conference Centre, Nottingham, in line with all government guidance. Online registration will be open from 24 May.
  • Together We Plan! Here is a link to a handbook of practical tips helping partnerships plan in the wake of the uncertainty brought about by the pandemic.
  • A year of the pandemic – Local Trust takes a look at Big Local responses and initiatives in these testing times, what helped, the challenges and what the future holds.

Running things

These last three months have been busy and productive for the partnership. It completes and submitted its review of the current plan (2019-2021). Feedback was, as always, very positive. Local Trust, highlighting how thorough it was, valuing the “range of information you collected from partnership members, providers and residents to inform your thinking.” They liked the range of approaches and direct quotes showing people’s thoughts about what has been achieved, backed by a strong profile of community need and data from Local Insights. “The partnership is very ambitious in your shared vision about what you want to achieve by the end of the programme and you highlight some compelling areas where you’ve already made an impact.” Local Trust encouraged the partnership to build on this with further quotes from residents and tracking data over time.

The partnership then completed, submitted and had assessed and approved its plan for April 2021 – March 2023, having trailed emerging headlines with residents in the February newsletter. The assessor wrote to the partnership to thank it for an excellent plan. Here are some of Anne Sherriff’s comments.

“I was impressed by your plan and felt the Community Consultation and Legacy sections were exceptionally well done. I particularly liked your website, which is clear and concise and your newsletters. You clearly understand the vital importance of keeping the wider community informed and your use of social media means that they can offer feedback too. Your Plan draws on evidence from a range of sources, your own consultations, observations and local knowledge, underpinned by statistical data. You have clearly built up constructive relationships with a range of delivery partners and feel you can rely on them. Your partnership struck me as being competent and efficient, a safe pair of hands. Your confidence and enthusiasm was readily apparent when we met, and I wish you every success in your future work.”

Doing things

The partnership meets monthly on Zoom, with sound 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 and approved in January for the Embroiderers Guild, Boston Woodcarvers, BOSFIT, Boston Samaritans, BBC Environmental Project, Boston In Bloom, LCVS Environmental Project, BBL community engagement and consultation work, Neil Watson Photography, Citizens Advice and the Hanse Group. These will be posted to the website and form the evidence for stories of action and change and in newsletters, the February edition again being delivered to every household. In addition the community chest and events pot sub-group met and approved four grants of £1,500 to the Local Community Centre to improve accessibility, the Boston Book Festival seeking to become an annual event, St John Ambulance cadet group and Boston Historic Tours.