Reflections, June to September 2014:

Every quarter, I am required to review progress in the Big Local areas I support and I then like to share these thoughts with the areas themselves. It gives us a chance I hope to take stock and think about what’s going well and what more we need to do. I hope it is of interest to you and please get in touch if you would like to follow up anything in the blog.

These three months over the summer have seen continued progress in regaining direction within the new steering group and externally with Boston Big Local residents, local organisations and the press.

Doing things

For Boston Big Local progressing along the Big Local pathway, the initial focus of the steering group over the summer was to agree a plan to build the community consultation. A questionnaire was then devised and used as hard copy and on Survey Monkey. A short report summarising responses was prepared by the facilitator, based on the survey questions of what people liked and did not like about the area, their concerns and their priority for change.

The second element was to work on establishing and ordering what the group already knew from residents. This enabled the group in August to affirm the vision, aims, objectives, approach and guiding principles and to consolidate the four themes of the plan. The group then took all the suggested potential activities arising from community consultations to date and sorted them under these four themes, distinguishing between things BBL might support and fund and things BBL might inform and influence others about.

The third aspect was to then share this information with all Boston Big Local residents through a well-designed leaflet / newsletter that is being distributed by hand to all households in the area of benefit.

Fourth and following on from this, the group has planned a community consultation event, which will take place on 16 October, to review what residents have said, to identify gaps, to explore priorities and gain from residents an indication of spend across the themes.

Boston Big Local is also accountable for the Boosting the Local Economy work, funded by national partner, UnLtd. During the summer, this task group of Boston Big Local took stock with UnLtd about the way forward and priorities for action. Members of the group then undertook a range of activity: visiting and reporting on the nearby Heckington Show; being informed about the Hanse League by a guest speaker and advocate of joining the League; visiting Lewes to review their local currency; undertaking a visit to King’s Lynn to see their approach and benefits of being part of the League, leading to a cross-party motion in the Council accepting in principle the benefits of joining. The group has also put in motion a large town centre event on 26 November.

Running things

To quote one steering group member “trust and faith in each other” are essential. It takes time and often a few knockbacks to rebuild these after the difficulties that surfaced this spring. The level of activity shows the work a number of the steering group members are putting in and the progress that is being made. Running Boston Big Local and the UnLtd-funded Boosting the Local Economy activity is, in my view, a strain on people resources and time; on occasions this does not help with focusing on the Pathway, completing the profile and widening and deepening the community consultation. The medium term benefit is of course the activity around the local economy ties in well with one of the emerging four themes in the plan.

Consolidating how things are being run has had some ups and downs over the summer. Positive steps have been that the Terms of Reference and Code of Conduct were approved by the group in July. The Pathway funding application for £2000 for carrying forward the process and writing the plan has been drafted. The task will be advertised to ensure the best person to carry this forward.

Communications have been very positive, increasing the media profile through positive links with the Boston Standard, through social media and through producing and distributing excellent materials to residents. The Local Trusted Organisation is helping re-launch the website which has sadly got out of date.

In addition, the group has missed the Chief Executive of the Local Trusted Organisation over the summer months but is pleased he is back in good health. At the end of the Quarter, the facilitator let the group know she would also be off and steps have been put in place to redistribute tasks of admin, minute taking and web uploads, completing the Profile and leading the event on the 16th October.

At the last meeting of the steering group, I confirmed that the group could recruit a new rep at any time, but that I was willing to continue to support Boston Big Local through to the submission of the plan, at which point my own view is that it could strengthen governance arrangements to undertake a recruitment process for a Big Local Rep, even if I were to put in an application for continuing involvement.

The coming months in the build up to Christmas I hope will see a successful community event on 16 October, leading to the community of the Boston Big Local area confirming the emerging themes and adding to the potential list of ideas BBL might fund. I hope the background information called the Profile is completed and submitted to Local Trust, which once approved will allow the group to draw down £2000 to help build the detail of the plan itself which the steering group really hope can be ready for submission in late January 2015. It can take a month for plan approval, so, allowing for delays, means we can really hope the plan is in operation by April 2015.

Bill Badham
Boston Big Local Rep