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Councils encouraged to help themselves

Loans available in exchange for taking on additional services

Dan Cooper

Reporter:

Dan Cooper

Contact:

01635 886632

Council tax set to rise by four per cent from April

TOWN and parish councils are being urged to become more involved in delivering local services following hard-hitting cuts by West Berkshire Council.

A new website has been set up which provides councils with information about a range of additional services they could offer, including grass-cutting and the maintenance of footpaths.

Town and parish councils can bid for grants of up to £12,000 per project, with a total of £400,000 available until 2019/20.

The scheme will be funded by West Berkshire Council and Greenham Common Trust.

West Berkshire Council has been forced to find millions of pounds of savings after seeing its Government funding reduced year on year.

Increasingly, this has meant that the responsibility of running public services, such as libraries and toilets, has been passed on to towns and parishes.

Marcus Franks, West Berkshire’s executive member for community resilience, said: “As a council we provide a range of services in local communities, but sometimes town and parish councils want to do more.

“This is an entirely voluntary scheme and will not replace the statutory services we have a duty to provide.

“At a time when we are working hard to live within our means, we want to help our communities do more for themselves.

“We know people take pride in where they live and these new services will help those who want more done in their town or village than the district council can afford to do.”

The website, parish.westberks.gov.uk, is currently offering help with delivering grass- cutting, trimming vegetation, cleaning road signs and taking on community assets.

More services are due to be added in the coming months.

Burghfield parish councillor Paul Lawrence was involved in helping to shape the new website.

He said: “Burghfield Parish Council recognised the changes being forced on West Berkshire Council were inevitable and that the best way forward was to find a positive way to work with the district to achieve the best outcome for all parties.

“We welcomed and took the opportunity offered by the district council to start this conversation and we are pleased with the initial outcome of this portal.

“We look forward to developing it further to meet its potential for Burghfield Parish Council in the coming weeks and years.”

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