During 2012 Brighton and Hove city council announced that it would be running two pilots to examine the potential benefits of more localised decision making. Serendipity (SES) was providing Community Development support to the Whitehawk, Manor Farm and Bristol estates and with the encouragement of community activists applied to be one of the pilot areas. This bid was successful.
The Neighbourhood Governance Pilots ran from October 2012 until December 2013 and were held in two areas of the city one being a Political Ward - Holingdean - the other being the grouping of three estates - Whitehawk, Manor Farm, and Bristol Estate now collectively known as DueEast.
The pilot was launched at an event at Whitehawk Community Hub on 31st October 2012. A two stage event provided residents with details of some of the current budgets spent in the area and through the use of "Monopoly" money (known as DueEasters) were asked how they would priorotise spending, approach service delivery different or consider taking over service delivery themselves. The results of the evening demonstrated the highest priority was Enterprise and Employment, followed by Housing, Crime Prevention, Health, and Children and Families. There was an interest in revising/taking over Recycling and Rubbish collection, Housing Management (cleaning, small repairs etc), taking responsibility for the Estate Development Budget (allocating and spending), regenerating the local shopping area (the Broadway), managing open spaces, and Community Asset transfer in terms of the land in front of the Hub, ensuring community benefit from sale of building land, and listing Community Assets to protect their future.
Starting from the premise that the pilot should also lay foundations for an ongoing community legacy the Neighbourhood Council has been working with this and subsequent priorities to improve the local community and provide greater opportunities for community engagement and involvement in local decision making. This has culminated in DueEast being granted charitable status (as a Charitable Incorporated Organisation with all residents being members and only residents able to be elected as Trustees) in December 2013. In January DueEast in partnership with (SES) successfully bid to jointly deliver the Community Development commissioned services in the area from July 2014 onwards.
DueEast's success have included the hosting of three rounds of Participatory/Community Budgeting where local people decided on which projects they want to support in their area. The first of these had £20,000 of Youth Service funds, and a further £10,000 of Community Health and Wellbeing funds (Healthy Neighbourhood funding plus trading surplus from Hawks Community Cafe). Participatory budgeting took place both in person and on-line. A local event provided the opportunity for the 38 organisations applying for grants to meet with the community who then voted by allocating sums of DueEasters to those projects they wished to support. Over a hundred residents attended and voted at these two sessions aged from 6 to 86. There then followed the opportunity for on-line voting where one minute videos were available to describe the proposed projects - a further 88 residents voted via this method. The success of this allocation method has continued via two further rounds - on of HNF and Hawks surplus, the other of Community First grant allocation. The Trustees of DueEast are currently working with a representative of the National Participatory Budgeting Network to further this work and adapt the concept in wider community decision making exercises.
Work has primarily been carried out through a number of themed sub-committees that bring together residents and service providers to work together on local issues. These cover:
Crime Prevention, Housing, Environment, Health and Wellbeing, Children and Families, Enterprise and Employment, Communication, Festivals, and Equalities and Inclusion. Each sub-committee is linked to one or two DueEast trustees and where practical a further resident chairs them
In addition to the running of Hawks Community Cafe (employing one local resident as Manager and offering now one apprentice place to local young people), and soon Hawks Bazaar (pop-up events on the waste land in front of the Hub) Enterprise and Employment has focused on the Economic Regeneration of the area through a single topic Task & Finish group bringing together residents, local businesses and BHCC staff to look at changing parking controls, to increase the trade of the local Broadway shops, and filling the empty shops by giving short term lease opportunities. The group have drafted an amended parking control layout for the Broadway, which was put out to informal consultation locally, initially being prepared for a Traffic Regulation Order application to implement the scheme its proposal conflicted with current Council Policy. However with the support of local residents DueEast, working with council officers proposed a change in parking policy which was agreed to in November 2014. This achievement has resulted in a major stride forward for local democracy and has demonstrated that local people can influence local policy. In addition the group has secured additional drop curbs and improvements to existing refuge (traffic island), agreed for 2015/16.
The Communications committee produce a regular newsletter available to all residents, has a monthly update bulletin of progress, a dedicated website, facebook page, and produces regular Tweets. It has also pioneered the live web broadcasting of meetings. Still in its early stages at least three full council meetings have been webcast live with twitter dialogue as have two resident committee meetings on the Bristol Estate. It is planned to adopt this process at every meeting subject to broadband access - a problem on the estate.
The Housing committee has two sections -one bringing together all residents to look at general problems, issues and joint working (TARTs Tenants and Residents Together) it is this group that is leading at looking to take responsibility for common way cleaning and upkeep. The other is run in partnership with Housing and is specifically for Council Tenants representatives - Our Neighbourhood which is a joint meeting with Mears group representatives to tackle common issues relating to repairs and refurbishments. This group would lead on promoting the concept of a small repairs services run by local people.
The yearly Festival has expanded from very small beginnings with a very limited budget but last year attracted over 1000 people to a great range of stalls and entertainments hosted between the Crew Club and St.Cuthmans Church and stretching fully across the green space in between. With the communications group the emphasis, apart from fun, is the presentation of a positive and inclusive image for the area.
Children and Families promotes activates within the area for these groups, operates yearly showcase events at the Manor Gym, and coordinates and produces information publiciseing events and activities throughout the estates. it also works with professional services such as the Children's Centre to promote their activities and encourage their usage. A recent joint meeting with Health has focused on food poverty and the use of, and need for more, food banks.
The Health and Welbeing group is paving the way for greater patient involvement and consultation in service delivery, while the Equalities and Inclusion group are currently putting together a series of training and information sessions for local people.
In addition to community consultation events DueEast hosted a very productive seminar for professional workers to examine how the city's Financial Inclusion Policy translates into housing estates.
DueEast provides a resident led and controlled organisation that seeks to involve all its residents in local decision-making. It is championing greater engagement by the council with residents and is keen to support local service delivery. Finally it is campaigning for more budgets to be devolved to a local level where decisions over allocation can be taken by participatory methods.