Southwark Council vows to empower communities at its annual meeting

20 May 2019

At the annual meeting of its Council Assembly, Southwark Council has unveiled a new approach to community involvement to replace Community Councils. The new Empowering Communities Programme will strengthen the role of local ward councillors who will lead Ward Meetings in each of the 23 wards at least six times a year, to discuss issues of local importance. 
The main changes agreed by Council Assembly are:

  • Replace Community Councils with a new Empowering Communities Programme to promote resident-led initiatives and strengthen ward councillors’ local leadership
  • Create a new role of Community Champion to be filled by five local councillors to cover five multi-ward areas of the borough

The council also plans to set up a Democracy Fund of £20,000 per year, which local people can apply for to help fund one-off events to discuss specific local issues, and support a new Annual Residents’ Conference to give residents and councillors an opportunity to get together to discuss the council’s priorities and budget. Community Champions will be key to both the Fund and the Conference, as these figureheads for local community engagement will review the Programme’s progress, allocate the new Democracy Fund, and work with officers to organise the annual conference.

Local funding pots like Cleaner, Greener, Safer; Devolved Highways; and Neighbourhoods Funding will still be decided locally, with ward councillors taking the final decision for their respective areas.

Cllr Rebecca Lury, Cabinet Member for Culture, Leisure, Equalities and Communities, said: “Southwark has a long tradition of engaging and involving our communities, but as a council we always want to challenge ourselves to evolve and improve the way we do things.

"Community Councils have been responsible for some excellent local initiatives, but the limited number of meetings covering large areas, often meant the meetings didn’t offer residents and councillors the space and focus to deal with the things that really matter to them.

"Taking community engagement to the ward level will allow local people to make decisions about the things that matter in their street, local park or neighbourhood. I am really proud to be launching this ambitious new programme which we hope will bring a wider and more diverse range of local people closer to the decisions that affect them.”

Page last updated: 20 May 2019