Headlines: August 15th, 2008

People want to live and work in places that are attractive, vibrant, prosperous, safe and welcoming and achieving these aims drives satisfaction within an area. Councillors are well placed to champion the improvement of public places and make areas into good places to live and work. Communities and Local Government wants councillors to take up the challenge and get in the driving seat of improvement.

Many councils are well down the improvement road and some of their achievements have been published to show what can be done. Developing links with the private sector can not only help to provide funding but, through knowledge sharing, can also help in the delivery of joint initiatives. Bournemouth Council had some new and innovative ideas for using technology to improve service delivery, including the installation of recycling bins with solar powered compaction systems along the seafront, but required extra resources in order to implement them. At the same time, Marks and Spencer was seeking to redevelop the Bournemouth town centre store into their first eco-store in the country. A partnership project delivered the required results for both partners.

Harnessing the ideas, energy and commitment of local residents can vastly improve a Council’s Best Value performance and help to build stronger relationships with the community. Ealing Council wanted to engage with local people about the environmental issues that mattered to them and to speed up the time the council took to resolve environmental problems.

This ambition was realized with a ‘Streetwatchers’ scheme where residents volunteer to look out for problems such as fly-tipping, fly-posting, graffiti and abandoned vehicles in their local streets, parks and communities. To help them report these issues they are given a unique ID number and direct access to the council’s contact centre via a preferred email address or free phone number.

These examples of improvements show how initiatives by councillors can help to create quality public places. In addition to working with private land and property owners and local residents, improvements can come from developing partnerships with other councils, making savings, working more efficiently and educating the public.