Headlines: January 19th, 2010

Councils should be making better use of their powers to pursue policies and projects to improve the economic well being of the communities they serve, according to the Commission for Rural Communities. It has launched two reports explaining economic well-being and giving guidance on how the concept can be used.

The CRC has drawn up the reports to help local authorities and other organisations. They were launched at a seminar designed to stimulate debate and highlight good practice and to explore how economic well-being could be better used at a local level. It brought together representatives from local, regional and national government, the voluntary sector and other agencies who heard details of projects which had made a positive difference to people’s lives.

Sarah McAdam, the Chief Executive of the Commission, said the power for councils to pursue economic well-being was introduced in the Local Government Act 2000, but she added: “A recent government report found that use of this power was the exception rather than the rule.” A number of councils, particularly in rural areas, had developed projects which, she said, addressed the economic well-being of their communities and the Commission wanted to encourage others to learn from them. Examples included ‘Pension Extra’, a benefit take up campaign led by the Citizens Advice Bureaux in Caradon, Cornwall and ‘Out of the Rut’ a commercial venture developed from inside Rutland Council, to help vulnerable people back into the workforce.

Sarah McAdam added: “By focusing on economic well-being, local authorities can take a broad view of the contributions that people, businesses and communities make to a healthy economy and society and can take account of the social and environmental impacts of economic activities.”