Kirklees: People, Partners, Places
At Kirklees Council we recognise the importance of a strong voluntary and community sector (VCS) and a grassroots approach to tackle the shared challenges we face. So, we’ve sought to put power directly in the hands of communities through Community Asset Transfer and developed our Community Plus approach to harness the existing assets in our neighbourhoods. We’re creating place-based partnerships between the Council and communities which are delivering clear outcomes for the people of Kirklees.
People, Partners, Places: our guiding principles
We summarise our approach as ‘people, partners, places’. It means working with people rather than doing for or to them and working in partnership as the default rather than alone as a council. It’s about adopting a grassroots-up approach to planning and supporting long-term improvements, rather than the one-size-fits-all, top-down approach that has often characterised the way councils have worked in the past. All of this means recognising that each place has a distinct set of stakeholders, networks, and assets that helps to make that place what it is.
Community Asset Transfer: devolution of genuine power and resources
Community ownership of a public asset is a way of devolving real power and resources to our communities and can deliver an array of benefits for a place. Since 2013, we have transferred 21 assets to community organisations across Kirklees. From the Meltham Carlile Institute to Chickenley Hub and from Slaithwaite Civic Hall to Paddock Village Hall. We’ve seen them serve as catalysts for economic regeneration, as ways to preserve community access to services, and as a means to building levels of local control and a more inclusive local economy. For this reason, Community Asset Transfer (CAT) is a key part of our support for communities and local organisations.
We’re proud of our existing CAT support. We convene a regular, facilitated support network where representatives from successful transfer organisations discuss challenges and support others who are going through the process. We offer grant support of £5,000 for community organisations applying to take over an asset and grant funding to contribute to Year 1 running costs for successful applications. We also offer a match-funding loan of up to £100,000 for investment made in that asset (including from funding sources only available to voluntary and community sector groups).
However, we know that large, sensitive, or complex assets are hard to organise and the first years of a new journey can be the toughest. So, we are planning to increase our support by offering a grant of up to £10,000 to support groups produce a business case and by extending our revenue support grant to two years (10% in Year 1 and 5% in Year 2).
On top of that, we’re working with partners from the anchor institutions network to provide further informal planning and business case support to groups undergoing transfers, including from the local sports and leisure provider, Kirklees Active Leisure.
Community Plus: building on the strengths of our communities
Community Plus is our new community support and connections service, with a team of place-based Community Coordinators situated across the borough. Through the team, our aim is stronger, happier communities and healthier, more independent citizens of all ages. We connect individuals and groups in their areas and support people to set up new peer-led community groups.
In 2018-19, we worked with over 1,300 people of all ages for 4-6 weeks, to help them explore what would make their lives better and then help them connect with local community assets. We also supported local awareness campaigns, from Dementia Awareness to ‘Looking Out for our Neighbours’, which aimed to reduce loneliness and isolation by encouraging people to reach out to people around them. All this helps to create local informal support networks that play an important preventative role.
We know that through Community Plus we’re making a difference to the confidence and capacity of local people and communities, as recent testimony attests to:
“Without your involvement I would not have known what to do or where to start. I felt I was stuck here and nowhere to look forward. Now I feel I have somewhere to go and hope for the future. I want to be able to give the children a future, a chance to have a decent job.
“Your support has given me the confidence to make things a reality, and has helped me identify and understand I have a variety of skills. You have given me the motivation to look further into things and explore ideas I didn’t think were possible.”
Our Volunteering Policy: practicing what we preach
We know that one of the key challenges facing our local voluntary and community sector (VCS) is the lack of staff hours, with many organisations depending on volunteers to get things done. Volunteers are not always easy to come by and cannot always guarantee their time.
After discussions with local VCS groups, we created a new volunteering policy, giving every one of our 7,000+ staff members two days volunteering time during their paid work time. This means potentially over 100,000 staff hours supported through the scheme per year. We don’t decide who this time is spent with, leaving it up to VCS groups and our employees to organise something that works for everyone, but we do advertise local volunteering opportunities through our Volunteer Kirklees website.
The new policy involved a launch across all Council buildings with Communities and HR colleagues going from floor to floor to ensure every staff member is aware of the opportunity we’re offering.
Why we Keep it Local
These examples demonstrate the commitment Kirklees has to working in partnership with our communities. When we Keep It Local and join up our collective resources and assets, we can achieve our shared ambitions – and the outcomes for the people of Kirklees can be transformational.
Keep it Local is brought to you in partnership with Lloyds Bank Foundation for England and Wales which specialises in funding small, locally based charities tackling complex social problems.