Norfolk council’s �2.5m Localism experiment

Communities in South Norfolk will have their say over where more than �2.5m of public money is spent over the next three years as part of a pilot project.

Leaders at South Norfolk Council are looking to embrace Localism and hand over more power to residents by allocating funding to its five neighbourhood boards for local schemes. It comes after the Localism Act received Royal Assent last month, which aims boost grassroots decision-making.

Under proposals set out by South Norfolk Council, the authority is looking to put an average of �110,000 each into its five neighbourhood boards in 2012/13 as part of a pilot programme, which is set to rise to �250,000 each by 2014/15.

The Localism initiative will be funded from 30pc of the council's New Homes Bonus, 50pc from second homes cash and 5pc of the new Community Infrastructure Levy.

In a report to councillors, David Ellis, communities director, said funding would be limited to projects focusing on youth, vulnerable older people, events and sports, community transport, common land management, grass cutting, community safety and public safety. However, any final decisions will have to be made by South Norfolk Council's cabinet.

The council's new-look neighbourhood boards first met in July and are made up of elected members and community representatives. Funding for the five neighbourhood boards - Eastern, Northern, Tas, Waveney and West - will be allocated according to population size and the number of new homes completed locally in the previous year.

Martin Wilby, cabinet member for Community Empowerment and the Big Society, added that the funding aimed to ensure that towns and villages taking new development would benefit the most from new homes cash.

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'Our plans for this pilot scheme mean that we will have around �2.5m of funding over three years to focus on key parts of our community like vulnerable older people, the young and community transport.'

'The difference is that our new approach means residents working with our neighbourhood boards will be making the recommendations about how much is spent on which services. These will come back to the Council's cabinet for decisions.'

'This is putting real power into the hands of local people to shape and direct the improvement of their own communities. This is what we mean by localism and building the Big Society,' he said.

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