Resident feedback due for shake-up

PROPOSALS to axe dozens of resident representatives could move a step closer this week.

Hartlepool Borough Council’s cabinet committee will meet on Thursday to discuss plans for a radical overhaul of the way the local authority engages with the public, voluntary sector and businesses.

Part of the plans include disbanding resident representatives from next April and replacing them with 11 Neighbourhood Voices, which would be based in the new ward boundaries due to come in next year.

Cabinet members have already discussed the proposals once and they have since been referred to a working group of councillors for further scrutiny.

A report to cabinet said the working group met towards the end of June and has put forward a range of recommendations, including scrapping the Neighbourhood Voice plans.

It added: “It was felt that the role of resident representative was no longer needed and that this should be disbanded and not replaced by the proposed Neighbourhood Voice role.”

Resident representatives, who volunteer their time, are elected every two years and their role is to represent their ward and liaise with council departments and partner agencies.

The Neighbourhood Voice role would be similar but there would be just one person per ward instead of the current structure of 25 representatives spread across the north, south and central areas.

Concerns have also been raised from Parish councillors that they are being marginalised in the proposed structure.

They have called on communication between the local authority and town and parish councils to be improved.

The changes are being put forward because less money is available, changes to the law and the Government’s Big Society initiative.

The way the council engages with the community and stake-holders is planned to be overseen by a new Strategic Partnership Group, headed by Mayor Stuart Drummond.

It will meet four times a year, but will not be a decision-making body.

The council is also proposing to reduce the number of Neighbourhood Action Plans which work with eight priority neighbourhoods deemed as being in the top 10 per cent nationally for deprivation.

Instead the council will focus only on those in the top five per cent.

But the working group has recommended that this should wait until the new ward boundaries have been confirmed.

Officers have put together a wide range of proposals and they will be discussed by cabinet members.

The meeting is due to be held on Thursday, at 9.15am at the civic centre.