A radical new approach to community activism that will see people reclaiming their streets, tackling local issues and improving their environment was set out in a report published by Baroness Newlove yesterday.
The government’s Champion for Active Safer Communities has detailed what residents, businesses, local agencies and central government can do to begin a generational shift in the country’s approach to activism and tackling neighbourhood crime.
The report, ‘Our Vision for Safe and Active Communities’, calls for a change of culture so neighbourhoods no longer see crime, antisocial behaviour (ASB) and disorder as ‘someone else’s problem’; and for services to go beyond simply asking communities what their problems are and see them as equal partners in resolving those issues.
Baroness Newlove’s recommendations for local areas to take forward include:
- Community Reward — where information provided by the community leads to a conviction the community is given a reward to spend on crime prevention work
- Bling Back — where money made from selling local drug dealers’ assets is handed back to the neighbourhood they blighted
- letting communities set their own local speed limits
- taking crime maps to the next level so people can use them to report crime and ASB and agencies can publish details of what action was taken against offenders
- giving the public a single point of contact through the roll out of the 101 number to report ASB
- providing council tax rebates, or vouchers for local businesses and services, for people who take part in activism
- asking Police and Crime Commissioners to commit at least one per cent of their budget to grass roots community groups to use or have a say on
- encouraging public servants to go out into communities, volunteering their time and expertise to support local groups
- pooling agencies’ budgets, giving communities a choice in how it is spent
- changing the ‘9 to 5’ culture of local agencies so they are there to respond when people need them most.
Baroness Newlove said: ‘The difference in the quality of life between an active community that looks out for each other especially the most vulnerable and one that closes its front door and says it’s someone else’s problem, is enormous.
‘For too long now too many people have either not known how to get involved, have not been listened to when they have tried to speak out, or simply felt that it wasn’t worth it as nothing would ever change.
‘This report sets out how we can change things by empowering local communities to reclaim their streets. Everyone has a role to play, communities must begin to take more responsibility and local agencies must begin to lessen their grip on the decision making process and trust the people they serve to solve problems for themselves.
‘In the past six months I have seen good people make a fantastic difference. I know there is a big appetite out there for volunteering and making a real difference. This report is written with them, and for them and to encourage others to follow us. Together we can change the way we approach activism forever and build that happy, safe neighbourhood we all deserve to live in.’
Minister for Crime Prevention James Brokenshire said: ‘Since her appointment Baroness Newlove has been working tirelessly to inspire, challenge, support and learn from areas across the country. I look forward to seeing how her report will help to shape how we approach community activism in the future.’
ACPO lead for Neighbourhood Policing, Assistant Chief Constable Stuart Donald said: ‘Empowering local people to take responsibility, to challenge professionals as well as being active in their communities is a key part of building safer neighbourhoods.
‘This report captures the next practical steps for local people, public agencies and Government in ensuring local services solve problems, are responsive to community needs, and build on the passion and determination of many volunteers, residents and professionals. I welcome the common sense and practical recommendations made by Baroness Newlove which bring together many examples of what works in local communities and what doesn’t. The key point is that many of these examples are being achieved without a big price tag.
‘The police accept the challenge to build on the success of neighbourhood policing and recognise they have an important role in many of the recommendations being made.’
The report is also calling on people to take small actions that can help make a big difference, like planting flowers outside your home to improve the local environment or carrying the shopping upstairs for an elderly neighbour.
This report is the culmination of six months of intensive work by Baroness Newlove following her appointment in October last year as Champion for Active Safer Communities.
During that time she has visited local areas across the country, meeting with activists, the police, local councils and housing associations to find out the different approaches to activism. She has also shared her four years experience as a successful community campaigner following the murder of her husband Garry in 2007 outside their home by a gang of youths.
Sharing her experiences online at her blog, Baroness Newlove has provided a helpful forum for people across the country to ask for advice and share their good work.
She also worked closely with seven hand picked areas, from Hackney to Merthyr Tydfil, alongside the community and local agencies in each area, to find out what works and what the barriers are to successful activism. The work gave her a valuable insight into how to give people the knowledge and confidence to get involved and make a difference.