Community engagement policy

Your neighbourhood, your plan

Liberal Democrats believe in passing power down to our towns' local communities. We want to involve Medway residents in the design and delivery of services and to influence the decision-making process. We want to ensure that the right decision is made at the right level and with community involvement, thereby improving the quality of services and ensuring greater co-operation between service delivery agencies.

Medway residents have the right to influence the future of service provision in our towns. We shall encourage the active engagement of the people who use services.

We believe that community engagement leads to better outcomes, allowing residents to have their say on how they want their areas to grow and develop. We will, where possible, assist in the setting up of neighbourhood forums across Medway, similar to the successful group already setup for the Luton Road area. These can be used to create local Neighbourhood Plans, giving local residents the power to determine the type of new buildings, where they are built, and to what standard. Providing homes for the next generation is essential in order to create sustainable communities, with thriving shops, schools and public services.

A key to solving our towns' housing crisis is the provision of more affordable good quality housing. The most effective way to achieve house building is with the consent and active involvement of our local communities. New homes should be well designed, of good quality and contribute to a sense of local pride.

We will push for more local democracy through the expansion of parish and town councils. This in turn will provide new routes into civic involvement for a much broader and more diverse range of people within local government.

Your community, your money

Medway Liberal Democrats will involve residents and community groups in the budget setting process. Working together to find common ground in developing a budget strategy that is robust, constructive and credible.

From a Liberal Democrat perspective, we will ensure that a budget stands up to scrutiny, is transparent and is seen to be accountable. We would give the community greater scrutiny of any proposed budget to assess risks, options and deliverability.

This process would enable Medway's residents to have an effective voice and constructively challenge a budget which can be used to reflect the priorities of the residents.

Enabling a Medway Communities Budget

The current Ward fund scheme is insufficient for material change. We want to instigate the system of Enabling Community Budgets (ECBs). These are intended to support activities delivered by community, voluntary and social enterprise organisations, giving each elected member of the Council a Budget to spend on community projects or to develop new projects in their ward to tackle local need.

Below are several examples of the type of projects this fund could help:

  • Purchase of play equipment
  • Village and town hall refurbishments
  • One-off events that will benefit the wider community
  • New community initiatives (staff costs/support costs)
  • Projects that will help and support people with disabilities and their carers
  • Purchase of defibrillators
  • Purchase of equipment for village halls or community centres

Projects would :

  • Strengthen the sense of community and belonging
  • Support charitable activities focused on reducing isolation or supporting mental health and wellbeing initiatives
  • Improve the sustainability and liveability of our neighbourhoods
  • Inject life into local high streets
  • Enable local charities to provide supplies and support to their local communities or support the recruitment and training of volunteers

Strengthen Ward Budget Scheme

Liberal Democrats want to strengthen the Ward Budget Scheme, to provide a financial resource for Medway councillors to become more involved in their communities. The scheme will assist and support local projects and opportunities for improving the social, environmental and well-being aspects of residents living in their wards. The Ward Budget Scheme can fund projects within one ward or be used to fund joint projects across multiple wards, providing each ward has identified the project to benefit its residents.

The total budget for each ward is determined by the number of electors in the ward. The allocation to be spent over the four-year electoral cycle.

Applications can come from:

  • community and voluntary groups
  • charities
  • schools

Applications must focus on specific aspects in the ward which may include:

  • items or activities to support local community groups
  • environmental projects to improve and enhance the public realm
  • connecting communities to help reduce social isolation, bringing people together through community engagement and events
  • initiatives that support and promote community safety
  • activities that encourage and promote healthier communities

Your council, your questions

Liberal Democrats believe in an open and transparent council that listens and acts in the interests of Medway's residents.

Medway Liberal Democrats will reconnect Medway residents to their council, by empowering our communities with policies that should flow in both directions; from the individual to the council and vice versa. We will open up the decision-making process, giving Medway residents a sense of ownership over local decisions, and to shape policy. Campaigning organisations also help to scrutinise the actions of the council. We will encourage a flourishing Medway community action sector. Liberal Democrats believe that the purpose of the council is to represent, work for, and be the voice of all of the people of Medway; and that it is important that its decisions reflect the diversity of Medway and will always put individuals at the forefront of the choices it makes.

We will ensure council services such as housing repairs, social care, and universal services, are responsive to Medway's residents; with clear points of access, a transparent process and efficient service.

We will take the council out to our communities and wards by establishing 'Council Roadshows' to give residents the opportunity to become involved in the decision-making process, and give feedback on services. This will lead to a more responsive council, in tune with what local residents want for their area. We will use the results from these 'roadshows' to help finalise decisions and shape future plans.

Liberal Democrats also recognise that community empowerment is not just a matter for Medway Council. Medway's voluntary sector has a vital role to play in helping people come together to tackle the problems that affect them.

Your parks, your choice

Liberal Democrats want to preserve open spaces around our towns, giving the local community, space for leisure and recreation, without causing harm to Medway's most sensitive wildlife habitats and species. We would improve the connectivity of habitats to ensure a more robust ecological network and provide new allotments on 'brown field' sites to diversify land use.

Medway's planning system has proven ineffective in creating equitable access to quality natural greenspaces and rivers. Deprivation of access to a high-quality environment can have serious implications for mental and physical health and wellbeing.

Medway Liberal Democrats want to increase the number of Friends groups, with the aim of one for each significant park and green space across Medway.The existing friends of park groups across Medway have proven to be an amazing success. They have allowed residents and community groups to take back control of their local green spaces, assisting the council officers to keep them clean and improving them.

An example of expansion and success is highlighted by Broomhill Park, an open green space that has been growing in strength. The 'Friends of Broomhill' finally fulfilled their ten-year objective of purchasing 'The Old Orchard'. The area is now accessible for many park users and provides a quiet and relaxed environment for residents and visitors.

Groups, such as young people, people with disabilities and the business community, all have interests in Medway's parks and open spaces. It is important to ensure that engagement promotes inclusion and that efforts are made to recognise and involve the relevant communities. Some groups or communities face barriers or are in situations that mean they are less liable to participate. We will make specific additional efforts to identify and to engage with these groups.

Your police, your voice

Effective community policing requires the engagement and consent of the people.

Residents are concerned about crime and the lack of visible policing on the ground. There are people who live in our towns who feel unsafe on some of Medway's streets, and some of our communities are exposed and vulnerable. Medway has multiple challenges, with pockets of deprivation that allow young people to be sucked into gangs and organised crime.

The Partners and Community Teams (PACT) initiatives have proven to be an effective way to demonstrate policing by consent. These meetings allow for a sharing of community issues and also allow for the police to prioritise their resources. We will establish PACTs in every community across Medway.

Medway Liberal Democrats will push for "proper community policing" where officers are visible, trusted and known personally to local people. We will build communities where people are safe and feel safe. We want the police to be a service, not a force - working with our communities to keep us safe. We will ensure that there is a clear understanding of and commitment from the police to engage with Medway residents about decisions that affect their lives.

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