Thursday, 21 April 2016

Communities filling the budget gaps by filling the potholes... ... "government cuts are undermining the very idea of community volunteering"

The front page of the latest View from Sidmouth carried good news:

| Home | Pulman's View from Sidmouth

The idea has been around for some time now:
Futures Forum: Communities filling the budget gaps by filling the potholes...

The County Council is framing the project as 'community self-help':

Self help and community support

The community support schemes give town and parish councils and community self-help groups the opportunity to take control of small local maintenance tasks; allowing you to manage local volunteers and maintain your own local area.
How you can get involved
  • Snow Wardens Scheme – trained volunteers who act as a key contact between the local community and DCC during severe weather
  • Parish Paths Partnership (P3) – a scheme to help people improve the condition of their local rights of way
  • Community Self Help Scheme – trained volunteers who complete minor works out at a safe distance from the public highway
  • Community Road Warden scheme – trained volunteers who complete minor maintenance works in the vincinity of the public highway within their community.
Any parish or town council or community self-help group interested in the Community Self Help or Community Road Warden schemes will need to attend at least one of these courses depending upon the type of work to be undertaken

Self help and community support | Roads and transport

Pulman's View from Sidmouth made good use of the County Council's latest press release:

Community Road Wardens trial pothole repairs

Community Road WardenCommunity Road Warden
Posted on: 15 April 2016
Minor pothole repairs are being carried out by some of Devon’s Community Road Wardens in a number of pilot areas of the county.
Devon County Council launched its Community Road Warden scheme 18 months ago to enable communities to do a wide range of highway work for themselves, which the County Council can no longer do due to reduced levels of funding.
The initiative builds on the already successful schemes in place for public rights of way and the county’s Snow Wardens. It enables a Road Warden to act as the highways “Champion”, providing support in their local area in accessing highway information and in organising and carrying out minor work such as weed clearance, grass cutting, sign cleaning and small drainage work.
To ensure that they can work safely on the highway, the County Council has provided free training for around 60 volunteers nominated by Parish and Town Councils over the past year, with another 27 on the waiting list or booked for training. The training enables volunteers to sign up to the Road Warden scheme, which provides County Council third party liability cover for properly completed volunteer work and recommends communities to provide their own personal injury insurance cover for their volunteers.
To demonstrate that “self-help” can work for fixing minor potholes in roads, six town and parish council volunteers who are part of the County Council’s Community Road Warden scheme, have agreed to take part in a trial where they will be provided with the tools and material to fill minor defects on their local roads.
The County Council has provided Road Wardens in Bradford and Cookbury, Clyst Hydon, Plymtree, Sidmouth and Broadclyst with a simple-to-use pothole repair material, Instarmac, to patch up small potholes in their parishes and towns.
Councillor Stuart Hughes
Cllr Stuart Hughes
Councillor Stuart Hughes, Devon County Council Cabinet Member for Highway Management, is among the Road Wardens taking part in the trial.
He said: “These trials are an important step forward for this scheme and if successful it could be rolled out to all of the Community Road Wardens who want to carry out this additional maintenance work. Our materials laboratory has carried out a thorough test of the Instarmac material and it is well used by other highways authorities. A number of parishes have asked to help repair potholes and the wardens taking part in this trial are all keen to help us develop this pioneering initiative.
“We’ve all been shown how to carry out the repairs with the material and it seems to be a quick and easy way to deal with smaller potholes on minor roads before they develop into safety defects which the County Council has to repair. There are many good examples of local communities working with us to help themselves, as our budgets from central Government are continuing to be reduced every year. The Road Wardens are not replacing County Council staff and their role is to help with more minor maintenance work that we can no longer do.”
Community Road Wardens trial pothole repairs | News centre

The story has been carried by other media:
Community Road Wardens trial pothole repairs | The Exeter Daily
Devon turns to volunteers to repair potholes | West Country (W) - ITV News

However, whilst it's clear that the County Council is under severe financial strains
Devon County Council pleads with government to reverse cuts - BBC News
Tough Choices | Help shape your local services

there has not been much debate about asking 'communities' to fill the gaps.

This is happening everywhere:
Lancaster district cuts may pile on pressure for volunteers - Lancashire Evening Post
Volunteers Urged To Help Fill Funding Gaps - The Bay
The Spokesman-Review - Google News Archive Search

There are 'issues':
Will volunteers become the sticking plaster holding the NHS together? | openDemocracy
Hundreds of library jobs axed as cuts spark surge in volunteers | Plymouth Herald
Grey army of 5 million volunteers 'plugging gaps in social care' - Telegraph 

And the volunteer sector has been asking questions for some time:

Job substitution 'risks undermining perception of volunteering', warns umbrella body

Justin Davis Smith, chief of Volunteering England, says replacing paid staff with volunteers could be extremely damaging
Job substitution, where volunteers are used to replace paid staff, could undermine the public perception of volunteering, a new guide from Volunteering England warns.
The publication, A Guide to Avoiding Job Substitution, calls on charities and other organisations to maintain their responsibilities to employees in the face of cuts to services.
"There is a danger that volunteering becomes politicised in these situations, and it would be damaging to the public perception of volunteers if they are seen to undermine staff jobs," the document says.
Job substitution could arise in a number of scenarios, it explains, ranging from an organisation cutting jobs and recruiting volunteers to fill the gaps, to community groups volunteering to continue running services that have been cut.
Job substitution 'risks undermining perception of volunteering', warns charity

Cuts ‘destroying big society’ concept – says the head of Community Service Volunteers

In both The Times and on the Today programme on Radio 4 this morning, Dame Elisabeth Hoodless, retiring from her long standing post as Chief Executive for the Community Service Volunteers this year, has criticised the coalition’s Big Society, claiming government cuts are undermining the very idea of community volunteering.
Such criticism from any respected head of a respected charity would be enough in itself, but is made even sharper by Dame Hoodless being seen as the ‘mother of the Big Society’.
She told the Times the “massive” council cuts would make it harder for people to do more in their communities and told the BBC that “…it’s about one hand not appreciating what the other hand’s doing…”
Dame Hoodless voiced concerns back in May of last year to The Guardian, asserting that while a great idea in principle, the changes would have to be managed, with many volunteering opportunites at saturation point already, and the in-built costs of making bids could lead to inertia and waste. (source)
Ministers insist they are creating new sources of funds for voluntary groups and the government has said it will be investing £470m over the next four years in charities and voluntary groups to give them independence from state money

Cuts ‘destroying big society’ concept – says the head of Community Service Volunteers

To what extent is this about the 'lean state' - as promoted in the States?
Washington’s role as a national leader in Lean government draws thousands to Tacoma | Governor Jay Inslee
Adopting a “Lean Government” Model for Michigan [Mackinac Center]
The Maryland World Class Consortia - Maryland Lean Government Conference
Imagine a lean, effective government | The Seattle Times

Some might see things from a different perspective:
The State of Austerity - STRIKE!
You Can't Have a Big Society in a Small State | Georgia Elander

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