Communities are doing it for themselves in age of austerity

With austerity measures continuing to blight local services across the district, it is being left increasingly more to communities to shape the lot of their own areas and make them better places to live.

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 9th February 2017, 2:00 pm
Updated Wednesday, 1st March 2017, 8:51 am
Members of Maddiston Community Council are driving forward ideas to make the area a better place to live
Members of Maddiston Community Council are driving forward ideas to make the area a better place to live

Residents in areas such as the Braes, which constitutes a number of small villages, have saw bus services cut leaving communities more isolated.

To add salt to the wounds health services have been moved to other parts of the district forcing people to travel, but those who rely on buses have to get two because the direct one no longer runs, costing them more money.

Community centres and halls up and down Falkirk are currently at risk of closing; public areas of grass are not being cut as often leaving communities looking more dilapidated; more people on low incomes; families reliant on Falkirk Foodbank; organising activities for young people to decrease antisocial behaviour; dealing with planning issues; searching for uses of derelict buildings.

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These are all issues we have reported on and ones community councillors and activists face on a daily basis which poses the question – what can be done to keep our communities healthy and flourishing?

Some committed and philanthropic people are answering this call, showing immense community spirit.

Maddiston is one area that has a proactive and busy community council which lobbies and cajoles for better services for its residents.

The village at the south end of the district is one of three – Bo’ness and Blackness together and Grangemouth being the others – which is to benefit from the new Community Changes Fund, launched this week by Falkirk Council, to boost the areas through projects all residents can take part in.

At a series of drop-in sessions, people will have a chance to pitch the ideas that will improve the quality of life in that community. A total of up to £40,000 has been allocated for Bo’ness and Blackness, £27,000 for Grangemouth and £11,000 for Maddiston.

Council Leader Councillor Craig Martin said: “We’re encouraging the three communities involved in the fund to get right behind all of the projects as and when they are revealed.

“We’re looking for community leaders to spread the word and urge local groups to think about how their area could improve and what projects or initiatives this fund could support that would have a lasting benefit.

“At the end of the process we’ll host ‘Decision Day’ events where everyone can come along and enjoy hearing what the various proposals are and communities will have the final and direct say on what their community will really benefit from.”

The community council is ahead of the game and has been working with IRISS (Institute for Research and Innovation in Social Services), Falkirk Council and voluntary organisation CVS Falkirk for some time to develop a strategy for the community.

More than 200 Maddiston and Rumford residents and 250 school children were surveyed to analyse the feedback to assess the priorities for improvement which were: children and young people; community spirit; travel, transport and traffic; local provision of services.

IRISS has been contracted by the Scottish Government to examine and report on the social services in the Braes area and it is anticipated that if the exercise proves successful it will be rolled out throughout Falkirk and nationally.

The group held a ‘feast meeting’ in the community centre, attended by over 80 residents, to explore initiatives put forward by the community.

Community councillor John Wotherspoon said: “The purpose of this feast meeting was to explore initiatives proposed by local residents, the school, a local church and the local Salvation Army to improve the quality of life in our community.

“A total of 11 brief presentations were given and five projects were approved and granted support funds of £2150.

“Now we have the opportunity to build upon this success with the offer of a further £11,000 towards local schemes which, perhaps small in themselves, can assist in bringing the community together and assist in improving the village and the lives of those who live here both young and old.”

The five supported projects in Maddiston from the IRISS project are: Nurture Project – Maddiston Primary School; Maddiston senior youth club activity outing; Muiravonside Park growing area raised beds; Maddiston PSA summer fete; and training equipment for Maddiston Minis Football Club.

The Community Changes Fund scheme is accepting applications from this week and shortlisted applicants will then have a chance to pitch their project idea on ‘Decision Day’ when eventual winners will be announced. The funding for recipients will be decided by local residents within each area casting a vote for their favourite project.

There will be a series of drop-in information sessions for prospective applicants scheduled in the three community areas during February and March.

Maddiston: Community Centre – Wednesday, February 15, 2pm-5pm – closing date for applications Friday, February 24. Grangemouth: Advice and Support Hub – Thursday, February 16, 11am-2pm and Thursday, February 23, 2pm-5pm – closing date Thursday, March 2. Bo’ness: Bo’ness Library – Wednesday, February 22, 11am-2pm and Thursday, March 2, 2pm-5pm) – closing date Thursday, March 9.