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Portsmouth City Council is to receive Government cash to help people in the city’s most deprived areas have a bigger say on local issues.
The funding is part of a major Government drive to address the concerns of traditional working class communities that have been worst hit by the economic recession.
The money will be used to undertake community work in Charles Dickens ward, and parts of Nelson, St Thomas, Fratton and Paulsgrove wards.
The areas are variously characterised by high unemployment; low levels of educational achievement; high levels of social housing, anti-social behaviour and crime; and low levels of community cohesion.
As well as taking practical steps to give residents a bigger say on local issues, the funding will be used to ensure they are accessing the benefits of other Government programmes to help those suffering most from the recession. Among these is the Future Jobs Fund which aims to create additional jobs for 18 to 24-year-olds.
Portsmouth City Council is among a number of councils across the country that will receive a share of the £20 million of Connecting Communities funding following a successful bid to the Department for Communities and Local Government.
It will use some of the cash to recruit community link workers from local communities to help strengthen links between residents, local community organisations, the council and other service providers such as the police.
Neighbourhood information will also be used to dispel myths about the number of job opportunities available to local people, housing allocations, and the level of spending on services in the area.
A number of community fun days are planned to enable local people to come together and talk to ward councillors and service agency staff about problems and potential solutions.
Nigel Selley, the council’s neighbourhood manager, said: “We are delighted that our bid has been successful and will be working hard to build on our existing work to engage with local people so that we can best meet their needs.”
The project has the support of local ward councillors and Portsmouth’s two MPs. It will complement Portsmouth City Council’s government funded Take Part project which is seeking to promote and strengthen local democracy and active citizenship.
Council Leader Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson said: “It is important we listen to residents so that they can help influence the decisions about the delivery of local services that affect their day-to-day lives. We are already doing this and the additional funding is a welcome boost to enable us to further engage local people in the democratic process.”
Communities Secretary John Denham, who announced the additional funding, said: “This support will enable local people to influence, shape and change policies on issues which really matter in their community. It will help to make sure that those people who are feeling the pressure the most are getting a bigger say and a fair deal.”