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Act Local plan is ‘postcode lottery’
PEOPLE living in so-called “poor” areas will lose out in a council bid to encourage residents to provide services for free.
That’s the view of a Worcestershire politician, who has accused County Hall of presiding over a “postcode lottery” with its controversial Act Local project.
Worcestershire County Council wants volunteers to help run services such as trimming hedges, cutting grass, spreading salt and staffing libraries or community centres.
Bosses reckon they can save millions of pounds by allowing parish councils, householders or other community groups to take over things traditionally provided in-house.
But Councillor Fran Oborski says the project favours “middle class” areas because more deprived parts of the county struggle to find willing volunteers.
She said: “It’s quite obvious that middle class areas have the ability to organise and fund-raise that some poor areas don’t.
“It will lead to a general deterioration in services and I think it will affect those people the most.
“I don’t mind people topping up things that already exist, but I think there is a basic level of service everyone must be entitled to. “It’s all very well saying, ‘We need volunteers to run libraries’, but in some areas people don’t have the wherewithal to provide it.” She is one of four politicians to put her name to a council motion urging the authority to avoid “accusations of postcode lottery” as the project gathers pace. Act Local is still in its early days, but an example of where it has worked so far includes Peopleton, near Pershore. where the parish council has installed new drainage, and volunteer-led Pershore Library.
The comments have been refuted by volunteers, many of whom say people from all walks of life get involved with their communities.
Former Worcester councillor Margaret Layland, who lives in St John’s and volunteers for the RSPCA, said: “That might be her experience, but from mine I can say people from all walks of life volunteer.
“In Dines Green we’ve got The Green Centre and a committee helped set that up which was full of volunteers.
“Volunteers are worth their weight in gold. But I would not say Dines Green is deprived at all.”
Councillor John Campion, the cabinet member for communities and localism, said: “First of all, localism is nothing new, it’s happening everywhere, right across our communities but in different ways.
“It’s early days but we are seeing some good signs, like Pershore Library. The response to it has been very good indeed.”