Dear Colleague

As we look forward to the year ahead, our sector has some significant milestones ahead of it.  While BREXIT is a national talking point, in Dorset we can look no further than Local Government Reorganisation (LGR).

With Council elections in May, we can only speculate on the likely leadership and direction of the new Council.  Other questions include how long will the transition period be after the new Council has been seen through to being ‘safe and legal’ in April?  And what will the new Council’s policies towards civil society be, and how will this impact us as local community organisations?    

One thing we do know is that change is now upon us.  There will be a pan Dorset Council review of funding for VCSE organisations starting soon, and changes as a result of LGR have started.  These include the merging of Bournemouth & Poole CVS, and the stepping down of current Chief Executives Chris Beale and Viv Aird.  The loss of Chris and Viv will leave a tremendous hole in the local VCSE sector, both for their deep local knowledge and understanding of the VCS sector, and their selfless leadership.   As long time figure heads of the sector they will be sorely missed.

Back in Dorset, our conference last 7th December looking at the impact of LGR, and attended by members of the Shadow Cabinet, gave us an opportunity to reflect on why DCA is here, and to give people a much needed voice.

It was evident from the conference that many VCSE groups and parish councils feel disenfranchised form the LGR process.  We talk about developing community solutions to the problems left by council funding cuts, particularly health & social care, but receive little guidance on how to do so with no resources.  What our sector does have is energy and passion, which I believe is something we can harness and build upon.

While a DCA core role is to bring people together at events like this, to support development of local VCSE networks, and providing a voice to the sector, ultimately we cannot do this for people.  As our strapline says   “We believe in community based solutions because communities know best.”

I was heartened therefore that local groups are beginning to organise themselves better to have a stronger voice.  The Purbeck grouping of town and parish councils is a great example, and is a model that is worth pursuing as it enables local groups to share intelligence, work collectively to overcome bureaucratic blocks to getting things done, and engage more strategically with groups like DCA.  In turn this helps us to influence more effectively on behalf of the sector strategically  – the opportunity is there.

As was pointed out to me at the conference, parish councils are the last true participative grass roots democratic organisations, unencumbered by party politics, so let’s connect these networks with the wider VCSE to create a stronger voice, and work more collectively to address the challenges we all face in providing services in Dorset’s rural communities.

Please see our conference report here for full feedback from the event.

It was in his inaugural address that John F. Kennedy spoke his famous words, "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country."  While these are often repeated words, the current local government vacuum does give us an opportunity to organise ourselves better to find new solutions to the challenges we all face.  The only question is, particularly if you are the type of person who likes to challenge the status quo, are we up to the challenge to act as selfless leaders and be part of something bigger than ourselves,  and can we afford to wait to do so?

If you would like to continue the conversation please do contact us at [email protected]