Guide Guide for town and parish councils

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3. How can we access play, open space and sports money

East Devon District Council is the organisation that is legally accountable for Section 106 monies on play, open spaces and sports being spent, and being spent correctly. This policy that we’ve had since 2008 allows town and parish councils and local communities to get involved with spending it and make the final decisions. We’re not aware of any other local authority in the country that allows the local community to make the decisions on how this funding is spent. The majority of other local authorities decide how the money is spent themselves, without any town / parish council or local community involvement.

There are important procedures that need to be followed to ensure that you, the town or parish council, are allocated your funds. If you get in touch with our Planning Obligation Officer, she will tell you how much money is available. By following the simple process outlined in the rest of this information, you can make sure the funds are allocated correctly and speedily:

  • Set up a steering group with town and parish council representatives and other relevant organisations. This steering group should ensure that local people know what is happening. Town and parish newsletters and local social media groups are a good way to do this.
  • Set up a meeting with our Planning Obligation Officer, Community Engagement Officer and your steering group. At this meeting you should look carefully at the process and decide what work your steering group is willing and able to do to ensure the funds are spent appropriately. A schedule of future face-to-face meetings must also be agreed. Either the steering group or the Planning Obligation Officer and/or Community Engagement Officer will write up an action plan outlining what will happen and when, and who is responsible for each stage of the process. Relevant East Devon District councillors should be made aware of the process and invited along to meetings where appropriate so they can also help town and parish councils if needed.
  • Our Planning Obligation Officer and/or Community Engagement Officer are able to advise, or be involved in, every stage of planning events and activities to publicise the projects. They are a very useful resource and are happy to help. However, if the steering group decides not to ask them to get actively involved, then you must make sure are kept fully informed of any activities or events that are planned before any action is taken.
  • Our Community Engagement Officer will be able to offer support with publicity for your events. You should make sure our Community Engagement Officer is aware of any planned activities well in advance. This is a valuable resource, as they have access to a comprehensive list of media contacts and will be able to issue press releases or statements on your behalf, and use the council’s social media accounts to help you with publicity. Budgets are always under pressure and this is a good way to gain free publicity.
  • Children and young people must be given an opportunity to vote on the projects. Play and sport is particularly relevant to them so their votes need to be actively sought. If this is to be done by you, the advice of our Community Engagement Officer must be sought on how to do this most effectively and in line with child protection guidance.
  • We strongly recommend that parish and town councils undertaking this participatory budget process take minutes at their steering/working groups and publish them on their websites to ensure that the process is open and transparent.
  • Having a Neighbourhood Plan in place that has already identified open space, sports and play facilities needed in the area and evidenced through public consultation can reduce the time taken to complete the process. Please discuss this with our Planning Obligation Officer and/or Community Engagement Officer at the earliest opportunity.