Election Focus: Community Planning

26 April 2019 - by Gráinne Walsh

As election leaflets continue to pile up on doorsteps across Northern Ireland, the 819 candidates are vying for seats in institutions that have experienced significant change since 2015.

Critical amongst the range of new powers and responsibilities is community planning which “brings together all those involved in delivering public services in collaboration to improve the wellbeing of everyone – making a real difference to people’s lives.

The establishment of Community Planning Partnerships in each district comprising the council, statutory bodies, public agencies and the wider community, including the community and voluntary sector, is a significant development. 

The community planning process has improved the connection between all tiers of government – local and regional – and through these formal partnerships they have developed a shared plan.

It has also enhanced the connection with the third sector and wider communities through the development and consultation phase of the process, which was intended to produce agreed actions and deliver better outcomes for everyone.

All 11 community plans identify long-term priorities for improving the social, economic and environmental wellbeing of districts and the people who live there, using phrases such as 'the wellbeing of an area,' 'community cohesion' and 'improving the quality of life for all citizens'.

Local strategic planning reflects and complements the Programme for Government outcomes and the associated delivery plans, priming local government and its partners to play a key role in its delivery.

Nevertheless, much needs to be done, and with Councils due to submit a Statement of Progress to the Department for Communities in November, there will be much focus on how well the new powers and responsibilities have embedded, and how they have impacted on citizens.

And, with a new cohort of Councillors set to take over the reins next week, much of the success of community planning relies on political buy-in. Whilst it might be early days in relation to measuring impact, the long-term benefits promise to deliver real results for communities and their citizens.