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Powers and duties
New DEFRA Community Programme
Following the demise of the Countryside Agency, DEFRA has launched a new Rural Social and Community Programme to run for two years from April 2006. The programme is worth £13.5 million per annum. Some £3.5 million is to be spent on the Rural Community Councils (eg Voluntary Action Cumbria), leaving around £1million per annum per region for other rural programmes. Out of this money there is an expectation that some existing programmes should be continued, such as Parish Plans, rural housing enablers (eg Cumbria Rural Housing Trust) and other voluntary sector programmes. The expectation is that some £300,000pa should be available in Cumbria to fund existing and new programmes. GONW has asked for a partnership to be set up in Cumbria to decide how the money should be spent and CALC has been invited to participate. The continuation of support for Parish Plans is expected to be a priority.
Interim Parish Plans Partnership
Until the new DEFRA programme is up and running in April 2006, interim arrangements have had to be put in place by Government Office North West to handle the current parish planning programme. CALC has been invited to sit on a small management group involving Voluntary Action Cumbria and others.
With support from the Countryside Agency, the CPRE has completed an investigation into advertising on motorways and major roads. CPRE believes that most of these huge hoardings have been put up without the necessary regulatory consent and complains that the Government’s advice to Planning Authorities to use their current powers is insufficient. For more information visit www.cpre.org.uk
Big Lottery Play Programme
The Big Lottery Fund has announced a new partnership to enable the development of a play programme. The lottery fund’s £155 million children’s play programme will create and improve spaces in all areas of England where they can play freely and safely. Grants will be awarded to projects that are self directed, creative and fun. Full details are available on www.biglotteryfund.org.uk
Younger Parish Councillors?
Among the proposals in the current Electoral Administration Bill is that the eligible age for standing for election as a councillor is to be reduced from 21 to 18. Hardly likely to release a flood of interest, but at least a small step in making the parish sector more welcoming to young people.
Cumbria Democracy Commission Report
The report of the County Council sponsored Cumbria Democracy Commission is expected to be published in early February. It was discussed at the CALC Executive Committee meeting on 21 January. It will be available from the County Council’s website www.cumbria.gov.uk