The County Council is holding discussions with parish and town councils across Buckinghamshire about the possibility of them taking on a number of village maintenance tasks, as a devolved service from the Council.
A number of individual towns and parishes have already taken on self-delivery of such services in their own community. Stewkley is a good example of the benefits that devolution of services can bring.
In 2013, Stewkley was used as a pilot for a new way of delivering some local services. The Stewkley Enterprise Agency was set up; a not-for-profit social enterprise, which enabled the parish to provide both local employment and an enhanced quality of service for the villagers. The service they provide includes, grass cutting and strimming, minor hedge cutting, weed spraying and road sign cleaning.
People, young and old from the community directly benefit from the experience they have gained, and are also paid employees through the scheme.
Each employee works approximately 80 to 100 hours a year, and their work ranges from carrying out the actual maintenance work through to administration, health and safety assessments, and dealing with customer feedback. The team enjoy their work and take in pride keeping their village in tip top condition.
Five parishes have just signed up to become a cluster with Stewkley, meaning that each village will now have services provided in the same way by the social enterprise. This means that each of these villages will now receive the same benefits. Swanbourne, Mursley, Drayton Parslow, Stewkley and Stoke Hammond will all now benefit from the new arrangement.
In the south of the county, a similar agreement has been made with Amersham Town Council for parishes in the area to arrange for services to be carried out on their behalf. Gerrards Cross, Chenies, Little Missenden and Stoke Mandeville Parish Councils benefit from grass cutting, vegetation clearance, tree maintenance and graffiti removal as part of this arrangement.
Ruth Vigor-Hedderly, Cabinet Member for Transportation said: “Devolving services to the local community is a great opportunity for parishes and clusters of local communities.
"The way that Stewkley has set up their arrangement, and the Amersham agreement as well, are such good examples to other parishes who are considering joining in with the scheme."
The County Council has delivered a series of conferences in order for all parishes to have the opportunity to ask questions about the proposals.
The next stage of the devolution project will see more clusters of Parishes join together for greater flexibility and the benefits of collaboratively working together that this will bring.