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Find answers to the most common questions about Local Community Networks in our FAQs.

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Local Community Networks (LCNs) – in a nutshell

Local Community Networks encourage community engagement and development; they are about listening, sharing and local partnership working. They look to improve outcomes for residents. They provide the strong connection between Somerset Council, our residents, businesses, and partners. They are the voice of local communities. There will be 18 Local Community Networks covering every corner of the new Somerset Councill area.

Why have LCNs at all? 

Local Community Networks were agreed as an integral part of the Unitary Business Case to ensure local voice and community representation at a Strategic level.

One Somerset Business Case

What is the purpose of Local Community Networks?

There will be 18 Local Community Networks rolled-out to every corner of the Somerset Council area.

Their purpose is to be the focus for the new Council for community engagement and development, within an ethos of local partnership working, looking to improve outcomes for residents through establishing strong connections between Somerset Council, our communities, and our partners.

What will the membership of LCNs be? 

Each Local Community Network will be made up of the following core membership:

  • The elected Somerset Council Councillors representing the electoral divisions covered by the LCN
  • An elected representative from each City, Town or Parish Council within the area covered by the LCN
  • Representatives from the following groups or organisations:
    • Local Neighbourhood policing team
    • Somerset National Health Service
    • Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service
    • Education
    • Representatives from Voluntary, Community, Faith, and Social Enterprise Organisations
    • Representatives from Businesses or Trade Groups

Some of the core membership will be determined locally by each Local Community Network.

Local Community Networks will meet in local areas, in every part of the county. They will discuss what is most important for their area and work together to agree how best to achieve it.

Does the Chair or Vice-Chair have to be a unitary councillor?

A Somerset Councillor needs to hold either the Chair or Vice-Chair position. A Chair and Vice-Chair will be voted-in at the first LCN meeting.

Who can vote at Local Community Networks?

We do not anticipate voting will be needed. We anticipate that LCNs will seek to reach decisions by consensus. If a vote is necessary, this will be taken by the core membership through a show of hands – having taken account of community and other stakeholder views. Terms of Reference (ToRS) have been created to reflect this.

You will find them here in our Terms of Reference (ToR) section on our website.

Can you vote if you’re not at the meeting in person?

Whilst an indicative show of hands online and in the room can inform voting, only persons identified as part of the core membership can formally vote – and they are required to be physically present for the vote to count. This is detailed in the Terms of Reference (and following current Government legislation).

You will find them here in our Terms of Reference section on our website.

Do you anticipate regular voting at Local Community Networks?

We do not anticipate regular voting will be required – our Pilot Local Community Networks have demonstrated much can be decided by consensus.

However, a vote will be necessary at the LCN Launch Meeting, to appoint the Chair and Vice-Chair roles and thereafter at each Local Community Network AGM.

Will Local Community Networks be staffed?

A team of dedicated officers will support the programme. We hope to have them recruited and in post by the summer of 2023. In the meantime, the LCN team continue to work to develop and deliver Local Community Networks.

How often will Local Community Networks meet? 

It has been proposed that LCNs will meet six to eight times a year, with locally led groups pursuing their goals between meetings. This is at the discretion of each LCN area.  We anticipate LCNs will formally begin meeting in the summer 2023. Lots of preparation and discussion with partners is required beforehand, so we get off on the right footing.

Will the meetings be hybrid

We would prefer Local Community Networks to meet in person, but we also want maximum involvement and no barriers to access. That is why we are trialling hybrid meetings in a community context to see if this is something we can easily support going forward. We have asked colleagues from our ITC department at Somerset Council to help us set this up. Much will depend on Wi-Fi access at the venues, but it is our aim to deliver hybrid meetings via Microsoft Teams. Please note that we will not have the facility to live stream meetings.

What will Local Community Networks look like in Year One? 

Drawing from the Unitary business case, and shaped by dialogue and input from a wide range of stakeholders, the following are proposed as the initial role for LCNs:

They will:

  • Be a forum for community voice, engagement, and influence
  • Be a means for enhancing participation in democracy and local decision making
  • Enhance collaboration by bringing together at a local level, representatives from partner organisations, town, City and parish councils, community groups and residents
  • Identify evidence-based community priorities; across Economic, Social, and Environmental issues
  • Create plans to reflect how the priorities will be addressed
  • Identify and secure resource opportunities for local projects

Where do you see Local Community Networks beyond Year One?

LCN arrangements must be flexible to respond to, and accommodate, changing priorities at a local and countywide level. Other Unitary areas have, over time, aligned local service delivery to the areas of their community networks.

Beyond Year One we would expect to see LCNs demonstrating that they are focusing on the clear needs within their communities; that they are delivering against those needs, and that their work is aligned to partner priorities and those expressed in the new Council Plan.

Will Local Community Networks have money to invest in local projects? 

LCNs will make the most of any funding opportunities, both local and national, in order to address the priorities of any one area. LCNs will influence the budgets and policies of the new Council. The administration will continue to review budget options to strengthen the ability of LCNs to support fairer, greener, and flourishing communities in Somerset.

How will Local Community Networks identify priorities in their area?

LCNs will have access to relevant data and information for their area and be supported to understand the views and perspectives of local people. This will help LCNs decide what is important for their communities to improve, enhance or solve, leading to the creation of priorities for their area.

Will Local Community Networks have Planning or Licensing functions? 

There are separate arrangements for Planning and Licensing functions. They are not part of LCN business.

Will Local Community Networks have assets or services devolved to them?

Assets and services cannot be devolved to LCNs as LCNs are boards, rather than legal entities (committees), and they are part of the Somerset Council.  LCNs could be a forum for facilitating a discussion where city, town, and parish councils and/or local communities, wish to take on council assets or services. 

Will unitary councillors be expected to attend more than one Local Community Network because some cross electoral boundaries?

Each Somerset councillor will have a seat on the LCN or LCNs that their division covers. The number of Somerset councillors on each LCN varies because of the areas that they cover.

Are you engaging with voluntary, community, faith, and social enterprise (VCFSE) groups?

We are working closely with VCFSE about how we can best work together at a local level as well as strategically.

Can any Voluntary, Community, Faith, and Social Enterprise (VCFSE) group be part of an Local Community Network?

 Yes. Local groups working in a particular area may want to find ways to participate effectively in LCNs. As LCNs agree and define their priorities for the coming year it is anticipated that themed meetings will enable local organisations to participate in the subject discussions that are important and meaningful to them.

Will Local Community Networks work with businesses?

Yes.  Businesses will be supported and encouraged to be active partners in LCNs alongside all other partners. 

How will Local Community Networks include individuals and community members?

LCNs will be public meetings and members of the public will be encouraged to attend and be actively included in the discussion of topics, enhancing the understanding about local issues, priority areas and potential actions.

Are you engaging with city, town and parish councils about Local Community Networks?

Yes. We regularly update our city, town, and parish council clerks on LCN development and welcome their input. There is an online forum for Somerset parish clerks which meet each fortnight to discuss Local Government Reorganisation in Somerset. There has been ongoing dialogue since the beginning of the LCN programme. If you would like to join, please register your interest by emailing: LCN@somerset.gov.uk.

Will every city, town, and parish council (and parish meeting) be part of an Local Community Network?

Every city, town and parish council will have a seat on the LCN for their area.

Can Clerks vote?

Parish Council Clerks should ensure, where possible, that a named local representative from their parish council (elected or co-opted) attends LCN Meetings.

Clerks cannot be the local representative, or vote, but are welcome, and indeed encouraged, to attend, if they have capacity.

Will Local Community Networks place an extra burden on parish councils?

LCNs are intended to support people to come together around topics that are important to them to best meet the needs of residents in their area. We hope that all city, town, and parish councils will actively engage, and we expect each LCN to agree its own meetings dates and times.

We do recognise that parish councillors are unpaid volunteers and that there may be other capacity constraints for parishes.  We will continue to work closely with SALC and SLCC to further consider the barriers to participation in LCNs and how we can work together to address them.

In some places, our city, town, and parish councils are forming networks and looking at ways to share experiences and support each other. 

How will Local Community Networks ensure equality of opportunity?

LCNs are intended to address the needs of all residents in our communities. They will be paying particular attention to the needs of under-represented groups and those with protected characteristics.

Somerset is both a rural and urban county and we believe it is important that LCNs have representation that reflects its community.

The LCN officer team, working with our partners, will be key to facilitating engagement and representation from our communities.

This will ensure that the voices of all our residents are heard.

Where are the Local Community Network Pilots?

Three Pilot LCNs are exploring ways of working with city, town, and parish councils, highways, children’s services, public health, the police, voluntary organisations, businesses, and other local groups.

  • The Frome Area pilot LCN is exploring the theme of Children, Young People and Families.
  • The South East Somerset pilot (in the Wincanton, Bruton and Castle Cary area) is considering Rural isolation and Wellbeing.
  • In the Exmoor area, Somerset County Council is piloting a new approach to delivering local street scene and highways services, with city, town, and parish councils.

What is the purpose of the Pilots?

The LCN Pilots were set up to test new ways of working without dictating the terms to communities. They provide useful insight to the LCN model to be determined for Somerset. We have already learnt much from them and they are informing LCN development. They will evolve into formal LCN arrangements.

Last reviewed: February 16, 2024 by Jenny

Next review due: August 16, 2024

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