‘Keep the spirit of Big Society alive’

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As we leave the severe winter behind, let me first pay tribute to the Buckinghamshire County Council teams who worked hard to keep our road network open.

These teams are now repairing the ice and snow damage to our roads.

Our highway repair gangs are repairing around 500 potholes a day, and they could not do this without help from the public, who report road damage to us. We are very grateful for this.

In the spirit of the Big Society, please continue to watch for large potholes and damaged stretches of road, and inform Transport for Buckinghamshire.

There is an easy-to-complete website report form at www.buckscc.gov.uk/transport. The more information we have the better our response should be.

I believe this Big Society spirit, which I know is already alive in Buckinghamshire, will help us face the difficult financial times ahead, and we will know more about what this means for our communities once the full county council has considered the budget for the next three years on February 17.

It will be a tough budget and reduced government grants mean our services will not look the same in future.

But we have in Buckinghamshire a spirit of fortitude that shuns the lay-down-and-die response, and embraces this opportunity for communities to shape their services and their futures.

Talking with Richard Dickson, director of Buckinghamshire Community Foundation (BCF), it is apparent that with 3,800 voluntary and community organisations and more than 60,000 volunteers in the county, we have a healthy culture of service - a sign that community life in Buckinghamshire is very strong.

I am in discussions with BCF, who are keen to consider supporting activities in what someone described as the ‘frozen north’ of Buckinghamshire.

I will be introducing them to some of our movers and shakers: people who don’t shout about their service to the community, but just get on with it.

My aim is to enable knowledge, expertise, skill and good practice to be shared to establish worthwhile community projects that will meet local needs.

Like many of you, I am concerned with provision for youth.

Although future plans outlined in our public consultation literature indicate we face some very tough decisions, the strong volunteer sector I referred to is already working with youth.

My confidence in the excellent work among young people already being done by volunteers was further strengthened at a recent Action4Youth forum, representing well over 100 organisations in Buckinghamshire.

Amid the presentations, which amply demonstrated how well this extensive volunteer network has embraced Big Society, came a warming story of a young volunteer who clearly loves working with young people.

Carrie spoke only for a few moments, but she made a big impact on those present: about how much she enjoyed volunteering at her local club, how her mother had encouraged her to do this, how she would encourage other young people in their sixth forms to get involved, and how important she felt it was for these opportunities to be promoted in schools.

With enthusiasm and commitment like Carrie’s it seems to me reasonable to encourage community support. Look no further than Buckinghamshire’s three community libraries to see how well volunteers can make things happen!

Again, I am grateful to the Advertiser and Review for this opportunity to air my views.

by David Polhill, chairman, Bucks County Council