The Avenues Resource Centre in Chester-le-Street is a facility for local people to improve their community. It differs from other such projects in that it was developed and is sustained within existing resources, local people set the agenda, 12 different agencies support the facility and every programme, group or event is developed with local people and is determined by them.
The Avenues area of the Chester West ward was described by residents as 'Bosnia without the peacekeeping force'. The council facilitated expansion of a residents action group, and two adjacent empty council houses in Fourth Avenue were used as a centre.
When agencies first moved into the ARC, empty properties and boarded up houses were commonplace. Most of the people living in the occupied houses wished to leave. Today there is only one empty house in Fourth Avenue, vacated for reasons not associated with the undesirability of the area.
In the past few years, participation by Croydon's tenants and leaseholders has developed at an increasing pace, although many involved are relatively inexperienced in making their voice heard.
To ensure those involved in local groups can make a full contribution, taking on leadership roles in local communities and influencing policy, it was obvious certain skills would be needed. Although there had been some ad hoc training for tenants' representatives, there was a need for more intensive training.
A group of tenants worked with council officers in Croydon's housing department and the continuing education and training service to develop a year-long training course for tenants and leaseholders. One course was run over the 1997-98 academic year with participants gaining accredited qualifications. Two further courses are now being run.
The overall objective is to make Limerigg a decent, safe and attractive place in which to live. The aim is to resolve the severe anti-social behaviour and harassment problems the village has faced for years. The problems led to an exodus of families from the village, leaving 22 council-owned houses vacant.
The prinicpal method was to involve the people of the village (population 200) in drawing up an action plan to solve the problems. This was done by an intensive series of meetings, workshops and service roadshows and a household survey.
The perception that the village had been forgotten by the council, police and other public agencies has now changed significantly. There is an idea now that the council will, by working with the community, bring about changes and the feeling that at last the village has turned a corner.
St Luke's Church in Canning Town had survived second world war Luftwaffe onslaughts and post-war redevelopment. However, it looked like its time was up when demolition was announced.
But the community had an ambition to create a facility for local people, helping them take employment opportunities, offering training and childcare, andproviding modern surgeries, a café and community hall.
It developed a business plan, raised the money needed and entered into a partnership with Newham LBC.
The project has survived contractual disputes, bankruptcy of the main contractor, changes in VAT regulations, delays in approvals and many other uncertainties and fears. But it has succeeded and its first tenants arrived in September.
At a time when Slough BC had clarified its priorities to respond to community need, research undertaken by and for young people gave insight into their needs.
Of particular concern was that services designed to help with problems, provide counselling or support to get into training or work should be available on tap.
The council opened Slough Young People's Centre in April 1997 to be a central part of the local Nai Roshni Partnership's programme of projects which receive single regeneration budget funding.
To allow talent to develop and ambitions to be fulfilled, a safe, non-judgmental, creative environment with access to sound advice and good facilities is necessary. The centre provides this and it is open long hours for drop-in advice, counselling, training, events, courses and community enterprise.
Award sponsor - The St Paul
'Councils up and down the country are investing considerable time and energy in schemes and initiatives designed to improve the quality of life for some of their more underprivileged residents. This award is a fantastic opportunity to recognise those who have made a truly outstanding contribution in this area and we are very pleased to be sponsors.
As a leading provider of insurance and risk management services to the public sector, our objective is to assist our local authority clients in creating a safer and healthier environment for those who live, work and play within their boundaries.
We provide cover for property, liability, motor fleets and employment practices - supported by practical advice and support on loss control and disaster recovery planning.
We have a flexible approach to claims handling and clients can choose from running their own in-house service, appointing a third party service or using the St Paul claims management team.
The St Paul is a worldwide insurance organisation established in 1853 and today has assets worth around£23 billion. We achieve consistently high independent credit ratings including an 'AA (very strong)' rating from Standard & Poor's for our considerable financial strength and ability to pay claims.
St Paul International Insurance has ISO 9001 accreditation.
Congratulations to all the shortlisted entrants and best wishes for 9 March.'
Peter Elliott, marketing manager, St Paul International Insurance Company Ltd.