Buntingford Civic Society Buntingford Civic Voice
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Issue 7, February 2011
Civic Voice - talking civic sense

your voice

www.civicvoice.org.uk | 0151 708 9920 | info@civicvoice.org.uk | @civic_voice


Welcome to the first issue of your voice for 2011. The year has started with a great surge of interest in civic societies and Civic Voice and we have news of some of the opportunities on the way. As we look forward to our second year we are also asking how we can strengthen the civic movement and develop our “common voice” on behalf of the communities and places which civic societies champion across the country. A new civic society survey and our two Spring Network events in Manchester and Reading on 19 and 26 March will be important steps on the path. Our President, Griff Rhys Jones, will speak at both events.

We are also setting up a Planning Panel to provide advice on the proposals in the Government’s Localism Bill for planning reform. There is also good news from our Board about membership renewals where the fees will remain unchanged and your benefits improved. This includes a new civic society insurance scheme with lower premiums and better cover.

In this issue

Developing our common voice

The benefits for civic societies of being part of a bigger movement are becoming more apparent by the day. As Civic Voice approaches our second year it is all the more important that everyone gets involved in developing our priorities and shaping the views of the movement. Our Board has discussed how we might all develop our “common voice” to provide a shared platform for our vision and views about the future and a forum for developing shared values across the movement. We will all benefit from more discussion about what matters to the civic movement and where to focus our efforts and campaigns. We can’t develop a common voice overnight and we expect no shortage of ideas for debate and discussion and some controversies and knotty issues to unravel and address. The whole process may last until our AGM in 2012 but we are kicking it off now with a new civic society survey and two Spring Network events for volunteers to come together in Manchester and Reading.

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Spring Network events in Manchester and Reading

The two Spring Network events are already proving popular so register now to get involved in discussions over the priorities for the civic movement and for the workshops being run to share ideas and experience between civic volunteers. We are delighted to announce that our President, Griff Rhys Jones, will speak at both events and share his thoughts on the movement’s future and how we develop our “common voice”. The Spring Network events will also include discussion of the first results from the new civic society survey and a chance to debate localism and neighbourhood planning. There will also be workshops led by different civic societies sharing successful ideas and projects.

  • Spring Network North – The Friends Meeting House - Saturday 19th March – chaired by Freddie Gick, Civic Voice Deputy Chair
  • Spring Network South - Reading Town Hall – Saturday March 26th – chaired by John Walker, Civic Voice trustee

There will be a £10 charge to cover refreshments.

Find out more and register here

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Civic Society survey

The first civic society survey will arrive shortly by email. This is your opportunity to tell us what you think of Civic Voice and what more we could be doing to support you in the future. It will also tell us more about the civic movement and be a chance for you to tell us your priorities. We are looking for replies by early March and will feed the results into the Spring Network events.

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Civic Voice renewals and insurance

We are delighted to announce that your Civic Voice membership fees will remain unchanged next year and there will be extra benefits from membership. The fee will remain at £1.50 per member up to a maximum of £500 and not be increased as we had expected. This reflects our growing membership and we anticipate this growing further in 2011.

We will shortly be writing to every civic society with details of how to join or renew. This will include a summary of what we have achieved this year with civic societies from across the country truly to put the civic movement on the map.

We are aware that many civic societies will have recieved a letter from Bluefin indicating it will continute to provide insurance cover. We have developed a better alternative.

Your membership letter will include details of the new civic society insurance scheme available to members of Civic Voice. This will provide extra cover and at a reduced premium to the Bluefin scheme and you will be able to select your cover at the same time as you join or renew. We urge you to take advantage of the new scheme – which has been developed with Lockton insurance. It will be available before you need to renew your cover.

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Workshop programme

We are running a programme of free workshops on different topics around the country and putting on more events about Civic Day in response to demand. Find a workshop near you by clicking here to see what is planned over the next few months.

Sign up by sending your details to info@civicvoice.org.uk

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Planning Panel

Volunteers from around the country have put themselves forward over the last year to support Civic Voice in tackling official consultation papers and draft legislation. We are now developing this into a Planning Panel which will support and advise on the development of Civic Voice’s views on changes to planning policy and legislation. It will also provide a link to our Board. We expect the Planning Panel to work largely by email.

We are looking for a mix of members drawn from around the country, combining those with direct professional or other experience of planning with those with a lay interest and a passion for what planning can do to improve their local area. If you are interested in being invited to join the Planning Panel then please get in touch at info@civicvoice.org.uk with a short summary of why you are interested and what skills and experience you bring.

We are also looking for someone experienced in the civic movement and with a good knowledge of planning to chair the Planning Panel and work closely with Civic Voice’s staff. If you are interested in taking on this role then please complete and return by the end of February the application form here

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Neighbourhood planning

Civic societies have long been calling for a greater say on planning decisions and for local councils to take more notice of their ambitions for their area. The Government’s Localism Bill introduces new rights for community groups and parish & town councils to do this through neighbourhood planning. As the most numerous participants in the country, civic societies have indicated their strong interest in the proposals, while also highlighting some of the flaws. There is widespread agreement that little will happen without civic societies and other community groups having support to take advantage of the new neighbourhood planning rights. Civic Voice is planning to offer what support we can and to help with this we are applying for a Government grant to supply civic societies and other community groups with the help and advice they need to make a difference on planning issues. This is being prepared in partnership with the Architecture Centre Network whose members provide expert help and support across the country. We would welcome your thoughts and ideas on what support civic societies most need to undertake neighbourhood planning.

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Future of Heritage Open Days

Heritage Open Days was initiated in 1994 by the Civic Trust and core funding was provided by English Heritage between 2011 and 2009. It is the country’s largest voluntary cultural event, involving over a million visitors with over 40,000 volunteers supporting nearly 4,500 events.

Over 100 civic societies are known to participate and many more work with local partners, such as local authorities. English Heritage took on responsibility following closure of the Civic Trust and will run the 2011 event. It has issued a tender for organisations to take on the national co-ordination role with funding available for four years. This will mean Heritage Open Days needs to fund itself nationally in 2015 and beyond. Locally, we are already aware the some local authorities and other funders are withdrawing and many civic societies are looking at what extra role they can play.

Heritage Open Days is one of the jewels in the civic movements crown and so Civic Voice is looking at what role we can play in its future. We are talking to other national heritage charities about English Heritage’s proposals and are keen to hear more from civic societies about what we should do – let us know at info@civicvoice.org.uk

A summary of English Heritage’s proposals is available here

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Local websites

We have seen a large number of civic societies looking for support in setting up and running a website. Remember that if your group does not have a website then Civic Voice offers a free service to set you up with the basics.

For inspiration and ideas then look no further than Talk About Local which offers a range of advice and support for developing an online community for your area - See more here

Contact us at info@civicvoice.org.uk if you want your civic society to go online.

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Volunteer for Civic Voice

We are a small, light footed organisation with few staff and lots to do!

We want to make the best use of all the volunteer expertise in the movement. There is plenty going on – from managing memberships and organising meetings to developing websites and researching new campaigns. You may also have particular expertise – on land use planning, listed buildings, volunteers or fundraising for example - which might help other civic societies. If you'd like to volunteer locally, please contact your local group.

Civic Voice is run on a shoestring of just two staff and depends on volunteer support to be effective. We have received a number of enquiries from people wanting to know how to volunteer. The following opportunities describe just some of what is available:

Office support - Volunteers are required to help with general office support including database management and assisting with telephone duties and internet enquiries. We have further opportunities for more specific roles such as fundraising and helping with publicity. Much of this work can be done at home as well as in Civic Voice's Liverpool office.

Event management– we are keen to improve the quality of our events and with your help, we can. This work can be home based

Website management- How can we provide the online support which best meets the need of civic societies? How can the website build a stronger civic network? Can you help manage the site? This work can be home based

Policy analysis– are you interested in reviewing Government and other policy reports and publications for their implications for the civic movement? For example, what does the new PPS5 on planning and the historic environment really mean? What should we think of English Heritage’s National Heritage Protection Plan? Does the Localism Bill do everything it can for civic societies? Would you like to join a group offering advice and providing evidence and examples which can be used to ensure the results work for the civic movement? This work is home based.

Photographs - are you a keen photographer with an eye for a good picture? We need you! Civic Voice is always on the lookout for photographs that fit our style and we also need a volunteer to manage the Flickr site.

Contact Ian Harvey on ian.harvey@civicvoice.org.uk or on 0151 708 9920 to find out more

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Join Civic Voice

Why not join the fastest growing movement in England making the places where everyone lives more attractive, enjoyable and distinctive. 275 groups with over 70,000 individual members have joined in our first ten months – join them. Only through a growing membership can Civic Voice become independent: supported by the civic movement, for the civic movement.

As well as signing up your local group why not become an individual member – it’s just £10.

Join here

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