I'm really grateful to Michael Romyn at the Kent and Sussex Courier (click here to go to the story) for featuring my idea for a mini-Local Area Agreement in Pembury. The idea, which will bring Kent County Council and Pembury village together in a true expression of localism, should be the first pilot of its kind in the country.
Kent County Council was the first Conservative authority to team up with the Labour Government in the first three-year Public Service Agreement, which set hard-to-reach targets such as reductions in teenage pregnancies and fires in the home. By hitting those targets we would save the Government money, so they in turn agreed to share the saving with us. After three years, we hit ten of our twelve targets completely, and came really close on the other two - earning Kent twenty two million pounds in performance reward grant.
So it occurred to me that KCC in turn could negotiate a smaller version of this directly with a community. And to me, the Pembury community is ideally placed to be the first pilot of this approach. An excellent Parish Council, a range of well attended community organisations -Scouts and Guides, Pembury Athletic Football Club, University of the Third Age and the well-attended and progressive Churches - if this idea can work anywhere, it will work in Pembury.
I've asked the community and its organisations what kind of targets they'd like to see, though I have some views about including health and well-being, and joining up younger and older residents to generate sustainability. And several people have already told me that they'd like the £25,000 reward grant I've negotiated with the County Council to be spent on something substantial, like a community minibus.
Now all we need to do is agree a small set of targets which will leave Pembury an even stronger community.
And hopefully £25,000 better off.