Local Councils Working With Their Communities

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Local Councils Working With Their Communities

Local councils working with their communities – results of a recent Town and Parish Council Community Engagement Survey

In Autumn 2022, Community First Oxfordshire (CFO) distributed a survey to all Town and Parish Councils (T&PCs) in Oxfordshire to ask about their level of engagement with community groups in their town or parish, the challenges of doing this, and what types of support would be useful to encourage (more) engagement to happen. This was in response to feedback that the pandemic and it’s aftermath has been difficult and now the cost of living crisis is further impacting communities. Volunteers (including councillors) are harder to find so working together with other groups and different people in the community makes sense to share resources and gain additional input and ideas.

In particular we asked questions about working with Community Action Groups (CAGs) or other informal green groups, and young people. We wanted to see if local councils and their communities are able to take steps towards climate action/sustainability and in so doing contribute to climate action at district and county level. Climate action projects can also have multiple benefits and be linked to mitigating cost of living challenges. Previous research on rural isolation highlighted that many young people do not feel engaged in their communities, its decision making or that there are suitable activities for them to enjoy. Therefore, it’s useful to understand if T&PCs are able to work with and encourage young people to participate in their communities to enhance their experience of local life. They also have great potential to support community action and help build community resilience.

There were 71 completions representing 60 different councils based in the five districts across Oxfordshire.  A brief overview of the results are below :

  • The findings show that there are varying levels of engagement with community groups, with 19 councils working with green groups,  9 councils with young people and four of these welcoming youth representation in some form within their council.
  • Councils face challenges managing their core work such as a lack of time and councillors, and a large council workload leaving little time for collaboration. This is exacerbated by the lack of volunteers and/or community groups, and funding for additional roles when collaborative projects are successful.
  • Positively a third were keen to engage in joint projects and to develop better communication with their community and nearly half welcomed further support via resources, training, guidance and learning visits.

The results of the survey are outlined in the report and will help shape the support that CFO provides to T&PCs and inform broader discussions with other councils and organisations about current challenges, community led climate action and the involvement of young people in their communities.

CFO are in the process of contacting some of the local councils to document learning for sharing and exploring support options so that it is relevant and accessible.

Community First Oxfordshire_Town and Parish Community Engagement Survey Report

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