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Cash injection and greater say for residents on crime-hit estate
RESIDENTS on an estate plagued with gang crime are being handed extra democratic powers to have their say on improving their neighbourhood, writes Poppy Bradbury.
The pilot scheme by Westminster council will allow residents on the deprived Churchill Gardens Estate in Pimlico to work closely with police to reduce crime.
Importantly, they will have a greater say in how policing and council budgets are spent to tackle big issues including gang activity, vandalism and anti-social behaviour.
The project is bolstered by £1million from the Big Lottery Fund's Big Local programme to make improvements on the estate and nearby Peabody Avenue over the next decade.
Council leader Philippa Roe said: "Westminster Council's new five-year vision is about improving the city we live in by encouraging local people and organisations to take more responsibility for their own community - and this is exactly what this new project will seek to achieve.
"I share local people's increasing concerns about gang activity and street violence, and I believe local residents have a vital role to play in reaching a whole-community solution. They know better than anyone the exact challenges and issues in their community, because they live with these issues every day. So it really is common sense that they should play a more active role in deciding how best to tackle these issues."
However, Labour opposition leader Councillor Paul Dimoldenberg says the council are unable to invest any money in the project, relying on charitable donations.
"Launching an initiative to improve life on one of the most deprived estates in Westminster with no extra money to help is an empty gesture and cruel hoax on local people," he said.
The so-called localism project will begin next year with a steering group made up of 10 residents, eight community organisations and two ward councillors deciding on a plan on how to tackle crime.
Experts from Westminster Police, youth workers, gangs specialists, crime reduction officers and environmental health officers will help them establish a support team to make services more easily accessible for residents. And they will also recruit volunteer champions to forge links between vulnerable families with young children and charity Save the Children.
A public consultation will be launched in the new year to hear from community leaders and stakeholders.
The scheme will work closely with similar initiatives Queen's Park Community Council and the White City Neighbourhood Community Budget.
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