Action groups set up to address issues raised during recent Community Conversation events in Runcorn and Widnes are gearing up for their first meetings.
Facilitated by the ROC (Redeeming Our Communities) charity in partnership with Cheshire Constabulary, Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service, Halton Borough Council, local faith groups and community organisations, the events were organised to give anyone living or working in the towns a platform to raise concerns and offer ideas on how they can be made safer and nicer places to live.
Around 400 people attended the free events, which were held at Runcorn Shopping City on Monday 11 February and at the Halton Stadium in Widnes on Monday 18 February.
At each event more than 50 people signed up as members of community action groups tasked with taking the Community Conversations forward, building on the views and ideas of the local community and making decisions on how funding, resources, local facilities and existing community assets can help address the needs of the people of Runcorn and Widnes.
The Widnes community action group’s inaugural meeting will be held at the Halton Stadium from 7pm on Wednesday 20 March and the Runcorn equivalent will take place at the Hope Church, Clifton Road, WA7 4TD. from 7pm on Monday 25 March.
Chief Inspector Simon Parsonage, of Widnes Local Policing Unit (LPU), said: “I would like to thank everyone who made the time to attend the Community Conversation events in Widnes and Runcorn, especially those who subsequently signed up to be members of the new community action groups.
“The events gave everyone in Halton an opportunity to get together under one roof and find out about the good work already being done to improve their town, as well as to offer new ideas and support in making their communities even better and safer.
“Residents were able to highlight problems that they felt needed addressing and, even more importantly, make suggestions for improvements.”
The top five issues raised in the Widnes Community Conversation concerned young people (raised by 16 per cent of attendees), community facilities (14 per cent), communication/co-ordination (11 per cent), mental health (10 per cent) and parents/families (11 per cent).
Concerns regarding anti-social behaviour, housing/homelessness, loneliness/isolation, services, elderly people and food provision were issues raised at least four times.
The top five issues raised in the Runcorn Community Conversation concerned young people (raised by 26 per cent of attendees), mental health (11 per cent) and communication/co-ordination, community and elderly people (all nine per cent).
Concerns regarding support, funding, drugs and transport were issues raised at least three times.
Runcorn LPU Chief Inspector Sarah Heath added: “The Community Conversation events held recently were both well attended and represented a great first step in achieving further positive changes in Runcorn and Widnes.
“Those who have volunteered to be part of the community action groups that have been formed on the back of those events are now preparing to take the next important step.
“They will use their time, knowledge, skills and resources to work together to address the issues raised at the events and explore funding opportunities and other support to enhance Runcorn and Widnes residents’ lives.”
A representative from ROC will attend the inaugural community action group meetings to further assist with the initiative for positive changes to be made in Runcorn and Widnes.
ROC is a national community engagement charity that has facilitated more than 160 Community Conversation events across the UK.
Chief Inspector Heath, the Lord Lieutenant for Cheshire David Briggs, the Mayor of Halton Cllr John Bradshaw, Live Your Life – Drop the Knife founder Louis Bamber, Runcorn Shopping City manager Karl Clawley and Riverside housing’s regional director Dean Butterworth were among those at the Runcorn event.
Chief Constable Darren Martland, Chief Inspector Parsonage, the Lord Lieutenant for Cheshire David Briggs, Halton MP Derek Twigg, Deputy Mayor of Halton Cllr Margaret Horabin, Widnes Academy Principle Karen Highcock, Widnes Vikings’ Head of Education Liam Clark and Archdeacon Roger Preece attended the Widnes event.