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York applies to join new volunteer-city project
2:53pm Wednesday 25th September 2013 in News
YORK residents could do more to run and plan vital city services, after council leaders asked to join a new volunteering project.
City of York Council has applied to become one of several UK cities to try a new community scheme, aiming to use residents’ skills, expertise and willingness to help.
The project will be run by the charity Nesta and is based on the US Cities of Service movement, which was launched by Mayor Bloomberg in New York in 2009 and which has since spread to 169 American cities. The movement aims to find “new and innovative ways to harness the power of volunteers”.
Nesta is working with Bloomberg Philanthropies and the Cabinet Office to adapt the American model for the UK. It wants a small number of UK cities test their model and York is the first outside London to apply, council leader James Alexander said yesterday.
The programme provides up to £150,000 for the chosen cities, as well as training, mentoring, guidance and a technology platform to publicise and track volunteering opportunities.
York already runs a successful “snow warden” scheme, where volunteers can be called on to clear snow and grit roads in winter, and the council is keen to find other ways for residents to help, particularly as budget cuts reduce services.
A city council spokeswoman said Cities of Service set “a new standard for how cities can tap the power of their people to tackle their most pressing challenges”.
She said it aimed to make it easier for residents to play a more active role in designing and delivering services, and encouraged communities to become a “core service” for the city.
Coun Alexander said York was already part of the Co-operative Councils Innovation Network, which seeks to finding better ways of working with local people to benefit communities. He said the council recognised the “energy and skills” within communities that could help address city-wide challenges.
He said: “Council’s can’t and shouldn’t do everything - residents have said they want to be more involved in city governance and this is a step change in making this ambition a reality.”
He said he looked forward to discussing the idea at the “community conversations” events he is to hold around the city, following a survey that showed residents did feel engaged enough in council decision-making.
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