Town councils are small, and they have a lot of freedom to create services that local people want, so they can focus on what is needed and what locals really care about, plus “nice-to-haves” which will make a difference to the town.
There are town councils up and down the country serving their towns, giving them a facelift, providing a tourist office, giving jobs advice to young people, hiring out e-bikes, improving street lighting or bus shelters, providing information for tenants and leaseholders, setting up children’s playcentres, even creating a cinema or organising ballroom dancing,
Some invite residents to vote on where money should go. Many replace services that have been cut, such as public toilets or grants for local events or sports clubs.
Health and loneliness
One of the areas that interests us is tackling loneliness. Even in Bexhill – such a friendly place – there are many people who feel totally on their own. The UK has designated social isolation an official “health priority” and there is even a Minister for Loneliness! This is because loneliness is as bad for your health as smoking, drinking or obesity.
There is now proof that when you have friends and support, you are less likely to go to hospital. In Frome in Somerset, the number of emergency admissions to hospital has fallen by 17% since the Compassionate Frome project was set up. As a consultant there remarked, “No other interventions on record have reduced emergency admissions across a population.” So we save not just lives but also money. The scheme is backed by Frome town council.
There is a lot going on in Bexhill already to help with loneliness, but how do people find out where to go? That is still the challenge and a town council might decide to make loneliness their priority, supporting what is already happening and making it easier for the public to get involved. A town council would have local knowledge and should be flexible enough to respond to local needs. A town council would aim to make a difference to the daily lives of Bexhill residents.