Guildford Borough Council has pledged £250,000 for health and wellbeing with an initial focus on the Westborough ward and now wants the people who live there to say how they would like it to be spent.
Called Project Aspire, its aims include helping people access jobs and training opportunities and supporting young people who face issues that affect their ability to do well at school.
It also aims to help residents, who live in the area designed by the council as north Guildford, be even more involved and responsible in the area in which they live, helping to support those of all ages and backgrounds.
Borough Cllr Iseult Roche (Con, Worplesdon), who is the lead councillor for Project Aspire, said: “We believe that every person matters and Project Aspire translates into reality our commitment to put people first and empower our communities to lead and take responsibility for where they live.
“Together we are building on all the good work that already exists and identifying new opportunities to improve the lives of residents of all ages and backgrounds.”
The £250,000 has been drawn from the borough’s reserves and leading the project team is its director of community services, Philip O’Dwyer.
He said: “This is a project where we will be working directly with the community. We have no fixed ideas on where the money should be spent and it is vital to us that we understand the views of local people – this is what is most important for us to hear.”
The money will be spent over a three-year period with the focus on five goals that have been identified as making people feel worthwhile.
1: to connect people to voluntary agencies to improve wellbeing.
2: to inspire people to achieve, and to motivate young people in education while supporting schools, sport and the arts.
3: to improve the health of local people.
4: to look at creating a community hub or facility (the former Pond Meadow School site has been identified as a possible location).
5: to improve the environment to help them feel proud of where they live.
Guildford Borough Council’s community development manager Sam Hutchison is already talking to community groups and key people in the ward such as the Park Barn & Westborough Community Association.
She said: “We want to help this community to go further to help those residents who are not connected at present.”
This includes people who do not normally get a chance to have a say about where they live and what improvements they feel would benefit them.
The campaign is being launched with drop-in sessions. Groups and organisations will be contacted and the council, with the help of its community wardens, will go along and speak to residents. Information will be made available locally and on the council’s website.
Further ideas for how the money can best be spent will be gleaned from the task groups that are being set up. These will be focusing on wellbeing, environment, and the proposed community hub. Again, local people as well as locally based agencies, including faith and support groups, are being recruited.
The project will also draw support from Surrey County Council, Surrey Police, the University of Surrey, local schools and businesses.
Why is it only being rolled out in the Westborough ward when there are other parts of the borough that may need help too?
Philip O’Dwyer said: “Partners and local councillors wanted us to start the focus of Project Aspire on the Westborough ward as some great things are happening already, and we hope this project will help the community build on its many successes. From here we can learn what works best and then can replicate it in other parts of the borough.”
Councillors from across the political spectrum will also be working on Project Aspire.
Cllr Julia McShane (Lib Dem, Westborough ward) said: “Investment in the community of Park Barn and Westborough is long overdue.”
She also pointed out the amount which the community is already doing with the support of the Joining In! project run by Voluntary Action South West Surrey and the number of groups who are providing help and support to each other.
She has also called for funding to be made available to make sure that Joining In! can keep running. She added: “I am pleased to be continuing to work to support all these great initiatives, to help empower residents and to ensuring that their voices are heard.”
Surrey County Councillor Fiona White (Lib Dem), who has represented Park Barn and Westborough as part of her division for more than 10 years, has also welcomed the initiative and the investment. She stressed how important it is that local residents are actively included in setting up Project Aspire and in delivering better services for the area.
Cash Boost For Westborough Ward With Residents To Say What They Want
Kings College will be helping to deliver Project Aspire to the local community.
A vital part of this community is its senior school Kings College. Cllr Roche has acknowledged the vital role its plays. she added: “We are working very closely with Kings College as part of Project Aspire. They do great and essential work to inspire young people to achieve.”
The principal of Kings College, Kate Carriett, said: “Kings College is delighted to be involved in Project Aspire.
“The young people in our community are its future. Kings is populated with many inspiring and increasingly aspirational young people.
“As a school we sit at the heart of our Guildford community. Ensuring the positive representation of all of our wards is essential for the wellbeing and productivity of us all. We look forward to seeing our students being a positive force for change in Project Aspire.”