LET’S BE FRIENDS: Taking care of South Tyneside
Let’s be friends - people passionate about local parks and green spaces can get comprehensive support on setting up their own ‘Friends’ groups as the Council strengthens the formation process.
South Tyneside Council works with more than 25 volunteer groups, who help to look after local parks, opens space and cemeteries as well as organise events such as community clear ups, planting activities or fun days. The Council is currently meeting with existing groups to advise on new governance arrangements, which have been developed to support the groups and the valuable work they undertake. As part of this, a new application process for all groups (both new and existing) has been developed.
Councillor Ernest Gibson, Lead Member for Area Management and Community Safety, said: “We know how important our parks and green spaces are to local people and we value the hard work and dedication of our ‘friends’ or volunteers groups in helping to ensure these spaces are clean, safe, well-used and maintained. Being a friends’ or volunteer group is an excellent way for residents to support the provision of facilities and activities that benefit their local community. It gives them the opportunity to work with the Council to manage and maintain our key community assets.
“Over the past few years we have seen an influx of new community and volunteer groups coming forward to support us in taking care and improving such areas and it’s fantastic to see. To further strengthen these arrangements, we have developed new processes to ensure the Council and its volunteer groups share the same aims. In addition, the Council will ensure that any funding raised by the groups is invested in the areas in which they operate for the benefit of residents and visitors to those areas for years to come.”
The Council will work with volunteer groups to guide them through the application process as well as support on them basic steps and issues such as organising their first AGM, choosing a constitution, electing a committee, health and safety and accessing funding.
One such group, looking to get started, is the proposed new Friends of Westoe Cemetery group. The 15-acre site opened in 1857 and is the resting place of well-known local figures including Dr Thomas Winterbottom and Robert Ingham. Founding members Ann Clouston and Fay Cunningham, who are already involved in a local history group at the Lawe Top, said: “We are a small group with a real affection and interest in the history of Westoe Cemetery. It is a special place, much-loved by local people. It will be an honour to help care for, and improve, the final resting place of the thousands of people who are buried there and it will be interesting to find out more about their unique stories.
“We can’t wait get started, working in partnership with the Council, to help make sure the grounds remain a respectful and peaceful place and are maintained to the highest of standards as well as to remind people of the importance of the cemetery.”
All groups will be required to work closely with the Council’s new Community Engagement Officer and liaise with them on future improvement works, events and activities.
Anyone looking to start a ‘Friends of’ or volunteer group can get help and advice from the Council by contacting Community Engagement Officer, Emily Ross on (0191) 424 7151 or email email@example.com.
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