New umbrella group demands policy-making voice for CENs

The Government needs to give community empowerment networks a clear and recognisable voice in policy-making, according to a new umbrella group set up by Navca and Urban Forum, the organisation that represents community and voluntary groups with interests in urban and regional policy.

The group aims to raise the profile of the UK’s 88 CENs, groups funded by the Government to foster community involvement in neighbourhood renewal initiatives. It is also calling on the Government to restore the networks’ core funding amid concerns about their sustainability.

Core funding was lost after the Neighbourhood Renewal Fund, established in 2001 specifically to support CENs, was replaced in April by the Safer and Stronger Communities Fund. CENs now have to compete with other bodies to win council funding for initiatives aimed at tackling crime, antisocial behaviour and drugs and improving the condition of streets and public spaces.

Forty CENs were represented at the first meeting of the as-yet unnamed new umbrella group in Nottingham last week. Neil Cleeveley, director of information and policy at Navca, said he hoped to see the remaining 48 CENs sign up soon. “The group is a good mechanism for seeing what is happening at local levels,” he said.

The group is to meet again in August to discuss what form its actions will take.

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