Official launch of ambitious Empower programme

Middlesbrough communities will be empowered to take control of their futures through an ambitious “social regeneration” programme.

The EMPOWER strategy was launched with an event for community groups, residents and stakeholders at Middlesbrough Town Hall, hosted by Cllr Mick Thompson, Middlesbrough Council’s executive member for culture and communities.

During the event Cllr Thompson quizzed a panel made up of Zoe Lewis, from Middlesbrough College, Helena Bowman from the MFC Foundation and Michelle Dawson from Ageing Better Middlesbrough about how they work to improve residents’ lives.

The EMPOWER scheme aims to bring Middlesbrough’s people closer to the opportunities currently being created through its city-scale growth and will also ask residents to help shape that regeneration and also how the authority’s services should be delivered.

The initiative includes a Community Action Fund in which individuals or groups can apply for funding of up to £5,000 to make their ideas to improve their community a reality.

The EMPOWER prospectus focuses on a number of key areas:

• Improving community life
• Improving health and wellbeing
• Increasing educational attainment (including skills and vocational)
• Increasing employment levels
• Improving the physical environment
• Strengthening our local economy

The aim is to accelerate long-term wealth generation, greater social mobility and improved health through effective interventions, complementing the city-scale physical improvements that are already taking place.

The public, private and voluntary sectors will work alongside communities to deliver initiatives that will directly local people and drive forward social and economic growth and regeneration.

The council will establish and lead a city-wide Public Service Reform Board to spearhead the delivery of efficient and beneficial services across the public sector.

Cllr Thompson said: “Great things are happening across Middlesbrough at the moment, heralding a new era of prosperity and growth, but if we are truly to build for the future, these achievements must be underpinned by equally ambitious social regeneration.

“If we are to make the most of our role as the city powerhouse of the Tees Valley, we have to ensure our residents live longer, healthier lives, and have the education and skills to land the thousands of new jobs that are being created.

“We are on the threshold of a whole new era of opportunity, and it’s one we are determined to grasp with both hands – but to achieve that we need to work alongside local residents and communities.”

A new Public Service Reform Board will act as a focal point for community feedback, encouraging greater levels of collaboration between public sector bodies and empowering residents to become more independent and engaged.

Communities will be given a direct role in solutions that are relevant to them with funding opportunities available for local projects, alongside the sort of public services that will benefit them directly.