EURO money could pour into Cheshire West and Chester to provide one stop shops in areas where they are needed and take council services to the community.Š
The near £1.25m four year project could see Euro funding of more than £600,000.
The Executive of the shadow Cheshire West and Chester Council has agreed to back a Chester City Council decision to take part in the project.
If successful, it would see the provision of six multi functional rural service centres with the help of funding from an EU programme covering North West Europe.Š
The city council has already agreed to take part in the partnership involving organisations in the Netherlands, Ireland, Germany, Belgium and Switzerland.
It needed the backing of the new council as a decision from Europe is not expected before early 2009 and the project would not be launched until after April 2009 by which time the city council will have been abolished.
Councillors heard the “rural employment hubs”, which could include village shops and post office services, could support the development of very small businesses by providing training and online support and take action to help communities reduce their consumption of energy and increase local energy generation as is done in Ashton Hayes.Š
In a report, the council's prosperity portfolio holder Cllr Herbert Manley (Con, Abbey) and his customer ser vices colleague Cllr Myles Hogg (Con, Ledsham & Willaston) said the rural service centres would combine functions, such as those provided by village shops and post offices as examples, with customer access points for public and voluntary organisations.Š
It is intended that after an initial period of support and any necessary adaptations of existing buildings, the centres would be self-sustaining in the long term, operating as social enterprises.Š
The councillors say the service centres would tie in with the council's plans to provide one stop shops and neighbourhood access centres with perhaps three of the hubs being used in this way.
A need has already been identified to create centres for Tarvin/Tarporley and Farndon/Malpas to ensure that residents are within a 15 minute drive.
Up to three other centres could be established in locations which would not warrant a one stop shop or access centre providing there is demand from the community and the availability of resources to run a centre providing a more limited, or a different mix of services.Š
Support for very small businesses would tie in with enterprise points proposed by Business Link while energy activities could link to the new council's climate change agenda.Š
“If successful, this project bid will provide valuable additional resources for the delivery of work with rural communities,'' suggested the councillors.
Cheshire West and Chester Cllr Eleanor Johnson (Con, Mickle Trafford) told20the Executive she supported the proposals and was grateful the new authority was willing to support the project.
Development portfolio holder at the city council, Cllr Stuart Parker, (Con, Christleton), who is also a member of the Cheshire West and Chester Council, believes the project ''fits the bill for many projects which are lacking in the rural area”.Š
He feels the European approach “seems to be the one if we are to achieve something in a short period of time”.
Cllr Parker points out that in rural areas, the most disadvantaged people may not have the same ability to reach other centres as they would if they were in an urban area.
Cllr Jill Houlbrook (Con, Upton Grange), similarly a member of the new council, describes the hubs as “one stop shops in areas where they are needed”.Š
They would provide an opportunity for the new council to take its services to the community, she believes.Š
City Council officers have stressed there is no suggestion the centres would displace existing shops or post offices but would fill the gaps where services have already been lost.Š
Development director at the Town Hall, Charlie Seward, says the project would involve working with the community and would provide value for money while city council leader Cllr Margaret Parker (Con, Mickle Trafford) suggests: “It is a very important way to get closer to our communities.''Š