A Time to Tell – David

“I was Chief Officer of Hull CVS from 1992 to 1995 when it provided infrastructure support and development services to the Voluntary and Community sector. The C.D. aspect was supported by CVS through a small group of C.D. Workers whose role was to help people identify and support local community need, mostly at a neighbourhood level, and give people the technical expertise, support and confidence to establish new groups and organisations to meet that need”

CVS was set up by Chris Cobley, then CEO of the Rural Community Council for Humberside with Mike Clemson (then CEO of Beverley CVS). The original trustees included John Baker from the University of Hull who chaired CVS for many years. Kevin Curley was appointed first Chief Executive in (1982?). Hull was one of the last major cities in the UK to have a CVS, and came about largely through the need of Hull City Council to work in partnership with the voluntary and community sector to secure elements of the new Urban Programme. Prior to that, it was unclear as to who spoke for the VCS.

The Urban Programme brought in a raft of new organisations e.g. Law Centre, HIHAC, HFCO, in partnership with Hull City Council.”

Following Dave’s appointment as Hull CVS Chief Executive in 1992, he was asked to chair a sub group of the local regeneration cross sector partnership Hull Cityvision, which came about after a failed City Challenge bid in 1991 to oversee the government’s new SRB6 regeneration programme. He was asked to do this at the invitation of Hull City Council to show good faith in engaging with the voluntary sector.

City Challenge was like a beauty competition, setting up Cities in competition with each other to secure funding for a regeneration “Prize”. It was the brainchild of Michael Heseltine, then Secretary of State for the Environment in John Major’s Conservative government. Despite considerable effort on behalf of the City Council, Hull lost its bid which was a major blow, particularly for the most socially deprived communities in Hull that so badly needed investment. The City Council officer who led the bid, Tony Patterson, was personally devastated by its failure, something the then Chief Executive of the City Council, Daryl Stephenson, still remembers. (Andy D and Dave R may know more about this). A Hull CVS worker led on Voluntary Sector liaison for the bid but lacked confidence and had little experience in that type of role.

Dave, new to the CVS job and chairing the social sub group worked with Barry Matterson, a L.A. officer. At an early meeting, he was presented with a pile of funding bids which needed to be prioritised, many from ‘the usual suspects’ who had the capacity and experience to put together credible bids. Dave felt that bids should be based on need as articulated by local communities rather than the agenda of bigger more established VCS organisations. Dave felt that generic community development was needed, facilitated by paid workers to help identify and address local need.

Dave proposed that a new, generic community development organisation should be based in the VCS, though the City Council wanted it in-house as they didn’t have confidence in the VCS to deliver and were reluctance to relinquish control. It was therefore allocated to the Leisure Services department under Andrew Gillespie’s control. Andrew was the officer responsible for a programme which provided funding for basic running costs for a network of community centres across the City which relied on significant volunteer input and fundraising to survive. Andrew Gillespie felt uneasy about taking on board the generic community development function as the department’s primary expertise lay with facilities management such as swimming pools and parks. So, the task to establish the new organisation came back to the VCS.

Dave then got together key players, e.g. Dave Rogers, Andy Dorton, and in Dave’s front room Hull DOC (Developing our Communities) was born, thereby recognising Community Development as a legitimate process. (Dave R is currently involved as a partner in the Big Local programme on Greatfield Estate in Hull; Andy Dorton is now a City Councillor and retains his role as Social Responsibility Officer for the Church of England)

“It would be fascinating to see the minutes and how the meetings were recorded” (Early City Partnership meeting minutes).

“DOC sadly, never managed to recruit a Chief Officer with the right kind of skill set to manage such a highly politically charged organisation with such a complex brief. Relationships between Hull City Council and DOC were fractious with many Councillors feeling the organisation was undermining their role in the community. The Council had issues with the VCS sector, and struggled with the concept of the Council funding organisations to fight the Council (“biting the hand that feeds it”), particularly when criticising its role as the primary social housing provider and in some cases, leading court action against it. (e.g. HiHac and the Law Centre)”

Eventually, the City Council reduced core funding to Hull CVS and HFCO (Hull Federation of Community Organisations) and officers were made redundant.“

“The VCS was always swimming against the tide with the City Council. As a very insular City dominated for many years by traditional, paternalistic Labour Party values, the concept of bottom-up community empowerment didn’t always sit well. Politically, the dominance of a single political party influenced by a relatively small group of activists, many of whom had their own personal campaigns and priorities, didn’t react well to what was seen as an unelected cadre of VCS activists attempting to set the agenda. Political vendettas against organisations and individuals that influenced funding decisions were not uncommon”

The context and environment of Hull

“It’s a big city in the middle of nowhere. Historically, people don’t move around; families often stay in the same neighbourhoods for generations. It’s paternalistic and isolated. Voter turnout is low and there is little appetite for standing for public office. Arguably, you get the Council you deserve. Hull City Council has traditionally been a controlling body with a monopoly on the public-sector agenda. But that is changing, and the City Council is now more inclined to work in partnership with the VCS, though the government’s austerity agenda and scathing cuts in VCS infrastructure and core funding has made that increasingly difficult. (Who now speaks for the VCS?) Despite this, the hugely successful City of Culture 2017 initiative has run a successful programme of engaging volunteers to support the delivery of the main programme and there has been an element of engaging with communities to influence and deliver the main programme”

Dave was also Programme Director for Common Purpose in Hull from 1995 to 2001. The programme aimed to develop better understanding between senior and influential figures from private, public and voluntary sector organisations and promote more effective partnership working.

December 2001

Dave left Common Purpose to go freelance. Chris Burn ran Common Purpose for a while, then Susie Hay. (Susie had a graduate programme for MN Fuels to provide community experience seven or eight years ago).

Present Day

Today, Dave works primarily with Local Authorities and health bodies as a trainer in outcome based strategic planning and performance management. As a freelance consultant, Dave used to work as a Neighbourhood Advisor for the Department of Local Government with Community Networks and LSPs around the country including Hull Community Network (HCN). Community Networks were centrally funded as a mechanism for co-ordinating residents and VCS organisations in Local Strategic Partnerships (such as Hull Cityvision). The Networks disappeared with the expiry of government funding. He also advised on community engagement for government regeneration programmes including Preston Road NDC.

Dave currently has a contract with Local Trust, who manage the Big Lottery funded “Big Local” programme, as a Big Local Rep, advising and supporting four resident led partnerships in Hull (Greatfield Estate), North Cleethorpes (North East Lincolnshire) Withernsea (East Yorkshire) and Winterton (North Lincolnshire)

“It’s worthy of examination. It’s a good community development model.”

“The community development approach can be frustratingly slow and building capacity to manage a big funding programme can take a long time. We’ve seen funding programmes where money was thrown at communities for quick responses to meet Council or government funding deadlines, but it takes a long time to do community development and build capacity. The terms and conditions for most public-sector funding programmes militate against a genuine community development approach and there is a reluctance to fund medium to longer term revenue costs to support infrastructure development. Residents in the past have been alienated from programmes that give lip service to community engagement but in practice are driven from the top with residents almost becoming passive observers rather than architects of their own fate”

Big Local (current) is Big Lottery funded. It’s a ten-year, national programme providing £1 million to 150 selected neighbourhoods across England including Greatfield Estate in Hull. Selection criteria for Big Local neighbourhoods included social deprivation and under-representation of Big Lottery funding awards. Interestingly, areas were not invited to bid for Big Local status; a short list of neighbourhoods were identified for a short list and the decision was informed by consultation with Local Councils and VCS organisations. Funding is awarded through a “Local Trusted Organisation” that acts as the banker and managing legal entity for the local programme, but priorities and funding decisions are made by a local partnership body that must have local residents in the majority.

“Part of my role as Big Local Rep is to ensure that local residents are leading the partnership and that the money is spent based on locally identified needs and priorities. The £1M funding can be spent when and how the residents decide. Some invest in major capital schemes, others to support social investment, others grant aided programmes. It’s a ten-year programme and there are no annual funding deadlines.”

“Greatfield Big Local hasn’t spent much money because the residents are reluctant to spend it!”

Dave is encouraging partnerships to employ workers, but on Greatfield, local residents were bitter about their experience of Hull DOC.

“DOC, previously had funding to work on the estate, but the residents felt that their workers came in, the money was spent and there was nothing to show for it. The residents’ approach now is to do as much as they can themselves in a voluntary capacity and create a lasting legacy for the community”.

Greatfield Big Local does now employ a coordinator (Claire Taylor) who has an arts background and ironically, worked for DOC in the past. Her role is to support the residents in writing and implementing a local community plan.

To access their funding, the Big Local partnerships must write a community plan that reflects local needs and priorities and residents are encouraged to work in partnership with statutory and other organisations in pulling the plan together and delivering it. Rather than committing the entire £1 million in a single ten-year plan, Partnerships tend to write a Plan to cover one, two or three years. Greatfield Big Local was initially chaired by a local Councillor, Sheila Waudby who took the role in a personal capacity as a local resident. Sadly she died at the end of 2013 and Dave Rodgers, now the local vicar of St Hilda’s Church on the estate, initially succeeded her until the present Chair, local resident Debbie Peacock took over the role. Debbie is also Chair of GRIN (Greatfield Residents Improving our Neighbourhood) a local group with a long track record of delivering voluntary and community work on Greatfield. In addition to the support from the Big Local rep, the residents also have access to a national and regional networking and training programme.” (See www.localtrust.org,uk).

“Local Councillors tend to get very frustrated by the Big Local programmes. They are used to bidding for programmes against fixed criteria and spending the money within a short timescale, often without time for meaningful community involvement. They don’t seem to understand how long it takes residents to build the capacity to make funding decisions and residents’ reluctance to fund projects without a clear mandate from the community and with a legacy beyond the Big Local programme”.

The Big Local programme on Greatfield organised an event to celebrate the life of Mick Ronson, the rock guitarist who was born on the Greatfield estate. Funding for the ‘Ronson Rocks’ event, held in a field on the estate, levered in additional money from the Arts Council further adding value to the Big Local funding.

“It has taken some time for a coherent resident group to come together on Greatfield to manage the Big Local programme. The hostility towards agencies meant that there was significant reluctance to use the Big Local money to employ workers and in the early days, the project enjoyed significant goodwill and pro-bono worker time from the Local Trusted Organisation, the Hull & East Yorkshire Community Foundation (H&EYCF). H&EYCF took the lead on writing the first Community Plan but the downside of this was that many residents hadn’t understood the detail and decisions that were being made on their behalf, largely due to confidence in the worker and lack of confidence in challenging. This came to light when the Foundation went into liquidation due to a chronic mismanagement of funds and the worker was made redundant. The residents then had to quickly pick up the agenda and they realised how little they understood effectively putting back the project another 18 months until they had the confidence to complete the second Plan”

The Big Local model is for the funding body (Local Trust) to enter into a grant agreement with a “Local Trusted Organisation” (LTO), a constituted organisation with a track record in managing funds that enjoys the confidence of local residents. This means that residents don’t have to form an organisation to hold funds, manage contracts and employ any workers it wants to take on. The LTO takes care of the legalities leaving the residents to decide how the money is to be spent and relieving them of the hassle of managing the money and taking on the governance responsibilities.

“It was a bitter blow that the first choice of LTO (H&EYCF) became insolvent due to mismanagement but this started a rapid learning curve for the residents who then took the lead themselves on writing the second Community Plan”.

Commenting on the demise of H&EYCF, Dave suggests:

“The Achilles Heel of larger VCS organisations is that they stand or fall by the calibre of the Chief Executive Officer. The H&EYCF had a very experienced Board that included (ironically) a qualified accountant specialising in Insolvency, yet Board members were misled by their CEO who withheld key financial information from them. The organisation’s true financial status and the severe extent of its insolvency only came to the Board’s notice due to a whistle blower in the staff team. DOC had a Board of experienced Community Development activists but seemed unable to lead the organisation through the political minefield it found itself in and failed to manage some significant personnel issues effectively”

Why do the VCS do this? (appoint poor calibre Chief Officers)

Dave B and Andy D go back a long way. Andy D was Chair of Hull CVS when Dave B was chief officer. Dave confesses to lack of confidence in the judgement of people with faith. “I find it hard to trust the judgement of someone who defers to an imaginary friend or supernatural being in making decisions about their lives. I don’t understand faith and am frustrated by those who practice it”

However, his philosophy and values mirror most of those in the Christian faith.

“For me, Hull is a politically apathetic community. I heard a saying once that “you can drop coal on folks’ ‘eads in ‘ull and no one will complain”. Traditionally, for example, political demonstrations in the past have been very poorly supported yet I’m encouraged by the thousands that turned up for the Jeremy Corbyn rally recently. Maybe the tide is finally turning.

“We’ve lacked inspiring community leadership. We’ve put far too much onto the shoulders of too few and they crack up and burn out. “Gina Holdsworth, who was active in Hull in the 1990s, was inspirational as a local community leader. She was an ‘incomer’ but could hold and inspire a group of people and gain the respect of the statutory agencies. She was brought up in a very different culture in East London and we’ve been unable to develop many leaders of her calibre in the more laid back and mono-cultured environment of Hull. There are of course noticeable exceptions, and I’m thinking about Lilly Bilocca and the work she did leading the campaign to secure safer working conditions of local fisherman following the triple trawler tragedies in the mid-sixties. Somehow, we need to nurture that kind of community leadership outside of tragedy. Great to see Lily and her “headscarf revolutionaries” immortalised today in the West Hull murals”

“It’s always been difficult to attract people to come and work in Hull for a variety of reasons. Maybe that’s changing now, but we need to invest in our own people, motivate them and provide them with the skills and confidence to lead and inspire people to make Hull an even better place to live in”

Dave B is local.

“Hull owes its growth as a City from being a major port, historically with strong communities built around fishing and the docks with large manufacturing companies employing several thousand people. Therefore, there was a sense of community and people looked after themselves. But since the second world war, things began to change. The City Centre was devastated through bombing. People returning from the war wanted more than the slums they left, and the housing clearance programme demolished what the German bombs left. Communities were split up, moved to the new outer estates with nothing of the community glue that the old back to back terraces engendered. Mechanisation of the docks made thousands of men redundant and the demise of the manufacturing sector took many more jobs. Those that were left employed far fewer, more specialised people. The places where people came together were vanishing.

Post war, Hull became a city where people were provided for, and they haven’t wanted for much. It’s parochial. And my experience was that people largely accept their lot. So many seem to have no fight, or rebellion or fire. Little aspiration. Don’t know why. The ones that do find themselves alone and quickly burn-out. Maybe it’s the lack of diversity? Lack of mobility? However, it is changing. Hull has benefitted from its University. Some many initiatives that have benefitted the City and challenged the status quo have come out of Hull University, like Hull Truck Theatre. Many of the early voluntary sector organisations that formed in the 1980s were started by Hull University Graduates. Very few people who hold the top jobs are Hull born”.

Memorable stories

The Goodwin Community Trust based in West Hull.

“I work all over the UK now, and even people who don’t know much about Hull have heard about Goodwin. It’s a spectacularly successful Community led initiative that grew from nothing in the 1990s to one of the biggest community trusts in the UK. It came out of the failure of City Challenge and with it, their bid for community development resources. With the will and vision of a handful of residents and support from some local Councillors, amongst the gloom of thwarted aspirations they decided they’d do it anyway. In 1994, they took on a redundant shop on the Goodwin Parade to give advice to unemployed people. 23 years on and Goodwin seems to own the estate! They have a community centre, a community college, provide a range of services to people across the City, manage a successful conference centre opposite the shopping parade where it all started and are now building and managing social housing. They even run the local pub!“

The history of the first ten years of Goodwin is chronicled beautifully in the aptly titled “Ten Years of Being Awkward: Celebrating the Goodwin Centre, Hull” by Brian Lewis published by the Pontefract Press.

“For me, their success is down to its CEO Peter McGurn, though he denies it. Peter gives all the credit to the Resident Board and he is quick to point out that despite pressure from some funders, Goodwin has always resisted having non-residents on its Board. My understanding is that it’s cost it funding when funders have sought a co-option, but Peter considers the principle of being wholly resident led is more important.”

The Octagon, Goodwin’s state of the art conference centre, opened in 2005 following a £5 million investment.

“Peter told me they wanted a state of the art conference centre. They could have built a centre for two thirds that budget, but Peter said that’s what people expected – second best. Goodwin wanted to show that the people deserved and should aspire to having the very best available. I can recall local people saying that the private sector would never use the centre because of where it was, due to fear of having their cars vandalised or worse. To be fair, historically this was not a place you’d want to be late at night. Yet I’m told that ever since the Octagon was built, there’s been no vandalism and the centre is thriving”.

How do you bottle that faith in what you are doing into belief in ourselves? How do you capture that incredible resilience, their faith in what they were/are doing? How can we capture that? Could we bottle it?!. Goodwin is a success story”.

Children’s University

Another great initiative set up by John Buttrick, an inspirational Head Teacher who’d successfully turned around a struggling Hull School. The story comes out of personal tragedy. John lost his son at a young age. An antidote to that (and out of faith?) was to be an inspirational leader with major job on to change attitudes in education etc. It is a good example of partnership working.”

Gina Holdsworth story

When she first came to Hull, the local authority was painting all their homes near to her and all residents had the choice of two colours for their front doors. Gina asked ‘Where is the colour in this community? She brought out a colour card and threw it on the floor saying ’this is community development’. There are different ways of doing things and we all have potential’. Now all the doors have different colours. Community development. Diversity and collective action shows change.

It is important for Dave- to see the lights go on in people and seeing them realise what they are capable of.

Margaret Mead said, ‘Never underestimate the ability of a small group of individuals to change the world (in fact, it’s the only thing that ever does)’

How has change happened? At grass roots? This is the vehicle for change.

“Colin Brown and Councillor David Gemmell were ridiculed by their colleagues at Hull City Council for coming up with the idea of The Deep. Councillors dubbed it “Dave’s Fish Tank”. But they stuck with the idea, secured Millennium Funding and it’s now self-sufficient and a world renown aquarium and research facility, the most financially successful millennium scheme in the country. That’s about leadership, passion and vision and not giving up when everyone tells you it’ll never happen (or as Goodwin called it “Being Awkward”). Greenpeace use a slogan I really like “The optimism of the action is better than the pessimism of the thought”

City of Culture—How did we get it?

“I think the City of Culture bid was the culmination of years of experience in working together in partnership coupled with a clear vision and good leadership. Hull re-defined culture. Instead of pretending to be something we’re not, the tag line was “We are Hull”. I’m told it was the honesty of the bid and the extent to which it demonstrated community and partner buy-in that beat the competition from places that in theory you’d feel were far better placed to win the honour. The City Council didn’t lead on the bid, but they were a major partner. That wouldn’t have happened forty years ago”