Community and voluntary sector organisations receive grants to help deprived communities

Real help for communities logoTwo voluntary sector organisations located in Telford and Wrekin and Stoke-on-Trent have been awarded part of a £15 million grant to assist communities hardest hit by the recession.

The targeted support fund, part of the government’s action plan for real communities, is providing 558 voluntary and community sector organisations with grants between £10,000 and £40,000. The grants are to help organisations assist those communities that have been severely impacted by the recession through a range of services related to information and guidance, health and wellbeing and employment.

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Future proofing rural communities in Warwickshire

Warwickshire Rural Community Council logoWarwickshire’s rural dwellers are being encouraged to move to the forefront of the battle to address climate change by creating a ‘cheaper, greener, more sustainable’ future for their countryside communities.

Warwickshire Rural Community Council (WRCC) says that, historically, rural communities have always been willing to embrace change and see the strong community spirit at the heart of many villages as key to their future success.

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Summary of data, mashups and APIs event

Birmigham Social Media CafeLast Wednesday, I went to an event at Fazeley Studios in Birmingham to explore innovative, useful and important applications of data.

The event — titled Data, Mashups and APIs — was organised by Birmingham Social Media Cafe and sponsored by The Guardian, Barefoot Wine and Screen WM.

I won’t try and summarise the whole event. A huge amount of material was covered and Chris Unitt has already posted this very detailed round up pulling together all of the talks and links.

However, I thought I’d pull out a couple of highlights.

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Observatory hosting event on sharing information digitally

Cutout figures connected by green light

The Observatory’s Population & Society Group is hosting an event exploring the whys and hows of making public data more accessible. We’ll also look at using social media to improve sharing data and information.

This full-day event will be held in Birmingham on 7th October. With speakers from the Guardian’s Free Our Data campaign, Lichfield District Council, Digital Birmingham and We Share Stuff, this will be an informative and practical day for anyone involved in data and information sharing in the West Midlands.

(Updated 5th Oct: the event is now fully booked).

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Observatory Annual Report 2008-09

Observatory Annual Report 2008-09The Observatory has published its Annual Report for 2008-09 (PDF, 506kb).

The report summarises our work and achievements over the 2008-09 financial year.

A shorter summary will be produced for the annual conference, taking place in Sutton Coldfield on 20th October 2009. The conference will explore the economic future of the West Midlands.

For more information, contact Oliver Nicholls.

Government awards grant to boost town centres

Erdington artspace exhibitionThe government is making £3 million available to help areas hardest hit by the recession find creative ways to reduce the negative impact empty shops are having on the high street.

Coventry, Birmingham, Stoke-on-Trent, Dudley, Sandwell, Wolverhampton and Walsall councils are each being given a grant of £52, 632.

The councils will use the grants as they see fit to boost town centres and transform empty shops into a variety of places including learning centres, meeting places or a showroom for artists.

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LARCI announce pilot placement fellowship scheme

Logo of Local Authority Research Council InitiativeThe Local Authority Research Council Initiative (LARCI) has announced a pilot Placement Fellowship Scheme (PDF, 24kb) which aims to assist local authorities in meeting their key strategic challenges.

The purpose of this scheme is to encourage local authorities and academic researchers from any discipline to put forward projects with which they require access to expertise. Researchers and local authorities are then encouraged to work together, providing an opportunity to facilitate knowledge exchange within local government and across academic networks. Continue reading

Further rise in unemployment in the West Midlands

Office for National Statistics logoUnemployment in the West Midlands reached 285,000 in the three months to June 2009, the highest level since 1994.

Figures published today by the Office for National Statistics show that the unemployment rate in the West Midlands is at 10.6%. This is still the highest rate of all the English regions.

The West Midlands continues to be the region hardest hit by the recession and has seen the biggest increase in unemployment of all the regions.

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New report on making the most of information to improve services

Is there something I should know? report coverThe Audit Commission has published the report Is there something I should know? (PDF, 1.28mb) looking at the way local councils use information to make decisions.

The report’s purpose is to encourage senior members of local councils to be more demanding about the information they seek, and use, during the decision making process.

The report highlighted that:

  • 9 out of 10 councils believe good quality information is a top priority
  • However, less than 5% of councils have excellent quality data
  • 65% of councils face problems sharing data externally
  • 80% of councils say a lack of in-depth analysis is a major problem
  • Two thirds of councils say members struggle to understand information, but half of all councils provide no formal training in the area and almost a quarter provide no support at all

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MG Rover workers: what happened next?

Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)The Birmingham Business School at the University of Birmingham obtained funding from the Economic and Social Research Council to conduct the study Ex-MG Rover workers: 3 years on (PDF, 989kb).

The study consisted of a  survey of 204 ex-workers conducted via telephone in April 2008, along with in-depth interviews of 30 workers and 30 local and regional practioners and policy makers.

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West Midlands culture: an antidote to the downturn?

rolerr-coaster-pic_LAAccording to the latest cultural sector economic snapshot (PDF, 360kb) published this week by the West Midlands Cultural Observatory, culture will have its role to play in the region’s post-recession recovery.

Evidence cited in the new paper suggests that West Midlands residents may be turning to culture as an antidote to the downturn.

Visitor numbers for local visitor attractions have exceeded the national average for both the October–December 2008 and January–March 2009 quarters.

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