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County Durham community engagement consultation

Tell us what you think about proposals to improve how we work with our communities and residents to better support your future needs. A number of changes have been proposed in an independent review of our current community engagement practises.

Thank you to everyone who took part in this consultation. We received valuable feedback including 188 responses to our questionnaire and 41 responses to our dedicated email address. To find out more about the consultation outcomes and the changes, please go to the bottom of this page


An independent review of our current engagement practices has made a number of proposals to change the way we do things and better meet the needs of our residents, communities, councillors and main partners. By community engagement we mean the ways in which we work together on a local level to improve community life. In particular, the review looked at how community engagement can involve more people in affecting local decisions based on their needs, strengths, and ambitions.

Why community engagement is important

We know that communities working together to identify solutions and take action is a good thing. Community engagement projects works to improve community life, social connections and supportive relationships, and to build strong communities. Doing community engagement in the right way can help us to recognise, value and build on positive factors that support the wellbeing of our communities and will help us to overcome some of the key issues we face. 

What we do now

Since 2009, our 14 Area Action Partnerships (AAPs) have been one of the main ways for us to connect and engage with you on a local level. Since their start, they have helped to fund over 10,000 community based projects. AAPs are made up of members of the public, our staff (including AAP staff, senior managers and councillors), town and parish councils, police, fire, health, housing, business, and voluntary organisations. Together they work with communities and organisations to agree local priorities and the actions required to deal with them, give funding to local organisations and check what difference that funding and support is making to the communities. They also provide a means to consult communities on service changes, provide a way of connecting local communities, ourselves and partners.

Why a review is needed

Since AAPs were established, there have been a lot of changes to local and national policies, so it was the right time to request an independent review to see if our AAPs were still fit for the purpose they were created. The proposals have been developed by independent consultants, working with AAPs and partners, over the past six months, having been appointed to carry out a review in June 2022.

The review

The consultants have come up with a series of proposed changes covering:

  • model
  • boundaries
  • funding
  • community development

If these proposals are to be adopted, the consultant believes that it will have the following benefits:

  • increase the effectiveness and consistency of community engagement across the county
  • provide opportunities for more people to affect policy and include the opinions of all our communities
  • make it clearer how local needs are identified and considered in the development of wider policies and allow for more meaningful discussion around community issues instead of being often just about funding
  • community staff will be able to spend more time in communities and be more responsive to local needs

Accessing the report

The consultants full review report is available here to read.

Icon for pdf ERS Community Engagement Review report (PDF, 1.2mb)

Have your say

The deadline for comments was 5.00pm on Sunday 23 April 2023.

What's happening now?

As well as resident feedback we also heard from partners and interested groups including:

  • Area Action Partnership boards and forum members
  • Area Action Partnership staff
  • Durham Youth Council
  • County Durham's Health and Care Engagement Forum
  • County Durham Partnership and associated groups including Safe Durham Partnership and County Durham Economic Partnership
  • County Durham Association of Local Councils and some individual Town and Parish Councils
  • Councillors
  • Voluntary Community Sector partners
  • Durham Constabulary
  • Public Health

Feedback covered all areas of the proposals including the model, boundaries, funding and community development, as outlined in the consultant's report. It is clear from the feedback that the current Area Action Partnerships raise a wide range of opinions and that the review has been welcomed as a timely opportunity to implement new and improved community engagement arrangements building on current strengths and good practice.

All comments and suggestions from the consultation have been recorded and considered to inform our recommendations for a new local network model which will be put to Cabinet on 12 July 2023 for consideration. It is proposed that this new approach will be implemented in stages until it is fully up and running in April 2025. The new local networks will help the council, with our partners, to better engage, consult with and develop our communities so we can tackle the challenges that we face more effectively and help build more resilient communities.

For full information, including consultation results and proposals for the local networks, please read the Community Engagement Review - Cabinet agenda and minutes - 12 July 2023

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Consultation - community engagement