THIS year, a government-led initiative to empower people to have a real influence over what happens in their local area has started.
Two wards in Havant have been selected to take part – in fact they are the only two wards in Hampshire.
I am right behind it as I think it is very important that residents have a say in what happens to their area rather than councils deciding for them.
Local community panels have been set up in both West Leigh (which I chair for the first year) and the Barncroft ward in Leigh Park.
They are made up of residents who have come together to set out the future priorities for their neighbourhoods. The panels have a small amount of money each year that they award to local organisations working in the community, and will shortly be awarding the grants for a second year.
The two panels have joined forces with Leigh Park Community Forum to put out a questionnaire asking people to give their views of the area and how they want it to develop.
The results will lead to a community plan, and this will be used to support bids for lottery money and to direct the actions of both and Hampshire councils.
Anyone of any age who lives, works or volunteers in Leigh Park can fill in a form.
We want as many people as possible to do so to make sure the results accurately reflect what the majority of people want to happen.
I hope everyone who wants their voice heard will go along to their local panel or, at the least, fill in a questionnaire available in some shops, schools, the library and the community centre.
Anyone interested in taking part can ring me on (023) 9247 1550.