Timebanks leading the way in community skill sharing across Huntingdonshire

Somersham Parish Council chairman Councillor Steve Criswell and timebank coordinator Lucy Bird

Somersham Parish Council chairman Councillor Steve Criswell and timebank coordinator Lucy Bird - Credit: Archant

A way for people to share their skills and time with each other is gaining pace throughout Huntingdonshire as councils look to find ways to help their communities on ever tightening budgets. Reporter Sophie Day explores the army of timebanks in the district.

St Neots Timebank coordinator Georgina Corley with members Councillor James Corley and Tony Webley

St Neots Timebank coordinator Georgina Corley with members Councillor James Corley and Tony Webley - Credit: Archant

Three parish councils in the district have taken on the idea of setting up a timebank in their villages, which allows people to help each other out by sharing job skills – or something as simple as looking after a pet.

The first to be set up in the district was the Somersham and Pidley Timebank, which was originally started in 2011 by Somersham Parish Council, which now has 150 individual members and 15 organisational members, and exchanged around 10000 hours.

“Five years ago timebanking was an unknown phenomenon in Huntingdonshire and Somersham Parish Council lead the way to help improve the lives of residents in the village by setting up this project to engage with the community,” said coordinator Lucy Bird.

“As part of its [Somersham Parish Council] community plan, the timebank complimented many of the issues that came up such as supporting older people to stay in their homes and preventing social isolation. Since then, Pidley Parish Council have seen the benefits and have joined to promote timebanking in this smaller community and link the villages together.”

To help grow the success of timebanking, Mrs Bird has been working with Houghton and Wyton to launch its own bank backed by chairman of the parish council Lesley Craig and deputy chairman Ray Baxendale.

Just like others around the country, the villages’ timebank will exchange a range of skills between residents including craft activities, gardening and ICT skills.

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Coordinator Vicky Graham said: “Houghton and Wyton Time bank will be offering different events throughout the year including regular walks, coffee mornings, opportunities to meet up and support the community.”

The nationwide programme, which supports communities in playing a greater role in delivering local services has been backed by Warboys Parish Council.

Cooridinator, Arlene Cooper, said: “This was a thought of the parish council for the last couple of years. We have a lot of active people in the village but we also have a lot of vulnerable people so we hope the timebank will be able to help these vulnerable people but will also be about people sharing skills, from the younger generation to the older generation.”

Not only a council scheme, timebanks have grown out of the love of the community; St Neots Time Bank officially launched in 2012 and, with the help of St Neots Town Council has more than 107 active members who have exchanged 2,500 hours of their time.

St Neots Timebank coordinator, Georgina Corley, said: “Once members have overcome their ‘pride’ and realise that others do care and can help to make those stressful jobs. Timebanking gives pleasure to those that receive and to those that provide,” said Mrs Corley.

As well volunteering time to help members of the group, St Neots Timebank has also hosted a number of events including a Christmas tree festival as well as makeover on gardens, and has also helped the Riverside Miniature Railway project.

Also booming in the district is St Ives Timebank that was launched in 2013 and has gone out to help the town transforming the homes and gardens of vulnerable people, organising coffee mornings and community events.

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