Looking forward to the challenges that my district faces I realise that the work we have all been putting in over the last few years to developing our partnership working is proving to be fundamental to the area’s resilience for the future. That accords of course with the theory surrounding public management over the last couple of decades. However here I’m talking about practical work on the development of priorities, which will have a significant impact on what happens on the ground and to the moments of truth as we address important decisions together.
I’d like to set out three examples of how this has helped us to develop practical ways forward:
Firstly, in partnership, and working with the community, we have put in place initiatives which have helped to develop a district-wide vision for economic, social and environmental sustainability through our community strategy, along with the completion of a District Vision which will underpin and render defensible our future strategic spatial planning documents, whatever happens to the Local Development Framework regime. We’re now starting on the practical implementation of this work.
We’re also developing a joint approach to our service outlets, including the beginnings of bringing together a range of public, private and voluntary sector agencies in a new approach to developing a community hub of face to face services, with the potential to extend to electronic and telephone based services in the future, formed around the same approach and systems.
Thirdly, linked closely to these two is an emerging approach to social inclusion, which aims to take an holistic view not only of the community groups addressed by it, but also of the various agencies that can use it to co-ordinate their efforts across the locality.
The overall enthusiasm and endorsement of this approach by our partners is impressive and a credit to the agencies involved, especially because of their acknowledgement of the democratic leadership role of the local council in helping to define the vision, broker priorities and co-ordinating services using precious resources.
These of course are policy decisions within the political framework. It is important that elected members take the lead on the key decision making surrounding the approach, so what is my leadership role as Chief Executive? I take the lead on ensuring that we have robust partnership structures, work closely with partners to explain the council’s position, and reflect their views back to lead politicians so that we can make the best use of all the resources that we can deploy in the district. I also lead the approach taken by the council’s staff team because their openness and effectiveness are key requirements for building community engagement and local resilience.
The corner stone for all of this work is the council’s public affairs and communications approach. So I pay particular attention to the messages that we are sending out and the way in which we communicate with others. For me, the news, local and national is the reality as far as the community and staff are concerned. This is not about spin, but it is definitely about honest communication of the council’s work, ensuring that it is seen as an effective and credible organisation.
I think that these two strands are critical for the future as the public sector faces considerable change, reduced resources and the opportunities that may come with new relationships with central government. I believe that it is particularly important that local government ensures that it understands its leadership role in both partnership working, public engagement and communication in order to make the most of the opportunities and challenges that are coming our way so that we can ensure sustainable development and great services for the places we serve.