23rd February 2018

It takes a village: the deal between councils and communities to drive change

Paul Bradbury, Executive Director, Civica discusses the key issues in building strong communities for the future

It’s become all too familiar to state that resources and funding for local authorities are at a tipping point. And with continued new legislation, the need to improve cyber security, rising demand on services and a stretched public workforce, the road ahead is increasingly complex.

But there is also light. Recent findings from Ipsos MORI show that trust has increased by 34% in local government and, as we heard at our recent Civica Exchange conference in Manchester, many local authorities are steadfastly redesigning their services for the new digital age and exploring ways to bring about sustainable social change in the process.

The accelerating trend that we’re witnessing – and aiming to encourage – is the desire to create and build stronger places and communities, with authorities working closely both with citizens and other local partners to achieve this. Technology plays a vital role, and we’re increasingly seeing the power of connected devices and data-driven insights to support communities and improve lives.

For example, Wigan Council identified that just 89 women in the area had given birth to 500 babies between them, all of which ended up in the care system. Data helped prove the extent of the issue and the council was able to provide education and work with the mothers to try to prevent further children being taken into care.

Speaking about the need to develop a truly joined-up of way working in places, John Morrissy, Assistant Director, Department of Place at Bolton Council stressed the need to co-create change with the community and understand what sits underneath demand. He believes that really understanding the assets and skills which community groups have will lead to a better recognition of the role they can play in building strong, resilient communities. For example, when considering the contribution that a local sports club makes, it may be as much about preventing social isolation and loneliness as it is about keeping people physically fit.

All the shining examples we heard during Civica Exchange had one salient thing in common – they brought citizens on a journey with them. It’s not just about educating residents on the reasons for, and benefits of, change; it’s also about close consultation and working together to co-create sustainable solutions, and ultimately stronger communities for all of us in the future.