Whole Essex Community Budget
Even though the week began with a public holiday, we’ve managed to fit a lot into four days on the Whole Essex Community Budget programme.
I’d like to begin by extending a warm welcome to Chris Greenhill and Jon Booth who both joined the programme this week. Chris is the chairman of trustees at Rainbow Services in Harlow, an organisation which works to combat disadvantage, deprivation and social exclusion. Jon is a Director in the Ministry of Justice and a welcome addition to our team of Whitehall secondees.
At a national level, all four pilot areas (West Cheshire and Chester; Essex; Greater Manchester; and the London tri-borough of Kensington & Chelsea, Westminster, and Hammersmith & Fulham) met with the Local Government Association and DCLG to discuss opportunities to ensure the lessons learnt from our Community Budget approaches can be shared beyond Whitehall and pilot places. Whilst this week’s Queen’s Speech was very much a ‘steady as she goes’ affair, community budgets offer a real way to reform public services at a time when it’s clear that the status quo really isn’t an option anymore.
Locally, the WECB Executive Board met to discuss the programme as a whole. In our Community Safety workstream, sponsors met with the Safer Essex Partnership to review emerging proposals and ideas, testing concepts and honing our focus further. This also happened in our Health and Wellbeing workstream where the outputs from last month’s discussions on disability, dementia and older people services were reviewed by subject matter experts to ensure our ideas remain capable of delivering real improvements in outcomes.
A consistent message from these discussions was the strong desire from partners to develop ambitious proposals. Clearly we need to develop approaches that are capable of delivering better results for local residents whilst at the same time taking cost out of the system. It is important to differentiate between the Whole Essex Community Budget and a ‘typical’ efficiency programme, though. We need to remember that the Whole Essex Community Budget is about more than this – it has real potential to reform the system and deliver a better model of public services in the increasingly severe financial context we’re all aware of.
Some real examples of citizen-centred reform are emerging, promoting choice and independence, and developing innovative ways to address the challenges facing people in Essex. If we can do that at this point in the economic cycle, we should all have great optimism for the future.