Whole Essex Community Budget
It’s been a rather short week this week, with the Diamond Jubilee providing some welcome light relief from the tricky business of redesigning the public sector in Essex. However, the importance of our work was soon emphasised - the Institute of Public Policy Research’s The Long View. Public Services and Public Spending in 2030 set out a series of long-term trends that look set to increase the demand on public services while restricting future tax revenues.
This prognosis, coupled with the message our Sounding Board received from Jon Riley of the Office for Budget Responsibility last week, could deflate even the most optimistic of us. However, both the OBR and IPPR point to the need for fundamental reform of the public services – and the fact that we are one of four Whole Place Community Budget pilots provides us with a headstart in reshaping the public sector.
This week’s Executive Board meeting reviewed our progress to date. In addition to a helpful debate about the direction of the programme, what emerged from the session was the importance of:
As our project teams finalise their outline business cases this week and next, they need to take these issues on board. For now, I’d like to say a bit more about community empowerment. It’s at the forefront of my mind in part because of its beautiful simplicity - helping citizens to control, shape and improve their lives for themselves, and in so doing reduce their need for public services in the first place, will be a critical factor in effectively managing demand.
The issue of community empowerment was also at the fore in a discussion we had earlier this week with the Rural Community Council of Essex. The RCCE works with people and communities throughout rural Essex. When we met to discuss the Whole Essex Community Budget and opportunities to engage further in the programme, the RCCE were keen to highlight the untapped capacity that exists in the rural communities they work with and the importance of engaging customers, residents and taxpayers in a debate about not only the future of public service but also the roles and responsibilities of both the state and the citizen. I think this is spot-on. It strikes me as self-evident that, for Community Budgets to work well, they will need to create a place in which self-reliant, resilient communities can flourish.
Finally, if you have a moment, do take the opportunity to read this article setting out Cheshire West and Chester chief executive Steve Robinson’s view of the community budget challenge. It’s all too easy to focus on activity in Essex, but we need to remember that our colleagues in the other three pilot areas are also looking to deliver better, cheaper more effective services.
Have a good weekend.