Whole Essex Community Budget
Spurred on by the success of our Olympic athletes, the Whole Essex Community Budget team continue to focus on developing our proposals to government.
Over the last week the development of a compelling integrated commissioning proposition has been bolstered by a design workshop to further explore benefits, opportunities and issues alongside the practicalities of delivery. Meanwhile the Economic Opportunity Steering Group has met to continue to review progress as their final business cases evolve.
Yesterday we met with DCLG, the LGA and the three other pilot areas to discuss the ‘product’ ministers expect to see in late October; the timeline for delivery; and the mechanisms through which the total benefits of the Community Budget approach will be assessed. Meanwhile back in the office work has commenced on the drafting of our operational plan, to which the final business cases will eventually be annexed.
Alongside all of this, we are in the midst of exam results time – a perfect segue into the main focus of this week’s project focus – our skills proposals. Our skills project is one element of our Economic Opportunity workstream which looks to create the conditions for future success – giving Essex and Essex residents a competitive edge whilst growing the national economy.
There are clear reasons to review the way skills provision operates today – the current skills system is complicated and fragmented. A range of agencies, courses and incentives unwittingly work against the creation of quality training opportunities. Those offering courses often respond to learner demand, even if there are few jobs in the learner’s chosen field.
This leads to a situation where the student fails to find employment, even though they have gained a qualification – the taxpayer covers the cost of not only the initial training but also the subsequent welfare payments. In the meantime, local employers are unable to recruit staff with the right skills, reducing firms’ capacity to grow and weakening the local economy.
Our proposal will improve the supply of courses and reduce the costs of system failure (welfare payments and other social costs) whilst increasing both residents’ earning capacity and Essex’s economic potential.
It brings employers into the equation, helping them shape both training and service design with a view to supporting high-growth, high-value sectors. At the same time, an ‘Essex Pathway’ would help young people move from school into work and progress beyond entry-level posts. In addition, a system of outcomes-based contracts will promote greater value for money with course providers increasingly paid on the basis of learners gaining employment rather than simply attending a course.
We are now in a critical stage of the pilot; we can see the finishing line but also recognise the considerable work still required for us to get there successfully. As final business cases and operational plan continue to take shape we can also look forward to meetings next week with Department for Education, to discuss our skills proposition, and with the Essex Trust Charter, to consider how best to support data sharing.
Have a great weekend – it looks set to be a scorcher!