Whole Essex Community Budget
Welcome to the first instalment of what will become a weekly progress update from the Whole Essex Community Budget pilot. This week, I’d like to explain a bit more about the Community Budget programme and draw your attention to a couple of key dates coming up later this month.
The Whole Essex Community Budget is a shared endeavour. Without the full ownership of a wide range of partner organisations, we will not succeed. We have the opportunity to develop local solutions to local problems and, transcending organisations, the Whole Essex Community Budget has the potential to radically improve the way we resource, commission and deliver services in the future.
Essex is one of just four national pilots selected by the Government to transform the nature of public services (the others are: Greater Manchester; the ‘tri-borough’ partnership ofWestminster, Hammersmith & Fulham and Kensington & Chelsea; and Cheshire West). The public sector inEssexspent some £10.8 billion last year, but local and national partners are looking to manage increasing demand on services at the same time as coping with big reductions in central funding. How can we do that at the same time as making significant improvements to people’s quality of life?
Our challenge is, by 31st October, to develop an Operational Plan, capable of implementation “which sets out what a single budget, or options for pooling and aligning resources, for the place would look like, the outcomes that would be delivered, governance arrangements, the redesign of services required to achieve the outcomes and how new financial approaches would work. It will identify what would need to happen locally to implement the options identified and what would need to be changed centrally”. (Community Budgets Prospectus, October 2011.)
Locally, we have had many conversations with partners already, testing ideas for how best to take the programme forward, how best to involve people in the journey, and what the main areas of activity might look like, building on the Expression of Interest that we submitted back in November. The emergent themes are likely to hit a number of important criteria, such as system complexity, the extent to which Government collaboration is necessary, the potential for cost saving and the quality of outcomes from a ‘customer’ perspective. For example, some recurrent themes include the integration of health and social care, community safety, economic growth and skills and families with complex needs, building on the excellent local work in the EssexFamily community budget pilot. Then there are the ‘enablers’ of change to consider, such as finance, culture, workforce, data sharing and governance issues. Getting these things right will be essential, whatever topics emerge as priorities.
We already have a small programme office of staff from Essex County Fire & Rescue Service, Essex Probation and Essex County Council. In March we will be joined by a around eight senior civil servants, representing a significant range of Whitehall Departments and we soon hope to have additional local partners seconded into the team from key areas such as Essex Police, the voluntary sector, health, local government, skills providers and Job Centre Plus.
Having had an initial meeting in January, the Community Budget ‘sounding board’ meets again on 22nd February. This informal grouping of partners will continue to meet on a monthly basis, helping to inform the development of the Community Budget and providing guidance to the project team.
A major Partnership Conference is scheduled for the 28th February. This event will mobilise the direct engagement of some 150 local partners’ in the Community Budget and aims to delve deeper into key activity areas, helping to prioritise and scope the specific topics that will become the focus of the Whole Essex Community Budget for the next eight months.
I hope you found this update of interest and I look forward to seeing many of you on the 28th. Soon we will have a dedicated website in place where we’ll post regular information and updates but, meanwhile, if you want to find out more, please don’t hesitate to contact the community budget programme office on firstname.lastname@example.org.