First Magazine - April 2016

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  • x xx xx

    interview:

    No.598 April 2016 www.local.gov.uk

    the magazine for local government

    Its vital we concentrate on the

    quality of education rather than the legal

    status of a school Cllr Roy Perry, Chairman of the

    LGAs Children and Young People Board

    Schools report

    Budget 2016Devo deals and soft drinks

    Child-friendly towns Childrens Commissioner Anne Longfield

    Creative industries Think culture for jobs and growth

    8 18 27

    10

  • www.local.gov.uk/conference to book your place

    The local government event of the year

    @LGAComms #LGAconf16

    Confirmed speakers include

    National Infrastructure Commission Chair The Rt Hon The Lord Adonis

    Environment Agency Chief Executive Sir James Bevan

    Urban Splash Group Chairman Tom Bloxham MBE

    Songwriter and Activist Billy Bragg

    Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe

    Shadow Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Health Rt Hon Norman Lamb MP

    Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Defence Personnel and Veterans Mark Lancaster TD MP

    Greater Manchester Interim Mayor and Police and Crime Commissioner Tony Lloyd

    Journalist and TV Presenter Cathy Newman

    The Orpheus Centre Trust with Sir Richard Stilgoe

    Falklands Veteran Simon Weston CBE

    Journalist and Broadcaster Toby Young

    L16-78 annual conference ad_full_page_first.indd 1 21/03/2016 11:56

  • April 2016 first contents | 3

    Editor Karen Thornton

    Design & print TU ink www.tuink.co.uk

    Advertising James Pembroke Publishing

    Write to first: Local Government House, Smith Square, London SW1P 3HZ

    Email first@local.gov.uk Tel editorial 020 7664 3294 Tel advertising 020 7079 9365

    Photography Photofusion, Dreamstime and Ingimage unless otherwise stated Interview Chris Sharp

    Circulation 18,100 (April 2016) first is published online at www.local.gov.uk/first at least two days before the magazine. To unsubscribe email first@oscar-research.co.uk

    The inclusion of an advert or insert in first does not imply endorsement by the LGA of any product or service. Contributors views are their own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions or policies of the LGA.

    contentsCouncils will have breathed a sigh of relief that there were no further in-year funding reductions announced by Chancellor George Osborne in his latest Budget.

    But there were plenty of other announcements of interest to local government from more non-metropolitan devolution deals to plans to make all schools academies. You can catch up on the LGAs Budget responses on p5 and p8-10, and on the political responses from the LGAs political groups on p24-25.

    Elsewhere in the magazine, a cross-party inquiry into devolution in the UK has reported, and made a series of recommendations aimed at creating a more coherent and ambitious approach to devolving more powers to the UKs nations and regions.

    Our interview this month is with Anne Longfield, Childrens Commissioner for England, who wants to work with councils to develop child-friendly towns and cities.

    Betsy Dilner of Generation Rent challenges us to think about and do more for our residents in the private rented sector, while John Kampfner, Chief Executive of the Creative Industries Federation, argues the arts are not nice to have but crucial to local jobs and growth.

    Let us know what you think by emailing first@local.gov.ukLord Porter is Chairman of the LGA

    The red box

    features8 Budget analysis10 Schools white paper11 Member perceptions12 Devolution14 Teenage pregnancies15 Loneliness16 LG Challenge

    news4 Apprenticeships Junk food ads

    Coastal path

    comment23 Generation rent24 LGA chairman and

    group leaders

    26 Donor town and winter shelter

    27 Creative industries28 BIMBYs and adult

    learning

    5 Budget warnings Delayed discharges

    Bug hotel

    regulars6 Letters and

    sound bites

    29 Councillor engaging young people

    30 Parliament business rates

    31 Local by-elections

    interview18 Anne Longfield

    OBE, Childrens Commissioner for England

    It is down to me to make sure the people who are making decisions about children understand the impact of those decisions

    4

    626

    18

    5

    www.local.gov.uk/conference to book your place

    The local government event of the year

    @LGAComms #LGAconf16

    Confirmed speakers include

    National Infrastructure Commission Chair The Rt Hon The Lord Adonis

    Environment Agency Chief Executive Sir James Bevan

    Urban Splash Group Chairman Tom Bloxham MBE

    Songwriter and Activist Billy Bragg

    Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe

    Shadow Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Health Rt Hon Norman Lamb MP

    Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Defence Personnel and Veterans Mark Lancaster TD MP

    Greater Manchester Interim Mayor and Police and Crime Commissioner Tony Lloyd

    Journalist and TV Presenter Cathy Newman

    The Orpheus Centre Trust with Sir Richard Stilgoe

    Falklands Veteran Simon Weston CBE

    Journalist and Broadcaster Toby Young

    L16-78 annual conference ad_full_page_first.indd 1 21/03/2016 11:56

    14

    5

  • news

    4 | first news www.local.gov.uk

    New coast path for Somerset

    A new 90km section of the England Coast Path has opened in Somerset, in time for the Easter holidays. The county council has worked with Natural England over the last seven years to establish the new path, following agreements with all the affected landowners. It is expected to boost the regions economy and tourism businesses. Cllr David Fothergill (Con), Cabinet Member for Highways and Transport, said: Supporting the path brings great economic benefits to Somerset and we look forward to further additions being planned for the future. We know how popular the England Coast Path is with both locals and those new or visiting the region, and hope this will prove to be a draw for tourists.

    Let councils ban junk food ads

    Powers to ban junk food advertising near schools, nurseries and childrens centres should be given to councils in a bid to beat the child obesity crisis. The LGA says the move would reduce childrens exposure to unhealthy food and drinks high in salt, fat and sugar, said to be a key driver behind child obesity.

    The call came as Chancellor George Osborne announced soft drinks companies will pay a levy on sugary drinks from 2018. The sugar tax is expected to raise 530 million, which would be spent on boosting school sports. In its First 100 days manifesto for the new government, the LGA called for a fifth of VAT on sweets, soft drinks and fast food to be reinvested in activity programmes to help tackle childhood obesity. Around 3.5 million children are considered obese.

    Cllr Richard Kemp, Deputy Chair of the LGAs Community Wellbeing Board, said: We urgently need to take action to tackle child obesity, and giving councils powers to control marketing of junk food, which is one of the major causes of this epidemic, will help us to tackle the issue. We are not saying every council should be using these powers, but it gives local authorities the option of working with parents and schools to ban junk food advertising near schools, nurseries and children centres, if they feel it can make a difference and improve childrens health in their town or city. We need to make changes to our environment if we are to fight obesity, and although this wont solve the obesity crisis by itself, being able to limit childrens exposure to unhealthy food products would be an important step forward.

    Apprenticeship targets dont add up

    staff numbers by 40 per cent since 2010. This would ensure 400 million of vital funding could be spent by councils on protecting local services instead.

    Money raised from the Apprenticeship Levy should also be pooled locally to allow areas to spend the money on creating apprenticeships that fill local skills gaps and meet employers needs.

    Cllr Nick Forbes, LGA Vice-Chair, said: Councils support the Governments ambition to create three million apprenticeships. Good apprenticeships can give people the experience, skills and understanding that can often lead straight into a full-time job. Yet too many new apprenticeships are low-skilled and too few are school leavers trying to get their first job.

    It is clear that our centralised employment and skills system is struggling to create the right apprenticeships that local residents and business need.

    These national reforms need to recognise the strong track record of councils in supporting local employment, including apprenticeships. Councils could better help increase apprenticeship numbers and quality by being freed from the burden of national targets.

    Paying the Governments new Apprenticeship Levy and meeting national apprenticeship targets will cost councils at least 600 million a year, according to LGA analysis.

    All public and private employers with a wage bill of more than 3 million will have to contribute 0.5 per cent in a new Apprenticeship Levy from April 2017 to fund the creation of three million new apprenticeships by the end of the decade. The LGA calculates that paying this levy will cost local authorities 207 million a year.

    The Government has also set all public sector employers an annual target of apprentices making up 2.3 per cent of the workforce. Under this policy, councils will have to make the biggest contribution of any part of the public sector, by creating 33,000 new apprenticeships each year. This represents an eight-fold increase and would force councils affected to find an extra 400 million in wages.

    The LGA is calling for councils to be exempt from the 2.3 per cent national apprenticeship target since it would force councils to create positions when they have already reduced

    Tipping the scales: case studies on the use of planning powers to limit hot food takeaways, see www.local.gov.uk/publications

  • April 2016 first news | 5

    B-line for the North East

    Pupils at George Washington Primary in Sunderland (pictured) have been creating a bug hotel in the schools grounds, as part of a city council project with wildlife charity Buglife aimed at helping stop the decline in bees and other insect pollinators across the country. Cllr Michael Mordey (Lab), Portfolio Holder for City Services, said: Some of the land the council owns is incredibly important for wildlife. These sites in urban areas, along with sensitively managed parks and road verges, can all support a wide range of flowers on which insect pollinators feed. I encourage everyone who has a garden, allotment or even window boxes to do their bit to reduce their use of insecticides and help provide a little extra natural cover for our wildlife.

    news in brief

    Public finance trailblazers

    Cuts could close local pharmacies

    Costs of delayed discharges revealed

    A 170 million funding cut could force hundreds of local pharmacies to close, cutting off a vital lifeline for elderly and vulnerable people and leaving some facing long journeys to collect essential medicines, the LGA has warned. Cllr Izzi Seccombe, the LGAs Community Wellbeing Spokeswoman, said: Community pharmacies do need to change but the cuts in funding could lead to many being forced to close. They should actually play a bigger role in providing public health services, alongside their existing roles. Additional investment in community pharmacies could improve the prevention of disease and access to health services. They can also help contribute to thriving high streets.

    Age UK is warning that urgent action is needed to address the underfunding of social care services, which allow older people to be safely discharged from hospital. Its report, Behind the headlines, reveals that nearly three million hospital bed days have been lost in the last six years, costing 910 million. Cllr Izzi Seccombe, the LGAs Community Wellbeing Spokeswoman, said: This is why the LGA continues to call for 700 million of the funding earmarked for social care through the Better Care Fund by the end of the decade to be brought forward now, to ease the severe strain on services supporting the elderly and vulnerable.

    Budget warning over further funding cuts

    City Region and in London. Lord Porter said this was an important step towards local government keeping all of their business rates income but warned against any knock-on financial impact on other councils.

    He added: Local government will rightly need to play a lead role in making sure any new national system works effectively and fairly.

    Failure to bring forward the 700 million of new money in the Better Care Fund to 2016/17, despite calls from councils, the NHS and care providers, was disappointing and meant under-pressure social care services would remain at breaking point, the LGA said.

    Vulnerable members of the community still face an uncertain future where the dignified care and support they deserve, such as help getting dressed, fed or getting out and about, remains at risk, said Lord Porter.

    The LGA also set out its opposition to plans announced by the Chancellor to force every school to become an academy by the end of the decade. It defies reason to portray councils as barriers to school improvement with 82 per cent of council maintained schools rated as good or outstanding, it said.

    The Government must not make any further funding cuts to local government over the next four years, the LGA has warned in response to the Budget.

    George Osborne delivered his eighth Budget as Chancellor last week amid a worsening economic outlook. As a result, he announced he would need to use a public sector efficiency review to identify 3.5 billion in further public service spending reductions in 2019/20.

    Some departments, such as health and education, will remain protected and will not be included in the review.

    The LGA said councils already face significant funding pressures over the next few years and are having to make huge savings to plug funding gaps.

    LGA Chairman Lord Porter said: Councils now need a period of financial stability and consistency so they can plan for the pressures facing local services which lie ahead over the next few years, and need to be protected from any more funding cuts during this Parliament. This, alongside greater power to run local services, is essential.

    The Government also announced a new sugar levy, further devolution deals in Greater Lincolnshire, East Anglia, the West Midlands and the west of England, and extra funding to tackle homelessness and improve flood defences.

    As part of the move towards 100 per cent business rates retention, the system will be piloted in Greater Manchester, the Liverpool

    L GA Chairman Lord Porter has been named one of the countrys top 50 trailblazers when it comes to public finance. The list is produced by Public Finance magazine and profiles outstanding individuals who have made an exceptional contribution to the effective use and management of public money. Other local government luminaries featured include LGA President Lord Kerslake; Cllr Philippa Roe (Con), Leader, Westminster City Council; Ray Morgan, Chief Executive, Woking Borough Council; and Sir Howard Bernstein, Chief Executive, Manchester City Council.

    For full analysis of the Budget 2016 announcements and what they mean for your council, see pages 8-10 and 24-25

  • 6 | first letters www.local.gov.uk

    letters

    What do you think? Please submit letters for publication by emailing first@local.gov.uk. Letters may be edited and published online

    Tackling fraud

    Following a major ongoing investigation by Redbridge Council, three people were last month (March) found guilty of criminal offences involving providing claimants with false documents so they could falsely claim 1.4 million of housing benefit, council tax reduction and tax credits. The council found a large number of people were declaring false employment details.

    It is suspected that this type of fraud could be taking place across the country. Information and intelligence has now been passed onto other councils and HM Revenue and Customs, and the National Anti-Fraud Network (NAFN) will provide intelligence to enable councils to suspend any claims made using fraudulent employers.

    Redbridge Council will vigorously pursue the recovery of any overpaid benefits resulting from fraud through the courts or civil action. It is expected that thousands of pounds in housing benefit will be saved each week.

    We are very pleased that the perpetrators have been caught, found guilty, and will be severely punished. We do not tolerate fraudsters who rip off our hardworking taxpayers. We have been working very hard to stamp this out and our message is clear: if you commit fraud, we will come after you, you will be caught and punished. Fraud takes money away from vital front line services and from people that really need them.Cllr Ross Hatfull (Lab), Cabinet Member for Housing, Payments and Benefits, Redbridge Council

    Floods funding

    C ouncils are under more pressure to spend on flood defences and other works at a time when their overall funding is becoming even more constrained. Many actions that councils are reasonably expected to do in flood recovery are outside the Bellwin funding, including support for residents to dispose of flood damaged items and the provision of skips. This needs an urgent review.

    Support is needed for resilience advice as for most residents there will be a learning curve to understand what is available, and inform them independently what will work best for their situation. Schemes will require sufficient engineers in post to respond to increasing demands on flood defences, and cope with retirement levels in the professions.

    The current formula for Flood Grant in Aid (the national funding for large projects) leaves a large share for external funding

    Devolved powers needed to deliver housing Local authorities are working hard with developers and other organisations to support the construction of new housing but delivery continues to fall short of what is agreed and needed. We believe councils need new powers to incentivise builders to deliver, to invest in new affordable rented homes and to free up funding for infrastructure.

    LGA figures show a rising number of planning permissions are being granted but not built in the South East alone there were 66,751 by 2014/15. Councils need discretionary powers to get this backlog moving, which could include the ability to revoke planning permissions or charge council tax on stalled developments.

    A shortage of affordable rented accommodation in high cost areas often means nurses, care workers and other lower paid workers are being priced out of the South East and businesses struggle to attract the flexible workforces they need to compete. We want the Government to relax financial constraints that hold back council investment in affordable homes to rent.

    Currently, developers of starter homes and sites of less than 10 houses arent required to pay towards the infrastructure that new homes require, or towards affordable housing. We believe that councils, working with developers, should be allowed to take account of local conditions to set appropriate levels of developer contributions for all types of development.

    What were asking for is a range of powers that will enable councils, working with our local partners, to respond to local circumstances and deliver homes that best support our communities. Cllr Nicolas Heslop (Con), Chairman of South East England Councils (SEEC) and Leader of Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council

  • April 2016 first letters | 7

    Cllr Sarah Stamp (Con, Suffolk) Good news for Suffolk and exciting times for East Anglia and to be involved in local politics.www.twitter.com/Sstampcomms

    Royal British LegionWelcome for yesterdays Budget announcement on war pensioners and social care from @LGAcomms.www.twitter.com/RBL_Campaigns

    Cllr Paul Church (Con, Westminster)Pleased to see a budget by @George_Osborne which puts the next generation first. More hours learning, more for schools & more academies.www.twitter.com/pauljchurch

    Cllr David Sprason (UKIP, Leicestershire)Osbornes budget will have a huge impact on local government budgets with his cuts in business rates @LGAcomms.www.twitter.com/ruraloutback

    Cllr Jane Dowson (Lab, Leeds)92% of Leeds Primaries are rated by Ofsted as good or outstanding. The vast majority are NOT academies.www.twitter.com/CllrJaneDowson

    sound bites

    Cllr Peter Marland (Lab, Milton Keynes) So the plan was to cut funding to Local Government but allow us to keep business rates. Now business rates will be cut? #devonever.www.twitter.com/Pete_Marland

    Do you have a blog or a Twitter account we should be following? Let us know. Email first@local.gov.uk

    which is largely being made up by local councils. Again, this is a situation which is not sustainable and could potentially draw away funding from existing flood defence and surface water drainage works.

    The concept of slowing the flow is a strong one, but upland communities need to have the confidence of long-term policy. This requires cross-party agreement to ensure confidence in significant changes to land use to benefit urban areas downstream are measurable enough for decisions to be made on hard defences.Cllr Andrew Waller (Lib Dem), Executive Member for Environment, City of York Council

    Internet coast

    Our 500 million city deal took a step further forward recently, with the announcement by Chancellor George Osborne that ministerial talks are to take place.

    The bid, by the Swansea Bay City Region, includes creating an internet coast through a fibre-optic transatlantic cable from New York to Oxwich Bay, to drive forward digital energy, technology and healthcare. It would bring ultrafast broadband to the region benefiting businesses, particularly those in the technology or creative industries.

    The Swansea Bay City Region is a partnership between four local authorities Carmarthenshire, Pembrokeshire, Swansea and Neath Port Talbot and is chaired by billionaire businessman Sir Terry Matthews. We bring together business, local government and other partners, working to a common goal of creating economic prosperity for the people who live and work in our city region.

    The deal would support three key projects in Carmarthenshire: a Wellness and Life Science Village in Llanelli; a purpose-built new home for Welsh language broadcaster S4C in Carmarthen; and the Cross Hands East strategic employment site, which is able to accommodate 1,244 jobs.

    We very much look forward to the completion of these projects, and will continue to work with our partners in the region to progress the city deal.Cllr Emlyn Dole (Plaid Cymru), Leader, Carmarthenshire County Council

    An unsettling problem

    Ihave raised concerns at one of our recent community forums in Dudley about the increasing numbers of badgers in residential areas and the problems they cause.

    Our local newspaper has reported on an 82-year-old pensioner trapped in her house because it was felt unsafe for her to walk in her garden due to tunnelling by badgers, and on a young family that had to pay a four-figure sum to a private company to remove badgers from their garden. Since highlighting the badger situation in the same newspaper, I have received more than 20 emails and many more telephone calls from worried and frightened young families and elderly people.

    I feel for these people because at the moment, according to our legal department, the councils hands are tied and it is unable to help other than advising residents to seek help through Natural England. They will put you in touch with a licensed company which may charge thousands of pounds to come and disrupt your garden to exclude the badgers.

    I am meeting with local MPs and our MEP, and trying to collate evidence to put to Parliament to eventually influence a fundamental change in the law regarding badgers. In highlighting this situation, can I ask if councillors in other areas of the country who may have similar experiences would please email me at colin.elcock@dudleymbc.org.ukCllr Colin Elcock (Con), Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council

  • 8 | first feature

    Devolution

    New devolution deals were agreed with the West of England, East Anglia and Greater Lincolnshire (pictured).

    A further devolution deal with Greater Manchester will see the region handed criminal justice powers.

    The existing deal in Liverpool was extended to include new transport powers and to begin work on devolving powers over childrens services, health, housing and justice to the region.

    Previously agreed devolution deals will receive un-ringfenced funding pots, to spend on local priorities, worth 2.86 billion in total.

    LGA Chairman Lord Porter said: To build desperately-needed homes, create jobs, provide dignified care for our elderly and boost economic growth, all councils need greater freedom from central government to take decisions over vital services in their area. These new deals and extensions to existing deals must signal a return to the early momentum in which similar deals were announced last year.

    featuresSavings and surplusesLocal government was spared further funding reductions in the Budget

    Chancellor George Osborne declared his eighth Budget would ensure the country was fit for the future but warned the economic storm clouds are gathering again.

    He told MPs he will meet his manifesto pledge of a budget surplus in 2019/20 but will need to find a further 3.5 billion of savings from public spending in 2019/20 to do so. A public sector efficiency review will report in 2018.

    Announcements to offset a gloomy economic forecast ranged from a sugar tax to business rate relief for small companies, and new elected mayors for cities and towns in southern England.

    And there was a major education shake-up, with every school to be an academy or free school by 2022, releasing them from local council control something the LGA opposes.

    The Budget 2016

    Business rates

    The threshold for small business rates relief will permanently rise from 6,000 to a maximum 15,000, and higher rate relief will increase from 18,000 to 51,000.

    600,000 small firms will not have to pay business rates from April 2017 and local authorities will be compensated for the loss of income.

    Ratepayers will have the option to receive and pay bills online by 2017 and the Government will aim to introduce revaluations at least every three years.

    The Government will pilot 100 per cent business rates retention in Greater Manchester and Liverpool City Region. The share of retained rates by the Greater London Authority will also be increased.

    The LGA says: We will work with government and the pilot authorities to understand how the piloting of 100 per cent business rates retention can inform the development of the wider system which will be introduced for all authorities by 2020.

    Pensions

    The Government will add 2 billion a year to the cost of unfunded public sector pensions, such as for teachers. This follows a reduction in the discount rate used to set employers contributions.

    The LGA says: We will look at the proposals to ensure there are no new burdens for local government.

    8 | first feature www.local.gov.uk

  • Soft drinks levy

    A new soft drinks industry levy from 2018 will raise 520 million a year to tackle childhood obesity and help schools support healthier, more active lifestyles.

    Cllr Izzi Seccombe, LGA Community Wellbeing Spokeswoman, said: Its time for the soft drinks industry to step up and take its share of responsibility for the child obesity crisis we face.

    Homelessness

    100 million will be invested to deliver accommodation for rough sleepers leaving hostels and domestic abuse victims and their families moving from refuges.

    The Government will spend 10 million on preventing and reducing rough sleeping.

    Cllr Peter Box, LGA Housing Spokesman, said: With 68,000 people already currently living in temporary accommodation, more than a million more on council waiting lists and annual homelessness spending of 330 million, there is a real fear that a lack of homes will increase homelessness and its associated costs.

    Flooding

    The Government increased a levy on insurance policies by half a percentage point, to raise an estimated 700 million for flood defences in vulnerable areas, such as Leeds, York, the Calder Valley and several parts of Cumbria.

    Cllr Peter Box, LGA Environment Spokesman, said: New flood defence funding must be devolved by the Government to local areas, with councils working with communities and businesses to ensure money is directed towards projects that best reflect local needs. Councils will almost certainly need more financial help from the Government as the full cost of the winters horrendous flooding damage emerges.

    Infrastructure

    300 million will be spent improving northern transport connectivity.

    The green light has been given to High Speed 3 to reduce journey times between Leeds and Manchester to around 30 minutes.

    An 80 million fund will support Crossrail 2.

    The LGA says: Without efficient traffic management, local capacity or well-maintained roads, the value of new rail lines and motorways will be severely eroded.

    Housing and planning

    Local authorities will be invited to access 1.2 billion to remediate brownfield land to deliver at least 30,000 starter homes.

    The Government will relax planning regulations for phone masts to boost signals, allowing taller masts to be built without the need for planning permission.

    Cllr Mark Hawthorne, LGA People and Places Spokesman, said: Councils are committed to boosting mobile phone coverage in remote communities and bridging the digital divide. However this must not come at the expense of the views of local people and to the detriment of local communities.

    April 2016 first feature | 9

  • Excellence everywhere white paper on education

    O ne of the most controversial announcements in the Budget 2016 was that all schools will be expected to become academies by 2022.

    Other changes detailed in Educational excellence everywhere, the education White Paper published after the Budget, cover curriculum reform, fair funding for schools (subject to a separate consultation), tackling underperformance in academies, and the dropping of the requirement for parent governors on academy governing bodies.

    Forced academisation will be achieved by using the powers for regional schools commissioners (RSCs) in the Education and Adoption Act 2016 to forcibly convert maintained schools judged by Ofsted to be inadequate. In council areas that are underperforming or where the council no longer has capacity to maintain its schools, new powers for the Secretary of State will ensure schools become academies to a faster timescale. And a new duty will be placed on councils to facilitate the process of all maintained schools becoming academies.

    Cllr Roy Perry, Chairman of the LGAs Children and Young People Board, said: The LGA opposes both forced academisation, and giving significant powers relating to education to unelected civil servants with parents and residents unable to hold them to account at the ballot box.

    Forcing schools to become academies strips parents, teachers and faith groups of any local choice. We have serious concerns that RSCs still lack the capacity and local knowledge to have oversight of such a large, diverse and remote range of schools.

    He added: Councils have been forced to spend millions of pounds to cover the cost of schools becoming academies in recent years, while the National Audit Office estimated that in 2012, the Department for Education spent an additional 1 billion on the cost of the academies programme.

    With mixed evidence about academisation improving standards, and

    when public spending is facing significant cuts, imposing academisation on schools regardless of local opinion cannot be an appropriate use of public money.

    Schools will continue to get financial support to become academies. When a community school converts to academy status and the council owns the land, the land will transfer to the Secretary of State, who will then grant a lease to the academy trust.

    The LGA opposes councils being stripped of the ownership of school land and there are no proposals in the White Paper to reimburse councils for the significant costs they will face in converting up to 18,000 maintained schools. The LGA will argue that forced academisation is a new burden and should be funded by government.

    As well as the duty to maintain schools, councils will lose responsibility for school improvement and allocating funding to local schools. They will be left with ensuring adequate school places (without the powers to direct academies to expand), home to school transport, and meeting the needs of vulnerable pupils, including those with special needs, disabilities or who are in council care.

    Forcing schools to become academies is an inappropriate use of public money

    War pensions

    War pension payments made to injured veterans will be exempt from the social care means test in England from April 2017.

    Cllr Izzi Seccombe, LGA Community Wellbeing Spokeswoman, said: We are pleased that the Government has listened to our call for the war pension to be protected so that service men and women are not forced to use it to pay for their care. However, this will create a new burden on councils, which the Government must fully fund. Adult social care budgets are already under enormous strain and should not be expected to absorb further costs.

    Transparency

    The Government will consult on new rules requiring local authorities to be transparent about the cost of the in-house services they provide.

    The LGA says: Local government is already one of the most transparent parts of the public sector. Councils publish information to help citizens engage with the democratic decision-making process as part of their commitment to open local government. We will be considering the cost burden for taxpayers, particularly if it extends to all of the services offered by councils.

    The Budget 2016

    See www.local.gov.uk/briefings-and-responses for the full version of the LGAs on-the-day briefing on the Budget 2016

    See www.local.gov.uk/briefings-and-responses for the LGAs full response to the education White Paper

    www.local.gov.uk10 | first feature

  • Changing perceptions it, up from 83 per cent in 2014.Nearly three-quarters (71 per cent) of respondents agree that sector-led improvement is the right approach in the current context. This is significantly greater than last year (63 per cent). See www.local.gov.uk/sector-led-improvement for more on the LGAs work in this area.

    Lord Porter, LGA Chairman, said: Our sector-led improvement programme is a fundamental part of ensuring that councils are able to meet challenging financial targets over the next four years in a way that maintains good quality services meeting the needs of residents and businesses.

    This is a priority for us and it is encouraging to see the majority of those responding to the survey recognising the value of this work in driving improvements and supporting councils.

    He added: We are constantly listening to what our members tell us in order to improve our membership offer and the services we provide to councils. The next few years will be hugely challenging for all of our members and we will continue to work tirelessly on behalf of them and the communities they serve.

    In the past year, the LGA has made nearly 600 visits to councils in England and Wales and continues to increase its high-profile and influential national media and parliamentary profile. Promoting its sector-led improvement offer has been a key LGA priority and in the past year it has delivered 110 peer challenges.

    M ember councils of the LGA remain satisfied with the work it undertakes on their behalf and believe the organisation is influential in standing up

    for local government.These are the key findings from the LGAs

    fourth annual perceptions survey, which polled a representative sample of councillors (including leaders, portfolio holders and front line councillors), council chief executives and directors. It shows the organisation has continued to improve since the first survey was conducted in 2012.

    The majority of members feel the LGA addresses the issues that are important to them and is an effective advocate for the interests of local government. Awareness of the LGA and the work it undertakes remains high.

    Recent significant LGA wins on behalf of local government include securing a government commitment to move to 100 per cent business rates retention, extra council tax flexibilities, and transitional funding for councils most adversely affected by this years local government finance settlement.

    The majority of respondents agree that the LGA stands up for and defends the reputation of local government (86 per cent) and addresses the issues that are important to councils (86 per cent).

    Respondents rated the LGAs lobbying on behalf of local government (90 per cent)

    and providing conferences and events (85 per cent) as very or fairly useful.

    Most members (83 per cent) feel they are kept well-informed about the LGAs work, with first continuing to be the main method of communication from which respondents get their information (76 per cent), followed by media work, the LGA website, conferences and events, and publications.

    This year has seen another increase in respondents (to 56 per cent) who feel the LGA offers value for money, up from 43 per cent in 2012. And a high proportion of respondents (74 per cent) continue to say they would speak positively about the LGA. Satisfaction among front line councillors has increased to 73 per cent.

    Just over half of respondents (51 per cent, up from 42 per cent last year) had heard about sector-led improvement, where local authorities help each other to continuously improve. Recognition was much higher among chief executives, with 93 per cent saying they had heard a lot or a moderate amount about

    The next few years will be hugely challenging for all of our members and we will continue to work tirelessly on behalf of them and the communities they serve

    The LGA is addressing the issues that are important to councils and is an effective advocate for the interests of local government, according to its latest annual survey of member councils

    How would you prefer to be kept informed about the work of the LGA? Email first@local.gov.uk

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  • 12 | first feature www.local.gov.uk

    High ambitions for devolutionCitizens need to be more involved in future plans for devolution in the UK, argues a cross-party report

    Afar more coherent and ambitious approach to devolution by all levels of government and a nation-wide debate are needed to address the major constitutional challenges

    the country faces, a new cross-party report has concluded.

    The whole of society must be engaged in a bigger conversation to establish a set of guiding principles for the uK to stabilise the union and help overcome decades of centralisation and the piecemeal progress of devolution.

    Devolution and the union: a higher ambition argues that, following the Scottish independence referendum, the Scotland Bill, the Wales Bill, the forthcoming Eu referendum and other constitutional changes, an open debate needs to happen now to consolidate devolved arrangements and address the uKs governance.

    The report comes from the Inquiry into Better Devolution for the Whole uK, which heard evidence from witnesses including former Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Communities Secretary Greg Clark MP, Professor Vernon Bogdanor, Research Professor at the Institute for Contemporary British History, LGA Chairman Lord Porter and several council leaders.

    The inquiry aimed to examine how national identity and constitutional development should define the future of governance and devolution in the uK to achieve sustainable reform.

    The report highlights that the uK has one of the most over-centralised systems of government in the world and that decisions must be taken as closely to local people as possible, with all areas not just cities given the fullest range of powers to help build resilient and prosperous communities.

    The report recommends: reforming and devolving council tax

    and business rates, including the ability to set charges locally

    exploring the devolution of other property taxes, such as stamp duty

    local authorities being given the freedom to set locally charges that are currently set nationally, for example planning fees.

    It argues that devolution will only succeed if the public sees that local areas are leading on it not Whitehall and if both the Civil Service and local government is reformed. It says there needs to be a new legal basis for the independence of local government, made through primary legislation.

    A key recommendation is for a national debate to be held, involving all citizens, to discuss the future of the constitution and the rights of all citizens, as well as other issues. These could include electoral reform, lowering the voting age to 16, and the role of the House of Lords. In other countries, notably Spain, the second chamber plays a role in representing autonomous communities, as well as providing scrutiny and oversight, and the Lords could potentially play an integrating role in the union, suggests the report.

    Key recommendations: reform and devolve council tax and business rates, including the ability

    to set charges locally, alongside an effective equalisation mechanism explore the devolution of other property taxes, such as stamp duty freedom to set charges locally that are currently set nationally, such as planning fees release councils from the current caps on borrowing for new housing investment devolve specific areas of funding that, through devolution deals, have been

    identified as devo-ready, for example skills and transport funding freedom to introduce new fees and charges where there is local democratic

    consensus consider further devolution to London to ensure its competitiveness with other

    international cities government to set clearer ground rules on devolution proposals, including what

    levels of powers can be obtained with and without a mayor Parliament should enshrine its commitment to devolution by incorporating

    greater safeguards against centralisation. local government should be bolder in setting out its vision for devolution Civil Service to demonstrate it can and will progress devolution at a faster rate consensus is needed on what functions remain at a uK level within a reserved

    powers model.

    The time has come for a bigger conversation if we want to reduce the gap between those that govern and those that are governed

  • April 2016 first feature | 13

    To read the full report and supporting evidence, please visit www.local.gov.uk/devolution-inquiry

    In further guidance on devolution, the report calls for local government to be bolder in setting out its vision on the transfer of powers from a national to local level; that Whitehall should demonstrate it can progress devolution at a faster rate; that there are no limits for devolved powers or no go areas of negotiation or policy; and that local areas should be free to determine alternative governance models to that of elected mayors.

    It also suggests that as powers and fiscal levers go to devolved administrations, a re-evaluation of the Barnett formula may be needed.

    The case is made that a consensus is needed on what functions remain at a uK level to help stabilise the relationship between all four nations, with individual nations free to pursue those functions at their own pace, reflective of local will and circumstance.

    Lord Kerslake, who chaired the inquiry, said: Devolution has the potential to be a huge advancement for local democracy and the findings of this important and wide-ranging inquiry come as the uK arrives at pivotal change.

    As we lead up to the Eu referendum and

    consider our identity within Europe, the need for a wider debate on how we better empower our local areas and govern ourselves to secure sustainable reform and long-term stability is greater than ever.

    The time has come for a bigger conversation one involving all citizens if we want to reduce the gap between those that govern and those that are governed, and ensure devolution has a strong and lasting legacy, whatever the result in June.

    Better and successful devolution across the whole uK cannot happen without more ambitious and far-reaching reform, including greater fiscal autonomy guided by local democratic direction.

    While the Government has made progress with the devolution agenda, a more coherent and ambitious approach is needed if we are to tackle the constitutional challenge this country faces.

    Lord Porter, LGA Chairman, said: This timely report breaks new ground in the devolution debate and makes some recommendations the LGA supports wholeheartedly, such as greater financial freedoms for councils and on no-go areas

    Devolution will only succeed if the public sees that local areas are leading on it not Whitehall

    in Whitehall when it comes to devolution.It rightly calls for councils to be bolder

    and clearer in their long-term aspirations for devolution, to consider the implications for Civil Service reform and for the status of local government, and for devolved powers to be protected.

    Following the latest devolution deals announced in the Budget, this report takes the public debate on devolution forward and provides important guidance to help councils improve peoples lives.

    The All-Party Political Group (APPG) for Reform, Decentralisation and Devolution in the uK was established in 2014 to provide cross-party parliamentary space for an open discussion on the need for a uK-wide settlement.

    It commissioned Lord Kerslake and a panel of members to conduct an inquiry into all aspects of devolution in the uK. The LGA provided the secretariat to the inquiry.

    There were more than 40 written submissions to the inquiry and 21 witnesses gave oral evidence during sessions held in the Houses of Parliament between October 2015 and January 2016.

    Pictured giving evidence to the Inquiry into Better Devolution for the Whole UK are (left to right, sitting) Lord Porter, LGA Chairman; Cllr Anne Western (Lab), Leader of Derbyshire County Council; Cllr Nick Forbes (Lab), Leader of Newcastle City Council and now LGA Labour Group Leader; and Cllr John Pollard (Ind), Leader of Cornwall Council, with (standing) Lord Kerslake, Chair of the inquiry.

    The other members of the inquiry were Graham Allen MP (Lab); Jason Kitcat (Green); Baroness Janke (Lib Dem); Lord Maclennan (Lib Dem); Alastair Redfern, Bishop of Derby; Gavin Robinson MP (DUP); Lord Wigley (Plaid Cymru); Dame Kate Barker; Lady Victoria Borwick MP (Con); and Lord Norton (Con).

  • The LGA and Public Health England have published new guidance for councils on this issue. Good progress but more to do: teenage pregnancy and young parents is available to download for free at www.local.gov.uk/publications

    14 | first feature www.local.gov.uk

    Teenage kicksThe reduction in the number of teenage pregnancies is a local government success story

    The number of teenage girls becoming pregnant has fallen to its lowest level since records began in 1969.

    Councils have now beaten the target set by government to halve the rate of teenage pregnancies when it launched its teenage pregnancy strategy 15 years ago, at a time when England had one of the highest rates in Western Europe.

    In this time, public health initiatives have achieved real progress, confirmed by the most recent report from the Office for National Statistics. These show that there were about 23 pregnancies for every 1,000 women aged 15 to 17 in 2014, compared with 46.6 per 1,000 in 1998.

    Cllr Izzi Seccombe, the LGAs Portfolio Holder for Community Wellbeing, praised the hard work of councils and their partners.

    Since taking over responsibility for public health, councils have embraced the opportunity to help young people develop healthy relationships, delay early pregnancy, look after their sexual health, and support those who choose to become young parents, she said.

    These latest figures show that while good progress has been made in reducing the number of teenage pregnancies, there is still work to be done, not just to continue this downward trend, but also to do more in areas of the country with a higher rate.

    Councils, however, face significant funding reductions from government over the next five years, which will make it harder for public health teams to sustain this.

    Getting it right on teenage pregnancy will not only make a difference to individual lives, it will help narrow inequalities and reduce long-term demand on health and social care services.

    When it was launched, the teenage

    The conception rate for women aged 15 to 17 has halved since 1998.

    Teenage conceptions in England still remain higher than in a number of other Western European countries.

    Progress has been uneven, with about a third of local authorities having rates significantly higher than the England average.

    Teenage pregnancy is both a cause and consequence of health and education inequalities for example, there is a 63 per cent higher risk that children born to women under 20 will be living in poverty, while 21 per cent of 16 to 18-year-old women not in employment, education or training are teenage mums.

    Factfile

    pregnancy strategy called on councils to lead local partnership boards, and ring- fenced budgets were allocated to help tackle the issue.

    It saw local areas make changes to the way they delivered relationships and sex education in schools, provided access to contraceptive services, involved youth and community practitioners and improved the support available to young parents.

    Extraordinary achievementBy 2008, once the actions of councils and partners started to bear fruit, progress was quickly seen as teenage pregnancy rates began to plummet, with a 27 per cent drop recorded in 2010.

    Alison Hadley, Director of the Teenage Pregnancy Knowledge Exchange at the university of Bedfordshire, who led the strategy, said: This is an extraordinary achievement in addressing a complex public health and inequalities issue affecting the lives of young people and their children. Many people thought the goal was unattainable and that high rates were an intractable part of English life.

    This shows that committed senior leadership, dedicated local practitioners, effective education programmes and easier access to contraception equips young people to make informed choices and brings down rates even in deprived areas.

    Long-term prevention programmes take time to have their full impact. In the case of the teenage pregnancy strategy, this is demonstrated by acceleration in the annual reduction of the under-18 conception rate since 2008.

  • April 2016 first feature | 15

    All the lonely people

    Cllr Izzi Seccombe is the LGAs Portfolio Holder for Community Wellbeing

    individual needs and circumstances by both making sure general services are geared up to meet the needs of those who are lonely, as well as providing specific interventions as required. Carrying out a local needs assessment or intelligence report and using materials such as the Joseph Rowntree Foundations loneliness resource pack (www.jrf.org.uk/report/loneliness-resource-pack) will help to inform the action needed. Working with other organisations and developing new partnerships can also increase the benefits for those who are hard to reach or isolated.

    As suggested first steps, our guidance recommends councils engage with other partners. Loneliness is a complex issue, and responses should be delivered in cross-authority partnerships including the voluntary and community sectors. Local authorities need to firstly define the loneliness issue and understand the nature of the problem and who is at risk in their areas. Councils could agree a plan of action to reduce loneliness, and a way of measuring progress over time.

    And last but not least, it is vital to involve older people, including those experiencing or at risk of loneliness. By working with them, councils will be better able to come up with effective responses and solutions to loneliness.

    Loneliness is a significant and growing concern for older people, and can have devastating consequences.

    While in the past loneliness was sometimes viewed as

    unimportant, it is now being increasingly understood as a serious condition which can have a detrimental impact on a persons mental and physical health. Studies have found loneliness can be more harmful than smoking 15 cigarettes a day, increase the risk of premature death by 30 per cent, and the chances of developing dementia by 64 per cent.

    More than one million people aged over 65 are thought to be lonely around 10-13 per cent of older people. Not only does loneliness cause suffering on a personal level for those affected, it is heaping pressure on council and health services, as it is often the tipping point for referrals to adult social care. More than three-quarters of GPs say they see between one and five lonely people a day.

    This is why councils are recognising it as a major public health issue, and why the LGA, with Age Concern and the Campaign to End Loneliness, has published guidance on the practical steps they can take to tackle the problem.

    Combating loneliness: a guide for local authorities (see www.local.gov.uk/publications) provides a selection of case studies of local authorities that run programmes of activities and services which can help address isolation.

    The guide sets out a three-tiered framework for tackling loneliness at

    a strategic level, in local communities and through one-to-one work with individuals. Even during these times of austerity, it should be possible to resource the required actions, through some redirection and reprioritisation, and through galvanising capacity within local communities.

    What we recommend to councils is that they consider addressing loneliness as an outcome measure of council strategies including the Joint Strategic Needs Assessment and the Joint Health and Wellbeing Strategy. It is important to work at the neighbourhood level, to understand community capacity and assets. Councils cannot do this work alone, and it is important to work alongside charities and community groups to address loneliness.

    We can recognise and respond to

    12 per cent of older people feel trapped in their own home. 6 per cent of older people leave their house once a week. Nearly 200,000 older people in the UK do not get out of their house or flat. 17 per cent of older people are in contact with family, friends and neighbours.

    less than once a week and 11 per cent less than once a month. More than half (51 per cent) of all people aged 75 and over live alone.

    Loneliness in numbers

    The LGA and Age UK have published guidance on how councils can help combat the chronic loneliness faced by thousands of older people

  • 16 | first feature www.local.gov.uk

    Local Government Challenge 2016

    Ten aspiring local government leaders are being put through their paces in the LGAs annual competition

    The Local Government Challenge is back, with 10 aspiring future chief executives facing tough real-life challenges, in their quest to win the 10,000

    Bruce-Lockhart Scholarship.The LG Challenge seeks to identify

    local governments top talent, promote best practice and highlight the breadth and variety of the challenges that are facing local government right now.

    Cameras follow the 10 high-flying contestants as they face five challenges in councils up and down the country. They will have to tackle live issues facing councils and demonstrate that their ideas have a long-lasting and significant impact.

    Now in its seventh year, the contestants have a lot to live up to. Last year Jude Taylor, from Staffordshire County Council, was declared the LG Challenge winner at the LGAs annual conference, receiving the accolade from Greg Clark MP, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government. She won over voting delegates and judges with her, Thinking Active project that aims to combat vascular dementia through physical activity.

    The first challenge took the latest contestants to Christchurch and East Dorset Councils, kicking off at the historical Highliffe Castle in Dorset. Cllr Ray Nottage, Leader of Christchurch Borough Council, welcomed the teams to Highcliffe on behalf of Christchurch and East Dorset Councils. Chief Executive David McIntosh set the first challenge of the 2016 competition to develop a series of proposals to revive the economic and recreational opportunities of Highcliffe Beach and its associated physical redevelopment.

    With only 24 hours to prepare their plans and present their designs to the panel of judges, the two teams set to work developing bold and innovative ideas. Next morning, as Storm Imogen gathered force, the teams

    met ward members Cllrs John Lofts and Vicki Hallam to test out their proposals.

    Team Pioneer, led by David McCollum of Lambeth Council, proposed an outdoor amphitheatre with sweeping views across the sea, along with a modular built indoor eco-hub as a cultural and educational base for research into the coastal environment and a new Jurassic Jetty to bring visitors by sea.

    Team Transform, led by Yunus Mayat of Bradford City Council, planned to introduce driverless technology to improve transport links and entice tourists and locals to the redeveloped destination, the Highcliffe Way a modern beach front with recreational and exercise spaces and sleek new beach huts.

    Cllr Ray Nottage said: Each of the teams picked up the spirit of the local area quickly and their proposals are built on the passion that we have to improve Highcliffe Beach. All the contestants did a great job over a very busy two days.

    Chief Executive David McIntosh added: The LG Challenge is not only a great opportunity for contestants but also for councils like us, who get the opportunity to tap into the ideas of some of the best and brightest people in local government. I want to thank both teams for their impressive proposals they have given us a lot to think about.

    Team Transform emerged victorious from the first challenge and you can find out why by watching the full episode online at www.local.gov.uk/lgchallenge.

    As first was going to press, the 10 contestants were heading to Derbyshire County Council for their second challenge, with further events scheduled for late April, mid May and mid June before the final challenge and the announcement of the overall winner at the LGAs Annual Conference and Exhibition 2016 in Bournemouth from 5-7 July.

    An enduring member of Wirral Councils first graduate scheme, I

    currently coordinate the Travel Solutions Project that supports local people to overcome transport barriers and travel sustainably. Also, I am a youth worker in training at a council youth club and hub, providing informal education to Wirrals young people who for all intents and purposes are a hilarious bunch

    Yinka Alli-Balogun

    Meet the contestants

    I work in highways as the Network Change Manager for Birmingham City

    Council. I work on the 25-year PFI highways maintenance contract with Amey. Im thrilled to have been accepted and I am really looking forward to getting started

    Luke Keen

    Im Liz Rice, a Communications Officer at Mole Valley District

    Council, reaching individuals and businesses with messages from all our service areas. I work with a whole host of partner organisations across a range of channels and am very much looking forward to taking on the Local Government Challenge 16

    Liz Rice

  • April 2016 first feature | 17

    Follow @LGChallenge to find out more about the events, and visit www.local.gov.uk/events to book your conference place for the final.

    For more information about LG Challenge, and how your council can take part in next years event, please visit www.local.gov.uk/lgchallenge

    I currently work for three Somerset district councils, as Scrutiny Manager

    for South Somerset and Democratic Services Co-ordinator for Taunton Deane and West Somerset. I am proud to support elected councillors in delivering the best possible services to our communities

    Emily McGuinness

    I work at East Sussex County Council as an Organisational

    Development Officer in human resources. The work I do supports the organisation to be as effective as possible including developing our people and the processes that support them. Ive been working here for just shy of three years and love that I get to do worthwhile work which makes a difference to so many people

    Amy Newnham

    I am the Category Manager for Education and Inclusion at

    Croydon Council, supporting strategic commissioning of services such as alternative education provision and school improvement services. Prior to joining Croydon, I was working in education policy and data at the Greater London Authority

    Heather Storey

    I manage and lead the Enterprise Architecture and Information Services

    team, empowering council departments to work together in sharing information, and further enabling the council to share data across other organisations (public, private and voluntary sectors) securely. Thus driving efficiencies and savings for the benefit of my fellow Bradfordians

    Yunus Mayat

    Originally from Birmingham, I have been at Lambeth for six years in a

    wide variety of roles ranging from working as first point of contact in a busy homeless persons unit, to designing and commissioning financial resilience services that mitigate the negative impact of welfare reforms. I have recently started in a new position as Senior Commissioning Officer for Crime and Disorder

    David McCollum

    Pam Gosal is Head of Corporate Economic Development

    and Inward Investment at Milton Keynes Council. Pam created the economic development function at the council six years ago and took on the inward investment function from the Homes and Communities Agency in 2012. Most recently Pam was awarded the Women Leaders Business Services Award, which was a great honour

    Pam Gosal

    I am currently Strategic Housing Manager at South Ribble Borough

    Council. I am responsible for policy and strategy development; supporting delivery of new homes through the city deal; and delivering other related housing projects. I also manage the building control team, ensuring it remains customer focused in a highly competitive environment. I am thrilled to be part of the LG Challenge, and excited about the challenges that lie ahead

    Kate Henderson

  • 18 | first interview www.local.gov.uk

    interview

    Giving children a voiceImproving the life chances of the most disadvantaged

    children and the development of child-friendly towns are among the key priorities for Childrens Commissioner for England Anne Longfield OBE

  • April 2016 first interview | 19

    down to me to understand the issues which are affecting children and to make sure the people who are making decisions about children understand the impact of those decisions.

    I have two particular powers which make it a unique role. One is that I can request and expect to receive data from any public source. I dont have to use the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and I can access quite detailed data. The other is I have powers of entry to anywhere a child is living away from home. I can talk to children and get a picture of their wellbeing.

    The main challenge of the role is making sure you focus on the right things and bring to the fore the issues that you can take action on.

    For Ms Longfield, who ran the charity Action for Children for two decades, the core issue over her term will be improving the life chances of the most disadvantaged children in society. This, she insists, must also be a priority for both local and central government.

    I want to raise everyones understanding about the importance of the childhood experience for every child, she says.

    But there are around two million children who are particularly disadvantaged. Some might be in the child protection system. A lot of them are not but are around the edges of that and they are the ones where the odds are stacked against them.

    I dont think there is an area in the land which shouldnt have those children as a priority because they fall into the statutory remit of every local authority. We know that a lot of police attention gets put on them and their families, we know child protection services are aware of their needs. There is a core overlap of the priority of every local authority and my priorities.

    Having said that, both children and local authorities tell me a lot of the current response is based around the symptoms of vulnerability rather than preventing vulnerability itself.

    I am keen to encourage more local authorities to be actively intervening to prevent.

    That is easier said than done, admits Ms Longfield. A recent study published by Action for Children, the National Childrens Bureau and The Childrens Society found government funding for early help services will be cut by 71 per cent between 2010 and 2020. Councils, they said, expect funding to drop from more than 3.2 billion in 2010 to less than 1 billion by 2020.

    Surveying more than 500 councillors, the charities found that 59 per cent said there will be a reduction in early intervention services in their local communities over the next four years. Nearly six in ten (59 per cent) said that new revenue-raising powers for councils will not be adequate to maintain current levels of spending on early intervention services.

    Funding cuts are real and there is no way I want to say they are not important because clearly they are, said Ms Longfield.

    I want to understand better the impact of reductions in funding and the consequences on children. I have written to the Education Secretary Nicky Morgan and asked her to lead a review across government departments on what the impact is.

    There is an impact of having less money which is that services preventing things from happening, helping children before crises appear, are the places where reductions are made. It is easy to see why that is the case because the statutory services have to come first.

    But of course with a longer view point it is just not feasible to continue to feed the statutory duty. It is not viable without

    I am going to be piloting child-friendly cities or towns. Some of that is about having decent

    outdoor space to play and safe roads. But it will go much further than that and will be

    about the life chances of children

    Anne Longfield OBE is 12 months into her six-year term as the third Childrens Commissioner for England.

    The post, long-called for by campaigners, was first created in 2004 and was strengthened a decade later as part of the Children and Families Act 2014 to increase the duty on it to promote and protect the rights of children.

    I am the eyes, ears and voice of children in the system, Ms Longfield told first. It is

  • 20 | first interview www.local.gov.uk

    child when taking difficult funding decisions.Away from the money, it is about doing

    things differently, she said. Pooled budgets in the early years, for example. We spend a lot of money in the early years but actually some of the conversations around devolution are showing how some local authorities can look at doing that differently.

    The big thing for me is to change the approach we have to how we work with children.

    Across the remit of a local authority, the drivers for change are enormous. I am really keen to urge councils to take up those reins and be champions for change for children in their community and use every lever they possibly can tirelessly because until you have done that then you have not done as much as you can.

    One of the things I am going to be piloting is a scheme of child-friendly cities or towns. I want to work alongside five authorities that want to go for it or are already on the way to that, and to develop the indicators for what would be a child-friendly town.

    Some of that is about having decent outdoor space to play and some of it will be about safe roads. But it will go much further than that and will be about the life chances of children. I am looking for five areas in the coming year and to roll that out further in the years to come.

    So how do we, as a nation, compare with the rest of the world when it comes to protecting children and tackling disadvantage? On different levels, Ms Longfield says there is broad parity across Europe in particular.

    In terms of identification that this is an issue and attempts to find a response, then it is similar, she says. There are some shining beacons of ways of slightly doing this differently and getting good results. If you take safeguarding to mean how we build resilience and how to respond to vulnerability in children then actually there are different responses across different parts of Europe and lots we can learn from elsewhere.

    For instance, we have a pleasing

    tackling the preventative side. Thats not just for social reasons, it is pure economics. There is a need to look in the long term.

    The Early Intervention Foundation an organisation Ms Longfield helped to set up in 2013 has estimated that picking up the pieces from social problems affecting children and young people is costing the state at least 17 billion a year.

    This is leaving a big question mark over the sustainability of government cuts, and the consequences of local authorities receiving less to provide early intervention services and increasingly unable to protect services such as childrens centres and targeted support for young people and families, so crucial to stopping problems spiralling out of control.

    The consequences of the loss of early intervention support are so severe that the Government needs to take action, insists Ms Longfield.

    Transition fundingShe said: I am keen to enter into the equation whether the notion of some kind of transition funds are needed. That might be transition funds that are targeted around the two million children who are disadvantaged or targeted to the areas of the country which have the most deprived children.

    There potentially is the need to provide some kind of bridge to allow the local authorities that need to make the leap into prevention to still carry on their statutory duties as well. I think the jury is out on whether that is the case and that is part of the dialogue I want to broker across all parts of government.

    While the challenge for central government is to invest in the early years support that can change lives, boost life chances and ease the pressure on stretched public services, the challenge for local authorities is to be bolder in redesigning the way they provide services locally. Ms Longfield says she is keen to shine a light on councils who are trying to protect or invest in early years support and said all councils must look through the lens of a

    It is down to me to make sure the people who are making decisions about children understand the impact of those decisions

  • April 2016 first interview | 21

    For more about the work of the Childrens Commissioner, please visit www.childrenscommissioner.gov.uk

    Both children and local authorities tell me a lot of the current response is based around the symptoms of vulnerability rather than preventing vulnerability itself

    reduction in the number of children in custody in this country, but in Finland it rarely gets above five youngsters. There is a much greater emphasis on tackling disadvantage from birth and on when this triggers towards crisis point.

    Improving life changesThe emphasis on overcoming disadvantages, on looking at the issue in terms of individuals rather than the global mass of children who are all the same, and the belief we can do something different to overcome disadvantage and improve life chances, is one that other countries have a stronger track record on over a number of years.

    In Spain also they have a much better approach to children in custody and avoiding re-offending. I believe we could halve the number of children in custody over the next five years if we dealt with the signs and symptoms of children on their way to breaking the law differently.

    Seeing children as individuals and with

    a need to help build their own resilience to boost their opportunities is something we need to tackle wholeheartedly here. That is not just some fuzzy concept; it is something councils need to be key players on to make right. Children in care will always tell me that they dont feel that they are seen as individuals or that they simply get lost in the system.

    Despite the challenges ahead, Ms Longfield feels she can see real change on the horizon by the end of her term in 2021. This, she says optimistically and ambitiously, will be changing the life trajectory of the two million children she is focusing on and a shift towards our public services being much more focused on individual children and their needs.

    If we do that then we have a fighting chance that this country could be great for children, she said. The message to local authorities is be confident agents of change and you will have me behind you every step of the way. There is no other route forward economically and socially.

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  • 22 | first comment www.local.gov.uk

    Know your patchHave you ever wondered what proportion of your residents are employed or how many local schoolchildren are obese? How does that compare to other places?

    LG Inform gives you and your council easy access to up-to-date published data about your local area and the performance of your council and fire and rescue service.

    Whether youre interested in scrutiny, a particular service area, or simply need an overview, it can help you review and compare performance with other authorities and assess whether your council is meeting your residents needs.

    To view LG Inform and register visit: www.lginform.local.gov.uk

    L16-71 LGInform_ad_first_v02.indd 1 17/03/2016 11:48

    www.local.gov.uk

  • April 2016 first comment | 23

    comment

    For more information about Generation Rent, please visit www.generationrent.org

    Over the past decade, the housing market has undergone an earthquake. With house prices out of reach in much of the country and a shortage of social housing, increasing numbers of people have no option but to rent from a private landlord. As a result, the population in the private rented sector has doubled in the past decade, and now outnumbers social tenants.

    The response of local authorities to this trend has been mixed. Some have long recognised the challenges facing increasing numbers of their residents, from rents costing more than half a households income to chronic negligence of landlords towards the condition of their properties. A number of pioneering councils have introduced landlord licensing to streamline the enforcement process, and are thinking creatively about how to build more housing at social rents.

    But conversations Generation Rent has had with councillors and tenants reveal that some in local government still have a lot of catching up to do. Often we get the impression that the only

    be living in the same borough let alone the same home in a years time, so they are less likely to be engaged in their local community, and less likely to coalesce into local renter groups in the same way that social tenants have.

    That has been changing over the past few years, with groups emerging in boroughs that have seen rapid change in the housing market, including inner London, Oxford and Brighton. Generation Rent is a national group giving these local groups a voice in the national

    debate and nurturing campaigns where tenants need representation.

    One activity we have on a local level is research into letting agents and the fees they charge through the website www.lettingfees.co.uk. Local authorities have responsibility to ensure that letting agents publish their fees so we hope this will be a resource for them as well as local flat-hunters. The research will also help bring together local activists and help develop a relationship between the council and its local private renter population.

    And with local authorities set to gain powers and resources from the Housing and Planning Bill, we hope they start giving local renters in the private sector the attention they need.

    people theyre interested in are council tenants and leaseholders, despite the fact that more of their constituents rent from a private landlord including many on council estates.

    This is understandable given that local authorities have a lot more power and responsibility over their own stock, but it seems easy for them to forget that its also their job to enforce standards in private rented housing. One tenant told us that after months of trying and failing to get her landlord to fix a leak in her bedroom she, quite reasonably, called the

    councils housing department. Instead of passing her on to environmental health, they just advised her on how to apply for social housing.

    Another tenant related a conversation hed had with a council candidate who was out canvassing. Asked what he would do for the one in three local people who rented privately, the candidate rambled enthusiastically about staircasing. He didnt win. (Note to councillors:

    if you say this word to private renters, theyre more likely to think youre talking about the landlord finally fixing that loose bit of carpet on the way to the first floor).

    To be fair to councils and their members, they might not have taken notice of private renters because were not a loud presence in local politics. Private renters have no idea whether theyll still

    Betsy Dillner is Director of Generation Rent

    Helping residents in the private rented sector

    Private renters have no idea whether theyll still be living in the same borough let alone the same home in a years time

  • 24 | first comment www.local.gov.uk

    group leaders comments

    The hollowness of devolution rhetoric

    devolution. The long-term implications of this decision will be to lower the standards of our education system.

    This Budget also raised the prospect of more damaging cuts to local government. The Chancellor has promised 3 billion efficiency savings from public spending alongside a 2 billion increase in pension costs for the public sector and cuts in business rates.

    The only efficiency review the Government should undertake is to ask local government to review spending in Whitehall. If the Treasury team had been as good at making savings as local government has been over the last five years, the deficit would have been wiped out by now.

    The Chancellors Budget was a missed opportunity to do something real on devolution. He called his announcement the devolution revolution but nothing has been this overhyped since the millennium bug. A few powers, for three parts of the country, that come along with forcing mayoral models on communities that dont want them this doesnt amount to any kind of revolution.

    The Chancellor needs to do so much more to make good on his devolution promise and set out real offers for every part of England.

    The decision to centralise the control of 24,000 schools to Whitehall shows the hollowness of the Governments rhetoric on

    Business rates retention for local government is starting to look more like a high risk and low gain offer for councils. The decision to cut business rates this year will mean that there is less for local government to retain and with another review due next year, what is left wont cover the costs of running the services we have today let alone deal with rising costs.

    Finally, funding tax cuts for tycoons at the expense of dignity for disabled people is an objectionable decision, and one I hope that the Chancellor changes his mind on before the Budget process is complete.

    This Budget was bad for local government, bad for local democracy and bad for the country.

    If the Treasury had been as good at making savings as local government has been, the deficit would have been wiped out by now

    All councils need greater freedom from central government to take decisions over vital services in their areas

    A devolutionary Budget

    chairmans comment

    Lord Porter is Chairman of the LGA

    run local services. The deals agreed in the Budget are good news for councils which have worked hard to get them in place and rightly recognise the economic potential of Englands county and rural areas.

    To build desperately-needed homes, create jobs, provide dignified care for our elderly and boost economic growth, all councils need greater freedom from central government to take decisions over vital services in their areas.

    These new deals and extensions to existing deals must signal a return to the early momentum in which similar deals were announced last year. This will clearly require different approaches for different areas, including how they are governed.

    I t is right that Chancellor George Osborne recognised the funding pressures facing councils and local services, and did not announce any more cuts to local government in his latest Budget.

    Councils have more than played their part in improving the nations finances over the last Parliament. Now we need some financial stability and consistency, so that we can all plan for the tough times ahead.

    Social care figures high among the challenges we face, and its disappointing government did not heed our call to bring forward 700 million of new money in the

    Better Care Fund from 2019/20 to this new financial year. It leaves vulnerable residents facing an uncertain future where the dignified care and support they deserve remains at risk.

    Meanwhile, devolution of business rates by 2020 something the LGA has long campaigned for is a vital reform, but wont in itself solve the long-term challenges facing councils.

    We will be following the pilots in Manchester, Liverpool and London closely, and it is important they dont have a knock-on financial effect on other councils. There is still a lot of work to do to ensure we come up with a national business rates retention system that is effective and fair, and we need to play a leading role in that work.

    We also need to push on with the devolution agenda, to get greater powers to

    Cllr Nick Forbes is Leader of the LGAs Labour Group

  • April 2016 first comment | 25

    Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson is Leader of the LGAs Liberal Democrat Group

    group leaders comments

    Independence for new devolution deals

    Cllr Marianne Overton MBEis Leader of the LGAs Independent Group

    I welcome the fact that devolution is now spreading beyond city and urban areas

    An ambitious agenda for localism

    Forcing schools to become academies strips parents, teachers and faith groups of any local choice

    The Budget saw the Government take a further important step in its ambitious localism agenda with the announcement of devolution deals for East Anglia, the West of England and Greater Lincolnshire.

    All of these areas will now benefit from important decisions being made in local communities rather than in Whitehall. I particularly welcome the fact that devolution is now spreading beyond city and urban areas and into non-metropolitan two-tier areas.

    Following on from the local government finance settlement, I am delighted that there was confirmation that local government will not be required to make any further in-year spending reductions. I would like to thank the Chancellor and Communities Secretary Greg Clark for recognising that councils have more than played their part in balancing the nations books over the past six years.

    The localisation of business rates has been a long-standing ask of local government and it is great that this is now being delivered by a Conservative Government. The announcement in the Budget of pilots in three areas represents a further important step towards the localisation of business rates across all of local government by 2020.

    Others measures announced in the Budget, including 700 million for flood resilience and 155 million to address homelessness, will also benefit local residents across the country.

    What a short memory our prime minister has! Do you remember when he said: Weve

    got to recognise that the central state cant have the imagination and flexibility to tailor all of its services to local needs?

    Well, with the Budget announcement we saw what that really meant: the nationalisation of education, the abolition of the national curriculum and the plunging of school places planning into chaos.

    Forcing schools to become academies strips parents, teachers and faith groups of any local choice. Unelected regional schools commissioners still lack the capacity and local knowledge to have oversight of such a large, diverse and remote range of schools in our communities, and residents will have no way to hold them to account either.

    So now it will be the remote, shadowy figure of the secretary of state who will have to take the decisions: allocate capital funds to build new schools and extend others, decide on forms of entry and which child gets a place where. The Department for Education is not famous for getting its budgets right, or on cracking down on academy chains that arent very good or who rip off taxpayers.

    No doubt councils will be left with the tough, more difficult bits. I wonder how ministers and individual MPs are going to cope with all the furious parents when they come knocking on their doors? They will just blame us.

    School places planning plunged into chaos

    Alarge hole remains in Chancellor George Osbornes Budget plans, with debt rising and economy improvements still a pipe dream. Although the end point remains unchanged, the austerity today and jam tomorrow is reversed ahead of the May elections and June referendum. Raising tax thresholds is welcomed, though yet to be funded. This time the price is paid by disabled people, with significant cuts in their living allowance. This is likely to have knock-on effects for councils.

    Forcing all schools to become academies is strange, bringing every school under centralised government responsibility. Ofsted rated 82 per cent of council maintained schools as good or outstanding, while improvement in academies is said to have stalled. This could drive standards down not up and put our much-loved smaller, often rural, primary schools at risk, with support from local councils stripped out.

    The sugar tax may be just the prompt needed to encourage a healthier approach to food and drink, reducing obesity, heart disease and tooth decay. Levying 5p on plastic bags has led to an 80 per cent reduction in their use.

    A further three devolution deals have emerged from behind closed doors, creating a new level of government led by an independently elected mayor. To be truly representative of the public, I believe they need to be independent of a party whip, not unduly beholden to any particular group nor any party lead figure in central government.

    For more information about the LGAs political groups, see www.local.gov.uk

    Cllr David Hodge is Leader of the LGAs Conservative Group

    This could drive standards down not up and put our smaller primary schools at risk

  • 26 | first comment www.local.gov.uk

    Cllr Jean Pinkerton OBE (Con) is Cabinet Member for Housing, Health, Wellbeing, Independent Living and Leisure at Spelthorne Borough Council

    A remarkable joint effort to support rough sleepers has proven just how much can be achieved by a multitude of agencies working to a common goal.

    Three boroughs Spelthorne, Runnymede and Elmbridge have worked together for the past two years to provide a winter shelter as part of our statutory duty to accommodate rough sleepers in the worst winter weather.

    This year was Spelthornes turn. The rallying call for support was heeded well beyond any of our expectations and produced an outcome of which we are justly proud, and in one of the most deprived boroughs in Surrey.

    Opened in early January, the shelter, operated by charity Transform Housing & Support, offers people a warm bed for the night, a hot meal and breakfast as well as clean clothes and a chance to meet others facing similar issues.

    Crucially, each person also gets support from Transform staff to help them find settled accommodation. This aspect of the work is supported by Rentstart, a charity with branches in all three boroughs, which has referred people to the shelter.

    Funding has come from the three boroughs, housing charities and other benefactors; a fundraising campaign led by Transform; and Spelthornes ward and county councillors gave cash from their individual community allowances.

    Furniture has come from a closed-down care home, new mattresses were donated by a local Dreams store and bedding courtesy of Costa. Keen catering students from Brooklands College have prepared individual meals for the freezer, using food supplied by supermarkets and foodbanks. Volunteers have been preparing meals and cleaning at the 10-bed shelter and even giving haircuts to shelter clients.

    Transform has described the support from organisations and individuals across the three boroughs as overwhelming. None of this could have been achieved without a spirit of co-operation and determination to get on with the job without fuss or over-much formality.

    Luckily there will be no need for an ad hoc shelter next year as premises have been identified in a neighbouring borough.

    Winter shelter for rough sleepers

    There are currently more than 7,000 people waiting for an organ transplant in the UK. Last year, over 1,300 people on this waiting list died or became too ill to receive a transplant.

    These are shocking statistics and behind these numbers are people whose lives have been lost or put on hold for years and whose relatives have been devastated by this.

    My wife Rachael had a kidney transplant 25 years ago. Someone saved her life because they were a registered organ donor and had told their family of their wishes. Since then she has led a full and active life, even winning gold medals at the British Transplant games.

    When her kidney transplant began to fail I decided that I would become a live donor to avoid the need for her to return to dialysis.

    We had the operation on 4 February and are now both doing very well.

    So what has this got to do with councils?Well, we are both councillors, and as the

    current Mayor of Kendal I started a campaign aiming to make Kendal the first ever organ donor town. So far we have signed up more than 600 donors and run a very successful media and social media campaign.

    The average rise in donations nationally is 3 per cent, the excellent Be a Hero donor campaign has seen a 4 per cent increase, and in Kendal we have achieved a 5.8 per cent increase: 42 per cent of people are now signed up compared to 33 per cent nationally.

    We hope the idea of becoming an organ donor town could spread, like dementia friendly towns, and become a nationally recognised status.

    Thank you so much to all those signed up to be donors. One donor can potentially save up to nine lives!

    Cllr Chris Hogg (Lib Dem) is Mayor of Kendal

    Becoming an organ donor town

    If youd like to help or register your town, city or village then please contact kendalorgandonortown@gmail.com. If you want to know more follow us on Facebook, Twitter or our website www.kendalorgandonartown.org.uk. For more information on organ donation visit www.organdonation.nhs.uk

  • April 2016 first comment | 27

    For more information, please visit www.creativeindustriesfederation.com

    Think culture for jobs and growthon business rates for charities which includes many arts organisations could be withdrawn.

    For young people, retrenchment may further reduce their chance to discover worlds that might be the route to fulfilling future employment.

    Yet some councils have grasped the business case for the arts, with federation members like Kent County Council supporting ventures such as the Turner Contemporary art gallery in Margate and Southwark Council putting culture at the core of its plans.

    But we have asked the Department for Communities and Local Government to take a lead in articulating the growth argument and the vital role of public investment more widely. We at the federation are playing our part by establishing a members working group to examine new working models and sources of finance, how to build resilience, and how to unlock more corporate sponsorship and philanthropy.

    The transformation of Liverpool, Glasgow and Newcastle and the work now underway in cities such as Hull and Plymouth shows the power of culture to drive regeneration and boost employment. Chancellor George Osborne has acknowledged that the arts are one of the best investments we can make as a nation. Such investment requires vision and bravery but the returns can be immense.

    Faced with the challenge of implementing cuts, we know that some local authorities will look to their culture budget. Hard-pressed councillors may consider the arts nice to have, but will query whether they are crucial.

    We at the Creative Industries Federation say they are. Not just because of their intrinsic value but because when communities need jobs and growth, the arts can help.

    Public investment underpins not only Britains theatre, film and libraries but contributes to the development of skills and the interplay of ideas and talent that is the foundation of this countrys world-beating creative industries and the hundreds of small creative businesses that are a crucial mix of local economies. Thriving higher and further education institutions are also vital, which was why the federation was set up to be a united voice for them all.

    We are talking big business. The creative industries have been the fastest growing sector of the economy since 2008, up 37.5 per cent. They contributed 84 billion gross value added in 2013-14, an increase of 8.9 per cent, and almost double the UK economy as a whole.

    At present, one in six jobs in London

    is in the creative economy, with the sector accounting for one in 11 jobs nationwide. Out-of-London growth is the next major opportunity. The devolution revolution and the promise to allow councils to retain business rate revenues opens up new areas of income. Sectors that are expanding are highly desirable.

    Furthermore, the creative industries typically deliver compounded benefits. In places such as Brighton, east London, and Manchester, you can see that creative businesses boom when they interact with one another, especially within the inspirational context of the wider cultural offer supported by local authority arts budgets.

    Councils provide crucial seed-funding which is as important as grants from the Arts Council. Culture can also drive other industries such as tourism and has a beneficial role to play in the fields of health and education. Axing investment threatens economic success in a sector with enormous potential for expansion.

    Arts institutions may be hit hardest in areas with least ability to find other ways to protect them, and where there are fewer philanthropists to make up the shortfall. There are also fears that the current discretionary relief

    John Kampfneris Chief Executive of the Creative Industries Federation

    When communities need jobs and growth, the arts can help

    The Richard Alston Dance Company performing at the Creative Industries

    Federations first anniversary celebration

    BEN

    BRO

    OM

    FIEL

    D

  • 28 | first comment www.local.gov.uk

    A festival of learning

    Stephen Evans is Deputy Chief Executive of the Learning and Work Institute

    In September, Festival of Learning awards will recognise the most inspirational learners, tutors and projects. Nominations are open now until mid May. Please encourage your colleges, providers and community learning services to go to the website and ensure your area is represented.

    These are tough times. But the Festival of Learning offers a chance to remain focused on building local communities and extending opportunity and aspiration. We look forward to working with you to make it a success.

    By 2020, local authorities will have faced a decade of cuts. So the search is on for how best to deliver more with less. Or perhaps less with even less.

    I would argue that learning is the closest thing to a silver bullet for building communities and improving outcomes. The Learning and Work Institutes Festival of Learning, now in its 25th year, can help make this a reality, and we want to work with you to make it work.

    It is hard to underestimate the power of learning. It helps to build active citizens, engaged communities, and improve access to jobs and careers. Yet for too many people, learning is something that happened at school.

    Adult education offers not just a chance to learn new skills, but also to rediscover something inside yourself. It is a pathway to social inclusion, but also to self-discovery. And it makes a difference to local services: our Citizens Curriculum pilots have, in Rochdale for example, saved local public services 2 for every 1 invested.

    Thats why we run the Festival of Learning and why local authorities are at its heart. There will be Have a Go sessions running during May and June. Last year there were 3,000 including learning a language, cooking and learning to swim. We encourage you to ensure your area has lots of sessions running and registered on our website: www.festivaloflearning.org.uk. Please also follow and use the Twitter hashtag #lovetolearn.

    For more information about the Learning and Work Institute, please visit www.learningandwork.org.uk

    Learning is the closest thing to a silver bullet for building communities and improving outcomes

    If youre interested in having a BIMBY roadshow visit your area, please contact The Princes Foundation on bimby@princes-foundation.org or visit www.bimby.org.uk

    Kathryn Cook is Communications Manager with The Princes Foundation

    Empowering communities to improve housing quality

    Neighbourhood planning is starting to settle in, with over 1,700 designated areas. But there is still a sense that communities are grappling with what it means for them.

    Into this arena steps a new online toolkit: Beauty-In-My-Backyard or BIMBY. This free housing toolkit aims to help bring together the holy triumvirate of local authorities, developers and the community that need to work smoothly together to create new development welcomed by all.

    It distills decades of The Princes Foundation for Building Communitys experience of working on new developments and, crucially, how to involve local communities. Working with these community

    Their manual focused on a new development already earmarked to take place on a site of industrial decline. The group, along with The Princes Foundation and the sites developer, presented their manual and what they wanted to see happen at an event with HRH The Prince of Wales in attendance.

    Local resident Samantha Coe was pivotal in organising the pioneer groups. The BIMBY process in Norwich has been a great success, allowing the local community to really have our voices heard through a series of workshops and activities. Having a platform to speak to the developer in appropriate language, and as a group of interested parties, has been hugely beneficial.

    groups, The Princes Foundation has discovered that people dont want to be NIMBYs but it becomes a default position when they feel no sense of involvement or ownership over new developments. BIMBY aims to provide that ownership and involvement.

    The first BIMBY pioneers taking the toolkit through its paces were in Norwich. The group, including local councillors, worked their way through its three workshops. The activity results were then uploaded into templates on the BIMBY website. Once completed, these templates formed a BIMBY housing manual unique to their area or to any groups area that completes the toolkit.

    People dont want to be NIMBYs but it becomes a default position

  • April 2016 first comment | 29

    Young people dont vote

    According to the electoral Commission, the past four general elections have recorded the lowest ever voter registration rates, with millions staying away from the polls and young people especially absent from the voters register. According to 2014 commission figures, 70.2 per cent of 20 to 24-year-olds registered to vote compared with more than 95 per cent of those over retirement age.

    in the 2010 and 2015 general elections, only 44 and 43 per cent respectively of 18 to 24-year-olds voted compared with 76 per cent of people aged 65 and over (2010). The figures are even worse for local elections, with the think tank iPPr estimating that in 2013, only 32 per cent of 18 to 24-year-olds voted in local polls, compared with 72 per cent of those aged over 65.

    The lGA has produced a workbook for councillors on engaging with young people, available at www.local.gov.uk/councillor-workbooks.

    for more information about the UK Youth Parliament, visit www.ukyouthparliament.org.uk. The British Youth Council runs a young mayor network, www.byc.org.uk/ uk-work/young-mayor-network.

    councillorEngaging with young people

    When i was elected in may 2012 i was one of the youngest councillors in the country.

    While this doesnt necessarily make me a spokesperson for the views of all young people, i do think it makes me better placed than some to discuss the best ways to engage with them. i also hope i can do a little bit to dispel the surprisingly widely-held attitude that councillors are all retired and independently wealthy men.

    Too often young people are neglected by elected representatives. The votes of older people are hotly contested, particularly during general elections when many politicians focus on issues that might not be of concern to young people. little consideration is given to those who cannot vote, who may not yet own property or do not hold substantial savings and investments.

    But this is something that is starting to change. The Scottish referendum north of the border certainly showed that young people have a lot to contribute and are keen to have their voice heard.

    As a councillor, i think its important to put yourself in situations where you can meet young people and talk about the issues that affect them. in my latest role as Cabinet member for education and Skills, ive been fortunate enough to visit a wide range of schools, youth centres and other community projects that engage young people. each time i am always met with enthusiasm, understanding and a wealth of ideas.

    i believe it is important that young people are given forums where they can not only express these ideas, but also put

    them into practice. Too often representation for young people is tokenistic.

    im proud of the record derby City Council has for engaging young people and giving them a meaningful role in the decisions that affect their lives. for example, the Voices in Action Youth Council gives young people aged 11 to 19 a chance to represent their schools, support groups or youth projects, and form an important part of the councils consultation process.

    Similarly, the Children in Care Council gives looked after children an enormously important say in decisions made about their care and ensures that they feel safe, protected and valued.

    more recently, we have given derbys youth mayors a more prominent role by giving them the opportunity to formally contribute to council cabinet meetings. The current youth mayor has embraced this opportunity and has used his time in office to lobby both councillors and officers on a range of important issues.

    following the success of these initiatives, im also looking at ways that young people can have more meaningful representation within their schools, either through student councils or by working more closely with governors.

    i hope that through these schemes and others, young people in derby will see that their views are taken seriously and that their contributions are valued. its vital that engagement with young people has meaningful outcomes and is not just a box- ticking exercise.

    XCllr Sarah Russell (Lab) is Cabinet Member for Education and Skills at Derby City Council.

  • parliamentBusiness rates retention devil in the detail

    For more on the LGAs parliamentary work, please visit www.local.gov.uk/parliament

    The LGA was given a prime opportunity to set out a number of its propositions on the move towards 100 per cent business rates retention to MPs on the Communities and Local Government Select Committee.

    Cllr Claire Kober OBE, Chair of the LGAs Resources Portfolio, explained local governments reaction to the proposed new system and the potential risks that could arise if this idea is not implemented sensitively.

    She told MPs: The stakes are much higher in moving from a grant-based system to one that relies on tax retention and 100 per cent retention of business rates.

    There is the issue that not all authorities have equal capacity to generate business rates that is the bottom line and there is no direct correlation between effort put in and outcome delivered. That is why getting to some of the detail around the determination of need, but also thinking through how we deal with equalisation and distribution within a new system, will be absolutely critical.

    We can all think of recent examples where a big player has left a local area and the local authority has absolutely no power to do anything about it. I immediately thought of Redcar and steel as a recent example. Thinking about what the safeguards are in the system to mitigate the risk of cliff-edge funding differences will be really important.

    In written evidence to the committee,

    the LGA identified the key issue as balancing fairness and the ability to raise business rates with the incentive to grow the economy.

    Other key points included: Local government needs clarity on what

    additional responsibilities it will take on with 100 per cent rate retention.

    Government decisions on which business rates multiplier to use should take into account the views of business and the cost of local government services funded through business rates.

    The Government should consider what will happen if, over time, demand for services outstrips the rate at which business rates income can grow.

    A new appeals regime is needed to give more certainty to authorities. If the appeals issue is not dealt with, business rate appeals will continue to have a negative impact on front line services.

    Sub-national risk sharing arrangements, as well as how safety nets should be funded, need to be considered.

    Councils should have the power to vary business rates, and be given maximum flexibility to cut the business rates multiplier and raise business rates.

    Richer areas will find it easier to retain businesses while there are areas where business rates cannot grow, such as national parks or city centres where the trend is moving from non-domestic towards residential properties.

    Legislative update

    LGA Chairman Lord Porter spoke during a Lords debate last month on the Housing and Planning Bill, where peers were considering proposals on implementing the Right to Buy on a voluntary basis and vacant, high- value local authority housing. Peers also debated amendments tabled on behalf of the LGA, and our analysis and comment on the Bill was cited extensively throughout the debate. The Bill is currently in Committee Stage in the Lords.

    As first was going to press, the Policing and Crime Bill had reached its Committee stage in the Commons. The Bill contains a provision for police and crime commissioners (PCC) to take on the responsibility for fire and rescue services. In the LGAs Second Reading briefing, we called for any changes to fire governance to only take place where there is an undivided local wish for a PCC to take over.

    Plans to extend Sunday trading hours which had been welcomed by the LGA were removed from the Enterprise Bill at Commons Report Stage because of concerns from MPs about the impact of the measures. The LGA lobbied on a number of proposals in the Bill, which was expected to complete its parliamentary progress as first went to press. We will continue to hold discussions with officials in central government departments on areas including apprenticeships and the cap on exit payments for employees leaving council jobs.

    The LGAs parliamentary affairs team has written a guide to the Cities and Local Government Devolution Act 2016, which provides the legal framework for the implementation of devolution deals to combined authorities and other areas see www.local.gov.uk/get-in-on-the-act. It is an enabling piece of legislation, with further details to be set out in regulations that will be put before Parliament.

    30 | first political www.local.gov.ukwww.local.gov.uk

  • electionsto change

    local by-electionsBlackpool, BloomfieldLAB HELD38.4% over Con Turnout 17.6%

    Broxtowe, Toton & Chilwell MeadowsCON HELD30.9% over Lab Turnout 27.5%

    Cambridgeshire, SuttonLIB DEM GAIN FROM CON 20.4% over Con Turnout 31.6%

    Chiltern, Amersham TownCON GAIN FROM LIB DEM13.9% over Lib Dem Turnout 28.4%

    Cumbria, Kendal Strickland & FellLIB DEM HELD42.7% over Lab Turnout 36.2%

    Dudley, Kingswinford North & Wall HeathCON HELD19.3% over Lab Turnout 26%

    Dudley, St. JamesLAB HELD16% over UKIP Turnout 18.1%

    East Dorset, AlderholtCON HELD1% over Lib Dem Turnout 31.9%

    Flintshire, New BrightonLIB DEM HELD20.2% over Lab Turnout 33.7%

    Havant, BondfieldsCON HELD2.9% over Lib Dem Turnout 13.7%

    Lichfield, ChadsmeadLIB DEM HELD14% over Lab Turnout 21.7%

    Manchester, Higher BlackleyLAB HELD46.3% over UKIP Turnout 15.8%

    Richmondshire, CatterickCON HELD20.5% over Ind Turnout 27.8%

    Rutland, WhissendineLIB DEM HELD38.3% over Con Turnout 37.5%

    Stratford-On-Avon, Studley With SambourneLIB DEM GAIN FROM CON35.1% over Con Turnout 39.5%

    Suffolk, Newmarket & Red LodgeCON HELD9.3% over UKIP Turnout 18%

    Windsor & Maidenhead, Maidenhead RiversideCON HELD30.3% over Lib Dem Turnout 29.1%

    the loss of the partys seat in Amersham Town ward in Chiltern, yet another example of a two-member ward returning both a Conservative and Liberal Democrat at last Mays election. It was the long-serving Davina Allens death which prompted the by-election. It is ironic, therefore, that Julie Cook, Davinas daughter, was selected by the Conservatives as their candidate.

    By-elections held since the General Election reflect the Conservatives almost constant presence with Labour marginally behind. Three-quarters of vacancies are being fought by the Liberal Democrats and UKIP but the Greens, contesting only half the vacancies, are struggling to maintain a presence. The absence is not always a case of the party not standing because a lack of support is anticipated.

    In Richmondshire, Havant, East Dorset and Windsor and Maidenhead, the party had polled reasonably well at the prior election only to leave it to the other parties at the subsequent by-election. It would be interesting to discover why some local Green parties are unable to sustain an electoral presence.

    Finally, readers may be interested in a recent addition to our website (www.electionscentre.co.uk). This features an application that allows users to view the distribution of seats for each council since its establishment. Typing in the council name produces a list of parties and seats for each year, a 40-year snapshot of the ebb and flow of electoral success.

    Conservatives and Liberal Democrats dominate the latest by-elections, with the latter edging the confrontation after taking two of its rivals seats.

    The first of these was the Cambridgeshire division of Sutton, where Lorna Dupr seized the opportunity presented by the absence of a Labour candidate to take the seat from the Conservatives. She is also currently serving as the district councillor for one of the East Cambridgeshire wards.

    The partys second victory was achieved by Hazel Wright in the Studley with Sambourne ward of Stratford-on-Avon District Council. Compared with last May, the Conservative share fell the most but there was a squeeze too on Labour and UKIP. Wright lost her seat in the adjacent ward in 2015 by less than 100 votes, her cause not helped by new ward boundaries. A combination of a local profile and campaigning experience also appears to have contributed towards her success.

    If the Liberal Democrats are to stage a recovery it needs more candidates like these.

    It might have been a hat-trick of Lib Dem gains if East Dorsets Alderholt ward had not been retained by the Conservatives by just eight votes. The 2015 contest in the newly created ward did not attract a Liberal Democrat candidate but did feature candidates from the Greens and UKIP. These two sat out the recent by-election but Labour did contest this time. Local Conservatives will breathe a sigh of relief that the failure to get the vote out did not result in the seats loss.

    The Liberal Democrats must also ensure no further erosion of council seats. The safely defended seats in Cumbria, Lichfield and Flintshire all brought an increase in party share.

    Set against Liberal Democrat wins is

    Lib Dem gains

    Professors Colin Rallings (right) and Michael Thrasher are Directors of Plymouth Universitys Elections Centre

    We have been unable to include all recent by-election results here, so please visit www.local.gov.uk/first for all the results and additional data on each election

    April 2016 first political | 31

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