30/03/2011 - Permalink

Working together to make public services ‘fit for the future’

Related topics: Community

Shropshire Council and Shropshire voluntary organisations have agreed a new approach to working more closely together, to deliver the best value for money for local residents.

The recent launch of the Government’s Public Service Reform White Paper, coupled with the recent Localism Bill, signals the devolution of power, responsibility and resources to local communities.

These initiatives also encourage the transfer of local public assets and services to voluntary organisations and community groups, where this will provide better value-for-money and help local communities become more self-sufficient and resilient.

By creating a new joint task group with Shropshire’s Voluntary and Community Sector (VCS) Assembly, the council’s aim is to take full advantage of these new opportunities.  Together, they will grow a stronger, more self-sustaining voluntary and community sector in Shropshire; promoting resilience, innovation and creativity, so that towns and villages are best placed to face the challenges ahead.

Shropshire Council and the VCS Assembly have committed to:

  • Exploring ways to ensure Shropshire has a thriving Civil Society, best able to respond to the future needs and demands of local people and to take up new sources of funding.
  • Developing a shared understanding and approach to exploring the potential from the new powers emerging from the Localism Bill, ensuring Shropshire communities are well prepared to benefit from these opportunities to do things differently.
  • Creating a new commissioning framework to make it easier for the VCS to bid for and win council contracts to run local services and facilities, and as a basis for joint working with other public sector commissioners, such as the health service.
  • Fostering an open and transparent culture of data sharing – both financial and in performance terms, as the basis for this new relationship.
  • Exploring the best way to ensure an effective approach to the transfer of local assets (such as buildings or land) to community ownership, recognising the need for capacity building in some voluntary and community groups, to enable long-term, high-quality service delivery under this new approach.
  • Identifying early ‘demonstration’ projects, to illustrate practical examples of what works and what needs to change in future.

Councillor Ann Hartley, Chair of the Joint Council and VCS Task Group, established to deliver this change, said:

“We’re fortunate to have so many dedicated volunteers in Shropshire.  They make a daily difference to the lives of so many of our residents.

“Shropshire Council has a good record of partnership with the voluntary sector but now’s the time to respond to the national shift and make sure we’re ready to get the most from the new opportunities and ways of working that lie ahead.  Our current work outlines our shared ambitions and sets a solid foundation for the implementation of new ways of doing things better together.

“We’ve identified some early priorities, including how Shropshire prepares to take advantage of new powers expected in the autumn, giving communities the right to challenge councils’ performance and take over responsibility for running public services in their town or village.

“This focus on effective partnership working is just one of the ways the council is transforming local public services to ensure they evolve and continue to meet the changing needs of local people, whilst keeping council tax levels as low as possible.”