About This Blog

The public should know all we can about the business of the decision makers that affect our lives, our wallets and our democracy. This is a record of my efforts to try and improve the levels of transparency and accountability within Sheffield City Council and others. To shine a light on how decisions are made and where the money goes. If I can also help others to find their own voice and influence along the way, then that is a bonus.

Friday, 8 November 2013

21st October 2013 - Sheffield City Council, Locality Management General Briefing, by Nigel Slack

This was a meeting of invited members of the voluntary sector in order to brief them on the new arrangements for 'Locality management' that will replace the now abandoned 'Community Assembly Meetings'. I presume that I was invited, as an individual, because there is to be no public meeting as such.

The meeting was opened by Councillor Geoff Smith (Labour) who gave a welcome statement and relayed the apologies of Councillor Mazher Iqbal (Cabinet Member for Communities and Inclusion) who had lead the development of the new arrangements. He then introduced Sharon Squires (Director, Sheffield First Partnership). She helped the City Council in developing the model for the new arrangements, Local Area Partnerships. She explained that the success of LAP's would be about building strong and resilient communities that can cope with the huge changes that are being thrust upon them by the current austerity measures. She also emphasised that Locality Management was a part of the framework of the solution but not all of it.

The meeting was then presented with a slide show of the new arrangements by Martin Hughes (Locality Manager) who discussed how the VCF sector (Voluntary, Charity, Faith) could get involved. The new model has four key principles. Councillors as community leaders, Prioritise resources to areas of greatest need, Develop effective partnership working, and Enable communities to help themselves.

Each Ward will have a lead Councillor drawn from the three that represent each ward, Central Ward will be represented by Councillor Rob Murphy (Green). They will represent the ward to the LAP's who will have a small discretionary amount of money to spend on priorities that the four wards in each LAP agree on. These LAP's are lead by a Chair who is a Councillor, for Central it is Councillor Neale Gibson (Labour) but we are told that this partnership is not a decision making body and is not formally constituted.

At the end of the presentation there was an opportunity for questions. There were a number of questions on some of the ways in which the VCF sector can get it's voice heard in the larger arena, as many of them connect over the ward and area boundaries. I asked a particular question about the use of IMD (Index of Multiple Deprivation) for defining the levels of the 'Ward Pots' or discretionary funds for each ward. I referred to a recent meeting of the Sheffield Executive Board that received a presentation on Community Resilience and Wellbeing from the Young Foundation and discussed the need to reach beyond the stats of IMD in measuring the health of a community. I asked whether other measures would be used. The response was that IMD would be used for now but others would 'probably' be added as time went on.

There were then many comments and questions about the public oversight of the LAP's and the lack of formal structure for the public attendance at LAP meetings. The general response was to the effect that there is no formal structure to the meetings and they would generally not be open to to the public as it is not a formally constituted body. I therefore pushed them on the comments of the 'Fairness Commission' that fairness should not only be done but be seen to be done.

With the number of comments the organisers finally agreed that they would take back the comments and see what could be done to improve levels of trust in the structure and arrangements. We will see whether this comes to anything or whether, like so often, it was just to placate the meeting.

Cabinet Report on the replacement of Community Assemblies