Community-led public service change

John Denham’s department announced the winning areas for the Inspiring Communities programme yesterday. This is a vital project that is exploring new ways of turning around a shortage of aspiration in some of our poorer communities. Its a good example of community driven reform of public services; on the one hand delivering services in a way that strengthens the local community – and on the other, draws on the strength of the community for its effectiveness. I made a speech on the idea to the Fabians a while ago. This is a growing field of work. In the US, President Obama is using similar ideas in the national roll-out of the Harlem Childrens’ Zone and other community based solutions honoured at the White House.

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‘Total Place’ in Birmingham

I brought my Treasury team to Birmingham today to meet some of the people I’m proud to work with in the city – and to look at the city’s work on ”Total Place’. This is a set of pilots in 13 authorities where we’re looking at how we can spend taxpayers money on invaluable public services better, by getting rid of the boundaries between council, police, health service and so on.

I have a pretty clear view. There is no lone gun, no single force that can deliver better public services alone for the people of this city.  The key will be strong local leadership and public servants coming together from every part of the city in a new combined force, powerful enough to deliver big change fast.

Only by acting together will we make progress. That means we have to get the barriers to working together out of the way. 

The BeBirmingham partnership recently estimated that in total around £7.5 billion of public money was invested in the city in 2008-09. That’s a huge amount. Over a billion is spent on education.

Our Total Place pilot in the city will now look at how we redesign public services around the needs of the city with a step change in collaboration between local agencies. The pilot will focus on six priority areas for the city – tackling guns and gangs, children leaving care, learning disabilities, alcohol and drug misuse, plus improving mental health services, and focusing on all services within a particular local community.

A century ago Greater Birmingham was born when Aston, Erdington, Handsworth, Kings Norton, Northfield, and Yardley were brought within the city limits. The driving force behind Birmingham’s creation was an ambitious vision for what a modern city should be.

Now Birmingham has the chance to lead again, by pioneering a new way of bringing together our public servants from all corners of the city, to deliver change.

For the past hundred years our city has been a pioneer of civic life in Britain. It was Birmingham, that helped invent the town-planning movement: groundbreakers, like the Cadburys in Bourneville, created model homes, separate gardens, and wide roads.

In our nation’s battle for education, this city once led the charge. It was in Birmingham – in 1869 – that the Education League began. It was in Birmingham, under the 20 year-long leadership of George Dixon, that the Birmingham School Board became a model for educational authorities everywhere.

A century on, Government investment has helped transform life in the City. Between 1999 and 2008, the proportion of students in Birmingham getting 5 A*-C at GCSE level has almost doubled from 38 per cent to 66 per cent. In health, we’ve slashed waiting times – by March 2009 there was just one patient in the region waiting more than 26 weeks for in-patient treatment compared to almost 13,000 in March 1997.

Now we have to square up to the decade ahead. We have to ride out the worst economic downturn for at least 60 years. We face vigorous competition from emergent cities from Manchester to …

In Birmingham, our first step must be to stop this recession cutting our city deep or long. That’s why I fought so hard to save LDV, and why I will go to every length to see production start once again on Drews Lane. The fight against this recession is backed by a government determined not to make the mistakes of the 1980s and 1990s, which left a generation scarred by long-term unemployment.

But beyond the downturn there is a prize to be won. If we make the right investments today, Birmingham can win a large slice of the one billion skilled jobs that will be created around the world in the two decades ahead – skilled jobs with better wages and wider horizons.

So, my challenge is how do we spend our public investment better, to prepare better for the future?

We have a chance to be real civic pioneer once again. If we get it right, we’ll lay the best of foundations for the future.

Power-shift

Below is my Guardian Society article about what we can learn from the power shift now underway in the best public services around the world. My argument is simple. If we want better public services in the future, and believe public spending growth is slower, then we need to be more innovative in the way services are delivered. But if we want to ‘free up the system’ and devolve power – and preserve equity – then giving people rights and entitlements to services is crucial. Alongside this, you need better use of information, a shift to personalisation and prevention, and you need to ask the frontline to lead the charge for service improvement – not dictate or demand it from Whitehall. Text of Guardian article below, or link here. http://tinyurl.com/ljzm9w

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