Birmingham Policy Community

A Democratic City

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    City region governance and leadership

    Birmingham is at the heart of a conurbation of over 2.5m people, but our arrangements for governing that area have been fragmented since 1986. However the establishment of the combined authority working with the three LEPs will provide stronger governance, work to ensure long term investment to stimulate economic growth for the region and jointly tackle long term challenges faced by all local authorities and recognised as a priority for the region…

    The Devo Deal represents a huge step forward and covers areas such as Transport, enterprise and Housing. A new Integrated Transport Authority has been created, overseen by the seven council leaders. Collaboration is also taking place between the LEPs in pursuit of their Growth Plans to facilitate the “Midlands Engine.”

    We are interested in understanding the success factors for city regional governance and the options for future development, including new statutory provisions that we could work on with government.

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    Taking forward neighbourhood budgets and neighbourhood management

    Much work has been done in Birmingham to explore the potential for neighbourhood management and neighbourhood budgets, going back to the early days of neighbourhood renewal and including three community budgets (“our place”) pilots. There is strong potential for achieving better outcomes as well as savings by looking at local resources (both public sector and community) in an integrated way.

    How do we mainstream neighbourhood based working across the city without an additional public sector resource?


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    The potential for housing associations to take on a wider role in the local neighbourhood

    Housing services, whether provided by housing associations or the city council have an alternative source of income in rents. In many parts of the city there are a number of housing providers and each has a separate approach to the maintenance and management of their properties and the surrounding land.  As part of our move towards more integrated neighbourhood services there is a big scope for developing a wider role for housing providers in looking after the local neighbourhood and streets.

    As well as opportunities within the council housing stock to develop greater community control, and, where there is a preference for it, the transfer of particular housing estates and neighbourhoods to new community based housing associations. Castle Vale and Witton Lodge provide successful examples of community led housing in Birmingham.

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    The potential for community organisations such as neighbourhood forums and social enterprises to play a wider role

    Community organisations already play an important part in the life of communities across the city. And as the City Council forges ahead with plans to devolve – and involve more people in – decision making in Birmingham, they will play an ever more vital role. There is an increasing need for communities to be less reliant on public services and do more for themselves therefore it is important that we research how community organisations can play a wider role. E.g. can social enterprises play a wider role in looking after the local neighbourhood and streets? What is the level of interest in this and what do we need to do to promote this? What support do we need to provide to allow neighbourhood forums and social enterprises to play wider role and what extra powers can we give to community organisations?

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    Neighbourhood democracy, inclusion and participation

    Empowering local people to shape their neighbourhoods has to be a key part of the solution to create a more inclusive city. A key lesson from past neighbourhood working is that many local issues are dealt with better when public service providers work together and with local communities to deliver ‘local solutions to local problems. Co-ordinating work and developing a more integrated, democratic approach to “neighbourhood services” could therefore have a significant impact on the local quality of life. We are looking to find a way to empower people to shape their neighbourhood, encouraging greater participation and strengthening relationships between different areas. This links to neighbourhood planning process by which communities can come together and prepare land use plans that will guide the type of developments they would wish to see in their neighbourhood. The first neighbourhood plan for Birmingham has now been adopted and we are looking to identify the potential of neighbourhood planning, how it can help encourage greater participation and help people to shape their neighbourhood. 

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    Care in the community – how can health and social care become more neighbourhood and community focused?

    Expanding community services does not simply mean moving care out of hospital – it means developing a whole new way of caring. We need to research into how we remove some of the demand for a range of different activities in hospital and instead bring them into the community. What role will the public and third sector need to play in transferring care into the community? What health services and procedures can be moved out of hospital and into the community? What are best practice examples of care in the community and what infrastructure needs to be in place to facilitate this?

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    The role of the “democratic core” of the City Council – politics and regulatory services

    Whatever the role of out-sourcing and the diversity of service providers in the future, there will always be a core set of regulatory and democratic functions that can only be done by local government. We need to identify what these are and develop a more integrated and efficient approach to providing them.

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