Neighbourhood Strategy Green Paper

A few notes/comments as I make my way through this document. (See also Neighbourhood Strategy Dialogue Launched! | Fair Brum for context.)

Page 2
1. Neighbourhood Summit? What’s that?
2. Summer of Dialogue? The meetings in August? Not sure I think that counts as dialogue.

Page 4

the  scarcity  of  resources  suggests  that  public  sector  resources  for neighbourhood  working  should  be  focussed  on  areas  with  high  levels  of  deprivation,  that  is, where the need is greatest.

This has been the approach adopted in the past in Birmingham, as in other parts of the country, with  the  identification  of  Priority  Neighbourhoods.  This  can,  however,  be  combined  with  an enabling and empowering approach in all neighbourhoods, and an approach which responds to capacity, assets and opportunities in each neighbourhood.

I’d expect this to mention the possible significance of working across neighbourhoods – where people and resources from one can help support people and activities in others. The absence of such mention prompts a thought about the prevalence of inward-focused, hierachical ways of working. That’s the nut to be cracked, which in turn means prying entrenched postholders from their positions.

Communities will need to be less reliant on public services and do more for themselves if they are to protect and improve the quality of their lives. They will need to be even more enterprising, developing their capacity to deliver local services and thinking of new ways to attract resources into their neighbourhoods. Above all, they will need to be resilient with citizens supporting each other to overcome challenges, hardship and divisions.

  1. Who sets the priorities about which services to focus on? My interests are not those of the guy next door. Who decides?
  2. Who and what promotes this mutual support? Too often the big egos in a given area dominate and drive out potential helpers. Who is going to ensure that there’s a sense of respect for each person?

Page 5

It  describes  the  roles  of different parts of the council, and the new District Committees in particular, in making services respond to an individual neighbourhood’s needs and priorities.

My experience of District Committees is that they operate without much engagement – they seem incidental and poorly integrated. What will change that?

One of its proposals is to create an independent Neighbourhood Trust for Birmingham to attract investment  in  neighbourhood  working  and  mechanisms  for  reviewing  progress  and  learning lessons are outlined.

Could be good. Who sits on these Trusts, and how are they chosen?

Skipping ahead …

Page 13 – Arena 2: City-wide initiatives

  • Employment,
  • Public Health,
  • City-wide co-ordination

Need to look at these more fully.

Page 15

A  primary  function  of  such  a  Trust  would  be  as  a neighbourhood  investment  broker,  raising,  disbursing  and  managing  funds  on  behalf  of
community-based neighbourhood partnerships. The aim is for the Neighbourhood Trust to play a similar role in the neighbourhood investment field that the Birmingham Employment Skills and Training (BEST) consortium plays in its field.

This sounds rather narrower than I’d prefer. Need to get more info.

Welcome – – expired domain?

 Page 17

1. Is there a need for a Neighbourhood Strategy bringing together in one plan a coherent approach to working and seeking to transform place?

– Possibly. Haven’t enough info yet.

2. Should the strategy be designed as a framework document:
a. with core values and priorities with multi agency and cross sector buy-in?
b. with built in flexibility to encourage innovation and, self-directed activity?

– The latter.

3. Should the idea of identifying three arenas of activity together with an enabling strand to ‘make it happen’ be included in the strategy? The arenas include:
a. joining up local service delivery across all agencies;
b. bringing citywide programmes to have greater impact in place e.g. employment and public health
c. empowering the community, voluntary sector and residents/stakeholders to make a difference in place

– Not convinced that more is better when setting out strategy. Less may be more.

4. Within the framework approach is there merit in allowing differing agencies to champion and lead each arena of activity and to develop a range of action?

– Which agencies? In many cases the answer should be no.

5. Do you think District Committees should be the agency responsible for identifying and declaring places or neighbourhoods for action and then for holding relevant agencies to account for actions to make a difference in these areas?

– Not convinced that District Committees are suitable vehicles.

6. Would you support a twin-pronged approach to identifying neighbourhoods:
a. District Committees being responsible through an agreed methodology in identifying and declaring priority neighbourhoods with a clear social cohesion challenge
b. District Committees and other agencies identifying places where general work to improve place should take place

– Possibly. Which other agencies?

7. How should governance and accountability work at a neighbourhood level:
a. In addressing agreed priorities and targets particularly on social cohesion targets
b. In addressing local plans drawn up by a range of community led groups

– The latter more than the former. But this sounds incomplete as a means of governance and accountability.

8. What are your views on developing and establishing:
a. A Neighbourhood Trust, either citywide or a federated structure with local boards, designed to identify funding opportunities
b. A Leadership Prospectus where different agencies come forward to lead a place and coordinate activities – similar to the neighbourhood management approach adopted previously
c. A Neighbourhood Learning Network – bringing together what works and shared learning across the Neighbourhood programme
d. Neighbourhood Service Standards – defining standards for local services and a wider compact between agencies delivering services and residents, community groups and other stakeholders.

– The first two sound a bit suspect, and the last two sound pretty good.

9. How do we ensure that different communities of interest are engaged and have a voice and role in Neighbourhood Management?

To some extent, as noted on p. 15, ‘simply getting out of the way’ would reduce obstacles to community formation, though that is not a comprehensive approach. There is a far greater need for using existing structures and agencies to gain leverage – but the questions of how to deal with power grabs, paternalism, and diversion of resources remain as unaddressed obstacles to an effective leveraging and capacity-building process. Perhaps a Neighbourhood Standards Inspectorate would be a useful intervention, along with resources to help establish and maintain facilitation within and among groups.