Suffolk: Confusion as New Strategic Direction moves forward

SUFFOLK: “Confusing messages” about the New Strategic direction are are making it difficult for both the public and councillors to understand what it is all about.

That’s the verdict today from the opposition at Suffolk County Council as it prepares for another debate on the authority’s flagship policy.

The county council is to debate a 25-page, 139 paragraph, report entitled: “Update on the implementation of the New Strategic Direction” at next week’s meeting of the full council.

A senior member of the administration said that councillors had debated the policy many times before and were quite capable of understanding the issues due to be discussed.

The key recommendation is that the county should use a principle dubbed “Your Place” to discuss changes to the way services are delivered.

That means it would talk to groups in towns or communities about taking over a number of services currently run by the county council – like libraries, country parks, school crossing patrols, and youth clubs – rather than discussing each separately.

And the report admits that up to now the council has not always been clear about what the changes will mean.

Most Read

It says: “Through our engagement with individuals, communities and organisations, we understand that we have not been clear about the fact that it is not for the council to determine which services should be delivered locally.

“We need to listen to views expressed by communities, individuals and organisations and work collaboratively to develop new ways of providing services, particularly at a local level.”

It says the council accepts it has not given enough time for people to develop alternative local solutions – which is why the council put aside a �1.7 million contingency to keep services operating while alternative providers are developed.

Opposition LibDem leader Kathy Pollard said: “The trouble is there are so many confusing messages coming out about the NSD that it is very difficult for councillors, let alone the general public, to understand what it is all about.

“I don’t think this update makes things any clearer.”

She said when people concerned about the future of library services in the county had a meeting with officials and councillors last month, many of those had come away with the impression that only three libraries would be retained as ‘county libraries’ in any review.

The county quickly moved to deny there was any suggestion that Suffolk could only be left with three county libraries.

But Mrs Pollard said this showed the problem: “The message is simply not getting across clearly,” she said.

Cabinet member Colin Noble said the report was inevitably detailed because it was written for councillors who had already debated the NSD several times.

It was not unreasonable to assume that they had a good working knowledge of the issues.

He said: “I would not expect this paper, in the chamber, to be simple. That is quite different to how you articulate this to the general public because what you’ve then got to do is the politician’s job and the politician’s job is to take complex issues and articulate them to them.

“That is not to talk down to them at all, it’s around how you then talk with residents and the wider public and frankly how you get it across to people.”

Mr Noble said talks with communities had shown that they wanted to talk about the future of services generally, not individual services, which was why the county would now be talking about a range of services together rather than individually.

Do you understand the New Strategic Direction? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail

The full report is published here and is also available on the county council website through the link on this page.


Brief Summary of Report

1. This report sets out progress made since December 2010, updating on key

developments in the public service agenda and how the New Strategic

Direction is evolving to address these changes.

2. It feeds back on the work of the Member Working Groups to date, shows

how the lessons learned from engagement have been fed into the

development of ideas and also introduces some new ideas generated by

the implementation of the New Strategic Direction to date.

3. The report outlines the Council’s approach to implementing the ‘Your Place’

idea introduced in the report to the Council on 2 December 2010.

Incorporating learning from engagement events on the New Strategic

Direction, ‘Your Place’ will be based on working with communities in Suffolk

about the delivery of public services and social outcomes in localities. The

recommendation below relates to the implementation of ‘Your Place’.

Action Recommended

4. That ‘Your Place’ divestment decisions should be made through

conversations in a place, not on a service by service basis and that, where

possible, the Council will work with local communities to come up with a

preferred local solution, but if that’s not possible the Council will make a

decision between proposals based on clear and communicated criteria.

Reason for Recommendation

5. Based on the views and information gathered as part of the ongoing

engagement on the development of the New Strategic Direction and work

with partners including the Suffolk Association of Local Councils and The

Suffolk Congress, there is a need to look at service delivery from a

community, rather than organisational perspective. To ensure that we are

clear with communities about our approach, we need to recognise that it

may not always be possible to come up with a single proposal in each area

for all services and communicate how decisions will be made.

Alternative Options

6. No alternative options are suggested.

Main Body of Report


7. In December 2010, the Council agreed:

i. “that the Council continue to implement the New Strategic Direction and, in

so doing, continue to engage with Suffolk’s communities throughout its

development in order that they had the opportunity to better understand

and influence the future direction of the Council;

ii. to note that the Divestment Member Working Group would produce an

outline programme for divestment covering the ‘big ideas’ and ‘Your Place’

as a basis for discussion with interested parties and the community; and

iii. that this was a work in progress and that as the work of the strategic

council, community capacity and democracy working groups progressed,

regular reports be brought to the Cabinet and the Council. The

implementation of the Council’s New Strategic Direction was agreed by

Council in December 2010.”

8. This report sets out progress made since December 2010, updating on key

developments in the public service agenda and how the New Strategic

Direction is evolving to address these changes.

9. It feeds back on the work of the Member Working Groups to date, shows

how the lessons learned from engagement have been fed into the

development of ideas and also introduces some new ideas generated by

the implementation of the New Strategic Direction to date.

A New Context for Local Government

10. Overall, the final grant settlement for the Council was worse than had been

planned for. A like for like comparison of the position for the Council

between years shows a loss equivalent to �37m of general grant. This is

made up of a �27m reduction in formula grant as highlighted by government


and also over �9m of Area Based Grant which was neither anticipated nor

easy to assess from the Spending Review. This gap is greater than

planned for due to a combination of changes to concessionary fares, a �2m

cut in funding to pay for the national academies programme and the

damping arrangements that move resources between councils.

11. The cost pressures from inflation, demand and demography and the

increase in the contingency to manage risk total a further �17.7m, leading to

a funding gap of �54m.

12. This gap has been closed by using additional council tax from an increased

tax base and an increase in council tax collected which provides �4.4m of

additional revenue, the council tax freeze grant of �7.2m and savings of


13. The final settlement gives us clarity on the current financial position of the

Council. As to the future, the financing of local government is again back on

the Government’s agenda. The Government’s ‘Local Government

Resource Review’ will consider the future of local government funding

beyond the current two year settlement period. One of the key principles

the government will be examining is how local government can become

more self financing or less reliant on government grant.

14. Alongside the local government financial settlement, the Government has

introduced a raft of legislation affecting local government and which

influences the development of the New Strategic Direction. They include the

Localism Bill, Health and Social Care Bill and the Education Bill.

15. A White Paper is also anticipated shortly on public service reform. It is

expected to include ideas such as:

i. Cutting costs of all public service providers so they become as efficient

as the top 25% most efficient public service providers in order to save

20 to 30% of the �250bn cost of public services;

ii. transferring responsibility for the cost of services via a market to

purchasers of public services;

iii. all public service providers should be given almost total freedom to

respond effectively to their customers; and

iv. transferring funding for local services to local communities without any

strings from Whitehall.

16. These changes continue to emphasize the need for a new way of looking at

public services and the fact that continuing to deliver services in the same

way as they have always been delivered will not achieve a reduction in cost

of the scale required.

17. The Council has already started to implement a number of changes and

over the past six months we have seen the completion of a number of

organisational reviews to make it more efficient, in particular reducing the


corporate overheads of the Council. However, organisational reviews alone

will not achieve the level of savings required. A much more

transformational change is needed to deliver the savings and the Council

has already embarked on this agenda.

18. There are consultations underway relating to the future of Residential Care

Homes and a new model for the delivery of Libraries. The Children and

Young People’s service is in the process of introducing a new Operating

Model based on the development of integrated teams around children and


19. More fundamental changes are progressing with the transfer of community

health services for children to the Council and developments around the

transfer of public health functions to local government.

20. With such fundamental changes to the way services are delivered, there is

a clear need for cultural and behavioural change across the Council. In

order to be able to lead public services and move with pace we need to look

at the way we procure goods and services, how we manage, dispose of and

acquire property, our relationship with our partners and communities in

Suffolk and the relationship with our staff. The New Strategic Direction gives

us the framework to achieve this.

The New Strategic Direction – Learning from Engagement

21. The New Strategic Direction is the Council’s ideas for how public services in

Suffolk deal with less money for service delivery.

22. For the Council it is a whole organisation change programme consisting of

the building of a new relationship between ‘a Strategic Council’ and

‘divested provision’ made up of a mix of delivery vehicles; services

clustered around themes, customers and place and new approaches

inspired by community engagement and ideas.

23. It will not be possible for the Council to control and ‘programme manage’ all

aspects of this change and we have to focus on the priorities. These

priorities relate not just to the Council but to influencing the ‘Suffolk System’:

i. Implementing a package of cost reductions within the 2011/12 financial

year of over �40 million;

ii. developing a new, smaller, fundamentally redesigned strategic council

and divesting service provision to achieve a �40 million saving by 1

April 2013, rather than implement further rounds of service cuts;

iii. building ‘bigger society’ in Suffolk (and setting a specific big society


iv. investing in Suffolk enterprises and stimulating the Suffolk economy;

v. creating greater social investment funding in Suffolk;

vi. creating fast cultural change within the Council to act in a way that

facilitates divestment and locality working;


vii. creating the officer element of the new organisation to start the new

roles of market making and championing the ‘Which’ magazine


viii. supporting the change process in the voluntary and community sector

to meet the challenges presented by the need to take a more

commercial approach to public service delivery; and

ix. implementing personalisation to financially empower citizens to act as


New Strategic Direction and the 2011/12 Budget

24. The Council always said that developing the New Strategic Direction would

require new thinking and that we would need to learn new skills,

approaches and behaviour as we implemented. This has been the case. It

is important that the learning is captured and reflected upon. This might be

considered an unusual behaviour in a political environment, but it is

something we remain committed to. We believe that in Suffolk’s 720,000

residents, over 400 local Councillors and the many voluntary organisations

and businesses, there is a wealth of knowledge and creativity about how

social outcomes could be achieved. We want to co-create solutions in

Suffolk so that we can build something that is better than the Council can

achieve on its own.

25. One of the areas where we have learnt was in the overlap between his

years’ budget and developing the New Strategic Direction. A great deal of

the ongoing engagement process to develop the New Strategic Direction

has taken place at the same time as the preparation of the budget for

2011/12 and, therefore, alongside proposals to remove over �40 million

from the budget. This has meant that messages about valuing public

services, but needing to look for different, more local and cheaper ways of

delivering them have not been explained well.

26. Through our engagement with individuals, communities and organisations,

we understand that we have not been clear about the fact that it is not for

the Council to determine which services should be delivered locally and that

we need to listen to views expressed by communities, individuals and

organisations and work collaboratively to develop new ways of providing

services, particularly at a local level.

27. In particular, we have heard that the reductions in services for 2011/12, do

not allow sufficient time to develop local alternatives. With this in mind, the

Council agreed, at its Budget Meeting on 17 February 2011, to make

available contingency funding to allow time for credible proposals to be

developed prior to any services being withdrawn.

28. In addition to this, officer resource will be made available to progress from

expressions of interest to business cases over the next six to nine months.

However, if we are unable to find alternative, cheaper means of delivery,

some services will cease because we cannot afford to provide everything

we currently provide.


The need for better information

29. We have also heard about the need for more detailed information if we are

to enable communities to make an informed decision about whether they

are interested in taking on a service. In response, Libraries, Country Parks

and Youth Clubs have all produced information packs to support the

engagement activity for their service areas.

30. Council officers from across the services have met with around 120

members of town and parish councils as part of six detailed meetings

organised by Suffolk Association of Local Councils.

31. Information and guidance is also being prepared by teams within Property

and HR and in other areas of Resource Management.

Working with our local partners

32. It is recognised that the Council must capitalise on the wealth of local

knowledge and expertise offered up by the third sector.

33. With this in mind members of the voluntary and community sector (VCS)

Congress met with the Corporate Management Board in January 2011 to

explore the opportunities for working in collaboration. As a result members

of the VCS are now involved in a number of strands of activity connected

with the New Strategic Direction. These include participating in the

development and implementation of the ‘Your Place’ approach, participating

in workshops to develop the options for the Health and Care Trusts and

procurement and contributing to the ongoing communication and

engagement activity.

34. The Council has also sought input from the business community and held

an ‘Industry Day’ at the end of January 2011. The focus of this day was the

role that business, in particular Suffolk enterprises, can play in the New

Strategic Direction and the importance of investment in the new public

service agenda.

Developing a conversation about place, not individual services

35. We have heard messages about better quality and earlier communication;

the need for capacity now to develop solutions and the need for the cocreation

of ideas, rather than consultations on proposals.

36. With this in mind the Council has further developed its approach to ‘Your

Place’, an idea which was introduced in the 2 December Council paper. The

‘Your Place’ idea introduced an enhanced focus on localities and a desire to

build greater community participation in and ownership of local public

service delivery.

37. The Council has worked with and is working in partnership with a number of

‘infrastructure organisations’ including the Suffolk Association of Local


Councils (SALC), Suffolk ACRE, the Suffolk Association of Voluntary

Organisations (SAVO) and Young Suffolk to engage communities and

organisations who have specifically expressed an interest in working with

the Council. The aim of this work is to have conversations about public

services in individual places in Suffolk, not necessarily to run them in the

same way, but to have an open discussion over a period of time to develop


38. We know that local councils and community groups already work in this

way. One small example is Sudbury Town Council, who engaged 150

volunteers to be responsible for spreading grit from 40 yellow grit bins

dotted around the town. Over 500 volunteers came forward in response to a

request for support and it illustrates that local councils are a fantastic asset

being embedded in the community and having strong accountability and

local connectedness.

39. We also know that one of the strengths of the Suffolk economy is the large

number of small and medium sized businesses we have. These are spread

throughout Suffolk, in both rural and urban areas, and in themselves are a

source of social capital as they are often closely connected to the

communities in which they operate. In managing our divestment programme

we will be looking to build on this section of the economy and there will be a

role for the strategic council in overseeing this on a continuing basis. The

move to personalised budgets for social care in particular provides an

opportunity for small businesses to meet the needs of people locally. We

are working with Choose Suffolk to ensure that Suffolk has universal high

speed broadband access to enable businesses in Suffolk to capitalise on

these opportunities.

40. To support this, we will need to prepare better quality information and

ensure that information reaches those who need it quicker. We will work

with partners to further develop capacity in communities as part of the ‘Your

Place’ approach. This will include officers being made available in localities

to work alongside local Councillors to encourage new ways of delivering

and funding local public services and training and development being made

accessible for those looking to take on services. This is not a formal locality

structure, but a culture and behavioural change for officers.

41. In developing options for divesting a service, we will involve as wide a range

of stakeholders as possible in the conversation helping to co-create

solutions and options instead of consulting once they have been designed.

This will enable us to tap into the creativity of others and will help to ensure

that services are fit for purpose and that they meet local needs.

42. We have heard that communities have to have many conversations with the

Council about services in their area and have to deal with different officers

from different departments, and there is a need for a more joined up


43. We will support Councillors to have conversations in their communities and

provide Councillors with a single officer point of contact in a locality. We will


bring together service leads from within the Council with members of the

VCS and SALC to agree a co-ordinated response on a place by place


Decision making

44. Finally, we have also been asked how we will make decisions about who to

divest to. We introduced some criteria for making divestment decisions in

the 2 December Council paper. It identified a set of criteria as a high level

means of assessing proposals. These were:

i. Priorities – which option contributes best to Suffolk’s priorities and


ii. Value for money – does it reduce costs quickly? Over the next three

years? Over a longer period?

iii. Accountability – can the customer hold the provider to account? Is there

choice in the market?

iv. Community support – does the proposal have support from a

geographical community or a community of interest?

v. Localised solution – does the proposal allow for local variations in

communities and markets?

vi. Impact on Suffolk economy – will the solution be locally provided? What

effect will it have on employment and skill levels in Suffolk?

vii. Achieve collaboration – does the proposal require/encourage other

providers to get involved?

viii. Sustainability – does the proposed provider have a track record in

service delivery already? How do they demonstrate their ability to run

the service?

ix. Quality, Regulation and Protection – Can quality be safeguarded?

What happens if the service folds? Will vulnerable and equality groups

be disproportionately affected?

45. These high level criteria remain and they can be developed to suit local

circumstances. For example, in the case of Country Parks, the following set

of criteria have been developed to assist with the evaluation of expressions

of interest and communicated to interested parties:

i. A reduction in cost to the Council.

ii. Whether the Council relinquishes all interest in site or not.

iii. Recreational objectives i.e. the Council would like the site to continue to

be available for community use.

iv. Environmental objectives – the fulfilment of any environmental

requirements e.g. Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

v. Assurance of long term continuity of provision:

a. legal arrangements of ownership;


b. protection of the site as a community asset;

c. does the proposed provider have a track record that demonstrates

their ability to run the service.

vi. Community support – does the proposal have support from a

geographical community or a community of interest?

vii. Partnership working – does the proposal encourage others to get

involved in delivering a solution?

viii. Deliverability – is the proposal robust? Can the organisation deliver?

46. The nature of the decision making process will be proportionate to scale

and risk and in line with the Council’s existing decision making

arrangements. Decisions, particularly local ‘Your Place’ decisions, will need

to be judgements based on the best information available and in the best

interests of the community.

47. The biggest risk decision for the Council is around the future of social care

for both adults and children, which is why these services are excluded from

the ‘Your Place’ discussions. The decision regarding the future of social

care services will come to the Council.

48. In the case of smaller decisions, for example the decision to dispose of a

small recreational site to a community, this could be made by the Director in

consultation with the local County Councillor and relevant Portfolio Holder.

In the case of major front line decisions, for example a new model for the

Council’s Library Service, this would be a decision for the Council following

a recommendation from the Cabinet.

49. It might be expected that the Cabinet recommend a framework giving the

level of Council funding for a future library service and recommendations on

the larger libraries. However, decisions on smaller libraries within place

discussions could be made by the local County Councillor and the relevant

Portfolio Holder as long as there had been a published, open discussion

with interested enterprises, community groups and local councils within the

area. The exact workings of this mechanism will need to be discussed by

the Community Capacity and Divestment Member Working Groups.

50. Decisions on the Council support services, e.g. legal services, ICT, Traded

Services, will be made by the Corporate Management Board.

The importance of social investment

51. Alongside the learning from the engagement process, the importance of

investment in the New Strategic Direction is increasingly apparent. The

Council needs to be prepared to ‘invest’ in Suffolk if the New Strategic

direction is to transform public service delivery.

52. There are examples where this is already happening. The Council has

invested �120,000 in the Suffolk School for Social Entrepreneurs, which is a

national initiative with local schools. The investment has supported bringing


the School to Suffolk and sponsoring students. There are twenty students

who will go through a one year development programme to translate their

ideas and creativity into social enterprises. It is not a qualification course,

rather the practical development of social enterprises in Suffolk.

53. As well as stimulating social entrepreneurs, the concept of social

investment is growing in importance and reputation. The use of Social

Impact Bonds, up front investment with returns linked to social outcomes, is

growing and the idea of using social investment vehicles to tackle hard-toresolve

issues such as youth re-offending, long term health problems such

as heart disease and dealing with the barriers faced by families with chaotic

lifestyles is something which merits consideration. However, as yet there

are few national examples of Social Impact Bonds and this concept is

unlikely to provide a solution in Suffolk sufficiently quickly.

54. Rather than spend time negotiating complex mechanisms for investment in

social outcomes, Suffolk could create a ‘Suffolk Social Investment Fund’,

potentially pooling funding, from sources such as the Big Society Bank or

local philanthropists, together with some Council budgets. This fund could

be used as ‘investment’ for projects based on proven concepts of early

intervention and prevention. This investment could be linked to a payment

by results contract and needs to identify the best and most successful form

of delivery, not just continuing investment in what has gone before.

55. The Suffolk Foundation could be a key partner in developing this fund and

there is a need to explore the opportunities with them. The Suffolk

Foundation already manages large scale social investment in Suffolk and

has built an endowed fund approaching �3million over the past three years

from donations and property and share transfers.

56. With this in mind the Council is working with the VCS to look at how it can

change its relationship with the sector to develop the highly effective, but

small scale interventions into more widespread models of delivery. One of

the problems associated with this is that the sector is not designed in a way

which enables it to benefit from large scale contracts. As well as looking at

our procurement methods, we can work with the VCS to support them to

develop consortia to bid for, manage and allocate work across the sector.

57. One model being considered would be to create a single organisation that

supports the wide range of VCS organisations to meet the true potential

offered by the diversity of the sector. We are discussing this idea with a

national organisation, the Social Investment Business, but also with

colleagues in the local voluntary sector. The level of change this could

achieve in terms of a different means of meeting service delivery challenges

in Suffolk might not be possible through investing in individual organisations

as they simply cannot achieve the scale.

58. The idea of a Suffolk owned and driven consortia headed by a single

organisation would be to:


i. Bid for contracts from the Council and / or be the accountable body for

each contract.

ii. Build, quality assure and performance manage a VCS supply chain of

local, regional and national organisations to deliver better, cheaper

services and outcomes.

iii. Source and organise financing from local and national sources,

foundations, high street banks and specialist social investors.

iv. In time, with developed supply chains, deliver more sophisticated,

outcome based contracts, Social Impact Bonds (and other preventative

activities funded by new forms of social investment). In the short term,

the purpose would be to enable more services to be delivered locally at

less cost and to a higher standard.

59. This idea needs further exploration and will be developed with partners

locally. A single organisation with a fixed structure is not the only option and

we will need to develop a flexible approach which provides a framework for

consortia to be formed quickly to bid for different aspects of service delivery

and one which works for Suffolk and is rooted in Suffolk.

60. Regardless of how investment is achieved, early intervention and

prevention are clearly desirable and the work completed by Graham Allen

MP indicates its importance going forward. The independent report ‘Early

Intervention: The Next Steps’ was accepted by Government and focuses on

how success or failure in early childhood has “profound economic

consequences” and calls for more private money to be channelled into early

intervention schemes to help children and families. The question will be how

to stimulate investment in early intervention, whilst funding current delivery

with fewer resources.

Progress from the Member Working Groups

61. In order to develop the thinking and the approach to implementing the New

Strategic Direction four Member Working Groups were established. The

following section feeds back on the work of these groups.

The Strategic Council – future governance and political management

62. The Strategic Council Member Working Group recognised that the context

in which the Council operates will change radically in the future.

A different environment

63. Over the next two years, different governance arrangements will be

introduced for the police and the healthcare system here in Suffolk as

elsewhere. Suffolk will have an elected Police and Crime Commissioner

and an as yet unknown number of new GP Commissioning Consortia.

Suffolk has been selected as one of the counties where the proposed

Health and Wellbeing Board (bringing together decisions on health and

wellbeing, and including social care) will be established in shadow form in


2011, one year earlier than required in legislation. The Local Enterprise

Partnership has already been given ministerial approval. These changes

will fundamentally change the way in which we will need to operate with our


64. The divestment of our services will also change the way in which the

Council needs to operate. Leadership will need to be dispersed across the

new entities that will be delivering services for the people of Suffolk on the

Councils behalf. In addition, increasing personalisation of budgets (i.e.

giving people money directly instead of packages of care as typically

happens now) means that more decisions will be taken by people for

themselves. Both of these factors mean that many of the kinds of decisions

taken now by the Council, the Cabinet and officers, will in future take place

either in divested organisations or by people taking responsibility for their

own lives and care.

65. Finally, the Strategic Council Member Working Group recognised that

difficult decisions about services will be taken over the coming months and

that it would be important for all Councillors to be seen to be taking part in

those. All of these factors signal the need for a radical look at the way in

which members lead and work.

A Public Service Board for Suffolk

66. Recognising the shifting environment in which the Council works, the

Strategic Council Member Working Group saw great merit in a Public

Service Board. In particular they supported the idea that the establishment

of the Health and Wellbeing Board in Suffolk offers an opportunity to

develop a Board where all the strategic partners could work together in

Suffolk. A Public Service Board will have power and influence, which comes

directly from its membership, its collective financial resource and its belief

that issues are better solved on a collaborative basis.

67. A Public Service Board would take some of the decisions currently taken by

the Cabinet, but in return would enable the Council to have an influence

over the decisions taken in other parts of the public sector. This shared

decision making will improve outcomes for the whole of Suffolk.

So what will the Strategic Council be like?

68. With the removal of service delivery, the Council will be a much more

political organisation; politics will be at the heart of what it does. The

Strategic Council Member Working Group felt that the Council should

therefore provide a greater ‘space’ for politics and for Councillors to come

together and debate issues and to hold partners and providers to account.

The group were attracted to a more ‘Parliamentary’ model which enabled

Councillors to both scrutinise and develop policy much in the same way that

Members of Parliament do in their roles on Select Committee.

69. The Strategic Council Member Working Group was very mindful of the need

not to build costly structures, but felt that a balance could be drawn that


supported the engagement of Councillors in policy development. The Task

and Finish Groups proposed as part of the new scrutiny arrangements

would fit well with this new approach.

70. Divestment of services will allow the Council and Councillors to be seen to

be much more on the side of residents and customers; the Council will no

longer have to also defend services. This desire to defend ‘our’ services

sometimes puts the Council into a position of conflict and means it cannot

be as strong an advocate for local people as it would want to. Divestment

makes it possible for the Council and Councillors to be stronger advocates

for residents.

71. However, divestment will not change the Council’s statutory responsibilities

even though they will be discharged in very different ways. One of the

important functions of the new strategic council will be to find real political

mechanisms to show that there is still democratic accountability in the new

system. This leads to changes in how we think about the role of the

Executive and the Council, and how Councillors represent their

communities and individual constituents.

72. There will still be a need for visible political leadership as currently provided

by the Cabinet, although the Strategic Council Member Working Group felt

that, as the Council and the Public Service Board will make some of the

decisions currently made by the Cabinet, this could be smaller and more

cross cutting than the tightly defined portfolios we have now.

73. The ideas developed by the Strategic Council Member Working Group will

be revisited in the future as changes in the Suffolk system take place over

the next couple of years. It is too early to take decisions on implementation

now, but the work completed to date set a clear context for the changes



74. The concept and principles of divestment are now well understood and the

work of the Divestment Member Working Group has focussed on tasks that

we can learn from and that will move divestment forward. These include:

i. Collecting and making available learning from the Early Adopters;

ii. providing support and challenge through both the officers’ and

members’ working groups;

iii. investigating and creating a range of support for those divesting,

particularly focusing on some of the technical questions being raised;


iv. providing access to information and guidance to those wanting to


75. The Divestment Member Working Group has offered challenge and critical

friend support, alongside a locality and community input.


Expertise and democratic accountability

76. Between them, the Councillors have considerable business expertise and a

detailed knowledge of their constituencies which has meant that they have

been well placed to develop divestment plans and pose some apposite

questions associated with the divestment strategy.

77. The Divestment Member Working Group has provided democratic

accountability and input to a process which might otherwise be deemed too

officer centric. The Divestment Member Working Group has offered advice

and guidance to inform the Council to bring an openness and accountability

to the development of the divestment process.

78. As elected members for their constituencies, the Divestment Member

Working Group has provided an opportunity to be open and transparent

about the process and has offered people the opportunity to participate in,

and influence, the policy making process.

Linking place and divestment

79. Going forward, it will be essential to link the Divestment Member Working

Group with the Community Capacity Member Working Group. Members of

these groups already attend each others’ meetings to ensure that

conversations happen once and that messages are not duplicated or


80. This approach links the three different types of divestment; those through

which we are learning about divestment (the Early Adopters); those driven

by the need for savings and income generation (the ‘big ideas’); and the

‘Your Place’ divestments (introduced earlier in the report) which are

intended to build social capital and capacity in the community to support

local services in the longer term.

Critical friend and challenge

81. The Divestment Member Working Group receives regular updates on the

‘big ideas’ and the Early Adopters and has provided critical friend challenge

to encourage the exploration of options and opportunities.

82. The Divestment Member Working Group has also taken the opportunity to

learn about the enablers to divestment such as HR, legal and procurement

and issues associated with property in order to help shape corporate

thinking. Using this information they have been able to develop a

knowledge that will be useful to the Council in the future.

83. The Divestment Member Working Group has highlighted issues that need to

be addressed when considering each individual divestment; in particular,

the need for clear principles behind divestment decisions, for example:


i. In what circumstances would the Council underwrite redundancy or

pension costs?

ii. When should the Council transfer properties?

iii. How does the Council address ‘State Aid’ and procurement issues?

84. The Divestment Member Working Group is clear that each individual

divestment presents its own set of issues and opportunities and in

implementing ideas there will be an element of learning as proposals are

taken forward.

85. Looking ahead, the Divestment Member Working Group will need to return

to the strategic divestment picture and link with the Community Capacity

Member Working Group. It will need to look at decision making processes

and oversee the overall progress of divestment. It will also need to work

with other groups across the Council to link divestment and prioritisation

around savings.

86. Finally, alongside internal challenge, the Council will need to look externally

for a critical friend and challenge role. To date, the challenge to ideas and

concepts has been largely internal and, whilst useful, does not make use of

the expertise which exists across the public sector and both inside and

outside Suffolk. Such a challenge group needs to bring new thinking into

Suffolk and point to examples of success and what is working elsewhere.

Managing progress and sharing learning

87. One of the priorities of the Early Adopter divestments has been to learn

from the preparation and planning stages and to socialise that learning with

other ‘Divestors’ and ‘Divestees’ in order to better understand the

opportunities and difficulties that might be associated with divestment.

88. Key to this learning will be bringing together advice and information from the

services which support and advise on divestment (HR, Legal, Procurement,

Finance and ICT). This needs to sit along learning and experience from

elsewhere. The learning gathered to date is being collated and will be made

widely available. It will include:

i. Designing and planning your business

ii. Vehicles and models for divestment

iii. HR questions answered – dispelling the myths

iv. ICT questions answered – dispelling the myths

v. Property principles

vi. Procurement – when and when not to procure

vii. Funding your enterprise – grant aid and grant-in aid

viii. Social investment

ix. Contacts for divestment


89. This is not a definitive list, but gives an indication of the information that will

be made available by the end of March 2011.

90. As outlined earlier in the report, this information needs to be constantly

revisited and updated. Learning from the external challenge is fed into

divestment plans.

91. The next stage in the Divestment process is to implement the Early Adopter

projects, to ensure learning is embedded for further divestment projects and

to provide advice and recommendations on ways forward and means of

unblocking barriers.

Progress on the Big Divestment Ideas

Health and Care Trusts

92. Work to determine the approach to implementing Health and Care Trusts

has now begun. A tender exercise was held in January 2011 and the

Council has now engaged the Office of Public Management (OPM) for thirty

working days to take forward a specific piece of work; engaging

stakeholders in the development and appraisal of options for the future of

health and social care. This piece of work is designed to provide an

independent assessment of potential models for Health and Care Trusts,

how they might work and to develop relationships across Suffolk to support

implementation. Specifically, it will develop and assess options for system

redesign and outsourcing of health and social care services in Suffolk and


i. Investigate approaches being developed in other areas to integrate

health and social care delivery and the potential links with Health and

Wellbeing Boards and GP Commissioning Consortia;

ii. build on the work already underway to support local authorities and their

partners to integrate health and social care;

iii. look at the levels at which different types of services are most

effectively and efficiently provided i.e. what is most appropriate to be

delivered at county level, where does it make sense to deliver at a more

local level and what this would look like?;

iv. provide an analysis of the potential of different types of agencies to take

on delegated responsibilities, and an assessment of the business

viability issues and risks (and therefore the costs) associated with

different approaches;

v. outline the statutory social care functions that local authorities and

partners must provide;

vi. present evidence about effective systems that promote and enable

personalisation; and

vii. address the implications for the statutory accountabilities and

democratic mandate of the Council.


93. The first Care Stakeholder Engagement event was held on 8 February 2011

bringing together over forty participants from the voluntary and community

sector, health organisations and the county, district and borough councils to

contribute ideas around what any model might look like, who might be

involved and how it might be constituted to provide the best outcomes for


94. A second event is to take place on 22 March 2011. By this time, OPM will

have turned the outputs from the workshop and interviews from

stakeholders across Suffolk into a set of options. Proposals for a way

forward will be brought to the Council for consideration.

Integrated Highways Service

95. Highways services in Suffolk are currently delivered by a mixture of inhouse

and external provision. This has worked well, but further

improvements and efficiencies will require a more unified service. This will

ensure that the most efficient use is made of people, plant and materials

within the service as a whole, as well as reducing the processes involved in

conceiving, planning, designing and constructing maintenance and

improvement work. New arrangements for Suffolk would come into effect

from 1 April 2013, when current contracts expire.

96. The key outcomes for Suffolk are to reduce costs and support the Suffolk

economy and, before selecting a preferred option, it is important to

understand how potential providers believe the key outcomes can be


97. There are several possible options for the divested service. One of these is

for a joint procurement, and potentially a joint service, with Norfolk County

Council. A process of formal market engagement is therefore planned,

which will be undertaken jointly by both Councils.

98. A Programme Board for Suffolk has been set up and discussions between

Portfolio Holders in Norfolk and Suffolk are being held. If both authorities

decide to proceed with a joint option, then formal joint programme

governance will be established.

99. Option evaluation and formal decision making will need to be completed

relatively quickly, whether or not a joint arrangement is selected. The

formal procurement process will need to begin later this year. Cabinet will

be asked to agree the form of the highways divestment and to approve the

start of the formal procurement process.

Towards a Learning Trust

100. Work on the development of a Learning Trust in Suffolk comes on the back

of the Government’s plans published in its White Paper, “The Importance of

Teaching”. This sets out a strategic role for local authorities as the


“champions” for Educational Excellence, parents and families and

vulnerable pupils.

101. It suggests that local authorities will be freed up to discharge these

responsibilities in the best possible way, with far less top down prescription.

It is important to recognise that statutory roles around place planning,

admissions, transport and finance remain with the local authority.

102. Whilst school budgets have been given some protection from spending

cuts, budgets that support local authority functions have seen big

reductions; the Inclusive Schools Improvement Service budget has been

halved by loss of funding. With this in mind, the Council has to develop a

different model of achieving its education priorities, and in particular to

continue to raise the attainment of children in Suffolk.

103. The Learning Trust model would incorporate the Learning and Improvement

Service, Infrastructure Team and Schools Finance. It would cover all

statutory support to schools and be focused on the support to those

institutions from 3 to 19 providing for learning. It would not be a provider,

but a commissioner of services offering support and challenge to the Suffolk

education system.

104. In terms of the development of the Learning Trust model, the new Learning

and Improvement Service will be launched in April 2011. It is proposed that

the Learning and Improvement Service, Infrastructure Team, and Schools

Finance are brought together as a Learning Trust within the Council by April

2012. A Learning Trust would then be developed outside the Council by

April 2013, allowing time for governance and accountability issues to be


105. Key issues for consideration in the development of the Learning Trust will


i. Governance - how do schools, elected members, and other have a say

in the Learning Trust?

ii. Accountability – how does the Council still remain accountable for these

core statutory functions?

iii. Scope – some issues around what is in scope of the Learning Trust,

such as aspects of early Years and Special Education Needs (SEN).

Progress on the Early Adopters

106. A number of ‘Early Adopters’ divestment projects have been chosen

through which we will learn about the challenges, issues and opportunities

afforded by divestment. The Early Adopters have been chosen because

they represent a good cross section of the business, but also because they

each pose very different challenges and because they are lower risk.

107. Each Early Adopter is managed by a lead from the appropriate service and

is supported by a lead officer from the corporate centre of the Council. This


has allowed day to day challenge and support; the establishment of links

across to other services and divestments; and the unblocking of potential

issues arising from the divestment process.

108. The Early Adopters are:

i. Suffolk Heritage Trust: Taking forward an opportunity to link the Council

heritage services (archaeology and records) with the Museum for East

Anglian Life to create a Heritage Trust for Suffolk.

ii. Registrars: An opportunity to further modernise and streamline this

service, with a view to becoming self supporting to be fully divested.

iii. Learning & Enterprise Access Points (LEAP): The opportunity to create

a Suffolk LEAP Co-operative comprising of UCS and other adult

education providers to provide a more ‘joined up’ adult learning and

skills service external to the Council.

iv. ‘Realise’ – adult learning, careers advice and guidance: Creating a

social enterprise to provide adult learning and job opportunities for

people with learning disabilities (includes Whitehouse Enterprises and

Growing Places).

v. Outdoor Education Centres: The opportunity to make these services

available through external providers, including colleges and other

charitable trusts.

vi. Suffolk Traded Services: the opportunity for one of the Councils most

successful income generating business to become a wholly owned,

arms length business which will allow it to grow and increase its return

on investment. The Divestment Working Group were supportive of this


109. As outlined earlier, the Divestment Member Working Group has been

working through some of the questions raised around principles of

divestment and it is clear that there will not be a ‘one size fits all’ solution.

The Council will need to consider its approach to procurement, its views on

property ownership and its ability to work flexibly, quickly and creatively to

take advantage of opportunities. It will need to consider how it deals with

regulation and blockages so that divestment can be implemented as quickly

and cost effectively as possible.

110. This approach means the Council will need to be more risk aware, but less

risk averse. The Divestment Member Working Group will need to champion

this change.

The development of ‘Your Place’

111. Alongside the ‘big ideas’ and Early Adopters, a number of services have

been identified as being more suited to a local community based approach

to divestment. These are collectively referred to as ‘Your Place’ and could

include those services currently subject to consultation, such as Libraries,

as well as those facing budget cuts in 2011/12, such as Country Parks,

Youth Clubs and School Crossing Patrols.


112. The concept of ‘Your Place’ is introduced earlier in the report and the

ambition is to have a co-ordinated conversation about the breadth of

services in a place rather than a series of unconnected discussions which

may prohibit creative local problem solving.

113. Currently the different services referred to above are seeking expressions of

interest from local communities. These could be ideas and initial proposals

put forward by town and parish councils, community groups, members of

staff or private sector organisations and are likely to vary from place to

place. In some localities there will be multiple services and expressions of

interest which will require considerable community development resource,

whereas in some localities there may be limited additional resource


114. We are already starting to see discussions taking place in local

communities about different use of local assets to provide services. In Eye,

for example, conversations have started looking at the number of council,

and the wider public sector, buildings in the town and how these could be

used to deliver public services in a different way. These discussions include

the local Councillor as a convenor of local and council interests.

115. It is envisaged that Councillors would play a central role in communities in

taking these ideas from expressions of interest to enabling local solutions.

116. The idea of ‘Your Place’ emphasises the important relationship between

divestment and community capacity and the practical development of ‘Your

Place’ is outlined below under the work of the Community Capacity Member

Working Group.

Community Capacity

117. The Community Capacity Member Working Group started with an

investigation into community capacity building as a concept, which

concluded with an agreement to an approach based on a model developed

by the Carnegie Trust. The model, from the publication ‘A Manifesto for

Rural Communities’ centres on three principles, equally applicable to urban

and rural settings:

i. Growing the capacity of local people, agencies and professionals who

support communities; building strong social networks founded on high

levels of volunteering and skilled support.

ii. Enhancing community assets of all kinds.

iii. Effective community led planning and stronger local governance.

118. By ‘community assets’, it is important to emphasise that this does not simply

mean buildings and the box below explains the ‘7 Capitals Framework’

adopted by the Carnegie Trust.


The Seven Capitals Framework

119. The Community Capacity Member Working Group has looked for a

mechanism for turning the concept into a practical reality and the ‘Your

Place’ approach, being suggested for divestment of locally based services,

presents a real opportunity in this regard.

120. For it to be successful, ‘Your Place’ will need to bring together all the New

Strategic Direction themes. It is a local, political process, so will need to

ensure that democracy is at its heart, by Councillors taking a lead. We will

need capacity in communities to take the services on and will need to

support the process by putting in place some of the functions that have

been identified for the strategic council such as market making, information

and analysis and a different kind of democratic support.

121. ‘Your Place’ is a very practical way of taking forward the community

capacity building New Strategic Direction theme and the box below sets out

how ‘Your Place’ would work in practice:


The ‘Your Place’ process

122. Currently ideas and expressions of interest are coming into the Council

through a variety of different routes. This is to be encouraged although

there is a need to provide a single point of collation to ensure that these are

not lost. By creating a master list for all ‘Your Place’ expressions of interest,

it will enable officers to interrogate the data by locality and develop a coordinated


123. The Council is working with SALC and partners from the VCS congress to

review all ‘Your Place’ expressions of interest and identify resources to work

with Councillors to develop these expressions of interest into different

models of service delivery in localities.

124. We are starting to receive requests to meet with local community leaders

and representatives and in some places conversations are already

underway. For example, in Debenham, discussions have already

commenced with the ‘Youth Club Support Group’ to look at the future

options for the provision of the youth club in Debenham. The initial meeting,

involved local residents, the Parish Council, Church Group, Young Suffolk

and the local Councillor supported by officers. These discussions need to

be joined up with conversations taking place about the future of the library

in Debenham.

125. In other areas, including Bungay and Long Melford, we are being contacted

to talk about local services including Libraries and Country Parks. In

Stowmarket, we have been invited to meet with the newly formed

Stowmarket Town Centre Partnership to discuss the implications of the

current reduction of public sector spending and opportunities for “brokering”

the transfer of activities to the Partnership and other organisations. In

Lowestoft, local youth organisations, have expressed interest in taking on

local services and assets.

126. Other areas of Suffolk have put in place new partnerships to drive

improvements in public service delivery and social outcomes. These include

the ‘One Haverhill’ partnership and the ‘Total Brandon’ initiative. Both bring

together all three tiers of local government, other public sector partners and

community representatives to look at how services are delivered in the area

and influence future delivery. In Brandon, this has included ‘resource

mapping’ which looks at how the Council spends its money locally and what

proportion of this money could be spent differently to achieve better


outcomes. This discussion sits alongside conversations on the future of

assets such as the Country Park and Community Centre / Library in


127. It is recognised that some geographical areas are better equipped than

others and that there may be communities which require additional resource

to grow community capacity. With that in mind, the Council and its partners

are also looking at where there are no expressions of interest and will work

with the divestment groups and the local Councillor, or Councillors, to take a

problem solving role, identifying and overcoming barriers.

128. The role of the Councillor is central to the development of community based

solutions. Where there is more than one interested party, the Councillor can

encourage collaboration and potentially avoid the need for costly

competition processes locally.

129. Community engagement is a core theme that runs through the whole New

Strategic Direction programme and the Council will develop officers to

support Councillors in their localities. The need for new skills and

behaviours for officers has been a theme in the work of the Strategic

Council and Democracy Member Working Groups. The New Strategic

Direction represents a departure from the traditional service based methods

of operation.

130. Once a local solution has been developed, it will be important to ensure

future sustainability. Council support will be needed through the

implementation phase and, although this support will reduce over time, the

‘Your Place’ approach represents a new and different relationship between

the Council and local communities which is at the heart of the New Strategic

Direction. Looking ahead, this is an opportunity for true local determination

for local public services, where decision making around the shape of local

services is taken locally and where the Council funding could be offered to

local communities for them to make the decisions about how it is spent.


131. The focus of the Democracy Member Working Group has been on how best

to support Councillors in exercising their democratic role as the Council

moves forward with implementing the New Strategic Direction. It is looking

at the role of the Councillor in an environment where services currently

delivered by the Council are delivered by a diverse range of external

enterprises, following divestment.

132. To date, the Democracy Member Working Group has linked its work to the

approach being taken by the Local Government Leadership’s 21st Century

Councillor Programme. This has enabled the Democracy Member Working

Group to access funded support from Local Government Leadership.

133. Using the 21st Century Councillor Model to guide the process, a Role

Profile has been developed for Councillors. This profile has now been

consulted on, and has been generally supported by members. Each


element of the role profile has been linked to associated skills and


134. Having identified the kind of skills and knowledge Councillors are likely to

need, we need to put in place a training and development offer. There are

three aspects to this:

i. A practical guide for all Councillors for bringing communities, local

organisations and local social entrepreneurs / influencers together to

find alternative ways of providing local services.

ii. Designing and delivering a programme of practical skills training for all

Councillors in delivering change, based on what they say they need.

This needs to include exposure to development opportunities that will

support culture change; this will involve a degree of integration between

Member and officer development.

iii. Learning by practising – a system for helping Councillors to learn by

trying new things together. The introduction of a ‘buddying’ system

could help with this.

135. Local Government Leadership colleagues are clearly interested in what we

are doing in Suffolk and have agreed to provide further support.


136. Although a relatively short amount of time has elapsed since the last report

to Council on 2 December, the implementation of the New Strategic

Direction has gathered pace.

137. This pace needs to be quickened if the benefits of new ways of working are

to avoid the need for crude service cuts in future years. It is inevitable that

there will need to be reductions in service as a result of loss of funding and

cost pressures over the next four years totalling between �110million and

�125million. The New Strategic Direction aims to keep these reductions to a

minimum by identifying new ways of working, new vehicles for delivery and

reducing the overheads of the Council.

138. Key features of this include the ‘big idea’ divestments which account for

large sums of money and also local place based solutions which hand

control for local services to local communities. Social investment can impact

on and reduce future demand pressures and provide new partnerships and

models for solving some of the big challenges we face in Suffolk.

139. To achieve transformation change, it is clear that the Council needs to

change. There is a need for a fundamental cultural and behavioural change

for officers of the Council and a shift to greater locality working. Our current

approaches will not work in the future and we need to start behaving as the

new organisation we want to become. There will be further reports back to

the Council on progress being made as well as reports on the decisions

which lie ahead.


Sources of Further Information

a) Council report 24 September 2009 agenda item 8; Implementing the New

Strategic Direction.

b) Cabinet report 20 July 2010 agenda item 10; Implementing the New

Strategic Direction: A Model for Reshaping the Council.

c) Minutes of the Cabinet held in the Council Chamber, Endeavour House,

Ipswich on 20 July 2010.

d) Council report 23 September 2010 agenda item 7; Implementing the New

Strategic Direction.

e) Minutes of the Council meeting held in the Council Chamber, Endeavour

House, Ipswich on 23 September 2010.

f) Council report 2 December 2010 agenda item 8; New Strategic Direction


g) Minutes of the Council meeting held in the Council Chamber, Endeavour

House, Ipswich on 2 December 2010.

h) Localism Bill



i) Health and Social Care Bill



j) Education Bill



k) Early Intervention: the Next Steps – An Independent Report to HM

Government (