By Cllr Paul Stewart
Sunderland City Council
The extremely challenging circumstances currently facing local government provide an impetus for evermore radical and diverse approaches to the delivery of services and development of economic opportunities that are of practical benefit in our communities and for local people.
The main driver of this approach here in Sunderland is a belief that greater devolution to both the regions and local authorities will allow us to emerge from this period in a new, better, more responsive and efficient form, being at the centre of a new partnership between the Council, its partners and our local communities.
This will require a need to move closer to our communities, understand what works or doesn’t work for them in achieving their aspirations for education, skills and employment and shape new, relevant, local responses together. In Sunderland this thinking lies at the heart of a new way of working which the Council is developing with its partners and communities, working collectively to achieve a better future for the City.
The better outcomes we all want in economic growth, education and health cannot be achieved on our own. They require each of us to play our part: as a parent, an employer, a neighbour, an apprentice, a teacher, a social worker or a Councillor. The challenge is to mobilise, engage and shape a future built on working together across communities, businesses, public services, as well as supporting and encouraging local cooperative and mutual developments and the voluntary sector – all with the aim of developing more sustainable local communities.
As a Council, we need to:
- Get beyond just service provision to understand community priorities.
- Enable communities, mutuals, businesses, employees, and partner organisations to shape the economic, educational and health priorities for Sunderland.
- Work with the local people to determine what role each of us will need to play to achieve these outcomes.
- Be open to new ways in which we can play our part in addressing the peoples’ priorities and assess whether the action we are taking is effective.
Our aim is to develop a plan and vision with the people of Sunderland. This will be shaped over the coming year by an extensive programme of participation and engagement. Our hope is to gather feedback that will challenge our current way of thinking and working, helping to set the right priorities moving forward. This approach being firmly rooted in our cooperative values and principles, ensuring the basis of our new engagement with partners and communities though a common thread of being Decent – Proud – Together.
I’m convinced that greater devolution will release more local energy, more local opportunity and more local innovation to shape bespoke solutions to pressing local education, skills and employment issues. However I’m even more excited at the prospect of achieving these through engaging local people in finding and delivering these solutions within their own local communities.