So what does being crowned ‘Cooperative Council of the Year’ actually mean?

Cllr Iain Malcolm, South Tyneside Council Leader.

Cllr Iain Malcolm, South Tyneside Council Leader

As South Tyneside Council are announced as Co-operative Council of the Year 2019 we talk to Council Leader, Cllr Iain Malcolm, about just what the accolade means.

With the public sector facing unprecedented financial challenges, the vital role played by volunteers, community groups and other third sector organisations is becoming increasingly important. That is why we took the decision in 2016 to actively develop voluntary community partnerships and co-operatives in South Tyneside, adding a cabinet portfolio to champion this important area of work.

A co-operative council is one that works in partnership with local community organisations to get the maximum from all of the resources available for the area. In doing this, it builds the four key values of honesty, openness, fairness and social responsibility into day to day business.

While government funding fails to keep pace with demand pressures we have worked with community groups to attract alternative funding to South Tyneside.

Our Funding Forum shares information about sources of external funding and identifies areas of collaboration. Our Community Funding Web Portal can be accessed by anyone in South Tyneside who wants to explore funding opportunities. This helps community groups maximise funding – often opening up options traditionally closed to local authorities. Our aim is to maximise the money coming into South Tyneside, from any source, so that it can be used to make a positive difference to people’s lives.

South Tyneside is unique in its level of civic and community pride. Local people genuinely care about the place they live, their local community and are willing to roll their sleeves up and help out where they can.

Over 1500 community and volunteer groups work across our towns and neighbourhoods, making a difference to our local area every single day.  It is this army of volunteers in the third sector that can help us, as a council, to deliver the services that our residents rely on.

Social action makes a huge positive impact across a range of social, cultural, environmental and economic issues. Volunteering can empower people and help communities to fulfil their potential. It is only right that we do all we can to support those who play a part in supporting others..

Council services collaborate with service-users, residents, local businesses, local third sector groups and other partners to promote community pride and support people to take part in activities. Our new campaign, #LoveSouthTyneside promotes social action, from raising awareness of community group events to encouraging small actions such as helping a neighbour, recycling, sharing a photo or signposting friends and family to services and opportunities.

The third sector support organisation, Inspire South Tyneside, is a #LoveSouthTynseide ambassador and has introduced an innovative volunteer passport, enabling people to demonstrate the transferable skills they have that they can bring to other volunteering opportunities.

Our local health partners have recognised the potential of the campaign to impact on health and wellbeing and are collaborating with us in growing the campaign even further, demonstrating to health professionals why South Tyneside is an outstanding place to live, invest and bring up families

Research by the IFS confirmed that South Tyneside is the third hardest hit council in the country for real-term budget reductions for the period 2010 to 2016.

With almost half of our budget gone, we cannot simply maintain the status quo. We need to look at new models of delivery so that sustainable services can continue to be provided for our citizens.

Our community asset transfer is a great example of our cooperative and collaborative work. Against a background of cuts in central government funding, South Tyneside Council asked for community support to keep open the Borough’s community facilities which include once leisure centre, one youth facility, 12 community associations and four branch libraries. As a result, all of the facilities have been saved from closure and are going from strength to strength as services become more aligned to what individual communities want. 

South Tyneside has been unfairly treated by central government and has borne the brunt of austerity measures – not just in terms of cuts to our local government grant but across the board. Hard working families are feeling the strain and individuals, including our most vulnerable, are suffering hardship. It is with great pride that we accept this award which is a testament to those in our communities who’ve stepped forward to support our people and our place.

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