Today, the DCN publishes its evidence to the Communities & Local Government Select Committee on Community Budgets.
The DCN and its members have been strong supporters of the Government’s community budgets programme. Among’st participating district councils there has been and remains a strong commitment to the ambitions and principles of Community Budgets and a united recognition of the need for public services to be reformed to improve outcomes and reduce overall costs.
Our evidence demonstrates that districts have been full and active participants in the programme, particularly the Whole Essex Community Budget Pilot. The evidence clearly demonstrates that better outcomes and savings can only be secured through the integration of frontline district services across a range of areas including housing, community safety and benefits. The evidence provides a number of observations and recommendations to ensure districts continue to play a full and active role in the further roll-out across two-tier areas.
Whilst districts believe Community Budgets will lead to improved public services and better outcomes for local residents, there remains less clarity on whether districts (in the short-term) would be net contributors or net beneficiaries; particularly in relation to cashable savings. The DCN recognises that other parts of the public sector will be better enabled to secure their efficiencies and savings because of district involvement and that collective savings will be achieved; but this will be at the districts’ expense.
This is not a plea for more resource to be channelled to districts, but we call for recognition from Government of the specific contribution from districts in its future funding deliberations, especially for 2015/16. It is imperative that public sector partners work closely with Whitehall to develop a robust formula that can take these factors into consideration in relation to both the local distribution and reallocation of total and individual agency savings. The financial frameworks of community budgets need to convincing, robust and fair; correctly incentivise all public sector agencies to take part; and engender organisational commitment in the short, medium and long-term if they are to achieve their worthwhile aims.
Steve Atkinson, DCEN Chairman said
‘Our discussions with districts demonstrated that they have much to bring to the Community Budgets table and, if integration is to lead to improved outcomes and savings, districts must and will play a full and active part. In taking forward Community Budgets, it is important that financial frameworks correctly incentivise districts to take part. We ask that Whitehall and wider public sector partners acknowledge the vital role of local authorities in leading these programs to secure savings for a range of agencies, and not doubly penalise district councils through successive spending rounds and the unfair recycling and distribution of agency savings.’
Cllr Tony Jackson, DCN Executive Lead for New Ways of Working said,
‘Community Budgets will clearly play a central role in the future of public service delivery. The improvements in outcomes and savings they can generate make greater public service integration a priority for local authorities. The DCN submission provides valuable insights into the experiences of district councils and sensible recommendations on taking forward Community Budgets across two-tier areas.’