AT the meeting of Thurrock Council on Thursday, Cllr Phil Anderson (Stanford East & Corringham Town) led the Conservative group in calling for community, faith, and voluntary groups to be given a greater role in delivering council services. Cllr Anderson said:
“These groups have an excellent track record in delivering value for money, innovation, and real community engagement. If we fail to make use of these qualities now, we will be leaving some of our best players on the substitutes bench. I welcome the openness shown by Cllr Lynn Worrall (cabinet member for communities) in agreeing to support a motion put forwards by the opposition. It is refreshing to see that the administration recognises the ideas and experience which the Conservative group has to offer.”
The motion was passed unanimously, meaning that Thurrock Council is now committed to setting up a series of pilot projects transferring council services to community, voluntary, and faith groups. A copy of the speech is attached:
Motion debate for Full Council 15 Sept 2010 – Cllr P Anderson
Motion 1: “That this Council should invite proposals from community, voluntary, and faith groups to take over the running of selected council services in a series of pilot schemes. The schemes identified should cover a range of different services and areas of Thurrock. Proposals should be invited on the basis that they will both save public money compared to current arrangements and provide an equal or better level of service to residents.”
I would like to start by commending the excellent work that voluntary, community, and faith groups already do for the people of Thurrock. Whether it is helping disabled people, working with children and young adults, or supporting families in need, their dedication and commitment adds a huge amount to the life of our community. And we must recognise that the Council already supports some of this work financially.
But I do have a concern, and it is this. At a time of great financial pressure, this authority may be tempted to retreat back to its bunker in Grays and cut off anything which does not fit a narrow definition of a core, Council delivered service. This would be a mistake for two reasons:
Firstly, in my last speech I showed how community, faith, and voluntary groups have an excellent track record in delivering value for money, innovation, and real community engagement. If we fail to make use of these qualities, we will be leaving some of our best players on the substitutes bench.
Secondly, we know that this Council has been working hard to build up trust and effective communication with the communities we serve. If we retreat now to a scaled down and centralised model of delivering public services, all of those gains could easily be lost.
In this motion I want to suggest a different approach. Rather than retreating from partnership with faith, voluntary, and community groups, we should seize this opportunity to bring them into the very heart of how we operate. Services that were previously delivered by the Council or its private contractors must be opened up to allow these groups to do what they best: delivering great value, innovative, community focussed results at street level.
I therefore move that this Council sets up a series of pilot projects in which we prove the concept that core Council services can be successfully delivered by voluntary, community and faith groups. The pilots should cover a range of services and different areas of Thurrock. No community should be missed out, and no council function should be declared off limits. In the current financial climate it will be essential that all projects demonstrate that they can achieve real savings as one of their benefits. Some will undoubtedly be based on the excellent examples that already exist. Others must be conceived on the basis that they will cause new organisations and social entrepreneurs to emerge.
No one should doubt that Thurrock Council will emerge from the next few years looking very different to how it is today. If the result is a diminished, inward focussed, self protecting authority then the clear losers will be the people of Thurrock. But if the future involves a Council with a smaller core but a wider reach, embracing genuine partnership with the community it serves, we may yet succeed in turning this challenge into a real opportunity.