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Gateshead looks set to be the first council in the country to put its leading councillors at the heart of a new sys...
Gateshead looks set to be the first council in the country to put its leading councillors at the heart of a new system to deliver services to individual neighbourhoods

Cabinet members at the council will be responsible for looking at problems of communities across the borough and helping deliver solutions under plans that were agreed today.

The council has ten cabinet members who currently have responsibility for services such as housing or transport. Under the new proposals, five of them would each take responsibility for one of the council's local areas while the other five will lead on services.

Council leader Mick Henry said that this next stage in transforming local neighbourhoods would strengthen the role of both ward councillors and local people. 'These plans are a major change to the way local government has traditionally worked, and we hope it will help us make a step change in serving our neighbourhoods,' he said.

The five cabinet members will each chair an area forum made up of local ward councillors and representatives of other partners like the police and health services, as well as local groups such as young people and the elderly. The exact make up of each forum could vary as local people will get the chance to influence how it operates.

Gateshead worked on the plans with the Young Foundation, a national organisation that champions social innovation and has a track record of working to empower neighbourhoods. They acted as a critical friend on the scheme.

The new arrangements will give a political lead to the council's neighbourhood management and ties in closely with innovative ways of delivering services to meet local needs. The council is already piloting a scheme in its South area to ensure it is cleaner and better to live in.

Traditional split roles of street cleaning, graffiti removal and gardening are being replaced by teams that take on all these tasks and respond more quickly to local needs.

The council has had a system of neighbourhood management, based on five local areas, since 2001 which it revamped two years ago to create forums headed by the council's senior officers.

Mr Henry added: 'These new forums led by cabinet members are not just talking shops - this is about delivering real power to local communities to have a greater say in how their neighbourhood is managed.

'At the same time, it strengthens the role of ward councillors to become champions for their local community and have more influence on how services are delivered.'

The neighbourhood plans were agreed by the council's cabinet this week and now need to be approved by the full council in November. If retified, the scheme will go for discussion with partner organisations and local people before coming into action next June.

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