Ashford has decided on a commercial strategy rather than continue to find savings from service cuts, and with the council as catalyst is witnessing inward investment on an unprecedented scale – some £668m, of which £520m is within the town centre. The council seeks self-sufficiency by 2018-19 and actively promotes growth having awarded permission for its largest ever housing scheme, 5,750 homes at Chilmington Green. It has bought International House, the town’s largest office block, which is delivering a 12.6% return, and a wholly owned council property company is letting properties, which in 2016-17 contributed £70,000 to the general fund.
Barking & Dagenham LBC
Barking & Dagenham is facing both huge challenges and opportunities and is forging a new relationship with citizens. Its independent Growth Commission gave practical recommendations that are now being implemented. ‘Ambition 2020’ is a radical reshaping of the council based on the delivering these recommendations and new engagement with residents. The council is developing transport schemes to exploit the borough’s proximity to the City of London. It has established its Reside company to offer affordable rented homes and also allows council tenants to own up to 70% of their home. It also has London’s first art-based enterprise zone for artists, entrepreneurs and creatives who are otherwise leaving London.
In financially challenging times, Luton has assumed strategic leadership to deliver investment to improve the town. It has secured funding to drive health and wellbeing improvements, create jobs and enhance prosperity through the Luton Investment Framework, which seeks to attract £1.5bn of investment. Successes include a 160ha enterprise zone, creating 7,200 jobs; town centre development proposals including mixed-use residential, entertainment and retail developments; a 25% increase in new businesses; full-time employment up by 1,300; and earnings rising by 3.4%. The council benefits from owning Luton Airport, which is undergoing a £110m upgrade, and a £200m passenger transit link is being built to the town’s station.
Newark & Sherwood DC
People, place, prosperity and public service are Newark & Sherwood’s four themes. Economic priorities have included securing a £7m grant towards a southern link road. The council’s ‘Think Big’ loan fund has lent £1.29m to local businesses, while the authority has also invested £5.5m in a visitor centre commemorating the English civil war and £10m on a new sports and fitness centre. The council has moved into a new £7.6m headquarters co-located with other public services. It has built up £16m of reserves to underpin commercial and investment strategies and plans to create a company to build market housing.
Southwark has made 10 ‘fairer future’ promises to residents. Examples of its progress towards these include being close to its 2,000 apprenticeships target and the UK’s largest council house building programme - so far it has built 360 council homes with a target of 11,000 by 2043. The council is also tackling high childhood obesity rates by delivering free healthy school meals for all primary school children and offering residents free swimming and gym use. Ofsted has rated 90% of primary schools ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’. Southwark has reduced back-office costs and last year increased council tax for only the first time in eight years.
The council is guided in all it does by its Big Plans, Bright Future strategy, developed with its staff. It has delivered annual savings of £52m and has a strong track record in sound financial management. An invest-to-save programme includes £14m put into low energy street lights, and it is saving £400,000 by bringing looked-after children back to the borough. Targeted investments include £17m in a 125-room Hilton hotel and a £10m joint venture to restore and operate the town’s Globe Theatre. The council says it can overachieve its plans because staff “bring our hearts and souls to work”.
A word from the award’s sponor
We would like to say a huge congratulations to all those who have been shortlisted for the 2018 LGC Awards. Zurich Municipal is particularly proud to support the Council of the Year Award as we know how much time, effort and teamwork all the entrants have to put in. When local authorities realise their vision for positive change, the benefits are felt by thousands, if not millions, of people. This means everybody wins. For more information visit www.zurichmunicipal.co.uk
Andrew Jepp, managing director, Zurich Municipal
Mark Lloyd, chief executive, Local Government Association
Steven Pleasant, chief executive Tameside MBC
Matt Prosser, chief executive, Dorset Councils Partnership
Barry Quirk, chief executive, Kensington & Chelsea RBC
Martin Reeves, chief executive, Coventry City Council
Joanne Roney, chief executive, Manchester City Council