Commentary on LGC’s new Council of the Year.
Today’s top accolade: Council of the Year 2019 revealed
Today’s top advice: Catherine Staite: How councils can assess their governance
Today’s top pledge: Hammond commits £445m to ‘brain belt’ homes
Wigan MBC won the coveted Council of the Year accolade at last night’s LGC Awards.
It perhaps came as no surprise that the metropolitan borough has finally been named council of the year, with its famed Deal perhaps constituting the sector’s most coherent response to the dominant theme of the decade – austerity.
Chief executive Alison McKenzie-Folan savoured success in her first few weeks in the job alongside leader David Molyneux (Lab). However, the two of them will no doubt be grateful for their respective predecessors Donna Hall and Lord Peter Smith (Lab) whose legacy will live long in local government.
The following 10 quotes give a flavour of Wigan’s journey.
“We have really gripped reform and embed it in all that we do, ensuring our growth is inclusive. However, we still have loads to do. It’s exciting and challenging and we don’t have time to mess about.”
Ms Hall sets out the five principles behind devolution in Greater Manchester, June 2017.
“In a nutshell The Deal is a strengths-based model of service co-design with residents and community groups. We explain simply, clearly and repeatedly that we have £160m less and we need to work differently with them to drive out increasing demand for public services.
“We stopped doing things to people. It doesn’t work and costs a fortune. We started doings with people.”
Ms Hall explains The Deal for LGC’s Idea Exchange, August 2017.
“We look back with huge relief that we acted so early on and decisively. Sadly for the likes of Northamptonshire, and possibly others, the damage wreaked by cuts to local government may be beyond repair.”
Ms Hall writes for LGC about how Wigan’s Deal has ensured the council was spared the fate of Northamptonshire CC, February 2018.
“[He is] the glue that held Greater Manchester together… Without his leadership we would not have achieved a devolution deal with more decisions now being taken locally than anywhere else in England.”
Manchester City Council leader Sir Richard Leese (Lab) pays tribute to Lord Peter Smith as he steps down as Wigan’s leader after 27 years, May 2018.
“The best possible appointment.”
Andrew Foster, chief executive of Wrightington, Wigan & Leigh NHS Foundation Trust, comments on the news that Ms Hall was to become accountable officer of Wigan Clinical Commissioning Group in addition to her council role, in a move to boost service integration, June 2018.
“You have to invest in the civic infrastructure and civic society in order to have libraries, museums, orchestras, culture and green space. The primary route for that is through local government.
“If councils can only fund essential statutory services then the very things that social prescribing wants to prescribe for people are not going to be there and they are not going to be there in the very places where they would produce the greatest benefit by tackling health inequalities.”
Wigan’s director of public health Kate Ardern gives the town’s vision on prevention, in response to health secretary Matt Hancock’s call for the NHS to take a similar change in direction, November 2018.
“Instead of a drive towards more institutions and outsourcing, we’re integrating our public services at a local level. This means organising our resources around neighbourhoods of 30,000-50,000 residents, rather than around policy areas.”
Wigan has been a leading player in Greater Manchester CA’s devolution. In an article in November last year, Ms Hall spoke about the city’s devolution vision.
“Our job is to really bring that strategic coherence to a place, to set the moral and cultural tone and to kind of fire people up. If you can’t inspire people as a chief executive, what else do you do? You don’t deliver any services, do you?”
Ms Hall on the role of a council chief executive in an LGC interview published in February.
“Donna has created an amazing legacy and it has been amazing working with her. She has been my inspiration and I will carry on that legacy.”
Ms McKenzie-Folan in February upon being named as Ms Hall’s successor.
“[Wigan] has pioneered a new operating model, working collaboratively with its residents to make a tangible difference to their lives. Its leadership has depth and is always eager to disseminate innovation, providing a blueprint for British local government and beyond.”
The words of LGC’s judges yesterday when they explained why Wigan was Council of the Year.
Nick Golding, editor