In Cheshire East we’re embracing with enthusiasm the challenge of setting councils free to respond to their particular local issues in their own way.
Not more diktats from Whitehall, but bottom-up solutions that inspire greater creativity and innovation in the delivery of public services.
We’ve started by putting our own house in order - reducing our costs by removing levels of management to ensure that we have a flatter, more responsive structure that encourages genuine crossdepartmental working, clearer lines of accountability and a greater focus on delivery.
We are also set on a journey to becoming a truly commissioning council, creating a range of arm’s length delivery vehicles to run our leisure, waste, streetscene and bereavement services, with others to follow.
What has been so refreshing is that the staff affected by these reforms are often our greatest advocates for change, providing invaluable insight into service improvement.
This willingness to challenge outdated thinking, drive greater efficiency and innovation and forge new partnerships, particularly with business, are the key elements of our approach.
We need this bold new approach because although a relatively prosperous borough, we nevertheless have pockets of real economic deprivation to tackle. This means we have a relentless, laser-like focus on creating jobs and growth.
But this is not about the interventionism of the past. Rather, we make it clear that we’re open for business and look for anything and everything we can do to nurture investment, secure jobs and create a climate conducive to doing business.
As a result, we are developing a local skills base in engineering and high-value manufacturing with our proposals for a university technical college in Crewe.
This will help maximise the potential from the recent announcement that Bentley Motors will design and build its new luxury SUV at its Crewe plant, creating up to 1,000 new jobs in the automotive sector.
Meanwhile, our major life sciences hub at Alderley Park goes from strength to strength, with a growing diversity of world-leading companies queuing to locate there.
This is the essence of ‘municipal Conservatism’. Using our heft as a council to broker deals, bring partners together, maximise the value of our assets and sites, improve our connectivity and infrastructure, while providing high-quality public services and keeping council tax low.
Michael Jones (Con), leader, Cheshire East Council