A selection of LGC’s best Yorkshire case studies
Today’s top story: Yorkshire devo dissenters seek deal for ‘coalition of the willing’
Comms column: Learning from Southern Rail’s teen Twitter sensation
It is perhaps fitting that today news emerged that leaders of councils across Yorkshire want to negotiate a single devolution arrangement for almost all authorities in the county area.
The 17 leaders who attended a meeting on Friday about a potential Yorkshire-wide deal said the county is big enough and bold enough to want to carve out its own destiny”. The statement is timely given that 1 August is Yorkshire Day, a celebration of the historic county.
LGC’s Idea Exchange provides a taster of the range of innovative projects taking place Yorkshire’s local authorities.
North Yorkshire, for instance, is home to Europe’s largest garrison, Catterick, and that brings with it unusual challenges in children’s services. North Yorkshire CC’s Matt Blyton wrote for LGC on how the council manages school placements and provides personal and social support for 3,000 service pupils, in an area with some of England’s smallest primary schools, while withdrawal of British troops from German bases has meant a turnover of 2,000 children in 2015 alone.
North Yorkshire’s children’s services is also unusual in that it is one of just four English councils to employ no agency staff in children’s social work. Pete Dwyer, director of children and young people’s services at the authority, wrote for LGC that this is part of the council’s success in this service.
Kirklees Council too has featured twice in Idea Exchange. Director of children and adult services Alison O’Sullivan wrote for LGC on how Kirklees spearheaded the Children’s Social Work Matters campaign across all authorities in Yorkshire and the Humber to champion the much-maligned profession. This boosted applications to children’s social work jobs by 200% between 2012 and 2014 while in other regions staff shortages plagued the profession.
Kirklees featured more recently with details of its democracy commission, a unique attempt to embed the views of local people in the design of its future governance structure. Head of democracy Carl Whistlecraft wrote that the commission engaged with more than 1,000 people and as a result has produced an extensive set of recommendations to build into future governance reform.
Barnsley MBC has also successfully put power in the hands of local people. In a project that won the 2017 LGC Award for Community Engagement, Barnsley established an ‘alliance’ for each electoral ward, bringing together three elected members and six community representatives, to help shape a plan to improve their own ward through community action. Each was allocated a £10,000 grant, explained head of stronger communities Phil Hollingsworth – but the result was a social return of £11.06 for every £1 the council invested.
Barnsley has also seen success – and bucked trends – with its digital media centre, another LGC Award-winning project. The centre, a facility for local businesses to rent, was opened in 2007 and its management was outsourced but did not attract sufficient revenue. By taking the management of the centre in-house in 2015 and honing its offer, Barnsley increased rental income from businesses occupying the centre by 50% in two years.
Shrewd financing was the key to success in Doncaster with the development of the former RAF site, Finningley. This had the potential to provide thousands of homes and jobs if redeveloped, but that depended on significant road developments to link the site to the surrounding area, Doncaster MBC chief executive Jo Miller wrote. This would have cost local authorities and the Department for Transport £110m and unsurprisingly, the project was halted at the onset of austerity in 2010 and stymied for the next six years. The solution, Ms Miller explained, was to reduce the cost of the redevelopment to £56m through value engineering, and bring in support from developers and the Sheffield City Region Local Enterprise Partnership to bid successfully for regional growth funding for the development.
Some of Yorkshire’s featured projects would have gone unnoticed outside the county or even their own district but some attracted attention globally. In 2014, Leeds City Council chief executive Tom Riordan wrote for LGC how the city pulled off its ambitious bid to host the Tour de France and how Yorkshire councils turned an £11m investment in supporting the race into a £100m boost for the county’s economy.