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Whole Government ‘firmly and collectively behind’ community budgets

Communities minister Brandon Lewis has insisted that all Government departments back community budgets and whole-place service transformation, despite concerns that some parts of Whitehall are determined to hold onto their own budgets and decision-making powers.

The four existing Whole Place Community Budget pilot areas are making a “crucial” impact according to Lewis. Speaking at a New Local Government Network (NLGN) event, Lewis said the pilots in Essex, Greater Manchester, Cheshire West & Chester and the ‘tri-borough’ area in west London have identified £800m of savings and are beginning to implement reforms.

He said: “They have proved the concept that you can deliver better outcomes for less through better collaboration and integration.”

These are some of the aims of the pilots:

  • Greater Manchester wants to cut the number of people on out-of-work benefits by 22%, delivering annual savings of £500m
  • Essex has already achieved a 60% success rate for high risk victims of domestic abuse who previously declined to engage with Essex police prior to service transformation
  • The tri-borough’s (Hammersmith & Fulham, Kensington & Chelsea, and Westminster) new model for health and social care for the 20% in the most acute need will help people manage their conditions more effectively, prevent hospital admissions and deliver net savings of £38m by year 5
  • Cheshire West and Chester has launched an ‘integrated early support’ case management co-located team, made up of partners across police, probation, Job Centre Plus and strong links with health and the voluntary sector. This team is integrated under single line management and responsible for joining up support around individuals and families against a single assessment through sharing information, and a single co-ordinated delivery plan.

There have been criticisms that not all departments of Government (especially the DWP and Home Office) have supported community budget pilots, as it can mean them relinquishing power and budgets, but Lewis said: “I can assure you that Government is firmly and collectively behind the service transformation agenda, particularly my colleagues at the centre in the Cabinet Office and Treasury. And those in the key service departments are clear that to deliver their objectives requires us to work in new ways nationally and locally.

“The Public Service Transformation Network has officials from seven government departments. And we continue to work with other departments in a bid to ensure we have representation from all key service departments.”

Nine new areas were announced as joining the Public Service Transformation Network in July.

The National Audit Office said earlier this year: “The ‘co-production’ approach between central government and local bodies in planning Whole Place Community Budgets is a promising model for future policy design and delivery.”

Lewis concluded his speech by saying: “No-one needs permission to do this.”

Tweets from the event can be found under the #CBconf hashtag.

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