Community Impact Awards Winner: a new initiative that re-imagines local relationships

New Realities is a project that re-imagines local relationships, developing better partnerships between local authorities and local communities to benefit all the residents of Sefton, Merseyside.

Mandy Elliott is Chief Executive at Crosby Housing Association

Mandy Elliott is Chief Executive at Crosby Housing Association

15 January 2016

Cuts to local government spending have impacted the services delivered across the Sefton metropolitan borough, highlighting the need for closer working relationships between the local authority and voluntary sector. Crosby Housing Association led an approach to create a protocol that recognises the strengths of working together to achieve harmony, synergy, and long lasting change.

Like many successful outcomes the New Realities framework was conceived through negative experiences, this time between the local authority and local communities. When the situation came to a head in the summer of 2014 the Deputy Chief Executive of the council took a brave leap to create a truly joint partnership that served the best interest of local people.

A joint development group was established in August 2014 facilitated by Sefton Council for Voluntary Services to explore how changes could be made to explore new approaches to working more productively and innovatively with both commissioned and local community action groups.

The group committed to developing a framework using an ‘action learning’ approach to encourage new thinking and practice from which the New Realities document was developed and consulted upon in the New Year 2015.

The development group is taking forward a programme of actions to promote and champion New Realities, through highlighting achievements and exemplars of good practice, identifying where improvements are needed and promote remedial action.

New Realities is being championed by Sefton’s Cabinet Member for Communities and Housing, Councillor Trish Hardy and the document was adopted by the Council following Voluntary Community and Faith sector consultation. Sefton Council has integrated this initiative into their ‘One Council’ change programme. New Realities is promoted to employees via the Council Intranet and regular Team meetings at all levels.

Examples of the impact of New Realities:

  • Community markets have been introduced with an emphasis on supporting local businesses and community groups giving them an opportunity to promote themselves. The Council provided funds to purchase stalls for the newly formed ‘Sefton Community Markets’ community interest company (CIC) and also ensured that they did not have to pay for a public amenities licence to trade on the high streets across the borough.
  • Increases in advertising costs have inflated the cost of implementing road closures through Traffic Regulation Orders (TROs). This increase has impacted the ability of community organisations to deliver events. Using the New Realities principle, a solution of applying for TROs in bulk by organisations, with a one off affordable fee was implemented.
  • Joint communication programme using a web platform established to generate case studies and learning to encourage good practice replication between the Council and Voluntary Community and Faith sector.
  • New Realities principles included in the recruitment process for the Council Senior Executive Directors.
  • Voluntary Community Faith sector review is streamlining how Council grants and contracts are issued to organisations from the current myriad of contracts, conditions and monitoring arrangements from different departments within the Council. The aim is to create a more streamlined and consistent approach to commissioning, increased involvement of organisations within service design with the emphasis on social value.

The New Realities initiative is current, relevant and replicable and the community is already feeling the benefit of working together with the Council as a true partner. In these times of austerity it is a great example of maximising resources for the benefit of our neighbourhoods.

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