Why we need a different conversation.

Recently colleagues from across the West Midlands region came together for a forum entitled ‘Cliff Edges or New Horizons?’ This included Local Authority Chief Executives, Finance Directors, Voluntary Sector Leaders, Directors of Public Health, Adults Social Care and Children’s Services. Together we explored the significant financial and delivery challenges facing local government.

A decade of austerity has forced us to change the way we plan and deliver people’s services. Naturally this has created deeply impacting cuts but, as fiscal tightening is a continued reality of public sector life, one thing is clear - we need to start a different conversation in order to make change.

We need to talk. Different perspectives lead to different thinking. Inspirational thinkers and practitioners from innovative organisations are forging new ways and during this really energizing forum, they certainly gave us some food for thought.

Paul McKevitt from Wigan Council, talked about the inspirational Wigan Deal. For those of you who are new to the concept, the deal is an informal agreement between Wigan Council and everyone who lives or works there to create a better borough. The Deal for Communities Investment Fund is an exciting opportunity for people to make a real difference and is solving some of the borough's biggest social problems by enabling residents to get involved in their community.

For me, it was hearing Louise McGeehan of Child Poverty Action Group speak that further drove me to feel it’s time for change. Louise highlighted the current extent of child poverty and the current economic impact on children and families. Her talk reminded us that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. We truly need to work across the community in a multi-agency way to achieve better outcomes.

So together we must widen the narrative and engagement of other local authorities, public sector partners, communities and the private sector to help us improve the outcomes for service users. All of this whilst providing better value for money and with less resources at our disposal. It can be done!

It’s fair to say the road could be bumpy but I for one am excited to be looking ahead, forging a new path and changing the way we think about and discuss our work.

Martin Reeves

Chief Executive, Coventry City Council

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