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Corporate Plan Consultation 2012 - 2015


Corporate Plan 2012 - 2015

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Foreword Over the last four years there have been many challenges facing the public sector – global recession, national deficit problems, a new Government with a changed policy agenda, and an increasingly challenging financial climate. Despite attempts to introduce greater freedoms and flexibilities for local authorities through proposals in the Localism Act 2011, the recession has had a significant impact on local government finance. The Local Government Group is predicting that local authorities nationally could face an annual funding gap between spending and funding of about £20 billion, due to the cuts in central government grants and rising demand pressures on local services. For 2012/13 Swale Borough Council will have a budget of £18m which represents 20% less than we had two years ago, so for every £10 the Council had to spend on services we now only have £8. To respond to the budget gap and the challenges we will need to change our approach to the delivery of public services. Within Kent, the county and district councils working in partnership have already begun to respond positively to the new national policy context, establishing the Kent Forum as the primary democratic means for the county and district authorities to work together with their local partners from other sectors. At district level, Locality Boards have been established to bring together local representatives of the county and district councils, and Swale has been quick to seize on the opportunities for smarter, more joined-up decision-making this will offer. In the longer term, it is anticipated that the Swale Locality Board will play a significant role in commissioning local services which have historically been provided by either the county or borough council. Councillor Andrew Bowles Leader of the Council

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What Is It About? For an organisation to be effective it needs to have a clear organisational purpose. Over the last year we have been reviewing ours and propose to simplify it to: “Let’s make Swale a better place!” The purpose of a Corporate Plan is to communicate what needs to be done for an organisation to achieve its purpose. This plan is organised under three draft corporate priorities and sets out what the Council aims to achieve for its residents over the next three years. The priorities in this draft Corporate Plan are based on a rigorous assessment of a wide range of quantitative and qualitative data, including perception data. Please help to inform our thinking by completing the questionnaire on the back pages or the online version at www.swale.gov.uk/cp-consultation by 3 February 2012. Feedback on any aspect of the draft Corporate Plan is welcome – if you have any suggestions not covered by the questions please email policy@swale.gov.uk

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Corporate Plan 2012 - 2015

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Priority 1: Localism This priority is about promoting freedom, enterprise and responsibility, responding to the Localism Act 2011, and playing our part in encouraging community responsibility in the borough. We already enjoy very strong relationships with Town and Parish Councils and the voluntary & community sector, and a number of joint big society projects are already underway, such as helping Trusts to take over the running of community halls and helping Cooperatives to run markets. This priority is about how we take that further, for example how we prepare for and respond to the community right to challenge, and give clarity about those services where we would welcome further conversations with Parish/Town Councils and voluntary and community groups, and what kind of support we might be able to provide. This priority also recognises that Councillors have an important role to play as Community Champions in representing the interest of their wards. This includes the development of policy, scrutinising Cabinet’s decisions and maintaining close links with public, private and voluntary sector partners. Whilst the Council will inevitably continue to be involved in the direct delivery of some services, we will continue to develop our role as a strategic commissioner of services. Commissioned and shared services already account for around 70% of our spend. Councils are the only local bodies with a democratic remit that enables them to take an objective view about the needs of Swale residents whilst holding providers of services to account on their behalf.

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Priority 2: Open for Business This priority is about working with private and public sector partners to create the right conditions for growth. It is essential that we make certain there is a diverse range of good-quality jobs, improve local people’s access to them, and ensure that there is adequate employment-led housing provision if we are to extend prosperity and reduce income deprivation and welfare dependency. Those issues currently affect a significant proportion of the borough’s residents. It is vital that we make Swale ‘open for business’, by promoting and encouraging an environment where local business can thrive, where unnecessary barriers to growth are removed, and where new businesses are welcomed into the borough. This priority also recognises the need to improve our range of learning and skills opportunities and to lobby for necessary transport infrastructure improvements. Our residents’ skill profile remains a key issue for Swale, and we want to work with partners to refocus learning provision to meet the needs of business, giving local people the best chances of accessing suitable employment while also increasing opportunities for higher-skilled and more value-added employment in the professional and service sectors. In particular, we need to do everything we can to reduce the impact of the negative economic climate on young people’s life chances, including an expansion of the vocational opportunities available to them. The borough has seen significant change in its transport infrastructure in recent years. Major investment has provided the Sheppey crossing, the Sittingbourne Northern and the Queenborough and Rushenden relief roads and, whilst the arrival of high-speed domestic services in North Kent have been a mixed blessing, overall these changes have represented significant improvements. However, serious challenges remain, including congestion at junction 5 of the M2 and poor public transport provision in some areas. We need to work with local businesses to lobby for the necessary investment to improve these constraints on local growth.

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Priority 3: Healthy Environment, Responsible People This priority concerns Swale as a place, and is particularly focused on the significant impact that council activities in disciplines as diverse as town planning, housing and regulatory services have on the general health and wellbeing of the population. In terms of the wellbeing of communities this priority is closely connected with the fight against crime and disorder, which is slightly higher in Swale than in Kent as a whole. This priority also extends to encompass our responsibilities for the stewardship of the natural and visual environments, as well as the need to ensure a successful adaptation to a changing climate. In surveys, Swale residents consistently rank the level of crime and clean streets as the two most important factors in making an area a good place to live. Overall health in Swale is poor compared with other parts of the UK, and health inequalities in the borough are particularly stark. Our third priority also recognises that the council, and the local public sector generally, are not solely accountable for the wellbeing of Swale’s residents, and that the onus will increasingly be on individuals and civic organisations to take more responsibility, whether in terms of individual lifestyle choices or of the ‘Big Society’ pulling together to tackle local issues. Alongside the need to ensure continued provision of the traditional services on which people depend, the council must therefore also become an agent for change, promoting new ways of thinking about, and taking action in, community life. http://tiny.cc/Swale-FB

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Consultation Questions This consultation draft is intended to give a broad overview of our draft priorities for 2012-15. It does not provide specific details of objectives which will sit below these priorities as we wish to invite a variety of opinions on what might be included, and we will then develop the detail based on those contributions. In terms of these overarching priorities, we are interested to hear the views of as wide a range of respondents as possible, particularly on the following questions. 1. Are these the right priorities for the council and for Swale?

2. Have we missed anything major or should we stop something?

3. Will there be any unintended negative consequences of focusing on these priorities?

4. How will a focus on these priorities affect our joint working with your organisation/you as a resident?

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5. What specific outcomes, initiatives or activities would you like to see included under Priority 1 - Localism?

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6. What specific outcomes, initiatives or activities would you like to see included under Priority 2 – Open for business?

7. What specific outcomes, initiatives or activities would you like to see included under Priority 3 – Healthy environment, responsible people?

8. Any other general comments?

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Contacting us If you wish to discuss this consultation document further, or have someone from Swale Borough Council attend a meeting of your group to discuss these proposals, please contact the Policy Team on: Tel: 01795 417533

Email: policy@swale.gov.uk

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Please send your responses in to: Policy Team Swale Borough Council Swale House, East Street Sittingbourne Kent, ME10 3HT Or complete the consultation questions electronically using the online survey at www.swale.gov.uk/cp-consultation The deadline for receipt of responses is 3 February 2012. http://tiny.cc/Swale-FB

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Corporate Plan Consultation 2012 – 2015