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428 The Story of Parliament


Working as one to


meet the challenge Putting the needs of its residents first, Wiltshire Council has been busy cutting its costs, not its services


F


or Wiltshire Council Leader Jane Scott, people are paramount. “Communities are at the heart


of everything we do,” she says. “Getting local people involved in our work and hearing what they have to say are priorities for us.” It’s this ethos that underpins the council’s ability to find innovative answers to the everyday challenges it faces, from financial constraints to the increasing demands of an ageing population. “With increasing pressure on budgets, we’ve had


to find new ways to continue to deliver vital services,” says Scott. “We are on target to reduce from 95 office buildings to three main hub offices. Tis saves on running costs but also gives us the opportunity to work differently and much more efficiently.” Instead of a soulless office block, the council’s


thriving headquarters at County Hall in Trowbridge hosts public facilities including a library, restaurant, café, adult day centre and an events venue. Te concept of the one-stop shop isn’t new, but what is innovative is that the council’s approach is not just about co-locating services, but pursuing integrated working. As well as creating a more economical use of resources, the hub benefits local people. In Chippenham and Salisbury, Wiltshire Police have relocated into the council’s hub, and it is likely they will be co-located in Trowbridge.


Care and support Te council has a proven track record in being responsive to the particular needs of Wiltshire. For example, aware of the fact that the county has 15 per cent more elderly people than the national average, it instigated the Help to Live at Home programme in 2010. Now nationally recognised, this programme, along with the Better Care Plan (which sees the council and health partners working as one), enables elderly residents to live independently in their homes for as long as possible, and to have the relevant care and support to leave hospital and recuperate at home. In addition to supporting residents, the council provides opportunities to place them at the centre


“Getting communities involved takes time, encouragement and support”


of its decision-making, as its innovative campus programme illustrates. Plans are in place to deliver seven campuses across the county, with different facilities and services available in each one, which will be shaped by local people. “Our campus programme has given us the opportunity to work closely with residents to deliver what they want and in a convenient location for them,” says Scott. “We are doings things ‘with’ communities rather than ‘to’ them and the result is that our communities are getting stronger and more able to cope with local issues—and, consequently, are becoming less reliant on public services.”


Community projects Te council’s community area board meetings and events further encourage local engagement and local decision-making, providing a forum for people to have their say. To date, solutions to local issues such as littering, road maintenance and creating affordable housing have been found. More than 40,000 people have attended area boards, and in the last two years more than 750 grants were approved totalling around £1.5 million. Every pound awarded has attracted on average £4.50 of external investment into local projects. Despite a need for cost-cutting, the council’s


innovative, efficient methods have meant that very few frontline services have been affected. Instead staff numbers have decreased, office space has been reduced due to flexible working and hot-desking, and the hubs and campus café areas are also used for meetings—all of which have helped to save £125million in five years. And this is just the start. “Getting communities


involved takes time, encouragement and support,” says Scott. “We’ve got more work to do—but it is so worth it if it means that residents are at the heart of changes that affect them and can become more self-sufficient.” — www.wiltshire.gov.uk


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