Thursday, 6 October 2011

A flavour of my work on Brighton Council's Cabinet in September

I've decided to try something of an experiment here, and publish a brief summary of my work in September as Brighton and Hove Council's Cabinet Member for Communities, Equalities and Public protection.

It's very brief, and by no means exhaustive, but I hope it gives a flavour of some of the work I've been doing.

Do let me know if you find it useful, or if you'd like more details about anything!

Cabinet member report: Communities, Equalities and Public Protection
September 2011
Ben Duncan

The Communities, Equalities and Public protection portfolio encompasses a wide range of council activities and services, across a number of directorates.

These include Environmental Health and Trading Standards, Licensing, Community Development, Community Safety (including partnerships with Sussex Police), Public Health (an emerging brief currently shared with the Primary Care Trust but due to become the sole responsibility of the council in 2013), Grants to other organisations, promoting Equalities and deepening Community Engagement.

In this role I chair the Community Safety Forum and the City Inclusion Partnership. I am vice-chair of the Stronger Communities Partnership and a member of the Safe in the City Partnership.

Throughout September my workload has been dominated by developing proposals for neighbourhood councils with devolved budgets (as per our manifesto pledge). A three-month city-wide consultation exercise has now been launched, with pilot schemes due to 'go live' in Spring 2012.

I have also been grappling with the future of community development work in the city – and the budget for such work in the future. The big question at the moment is how do we tie this work in to neighbourhood councils to ensure it is being spent to maximise opportunities for community-based decision-making.

Earlier in the month I launched a new policy committing the council to carry out best-practise Equality Impact Assessments on all its decisions, regardless of the Tory-led Government's relaxation of requirements to do this work.

Also in September I attended a conference in Birmingham to help try to win support – and considerable funding – for an on-line community engagement project for the city (called 'We Live Here') that could be used to widen participation in neighbourhood councils for those who prefer on-line engagement to traditional meetings with reports, agendas and so on.

And also in September I undertook the first of my 'community tours' – where I travel out to neighbourhood in the city to hear about issue s and problems first-hand. I spent the day visiting Coldean, Hollingdean and Whitehawk, where I met community groups, ward councillors and residents – very successfully I believe.

I have overseen a shake-up of the way the council gives out grants (worth about £1.5m a year) to ensure they are focused on promoting Environmental Sustainability, Tackling Inequality and wider access to the Arts.

Finally, I worked on the council's plan on how to deal with emergencies, responded to a Government consultation on the future role of councils in monitoring Trading Standards, and promoted the work of East Sussex Credit Union in diverting families from rapacious (legal and illegal) doorstep money lenders.

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