Councils collaborate to develop ‘best in class’ housing offer
GROWTH, REGENERATION & DEVELOPMENT
Cllr Yvonne Bendle
Portfolio Holder Better Lives, South Norfolk Council
Cllr Fran Whymark
Portfolio Holder Housing and Wellbeing, Broadland District Council
Our residents and businesses expect their councils to work hard to maximise the local quality of life for everyone. In a world where we need to do more with less, a shared services partnership – such as ours – can help to deliver improved efficiency, provide a greater voice with partners and help to define our own futures. It can also ensure services are locally designed with a focus on improving wellbeing outcomes for our residents.
Broadland and South Norfolk Council’s Accommodation Pathway provides an example of our collaborative approach. It was co-designed with officers, a joint member working group and Campbell Tickell (supported by funding from the Local Government Association Housing Advisor Programme).
The pathway not only sets a benchmark for our joint working to develop shared services, but also provides a blueprint with which to build a sector-leading Housing and Homelessness service that will benefit residents at all points of housing need.
Building on a strong history of working together, the two councils are taking a leading role in re-thinking local government. In 2018 a feasibility study exploring the potential for strategic collaboration and one joint officer team supporting the two autonomous councils was approved. It had a key focus on driving economic and housing growth, and improving the services we deliver to provide enhanced benefits for our 260,000 residents.
Our ‘Two Councils, One Team’ model commenced in January 2020 and, in working together, we strive to make a real difference to the quality of life and prosperity of the residents and businesses we serve. This brings a number of key benefits to our customers, collaborators and councils, including:
- A stronger voice for both councils, regionally and nationally
- Increased growth and faster delivery of infrastructure
- Greater financial stability for the two authorities, helping to balance our budgets and closing the growing funding gap
- Opportunities to provide services and initiatives jointly, that we would not otherwise be able to provide
- Increased investment and access to new funding opportunities to benefit residents and businesses in the area
- The ability to retain and attract the most talented staff
- Greater choice for our residents in terms of housing supply in order to best meet their housing needs
The Accommodation Pathway we have developed enhances the successful homelessness prevention outcomes achieved by both councils. It provides a clear and transparent process for the Housing & Benefits team, including a comprehensive accommodation management system. The pathway is also responsive to a post-pandemic climate with a holistic approach to resolving housing need at all points. The pathway is designed on the following principles (see chart below also):
- Marketplace: A universal offer through a one-stop housing advice platform, which aims to encourage people to consider their future housing needs at an earlier stage and seek solutions.
- Prevention: Where risk factors or a point of crisis is identified, effective help will be delivered based on the principles of self-help and resilience for those able to help themselves, and proactive help for those who are more vulnerable.
- Stabilisation: The provision of temporary accommodation to those who qualify under our statutory duties. The flexible accommodation pool and management tools mean we can offer the right accommodation at the right time. Vitally we can also offer support to resolve problems and prepare for long-term housing solutions.
- Resolution: Working with partners over a longer period to break the cycle of eviction and homelessness by helping households build resilience and skills to sustain long-term accommodation solutions.
This Accommodation Pathway exemplifies how local authorities working to transform shared services can develop a high-quality, efficient and innovative offer that goes above and beyond to meet the needs of the people we serve.