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  • Jake Preston

From Conwy to Croydon: What analysis of 44 Local Council priorities for 2024 taught us



In 2024 UK councils find themselves navigating a difficult landscape. They have a variety of shared challenges, with growing financial constraints alongside the essential task of meeting the varying needs of their growing resident populations.


Amidst the prospect of further cuts (and for some bankruptcy) there exists an urgent call for innovative solutions and a renewed commitment to truly understanding and addressing the concerns of residents most in need. This is what we at Neighbourly Lab are interested in: facilitating meaningful engagement and partnership between councils and their communities, leading to innovative policy making/service provision.


Through a process grounded in deep listening and participatory methods, particularly with lesser heard and more marginalised residents, we work with councils and residents across the country to tackle a variety of issues. We also work to create collaborative relationships between different councils, to share their knowledge and insights.


In thinking about how we might best support local authorities in the year ahead, we conducted a deep dive analysis of 44 Local Council’s priorities for this year. Whilst Local Councils operate within different environments, each with its own unique political context, set of challenges and opportunities, most Councils share a huge overlap of their aims and focus. The slogan adopted by Kingston Council, "Greener, Fairer, Safer, Together," summarises clearly not only their aims but most councils across the country. In 2024, Councils are striving to promote more sustainable, safe, healthy communities that are connected and can access opportunities to thrive.



 


Below we outline common themes in three key areas (Health, Housing, Community Safety) and how they relate to Neighbourly Lab’s work:

Health

As councils across the UK continue to prioritise the health and wellbeing of their residents, a common thread emerges: a commitment to supporting their residents in achieving their fullest potential across all stages of life. Councils and their Public Health partners are focused on promoting positive change from early years (‘best start in life) to later life (‘healthy ageing’).


Councils are each taking a unique approach to these health and wellbeing goals, below we outline some examples:


Barking lay out their commitment to ‘ensuring the best start in life, promoting living well, and supporting healthy ageing’. One way they plan to do this by giving young people the ability to: ● Thrive in inclusive schools, settings and communities ● Be safe and secure, free from neglect, harm, and exploitation ● Grow up to be successful young adults


Similarly, Barnet Council's focus on ‘starting, living, and ageing well’ demonstrates their aim of optimal health for residents by:

  • Promoting mental health and wellbeing support

  • Get everyone moving by improving the choices for physical activities 

  • Support a healthier workforce

  • Preventing long term conditions by working with and listening to communtie on what support is needed.


At Neighbourly Lab, we have first hand experience working with residents on health-related issues like long term health conditions, vaccine uptake, additional needs support and social care. An example of this work is our current collaboration with the North and West Bristol Locality Partnership on healthy ageing. We have co-designed health initiatives with residents, local organisations and health providers to come up with solutions that best serve the community in these underserved areas. We are keen to work with Councils, Public Health partners and their communities to co-produce health solutions that support residents in achieving their healthiest, most fulfilling lives.


 

Housing

Across the UK, councils share a common objective: to provide affordable, sustainable housing while maintaining a sense of community amongst residents. However, the current economic climate and available housing stock means that waiting lists for social housing are often long and availability of affordable housing is low/non-existent.


Despite this, Councils are committed to finding innovative solutions so that more affordable housing can become available and to improve living conditions for residents. Some examples of this include:


Conwy Council, who want to ‘offer affordable, quality accommodation that enhances the lives of its inhabitants’ by: 

  • Working with owners of empty properties so they can be used as homes or businesses 

  • Supporting people at risk of becoming homeless 

  • Working with care home providers to improve the quality of homes 

  • Encouraging respectful tourism so we protect our communities and popular locations


Somerset Council understands that the lack of affordable housing contributes to the challenges of keeping younger people within Somerset. This is why they strive to: 

  •  Use the skills and knowledge from a wide range of partners to be innovative in their approach to housing and supporting people who are struggling

  • Increase the provision of decent quality, low-carbon social housing 


 

Neighbourly Lab is working with partners across the housing sector from Councils, to Housing Associations and Developers. We strive to help these different stakeholders to understand the values and aspirations of local residents, building and redeveloping inclusive housing and local assets with community at the forefront. Through community mapping and deep listening, we collaborate with councils such as Barnet Council  to identify key local assets so they can not only invest in the local assets that make a difference in communities but also foster a sense of belonging and connection in the local area. 

 

Community Safety

Ensuring community safety in their area is a major concern for councils nationwide, with a shared commitment to fostering safe and supportive environments for all residents. As communities grapple with back to back crises, financial strain and limited opportunities encourages higher levels of criminality and antisocial behaviour.


Local Councils are committed to working with police, partners and communities to tackle these issues at a local level. Some examples include:


The London Borough of Waltham Forest's approach emphasises the importance of ‘safe neighbourhoods and town centres where individuals can shop, conduct business, and socialise without fear’. They plan to do this by:

  • Introducing measures locally to ensure their high streets are safe spaces for people to shop, to do business and to spend time, and they will be visible in their communities, offering reassurance and advice

  • Continuing  work on issues they know matter to people so that everyone can feel safe in Waltham Forest. This includes being ambitious in standing up to hate and divisions in our communities

  • Working with residents, they will reduce hate incidences, doing so through a range of initiatives, including a pioneering bystander intervention


Croydon Council want  to make sure all residents feel safe within the borough by:

  • Tackling domestic abuse 

  • Protecting young people from violence and exploitation 

  • Tackling disproportionality in the criminal justice system 

  •  Strengthening community resilience, offer trauma-informed services, focusing on Hate Crime, and build trust in the partnership 

  • Focusing on high priority neighbourhoods 


At Neighbourly Lab, we recognise the important role of community safety in enhancing overall resident wellbeing and happiness. People can more actively participate in community life when they feel safe and welcome in that place. We have worked with Councils like LB Waltham Forest and Reigate and Banstead Council to understand the perceptions and experiences of safety and crime for lesser heard groups in their communities through deep listening. As well as developing solutions with these communities to help them feel safe in their local place. We will continue to use our expertise in community engagement and participatory methods, to empower Councils and partners to create safer communities for all.


 

Conclusion

As Councils grapple with the complexities of the current landscape, Neighbourly Lab is ready to offer our support, conducting exploratory research and co-producing innovative solutions that are rooted in the needs and aspirations of the communities they serve.


Our analysis of Council priorities has highlighted the similar challenges and ambitions councils across the UK share. We understand the power of shared learning and we will continue to foster collaboration between Councils with different learning events, webinar series and toolkits. Our aim is that Councils across the country can confront the challenges of 2024 with resilience, innovation, and a shared commitment to building a better future for all residents.


If you would like to discuss how we might work together or find out a little more about what we do, please contact us on info@neighbourlylab.com


We look forward to hearing from you.

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