Services reform may get funding

By Ian Dipple Friday 13 December 2013 Updated: 13/12 09:30

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Buy photos » Brandon Lewis MP receives his copy of Monopoly from Ken Williams, Redditch Town Centre Partnership manager, Affy Qadeer, TCP director and Redditch MP Karen Lumley. Picture by Marcus Mingins 5013009MMR

A COUNCIL scheme to transform the way public services are provided could be in line for a slice of a £100million fund after impressing a government minister.

Brandon Lewis, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Communities and Local Government, visited Winyates on Monday (December 9) to inspect the work being done by Redditch Borough Council’s locality team.

Staff from the council’s housing department were relocated to a base in Winyates centre and told to free themselves from the shackles of policy and procedure to tackle underlying issues in people’s lives and stop them escalating.

Although the initial aim was to reduce rent arrears, it has quickly evolved with staff from other organisations, such as HMP Hewell, working alongside the team. As well as ensuring no-one is overlooked or falls through the cracks of the public sector, the scheme can also deliver significant savings.

Chief executive Kevin Dicks is convinced the approach could provide a blueprint for how public sector services should be provided in the future, an idea Mr Lewis did not reject.

He urged the council to bid for support from the Government’s Transformation Network or a new £100million fund being made available early next year.

“What they are doing here is transformational. There’s a lot of authorities now starting that work to break down barriers, what’s interesting here is they have been doing it since 2011 and actually they are just getting on with it and not coming to government already and saying can we have your help, which is great as it shows that local determination. Now having seen it and going through it hopefully, if they bid, we can give them that extra impetus to go even further.”

Afterwards he met members of Redditch Town Centre Partnership in the Kingfisher Shopping Centre where he was presented with a copy of Redditch Monopoly and discussed town centre issues.

Mr Lewis said the Government had announced a significant package of support around Business Rates in the Autumn Statement and there was an investment role for local councils as well. But he said ultimately the success of the high street was down to consumers.

“There’s definitely a future for our town centres but it will be different and we have to be grown up and honest about that,” he said.

“As a country we are probably shopping online more than anywhere else in the world so the high street and town centre will change. It’s no longer a retail base and while you are shopping you might pop in and get something to eat or drink, it’s now a destination for leisure, also to eat and drink, and while you are there you might do some shopping.”

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