Strengthening Communities

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The Sunday Times lauds the former tin-mining town of Chagford in Devon as the best place to live in their 2015 guide. The stunning landscape, mix of 15th Century buildings and 750 year old church certainly help, but what contributes greatly to Chagford’s success is a strong community spirit.

But what exactly makes a strong community? According to the public sector leaders we surveyed, three key areas emerge: a healthy population, community trust in public services and an efficient local Government.

A healthy population is a happy population – a fact that does not go unnoticed amongst social care leaders (85% think it is very important); whilst efficient provision of local Government services is recognised as being very important by Public Service leaders across the spectrum.

These factors are considered of even higher importance than things like cultural integration, a strong local economy, or affordable leisure and entertainment. Public sector leaders are adamant: a strong community and a highly capable public sector go hand-in-hand.

Despite these factors being of paramount importance, only one in three public sector
leaders (32%) believe that their local Government is truly efficient in their community.
Plus it’s not simply good enough to provide efficient services, for a strong community
the public must also trust the public sector and only one in five (21%) think the
community has full trust in public services.

The public sector needs to be trustworthy and efficient but, according to public sector
leaders, there is some way to go before this is fully achieved. Anything that can improve
either of these areas is therefore surely deserving of serious consideration.
However, this comes at a time when the purse strings are being tightened.
Recent years have seen wide-ranging cuts to public services even as recently as the
Chancellor’s autumn 2015 statement, which announced the abolishment of central
government grants to town halls by 37% and cuts to Department for Transport budget,
both by 2020.

Healthcare leaders were undoubtedly glad to hear that the NHS would be exempt
from such cuts. However, reduction in The Department of Health’s budget, meaning
subsequent cuts to key health bodies, will inevitably put more strain on NHS services
further down the line.

So the challenge is clear: How can we forge strong communities in the face of massive
public sector cuts?

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