What is the issue?
In the face of severe spending cuts, local authorities are struggling to tackle growing poverty and a weakening local economy. Community organisations are finding that, at the very time that demand for services is growing, most local authorities are attempting to save money by upscaling services and contracting with national organisations. Community organisations are losing contracts and control over vital services in their own communities. This approach weakens the viability of community organisations and ignores the positive economic impact of commissioning locally – sucking money out of the local economy.
The key issue is that spend on public services is currently viewed as just that – spend – not investment. Viewed differently it could both deliver better services and support economic resilience. Commissioners and councillors want to maximise limited resources to benefit the areas they serve but are struggling to find the right way to assess and evidence, in a transparent way, the economic impacts of local commissioning. More work is required to build a strong, long-term economic case for spending locally and to empower local authorities to make informed decisions in the face of strong pressure to simply scale up services and go for the “cheapest” option. Community anchors currently struggle to articulate their ‘resilience impact’ – social, economic and financial – to commissioners.
What will the project try to achieve?
The Keep it Local for Economic Resilience proposal builds on Locality’s existing Keep it Local Campaign, which makes the case for local and small-scale commissioning of public services using the argument that there are diseconomies of scale in personal and person-centred services. Commissioning and procurement, when built around local organisations, also has the potential to build economic resilience in communities.
Locality’s members are community anchor organisations. The community anchor model ensures that the wealth they generate is re-distributed in their neighbourhoods, by employing local people, promoting local businesses and investing in people to themselves become economically active. Locality wants to build on their existing work with councils and community anchors, to enable councils to make positive changes in how they commission.
With the support of the grant, Locality will work with six local authorities and the community anchors in their areas to commission for economic and community resilience to:
- Demonstrate the role that community anchor organisations play in local economic resilience and develop tools and training which help them evidence and strengthen their impact.
- Overcome barriers to commissioning locally and develop a framework which can be used to commission for economic resilience.
Locality will share the results with a wider Keep it Local network via events, guides and peer support to increase awareness and support for local commissioning which delivers better services and supports economic resilience at the same time.
Who might be interested in this project?
The project will be of direct interest to the local authority commissioners and community anchor organisations which Locality will work with in this project, as well as a wider network of commissioners and councillors who will be engaged in the learning from this work.
The project will produce evidence and learning which will also be of interest to policy makers in national and local government, as well as a range of third sector and think tank organisations who have an interest in influencing public service commissioning.
The organisation will be setting up an advisory group of organisations who seek to influence public service commissioning in order to make sure that the learning from this project has wide application and complements other work with similar aims.