Like all public bodies, local
authorities are facing a tough financial challenge. Everyone is struggling. But
the cuts have hit places like Newham the hardest. Last year we had a cut to our
budget of £160 per resident compared to areas like Richmond with only a £6 per
When faced with a restricted
financial situation as we are, it would be easy to make a simple decision and
salami slice off all services, or just stop doing things we don’t have to do as
part of our statutory duty. You can see that that’s what some Councils have
But that’s not the route we’ve chosen
to take in Newham. Being faced with cuts doesn’t mean you should lose sight of your priorities
– in fact it means those priorities become more important than ever.
In Newham we have a strong vision for
delivering sustained improvement to the borough. Our analysis shows that to
improve the lives of our residents we have to look at three elements. We need
to build the personal capacity of our residents so they have the skills to
succeed and overcome challenges. But at the same time we must recognise the
importance of having a strong community where residents support each other and
have the networks and relationships necessary to prosper. And equally we
recognise the impact of the economic environment on residents’ lives. The local
area needs a strong economy and residents need strong financial capabilities.
Resilience is not about saving money.
It’s a recognition that welfare and the work of the state has to help people
improve their lives, not trap them in their poverty. To build resilience you have to invest in the
right things. Each local area will have its own priorities but in Newham, one
of the most deprived boroughs in the country, it’s clear that giving young
people the best start in life and helping residents into jobs are absolutely
That’s why in Newham we’re investing
£15 million in programmes that will give our young people the skills and
capacity to realise their full potential. We offer free school meals for every
primary school child in the borough, giving them a much needed nutritious meal
and saving families £750 a year before tax for each of their children. Our
research has shown that this measure in particular helps low income working
families who otherwise would not receive support.
Our Every Child a Musician (ECAM)
scheme gives all our young people the opportunity to excel and gain the
excellent skills to be had from learning an instrument and reading that
children in richer areas of the country have.
Equally, our Every Child a Reader
(ECAR) scheme aims to ensure that all our young people have that fundamental
skill to help them excel in education and employment later in life.
We know that raising employment rates
is a real game changer but our residents are not always helped by national work
programmes. So we invest £5 million a year in our jobs brokerage “Workplace”.
It’s the most successful programme of its kind in the country. Last year alone
we helped 5,000 residents into work, half of them long-term unemployed.
Independent research has shown that 75% of residents who find work through
Workplace are in work a year later.
It’s also important to be honest
about what you will stop doing. It’s no good falling into the trap of providing
a service simply because it’s always been there. In Newham this means serious
consideration of whether a programme is creating a sustainable improvement for
our residents and our community.
There are some difficult times ahead.
The Government’s welfare reforms will put pressure on families, particularly
those living in London and other expensive areas.
Our role in local government is to
step up the support we give residents to help themselves. Residents need to
make good choices here – moving into work is the best way of ensuring families
thrive even during tough times. That’s why it matters more than ever to invest
in building resilience. Our investment now will make the difference in years to
This article has been published in the ResPublica Fringe magazine, a collection of articles and essays from our party conference partners.
Sir Robin Wales will
be speaking at ‘Responsible recovery: Balancing economic and social
priorities’, a ResPublica public fringe event at Labour Party conference:
Wednesday 3rd October, 4.00pm – 5.15pm, Manchester Town Hall.