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COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT POLICY

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COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT POLICY Powered By Docstoc
					EREWASH BOROUGH COUNCIL

COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT POLICY
January 2007 – 2009

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CONTENTS
1 Introduction .................................................................................... 3 2 Our Aims for Engagement ............................................................. 4 3 What we mean by ‘Community’ and ‘Engagement’........................ 5 4 Our Three Key Values ................................................................... 7 5 The Role of Councillors.................................................................. 7 6 The Role of Officers ....................................................................... 8

Appendix A ...................... Relevant Quality Standards and Strategies Appendix B .................................... Our present forms of engagement

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1 ................................................................INTRODUCTION
Public engagement is central to the delivery of the modernisation and improvement of local authorities. The White Paper, Modern Local Government – in Touch with the People, sought to put local government in touch with local communities by improving local democracy, increasing financial accountability and improving local services. The Local Government Act 1999 introduced best value reviews, including consultation with local taxpayers and service users, as one of the key ways of improving the quality and effectiveness of council services. The recent White Paper – Strong and Prosperous Communities (October 2006) further endorses the need for community consultation and engagement. Developing an approach that is more centred on service users is not just a regulatory obligation. It is also part of good management and providing high quality services. Consulting and involving service users, and finding out what the general public want from their local services, can help councils to carry out their work more efficiently and effectively. Public participation is not just about improving service delivery; it is also about enhancing the democratic legitimacy of local government and the development of community leadership. Therefore, for the Council, strong community engagement also fulfils the important role of strengthening confidence in the democratic process as well as a sense of local community. Council decision making needs to consider community opinion just as it takes account of professional advice, legal and financial factors. More engagement with the community will mean: • • • • • The Council’s services are more customer focused and respond quicker to customer needs. Our community are better informed about the Council and more involved in decision making. Improved voter turnout rates for elections as a result of a revival of the democratic process. More responsible citizens and stronger communities. Relationships between the Council and partner agencies and within the Council will improve.

Erewash Borough Council is committed to improving the way it provides customers with access to services and the quality of those services. A key theme within Erewash Borough Council’s Corporate Plan 2006-09 is to be a ‘Listening Council’. The Community Engagement Policy will play an important part in helping to deliver this theme and the corresponding aim- ’to be responsive and listen to community needs and aspirations’. The Policy also links into three of the five other key corporate themes through one or more of their objectives. This Engagement Policy sets out the Borough Council’s commitment to our community and the principles you can expect the Council to use in engagement. It also links into our vision:
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We want our Borough to be clean, healthy, vibrant, safe and sustainable, delivering the best for Erewash. This Policy will set the standard for everything we do and help encourage the community to express views in order to inform the democratic process. In this way the Policy will help ensure we achieve our statutory duties. In doing this the Policy has regard to the Local Strategic Partnership (LSP) Community Strategy, the Council’s Corporate Plan and the Customer Care Policy. We are seeking to respond to the changing expectations of our customers by addressing customer access and customer service.

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OUR AIMS FOR ENGAGEMENT

The development of this policy is part of our commitment to build on current practice. Our aims for engagement have been developed by reviewing the national guidance which already exists for community engagement1 and the critical success factors: • • • • • commitment to user focus and citizen engagement understanding your communities clarity of purpose communicating in appropriate ways; and delivering change and improved outcomes

We have one key objective and 10 aims which are listed below and which we will work towards achieving. The key objective for Community Engagement Policy is: …to build a culture where we listen to and learn from our communities. Aims • To provide accurate, up to date and centrally accessible information about our communities to our staff and Councillors. We will also provide accessible information about the Council to our communities, thereby ensuring we understand how to engage well with each other. To support Councillors in the development of their Community Leadership role by building on their skills in undertaking engagement

•

Scottish Executives National Standards for Community Engagement (no date), Audit Commission- Connecting with Users & Citizens (Jan 2003) chapter 3 ‘Principles of successful consultation’, Audit Commission guidance used for best value reviews of community engagement, Audit Commission Local Government learning from comprehensive performance assessment briefing 4 ‘User focus & Citizen Engagement’ (June 03), Corporate Governance Inspection key lines of enquiry (2005), ODPM Code of Practice on Consultation (Jan 2004), Cabinet Office ‘Introductory Guide on How to Consult your Users’ (2003)
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and providing the resources to build the capacity of our communities to engage with us. • To ensure all engagement is inclusive by actively identifying and engaging all members of the community who have an interest in the focus of the engagement. To work with other organisations to co-ordinate Borough engagement. To build opportunities for engagement into our regular planning cycle through Service Plans to ensure it is timely and co-ordinated. To use the information gained from our communities to achieve value and efficiency in the way services are provided. To use a range of methods that are appropriate to engage with our communities. To clearly state the purpose, scope and timescales of our engagement and how the results will be used. To publish the results of the engagement, and the outcomes following on from these. To monitor the impact that Community Engagement has on our services to ensure it achieves it purpose and meets the standards set out in this policy.

• • • • • • •

3 WHAT WE MEAN BY ‘COMMUNITY’ AND ‘ENGAGEMENT’
The community of Erewash includes a wide range of people, each having a different interest in and relationship with the Council. We have defined community as including the following: • Residents, including people who are ‘harder to reach’ such as minority ethnic groups, people with disabilities, older people and young people. These residents will use our services to different degrees. People who use our services but do not live in the Borough, for example, visitors to our leisure centres and shoppers. Tourists, employees and travellers. Local businesses. Organisations that provide community services such as voluntary and community groups.

• • • •

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•

Organisations that provide statutory services to the community. This includes organisations such as the Police and Primary Care Trust who provide services in their own right and organisations which provide services either on behalf of the Council or jointly with the Council, plus other neighbouring local authorities and tiers of Government e.g. Parish Councils and Government Office East Midlands. Partnerships e.g. Derbyshire Partnership Forum, Erewash Local Strategic Partnership and Derbyshire Community Engagement Group. Councillors at Erewash Borough Council. Staff at Erewash Borough Council.

• • •

We have defined engagement as ‘any interaction between the Council and a member of the Community’. We are using the concept of a ladder of engagement and how we engage can be anywhere on the ladder. The ladder reaches from us giving and receiving information, to supporting local initiatives at the top which are run by you the Community. LADDER OF ENGAGEMENT • • • • • Supporting Local Initiatives- when the Council supports community services e.g. neighbourhood watch schemes Acting Together e.g. partnerships like the Local Strategic Partnership Deciding Together e.g. workshop events and working groups e.g. the Stanton Regeneration Steering Group Consultation e.g. taking part in questionnaire surveys Information e.g. newsletters and leaflets

Effective community consultation is an opportunity to gain invaluable information and insight into our customers’ needs which helps improve our service delivery. The Council already engages in public involvement in a number of ways, some examples being: • • • • • • • • • Community Forums Public Exhibitions (Local Masterplans) Meetings with specialist interest groups (market traders, retailers, sports organisations) Erewash Citizens Panel Parish Councils Focus groups Council meetings Viewpoint (Community magazine) Comments, Compliments and Complaints (CCC)

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• •

Local Strategic Partnership Marketing and Publicity

An explanation of how each of these works is listed in the appendix.

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OUR THREE KEY VALUES

We have set ourselves three values which will under-pin all the engagement we take part in: 1. We will be open, honest, inclusive, fair and realistic in all forms of engagement. 2. The time that members of our community have available to spend engaging with us is precious and we will not waste it. 3. We will treat our communities as a partner and with respect, and respect the right of anyone to contribute or choose not to do so.

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THE ROLE OF COUNCILLORS

The role of Councillors can be enhanced rather than diminished by participation. Our Borough Councillors have a key role to play in ensuring that the residents of Erewash have a say in what we are doing. They provide a focus for the views of the local community in which they were elected to represent. The Council Executive role provides leadership, sets priorities, develops the vision, budgets and builds partnerships. To do this, we need to listen, explain, exchange ideas and, as community leaders, be committed to participation. Councillors have to balance competing interests, and participation techniques help to ensure all views are put forward and groups who are consistently in the minority are not dominated. Each time a policy is proposed Councillors need to consider whether the public views have been captured and acted on. Councillors are also involved in other ways eg surgeries and membership of Boards outside the Council.

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6.1

THE ROLE OF OFFICERS
CORPORATE MANAGEMENT TEAM

The role of the Corporate Management Team (CMT) is to endorse the action plans which support the Community Engagement Policy and determine priority areas of work for community engagement each year. They have overall responsibility for establishing the policy direction of engagement and monitoring the effectiveness of the Community Engagement Policy. The CMT reviews the corporate decision making process to ensure the Council responds effectively to feedback obtained through engagement. 6.2 ASSISTANT DIRECTORS AND SERVICE MANAGERS

Assistant Directors and Service Managers have overall responsibility for ensuring the agreed policy direction is translated into effective action by determining the level of need to engage and ensure effective feedback of the results to Councillors, the Executive office and the community. All planned consultation should be included in the departmental service plans. 6.3 EXECUTIVE OFFICE

The Executive office has overall responsibility for the management of the Community Engagement Policy. It provides the necessary support and guidance for staff and councillors on community engagement. 6.4 MEMBERS OF STAFF

Members of staff are responsible for using the values and aims in the Community Engagement Policy in all engagement. They must advise the Executive office at an early stage of any planned consultation work.

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MONITORING AND REVIEW

Each department in the Council will be responsible for identifying what it can do to meet the aims of the policy and improve community engagement. This will be done as part of the annual service planning process. Information from the service plans will be used to develop SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely) objectives, indicators, targets and an action plan for each strategic aim, which will help to ensure the aims are integrated into the work of the Council. These action plans will form a specific part of the service plan for each department, which will be approved by the Council Executive and will be monitored every six months by the Service Effectiveness Scrutiny Committee as part of the overall Service Plan monitoring. All reports and any recommended changes will be submitted to the Corporate Management Team, which will ensure that the Community Engagement
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Policy still meets the needs of the Council and the Community. This may include re-configuring service delivery to improve engagement. In 2008/09 a best value review of partnership arrangements and a review of effective decision making are planned. One of these will include a full scale review of the Community Engagement Policy. Additional note for Councillors: Councillors are advised that the action plans for each strategic aim will not be a formal part of the policy, as they will be updated regularly as part of the service planning process.

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APPENDIX A RELEVANT QUALITY STANDARDS & STRATEGIES
A number of strategies, policies and quality standards which cover different types of engagement have already been produced by the Council. These are listed on our website www.erewash.gov.uk and by following the links /Council, Government, Democracy/Council Policies/ Strategic Documents. There is also a requirement to include details of consultation – either planned or already undertaken – in relation to key decisions within the Forward Plan.

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APPENDIX B 1
1.1

OUR PRESENT FORMS OF ENGAGEMENT
COMMUNITY FORUMS

The Forums were developed as part of the Council's Consultation and Involvement Strategy. The Forums are open to residents of the Borough to attend and are chaired by members of the community. They provide an opportunity to promote and explain Council and other public services, as well as getting feedback on existing services and offering a chance to gauge public reaction to proposed service changes. Eight Forums have been set up across the Borough to allow local residents greater access and say in the public services provided in their local community. Each Forum is a structured meeting in which topics are discussed and debated. The Forums usually meet once every 3-4 months. Topics are chosen by the Forum attendees and they request the presence of representatives from agencies such as Police or the County Council to discuss topics of concern. A Director of the Council is usually in attendance along with specialist officers from areas that have been identified for particular interest. 1.2 EREWASH CITIZENS PANEL

For the past four years, we have been running a Citizens Panel in partnership with Derbyshire County Council and Derbyshire Constabulary. Panel members are selected at random and invited to take part in a representative panel of 1,000 people. Each year one third of the panel are retired and new members join so in effect members only ‘sit’ on the panel for a maximum of three years. Four surveys are sent to the panel members each year accompanied with a newsletter informing them of the results from previous surveys and feedback on what we are doing with the answers they gave. Answers, comments and suggestions often form part of Best Value Reviews of our services, to help to ensure that we are delivering the best quality services available. 1.3 USER SATISFACTION SURVEYS

In 2000/01 the Government specified a number of Best Value Performance Indicators (BVPI) that requires Local Authorities to survey the local community. These BVPIs are collected on a three yearly basis, the latest surveys are being carried out in 2006/07.

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1.4

VIEWPOINT

Viewpoint is the Council newsletter which is sent to every household in Erewash, three times a year. Viewpoint gives information on Council services and improvements, and also includes information from our partner organisations. 1.5 COMMENTS, COMPLIMENTS AND COMPLAINTS

The Council’s procedure for citizens to give feedback on the services offered. 1.6 LOCAL STRATEGIC PARTNERSHIP

Erewash Local Strategic Partnership (LSP) brings together senior representatives from the public, private, voluntary and community sectors, all of whom have a commitment to promoting the economic, social and environmental sustainability of the borough. The LSP is a means of engaging with other members of the community who may not be easily accessible to the council. 1.7 MARKETING AND PUBLICITY

We engage with our residents through various marketing and publicity events. 2 2.1

FUTURE DEVELOPMENTS
YOUTH COUNCIL

The Council is looking to develop a Youth Council as the initial contact for engagement with the young people of Erewash. 2.2 ELECTRONIC CONSULTATION

The Council is developing on-line consultation in order to progress G3 with regard to citizen participation and consultation. Citizens will be alerted to nominated topics for consultation via email or SMS text messaging.

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