Total Place

Busy times in Bradford as seen by Zoe Swanson

Posted on October 7th, 2009

Cheese and fruitcake (and Total Place) in Bradford

By Zoe Swanson, Partnerships Consultant, IDeA

I attended my first event in a Total Place national pilot area last Friday really interested to hear how Bradford are progressing. And also how they’re handling the pressure of being a pilot – the focus of everyone’s attention! It was incredibly well attended with over 80 people from across the region, from authorities, third sector agencies, GO, RIEP and the like.

First impressions from the day was that Bradford is clearly very committed to being a pilot – with Cllr Adrian Naylor, Executive Member, Regen and Economy, and Tony Reeves, Chief Executive of Bradford City Council, speaking passionately about their commitment to the project and, candidly, about the benefits they are sure they can realise from being a pilot.

It struck me yet again that the success of TP pilots, and parallel place pilots nationally, will be to a very large extent down to how well prepared areas are to lead and tackle the challenges of transformational change – in terms of existing partnership working relationships / practices and leadership.

In Bradford, they started from position of strength.  A lot of the service transformation work they’re now focusing on wearing a Total Place hat was already in train before the pilot was announced.  But by being a pilot, they realise the valuable opportunity they have to shape Government thinking on public sector reform. This is what interested me the most.

I suspect many of us have been scratching our heads about Total Place, thinking “Is this all that new? Aren’t we all very aware that some services aren’t working very well; that there is lots of duplication and value lost? Aren’t we all aware that many areas have been working on service transformation with partners for some time?” Well yes, but this project has central Government sponsorship and Ministers’ interest in its hold – it’s an opportunity for the sector to show its ambition and knowledge of what works for communities.

The opportunity to challenge Government’s intentions came out again in the group work I sat in on.  The ‘Efficiencies and Transformation’ group members reeled off a dozen or so projects they were involved in / had managed / had heard of in the region and elsewhere, where service review and redesign had taken place to achieve better outcomes at reduced public spend for local people. This stuff wasn’t new to them, but what they were excited about was the avenue Total Place opened up to Whitehall. They wanted to talk to Government about the barriers they’d found in their Total Place-type work to date – and start a evidence-based discussion on how these barriers might be broken down e.g. in the way funding is awarded or ring-fenced, or the powers afforded to JobCentrePlus locally.

Colleagues (and Tony Reeves spoke about this a lot in his introduction) are worried that the recession will lead to a knee-jerk cut to public spending, that doesn’t consider how spending on transformation change can lead to efficiencies.  Tony argued that “Real efficiencies require fundamental transformation, not isolated interventions and short term central Government cuts to local government”. Lots of agreement in the room!

So, I left the event (after enjoying a Yorkshire tea-time tradition of cheese with fruitcake?!) thinking; so will Government be listening? I hope so.

Finally, I can’t not mention my delight upon arriving at Bradford City Hall – wow! It’s quickly gone to viagra mexico the top of my ‘Favourite Town Hall’ list.

Bradford Town Hall

Bradford Town Hall

To read more from Zoe, visit the Total Place Community of Practice.

Category: news

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