For a long time now I have been an advocate for enterprise development as tool of personal and community wellbeing. I have seen it work so often. However enterprise is so inextricably entwined with entrepreneurship that it is difficult to really engage health professionals (who arguably lead on ‘wellbeing’ in the UK) in the potential of the enterprise agenda. When they think enterprise they generally think social enterprise and new patterns of commissioning. Hey Ho!
I was interested to hear that John Healey has been encouraging Councils to consider using their ‘wellbeing’ powers to help local communities through the current economic downturn.
The wellbeing power permits councils to do anything (except raise tax) to promote the economic, social and environmental wellbeing of their area. While nine out of ten councils are aware of the power, fewer than one in twelve are using it.
As long as the council’s actions are in the interest of local wellbeing, the power is available to enable a wide range of actions – saving councils time, avoiding complex legal procedures and cutting red tape.
John Healey said:
“The wellbeing power could be used to tackle some of the very real problems faced by communities during this economic downturn. Some councils have shown the way, using it to drive investment in their area, get local people into jobs or make savings by delivering more efficient services. I’m determined that more of them see this potential. That’s why I am writing to all councils today highlighting practical advice that will help them put this key tool to best use.”
- Greenwich council used the power to tackle worklessness in their area, creating an employment agency in support of the existing community training agency
- in Torbay the council founded a Development Agency using the wellbeing power, which helped to boost tourism, economic development, and the regeneration of its harbour
- a joint agreement between North Tyneside and Newcastle City Council was facilitated by the Wellbeing power and provided a whole new street lighting infrastructure. The move helped to regenerate the local area, restoring civic pride, improving house prices, attracting new businesses and reducing crime
- London Borough of Newham used the Wellbeing power as an opportunity to invest in a partnership project with the local PCT. The Local Finance Improvement Trust they created will build new premises and provide social care services in three London authorities
- using the Wellbeing power the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea improved the safety of their local area. The council funded the employment of fifteen additional Community Support Officers to provide more uniformed presence on the streets, contributing to reduced street crime
- in Wakefield, families living on an estate blighted by crime and drug-abuse were given a lifeline by the wellbeing power. It allowed the houses to be bought by the Council without a lengthy Compulsory Purchase Order process. The families were able to move away from the area and get a fair price for their homes – and the Council was free to redevelop the estate.
Makes you wonder whether enterprise professionals could sell a case to a local council to use their wellbeing powers to support enterprise projects as a vehicle for progress. I would like to think that three years into LEGI at least some working models that might deserve replication were starting to emerge.
Anyone care to work up some ideas?