Charter and Locality Agreements

We intend to strike a new relationship with towns and parishes and will capture this in a Charter.

The Charter is an idea backed by the Somerset Association of Local Councils (SALC).

We will develop the Charter through participative workshops with parishes, towns and other parties.

The Charter will help establish and articulate a strong collaborative relationship between town, parish and city councils and the new unitary councils. Whilst not legally binding, it will be a statement of serious intent to work together to achieve sustainable outcomes for communities. It will set out mutually agreed rights and responsibilities and be flexible, recognising the range of local councils and localities across Somerset. A living document, it will be reviewed regularly.

We want a bottom-up approach that truly reflects the ways that communities operate and interact.

City, town and parish councils should be empowered to engage with Primary Care Networks to contribute to work on health and wellbeing in their communities.

Other networks already show how parishes and towns can sustain vital local initiatives such as transport services.

We will support networks who wish to develop locality agreements to deliver specific initiatives. Our new unitary councils will provide the relevant data needed for the network to make informed decisions and work with them to deliver vital services to the community.

A Locality Agreement would be an arrangement between the unitary and the locality as equal partners confirming the vision and ambition of the area and what each party agrees to do to achieve this. It would specify powers and responsibilities to be devolved in return for agreements about outcomes to be achieved.

Locality Agreements can vary in scope and scale to reflect local circumstances, for example:

  1. Council Development Agreements – these will be offered to city, town and parish council to help with governance arrangements and community engagement, as well as helping them access services such as favourable procurement frameworks, HR and finance.
  2. Service or asset-based agreements – these could involve assets, such as a building or a service, transferred permanently or for a fixed-term
  3. People or Place based agreements – for example, an agreement to work to reduce isolation and inactivity of older people, that would in turn reduce demand on residential care places or the number of emergency hospital admissions.

These kinds of agreements could support wider policy agendas such as population health, or crime prevention. They could involve the investment of money for evidence-based activity with projected benefits to public services.

Where the agreement involves the devolution of assets and budgets and the achievement of service standards or outcomes, the convening city, town or parish would need to demonstrate their ability to be able to take on and sustain the additional powers and responsibilities. We are working with city town and parish councils to establish the criteria for this.

It is important these agreements are not just made available to the most affluent and vocal places, potentially increasing inequality. A focus of the communities and devolution team will be to work across the whole geography to take a place led approach, rather than just responding to the most developed areas. In all places the approach would be to create locally present and integrated provision.

It is the intention that the town and parish councils will be at the heart of co-ordinating local partners to developing these agreements. City, town and parish council would be invited, separately or together, to work with the unitary in developing proposals.

Depending on the focus of the agreement, local councils may need to demonstrate the involvement and engagement of other local partners and institutions, such as schools, businesses and voluntary and community sector organisations, in shaping the proposals.

We are engaging with parishes and other interested parties to involve them in the detailed design of the Locality Agreement approach, through participation in ‘workshops’ to flesh out the proposed approach, methodology and geographies by which it would work.

We will not impose a ‘top down’ working arrangement that fails to reflect ways that communities operate and interact. We are aware also of the development of areas based on the boundaries of Primary Care Networks and these are vital to the delivery of the NHS’s long-term plan and for the promotion of work on the wider determinants of health. We want to ensure that city, town and parish councils have the opportunity to participate in the networks that best reflect their ambitions and priorities.

We will also support the formation of community networks based on these boundaries and these will be the places for the wider engagement of other public sector agencies. Within the Primary Care Network based clusters we will involve the unitary functions most relevant to the issues in the network, and we will provide the relevant data needed for the network to make informed decisions. These will be facilitated by the community and devolution team and will employ facilitative techniques to make these discussions as focused, inclusive and productive as possible.

The results of the local poll have been announced

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Thank you to everyone who voted.