We spoke to Maxine Moar, one of our dedicated APSE Solutions Associates, on how local authorities can use neighbourhood agreements to bring together residents and service delivery partners.
Many in Local Government have heard the term “neighbourhood agreement” but few are aware of its power to transform communities by empowering residents. In the face of continuing neighbourhood service budget cuts, a neighbourhood agreement (NA) is a tried and tested method of bringing together residents and public service partners to radically improve a community.
An NA is set up by bringing service providers together with a critical mass of residents to agree on what needs improving on an estate or neighbourhood. Too often, frontline services fail to effectively engage with communities by operating in “silos”. With an NA, local people can have greater involvement in services in the areas they live. Instead of residents being the passive, and occasionally hostile, recipient of services, they become active partners in helping to deliver them. NAs also benefit service providers, helping to formalise their roles and providing them with an opportunity to share information with other stakeholders.
Not only are NAs cheap and easy to create, they also significantly reduce public expenditure. Local residents can keep an eye on the areas they live in to ensure neighbourhood issues can be dealt with quickly. They can provide the intelligence needed to ensure that resources are deployed where they are most needed. A community who reports, does not drop litter or take part in low level anti-social behaviour will save a local authority considerable money in the long term.
Additionally, by reducing crime and anti-social behaviour, NAs can improve the health and wellbeing of residents who may feel isolated in their estates. APSE has long advocated prevention rather than cure, emphasising the importance of measures that will reduce demand for reactive services such as street cleaning. As a quick and cost-effective mechanism for reducing demand, NAs can be a massive help for local authorities struggling under the weight of intensifying budget cuts.
Success of an NA depends on winning the hearts and minds of residents, and neighbourhood champions are key to achieving this. Champions can overcome barriers that local authorities routinely face in communicating with residents. These barriers may involve the digital skills gap as well as cultural, linguistic and generational differences. Champions are also well-placed to mobilise residents; ensuring they contribute to and shape the delivery of services in their area.
Over 25 years I have seen some of the most deprived areas in Britain transformed by targeted Neighbourhood Agreements which provide a sustained new way of interaction between the public realm and the community. NAs help residents monitor the services they receive and encourages them to take responsibility for finding solutions to local problems. In the days of austerity, NAs are a win-win.
Maxine Moar is an Associate for APSE Solutions. For more information, or to enquire about using Maxine or other APSE Solutions Associates, contact Emma Taylor on firstname.lastname@example.org or call Emma on 0161 772 1810.