After their triumph at the APSE Service Awards 2023, we pull back the curtain to reveal how Wigan became Overall Council of the Year.
Across Wigan Council – from town halls to libraries, depots to leisure centres – the #TeamWigan ethos is the golden thread that inspires our service delivery. It’s the foundation of the workforce culture, built up over the past decade, helping staff to try new ways of working for the benefit of our residents. Inspired by an asset-based approach, it helps the workforce to be an active part of their community. Staff feel empowered to go beyond just identifying a problem or deficit and simply fixing it, instead they are encouraged to connect residents to their interests and things that make them happy.
It’s an approach that shines through the New Ways of Working for Howe Bridge Leisure Centre project that secured the Best Community and Neighbourhood Initiative category, and likewise across the other shortlisted nominations. For Howe Bridge, the idea of a ‘traditional’ sports/leisure centre was reimagined, catering for a wider scope of services and, ultimately, increasing its impact on community health and wellbeing. It could not have been achieved without the help of the borough’s community and volunteer-based partner organisations, which is another key feature of the #TeamWigan approach; the entire borough, its people, organisations, groups and clubs are part of the team, not just the local authority.
To help promote and embed the principles of #TeamWigan across all council staff and partner organisations the local authority hosts ‘#TeamWigan Experience’ days with the third iteration opening later this year. Likewise, within the organisation all staff have regular Listening Into Action (LIA) sessions with the leader of the council and chief executive, meanwhile, managers across our services are encouraged to structure their one-to-one development meetings with colleagues around the #TeamWigan principles.
Leader of Wigan Council, Councillor David Molyneux MBE, said: “To be shortlisted in a handful of awards and able to win two, including the overall Council of the Year title, is something that we certainly do not take for granted, especially given the competition at the APSE awards. “We are all aware that we are going through challenging times for local government and our service delivery has been impacted by not only the ongoing repercussions of budgetary cuts, but with the Covid-19 pandemic followed by the cost-of-living crisis.
“I believe this recognition for our approach speaks volumes about the attitude of our frontline staff and how we have been able to prioritise the outstanding services to residents through embracing different approaches. “We are able to work with our partners and communities to deliver on what we know is important to our residents, through recognising the importance of happiness, of feeling connected and being valued. “Myself and Alison (Mckenzie-Folan, chief executive) look forward to our regular LIA sessions as they’re a perfect forum to have ongoing conversations with our teams, to find out what matters to them and to share best practice.
“This is reflected in how our services then interact with our communities. Our frontline staff are the eyes and ears of the organisation and the feedback helps us shape our approach. “Despite being among the worst hit financially by austerity measures, we have not cut frontline services and through our innovative approaches we have been able to invest in transformation to constantly improve our services.”
Of course, winning the APSE Council of the Year title is a source of pride for the council, having been nominated in previous years. But it’s important to highlight the dedication of our frontline teams who were shortlisted this year, such as our Highways, Winter Maintenance and Street Lighting service and Waste Management and Recycling service, in the Frontline Services Teams of the Year category, and the Digital Integration Flats Audit project in the Best Workforce Initiative category.
We believe our record at the APSE Awards in recent years shows a level of consistency to also be proud of, but given the challenges facing local government, we’re certainly not resting on our laurels. Some of you will be aware of The Deal approach we have had here in Wigan Borough over the last decade. Our next step is to build on The Deal’s legacy and redefine a New Era for Wigan Borough, something that we have been extensively consulting on with our communities over recent months. It will help the council consider how we can embed our behaviours and principles even further and focus even more intently on tackling inequality and poverty through a community wealth building programme.
We have recently announced an exciting education and skills partnership with Edge Hill University and local colleges to create a health and care academy, which is already transforming the opportunities and careers available for young people in our borough. Edge Hill has recently been confirmed as the Civic University of Wigan Borough. And in the health sector, we have new responsibilities through an integrated care partnership – and we are committed in moving that system to a more preventative model that will improve public health and help individuals and communities achieve their full economic and social potential as well as reduce demand on acute settings.
Several of our town centres are embarking on exciting regeneration schemes, we’re embracing digital transformation, utilising smart technology more so than ever before and our climate agenda – the council has set a target to become carbon neutral by 2038 – remains at the forefront of our policies. There are exciting times ahead for the council, partners and communities across Wigan Borough and we appreciate our support from fellow authorities and APSE.