Last week we published the ‘Forward Plan’ document for my November cabinet meeting. For those not familiar with the intricate processes of the Council, this is where the council gives the necessary 28 days’ notice that reports are coming to Cabinet meetings for discussion and approval by my cabinet colleagues.
My Cabinet and I have endorsed 95 papers and their recommendations in Cabinet meetings so far. Of the 95 reports, 79 are described as ‘key’ (which either spend over half a million pounds or affect two or more wards), and 16 ‘non-key’.
We’ve added three more to the Forward Plan, which makes 98 papers this year and including the UNITE Construction Charter with Union representatives at the July meeting this year means we have developed 99 that which bring recommendations for us to consider, enact policies and make decisions that get stuff done.
Papers cover a wider variety of issues, reflecting the range of responsibilities the council has. Some have considerable public interest, like ‘Parks and Green Spaces – future funding model 2018-2020’ (taken at May’s Cabinet meeting) while others might be seen as more business as usual and had fewer public comments, like our ‘HR & Payroll System – procurement and implementation’ decision (taken in April).
The papers reflect our priorities as an administration, with housing developments being frequent, including our recent decision to create a ‘Housing Company’ (September), as well as transport and infrastructure plans such as the ‘Chocolate Path River Wall Stabilisation’ report (also September) or planning policy changes outlined in the ‘Affordable Housing Practice Note’ (March).
Papers looking at our approach to adult social care and our duty as corporate parent, a huge responsibility for the council, come frequently too. ‘Application of a new Bristol Rate for new older people’s residential and nursing care placements’ (June), ‘Better Lives at Home: Care and Support in new Extra Care Housing schemes’ (October) ‘Corporate Parenting Strategy’ (January) and ‘Care Leaver Social Impact Bond – DfE Innovations fund award and next steps’ (April) are all examples of this.
Other policies we’ve adopted such as the ‘Sport and Active Recreation Facility Strategy’ (July) and ‘Better Lives Programme’ (April) are about how we create a long-term policy framework to deliver a more inclusive city.
I sometimes talk about how Local Authorities can be viewed as a floating iceberg, with a portion of its structure showing, while considerably more of its bulk stays below the surface.
At the iceberg’s peak, at the most visible part of a council, are high-profile infrastructure projects and schemes. Multimillion pound capital projects focused on large scale regeneration or investment capture the headlines and media attention, but are a just small part of a council’s day-to-day work.
At the waterline of the iceberg, sometimes showing, sometimes not, are the important services which the majority of people might notice occasionally – such as your rubbish collection, road maintenance and parks and green spaces.
Just as important as this, but often hidden from view, is the majority of the iceberg of local government services underpinning our work. Planning and enforcement, traffic management, schools and education services, cemeteries and street lighting are a small example of the hundreds of statutory responsibilities a council has a duty to provide in an effective, lawful and efficient way.
These 99 decisions show how the rate of delivery has accelerated, now that the council has become fit for purpose – driving our housing numbers and transport plans for the city, but also ensuing our education and care services are maintained in the face of budget pressures. Underpinning all this is a council which is financially stable and now, after considerable work by the strategic team, able to get stuff done.