Partnership approach to public finance management

One IlfracombeThe One Ilfracombe Town Team, officially launched at Ilfracombe Fire Station on 31 March, is a multi-agency partnership, which is designed to ensure a coordinated and collaborative approach to serving the community of Ilfracombe in Devon by a wide range of public sector organisations.

‘One Ilfracombe’ is the title given to a programme of work undertaken under the auspices of the Government’s localism agenda and specifically the idea of neighbourhood community budgets. In late 2011 the Department for Communities and Local Government asked for applications from local communities who wished to take part in a pilot programme of designing and managing better use of public finances that directly affected their areas. Ilfracombe Town Council took that challenge and was accepted as one of 12 pilot areas across England.

In order to make this work the council were very aware that they needed the support of partner agencies in the public sector and early engagement with the local Group Support Team for Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service was made.

Group Commander Pete Bond said, “Ilfracombe Town Council initially asked for our support in the bid process to become a pilot area for this programme and because of our commitment to partnership working in North Devon I was more than happy to commit to this.

“The truth is that this programme has presented the single best example I have come across of true multi-agency collaboration. Between us we make much of working together but seem to hit the same old barriers of data sharing and duplication of work across organisations, the ‘One Ilfracombe’ programme has smashed through all of that and the Town Team is the physical manifestation.”

Throughout 2012 considerable work was done in understanding and planning how the budgets of the various partners could be broken down into the direct support of Ilfracombe and how that money and resourcing could be used to best effect locally. In April 2013 ‘One Ilfracombe’ was officially launched with three main themes – Health and Wellbeing; Business and Enterprise; and Pride in Place.

Each of these themes has various areas of work that require input to create a better environment for the community of Ilfracombe and these work streams are dealt with by projects. The Town Team is a project created under the Pride in Place theme with the specific remit to: improve the town centre environment; create a safe, vibrant and welcoming area; raise the sense of pride people feel about living in Ilfracombe; collectively tackle the issues that matter; and create a new way of working together in Ilfracombe.

Since October 2013 the project development team has created and delivered a training package to the various agencies. This is to ensure that all staff working in Ilfracombe are able to deal with any issues raised by the community.

The team includes PCSOs, PCs, fire officers, members of the Town Council, South West Ambulance Service, the District Council Street Cleaning team, the harbour master and staff at the tourist information centre. While working in Ilfracombe, they keep in contact with each other by radio and are clearly visible to the public as members of the team by wearing armbands, t-shirts or baseball caps to identify them. Resources are shared to tackle issues in the town that undermines the environment – from dog fouling to fly tipping, tackling crime and anti-social behaviour.

The Chair of the project team, Police Inspector Roger Bartlett, said, “In times of financial challenge, we all need to pull together to support each other and make the best of the resources we have. I am convinced that if this team can work effectively, it will have a significant difference to our town and will provide a better service.”

An early example of this is the use of Ilfracombe Fire Station as the Town Team base. Pete Bond said, “‘I was acutely aware that our station is in a prime position, just off the High Street with space for multi-agency working. We have created a large meeting space and a hot desking area, which means that all partners can use the station to work from when in Ilfracombe. This allows for face-to-face contact and building relationships that are vital to ensure the success of the project.

“The service has allowed the North Devon Council street cleaning vehicle to be parked in the station yard as there was no provision for this in Ilfracombe. So council staff had to drive to Barnstaple every day to collect the vehicle and return it at night. A simple conversation at one of the early Town Team meetings means that the people of Ilfracombe now have an extra hour of street cleaning every day and the staff has a better working pattern.”

DCLG recently announced that a further 100 communities are being supported in what has become known as the ‘Our Place’ programme due to the success of the pilot areas. ‘One Ilfracombe’ has much to be proud of and will continue to lead the way in this innovative approach to partnerships.