Brent’s Poverty Commission

Cllr. Ketan Sheth

Brent’s Poverty Commission is a timely description and analysis of where we are at in addressing inequality and poverty. It provides us with a pathway to change the quality of life and life chances of many of our residents.

Improving the flow of information and resources within and between public, social and economic organisations has a crucial role to play in driving up quality of life. If every organisation in our local economy were able and willing to work collaboratively to design services that optimise impact, it could lead to major improvements in outcomes.

The importance of collaboration is increasingly recognised by leaders and policymakers throughout the UK. Where we are able to match capacity and demand and enable better, truly joined-up thinking, there have been impressive results. Our aim in Brent is to provide leaders and improvement teams in our local economies with activities, methods, approaches and skills that can help to make these improvements.

The Poverty Commission describes the steps that policy formers, makers and practioners need to create an environment that is conducive to change. This means the coordination of all processes, systems and resources, across an entire local economy, to deliver effective, efficient, community-centred outcomes in the right setting at the right time and by the right agency.

If we are to tackle poverty, we should also look at how to eliminate the ‘failure demand’ – demand arising from failure to provide a service or to provide it in a timely and effective fashion – that leads to people missing out. This means a structured approach that delivers for our communities and encompasses five key areas of work:

1. Creating a space for partners to come together, build relationships, develop a sense of shared purpose and deliver co-designed solutions.

2. Understanding ‘the current state’ by enabling providers and users to work together to map the processes and identify non-value adding activities.

3. Collecting and analysing data with a view to understanding the root causes of problems and identifying potential solutions that can then be tested.

4. Developing a high level ‘future Brent’ plan underpinned by simple guiding rules that local teams have the flexibility to adapt to fit their own context.

5. Implementing solutions in which all parts of our communities have a shared stake and responsibility and providing opportunities for collaborative reflection and further refinement as outcomes emerge.

Finally, there needs to be a closer configuration between our practice of improvement – where the emphasis is on discovering a way towards a tailored-solutions. Doing so has the potential to greatly improve the quality of life for many in Brent to make their experiences an altogether better one.

Cllr Ketan Sheth is Brent Council’s Chair of the Community and Wellbeing Scrutiny Committee

Andy Burnham was right: this Prime Minister can’t handle devolution

Chris Game

Negotiate? Look what happened last time!

“Unlike previously, there will be no negotiation with local leaders … financial support will be allocated on a uniform per capita basis”.  Simply a Guardian report, not a Prime Ministerial quote, but it didn’t need to be. What happens after December 2nd, the local restriction tiers to which we’re allocated, affects every person in every English locality differently.  But discussing, never mind attempting to negotiate, with experienced elected representatives who live in and know those localities – nah! It will only complicate things, and besides, look what happened last time!

Pleasingly, thanks to ITV News and Facebook, we can. The date was October 20th; the place – Manchester’s Barbirolli Square; media briefing convenor and main speaker – Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham; in attendance – several leaders of Greater Manchester councils; topic – Prime Minister Johnson’s imposition of the most stringent Covid lockdown restrictions on Manchester city region and refusal to increase the ‘standard’ £60 million financial support even to Burnham’s ‘bare minimum’ £65 million, that had prompted the latter’s accusation that the PM was “playing poker with people’s lives.”                                                                                  

It’s both melodramatic and genuinely climactic – when Burnham learns (about 32 minutes in), from a council leader’s mobile phone, the breaking news that the PM was punishing the Mayor’s protest, and Mancunian citizens, by peremptorily withdrawing the previously promised £60 million. That it later had to be restored – not by the PM, but by Health Secretary Matt Hancock – seemed merely to confirm all initial impressions.

The following weekend, Burnham and London Mayor Sadiq Khan wrote a joint Viewpoint column in The Observer/Guardian – ‘Mayors are a force for good. And it’s time Johnson recognised that’.   

The theme is easily conveyed: “The UK nations and regions should have been the government’s biggest ally in the battle to control the spread of this virus … As mayors … we are uniquely placed to help … [we] work hand in glove with local NHS leaders and regional health experts … we have strong links with local business leaders and understand the strengths of our local economies.  Crucially – we have shown ourselves capable of reacting to events more quickly and devising more innovative solutions than national government.”

 

“Prime Minister, you can’t handle devolution!”

It was the next paragraph, though – tone and content both – that really hit home: “However, the government has at times treated us as the enemy.  Westminster has sadly shown it is not mature enough to deal with devolution (my emphasis).  The government may have all the money and power, but ministers simply cannot cope with differences, disagreements or compromise.”

Remind you of anyone?  Top 20 Movie Quote?  Jack Nicholson/Tom Cruise courtroom scene?  “You can’t handle the truth!”  Yes, Nicholson’s Colonel Jessup defending his issuing a ‘Code Red’ in ‘A Few Good Men’.  I thought so, anyway, so please bear with me.  Some brief, imagined extracts from a kind of role-reversed “You can’t handle devolution!” speech, with Andy Burnham doing the Nicholson/Jessup lines and Johnson as Cruise/Lieutenant Kaffee:

Johnson:            “You questioned my Tier 3 lockdown order?”

Burnham:          “You bet I did.”

Johnson:            “I demand to know why.”

Burnham:          “You want answers?”

Johnson:            “I want the truth!”

Burnham:          “YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH!   Prime Minister, we live in a world where so-called ‘local’ and devolved governments manage and finance over 1,600 separate services.  A world that has responsibility for 400,000 care home beds – in homes that have seen 40% of all Covid-19 deaths.  We’re expected to fund all this with one single local tax that you cap and inadequate grants that you either ring-fence from the start or cut later when it suits you.

Who’s going to handle that scale and scope of responsibility? You, Prime Minister?  You have your graphs of aggregated infection and death rates and make your big decisions shutting down whole communities.  But most of those communities – our communities – are in the poorest parts of the country, where poor housing, pre-existing health conditions, and decades of neglect and financial discrimination mean infection and death risks are the highest.

We, our local councillors and officers have greater responsibilities than you can possibly fathom. You have the luxury of ignoring and compounding what we know – that, despite your collective and repeated ministerial failings and private sector contracting obsessions, we have saved lives, and our existence, while inconveniencing and incomprehensible to you, saves lives.

You don’t want the truth, because deep down in places you don’t talk about at parties, you WANT us out there … you NEED us out there.  You and your manifestoes promised “full devolution across the UK”, and “an English Devolution White Paper … so every part of the country has the power to shape its own destiny.”  The truth is that there is no White Paper.  The truth is that YOU CAN’T HANDLE DEVOLUTION!”

 

When Johnson was a Mayor himself

‘Irony’ is among the most misused words in the English language, but we do seem to have a case here of either situational irony or straightforward duplicity.  A decade ago, Johnson was Khan’s predecessor as Mayor of London. Especially in his second term ‘Heineken Tory’ period, he very deliberately used London as a headline illustration of how devolved government in the UK generally was centrally over-controlled and under-funded, compared to other countries’ systems.

He established a London Finance Commission, chaired by LSE Professor Tony Travers, which swiftly produced a neatly entitled report – Raising the Capital – with some seriously radical content.

Impossible here to summarise satisfactorily, the Commission concluded that London’s growing, changing population placed increasingly acute pressure on local services, while its existing sub-national governments lacked the powers to provide effective solutions.

Under 7% of tax paid by London residents and businesses was redistributed directly by locally elected bodies; 74% of London’s funding came through central government grants – compared with Berlin’s 25%, Paris’s 17% and Tokyo’s 8%.

Taxation powers were merely one part of the required reform.  But the Commission recommended (p.11) that “the full suite of property taxes” – council tax, business rates, stamp duty, capital gains tax – be devolved to London governments, which should have responsibility for setting tax rates, revaluation, banding and discounts. There was plenty more, but the point here is less the Commission than the CommissionER. 

Ever the catchy phrase-seeker, Johnson launched his report by referring to tax-enfeebled London as “an economic and political giant but a fiscal infant …”  However, while his Commission’s proposals were for London, the Mayor himself seemed more ambitious.

So, come the 2013 Conservative Party Conference – in Manchester, by happenstance – there he was, leading a cross-party campaign with the London Councils and Core Cities Groups – the latter comprising then, pre-devolution, the Leaders of the eight major English cities, including Sir Richard Leese, then-as-now Leader of Manchester City Council and also Burnham’s Deputy Mayor, whose mobile phone would be the one conveying to Mayor Burnham the PM’s Greater Manchester lockdown news.

Piquant, isn’t it!  Because, back then, Johnson was asserting that England was much too centralised and calling for a comparable suite of fiscal reforms for England’s largest cities. Ever the historian manqué, it would be an “historic and significant move … a partial but practical answer to the conundrum of English devolution … good not just for the cities involved, but for the country at large.”

 

What changed, what didn’t – the current state of English devolution

Financially, of course, nothing fundamentally changed.  London could still be tagged a tax-enfeebled “fiscal infant”, the difference being that it is now blatantly treated as such by its former Mayor.  As recently, when the now PM resorted to apparently “lying to Parliament” about Mayor Sadiq Khan’s financial management of Transport for London, before grudgingly granting a £1.8 billion bailout and dropping demands for fare increases. Greater Manchester, London – you may sense a certain pattern emerging.

Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA), as it happens, was the first of these new devolution models to have been launched – by the Labour Government back in 2011, although its actual Treasury-negotiated ‘City Deal’ didn’t happen until November 2014, shortly after the Scottish independence referendum. It established the pattern, though, for the now 10 CAs – 8 Mayoral, 2 (West Yorkshire and the North East) currently non-mayoral – set up by two or more neighbouring councils wishing to co-ordinate responsibilities and powers over services such as transport, skills training, economic development, housing and social care.

However, since the most recently created, North of Tyne, was in November 2018, the policy has effectively stalled.  The October 2019 Queen’s Speech promised a White Paper with plans for “unleashing regional potential in England”, replicated almost verbatim on p.29 of the Conservative Manifesto: “full devolution across England … so that every part of our country has the power to shape its own destiny.”  

 

“Full devolution across England” – or have things gone backwards?

In normal times one would now turn straight to the Institute for Government’s Policy Tracker for the first 100 days of the Johnson Government.  As comprehensive as ever, it compared ‘Commitment’ to ‘Current status’ for some 28 policy fields – one of which was to “Publish an English Devolution White Paper” … “Yet to commence”.

In fairness, it was far from the only such pledge, and the first Covid cases had been diagnosed about halfway through the 100 days.  Understandably, the agenda changed, as in July did the proposed title – to the ‘Local Economic Recovery and Devolution White Paper’, though the envisaged content and appearance dates stayed as vague as ever.  Through the summer it was to be September, then the Conservative Conference in October, then “Autumn”, then “on the back burner, pending a rethink” or simply “in due course”.

But, while ministers did their thing, local councillors recalled Robert Jenrick, Housing, Communities & Local Government Secretary, opining that he saw no “long-term future” for two-tier local government.  Cue serious speculation about just how large and non-local single-tier ‘local’ authorities might be – 300,000 minimum? 500,000? 1 million? – drawing lines on maps and speculating about how many fewer councillors there might be.

Meanwhile, ministers specifically responsible for local government came and went – one, Simon Clarke, just possibly, I suggested in these columns, because he became overly enthusiastic about anything describable as “the greatest decentralisation of power in our modern history”.  

I may have been wrong in detail, but right in practice. For Sir Bob Kerslake, former Head of the Home Civil Service and Chair of the UK2070 Commission, recently reckoned the White Paper is “postponed until 2021 – and the local government reforms scaled back. Its emphasis will be less on devolution – it does feel like it has gone backwards” – and recently, it seems, at gathering speed.   

First it was Scotland, with the self-isolating PM struggling to explain which kind of devolution was disastrous and which he supported, and then clarifying completely that, come the end of this lockdown, there would be no repeat of Barbirolli Square.  Quite simply, “there will be no negotiation with local leaders”.

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Chris Game is an INLOGOV Associate, and Visiting Professor at Kwansei Gakuin University, Osaka, Japan.  He is joint-author (with Professor David Wilson) of the successive editions of Local Government in the United Kingdom, and a regular columnist for The Birmingham Post.

How coronavirus is changing how we think about illegal drugs

Jon Bloomfield

The debate between prevention or punishment is receiving some ‘new thinking’ that may change the way drugs are bought and used.

How the country handles people who use drugs is a contentious political issue. Like most of the country, Birmingham has a growing problem with drug misuse. Over the last forty years Judith Yates has seen every aspect of the urban drugs scene, starting as a GP in an inner-city, Birmingham practice in 1980. Now involved with drug monitoring in the city,  she knows the devastation that drug use can bring to people’s lives. She is clear on the policy approach that is needed. “Treating drugs as a health issue not a criminal justice issue is the key.”

For decades the UK has followed the lead of the United States in seeing drugs as primarily a criminal issue. There are now signs that the agencies which confront these issues daily recognise that it is time to change course. That’s certainly the case in Birmingham and across the West Midlands. David Jamieson, the elected West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner, is an astute Labour politician, who knows that  he needs to side-step the ‘culture wars’ booby traps. So he avoids gesture politics and grand statements. Instead he tells me, “we’re following a pragmatic approach. We can’t wait for the government to change the law. We’re looking at what we can do now.” 

Following public consultation, in February 2018 Jamieson set out a new approach to drug policy. The report called for new thinking and a mature discussion about what needed to be done, along with eight recommendations for action.

Some were small-scale measures such as the proposal to improve access to Naloxone and other interventions that reduce the lethal impact of drug overdoses. “We’ve now got fifty officers in Birmingham city centre trained in its use and carrying it around with them.” 

The pocket-sized Naloxone kit. (Jon Bloomfield)

A further measure the PCC is pursuing is the establishment of a heroin assisted treatment (HAT) centre. This would “use a current medical facility and treat 10-15 heavy end users.”  One of the local council officers involved in the discussions on operationalising the HAT admitted to me that setting it up is complex. “You have to find the right facility and be able to match it to the right cohort of users. It’s no good if they are miles apart.” But Jamieson is confident that “we’ll be able to land it by early next year.”

One of Jamieson’s eight  recommendations was to consider the benefits of supervised drug consumption rooms. This support is typically targeted at hard to reach homeless people, improving their access to treatment while taking their injecting and needle litter off the streets. Just before lockdown, the Commissioner  published Out of Harm’s Way which assessed the evidence regarding Drug Consumption Rooms and showed strong and supportive backing for their introduction as a way  to reduce the harm caused, and the costs incurred, by drug use. Jamieson has been to visit such a facility in Geneva to see how it works and its benefits but he admits “it’s a tricky area. Progress has been slow so far and it’s mainly a health issue”. His budgets wouldn’t cover its introduction.    

David Jamieson inspecting a drug consumption facility in Geneva. (West Midlands PCC)

With strapped budgets and ever-rising pressures, the agencies on the ground know that policy has to change and they are increasingly prepared to look at the evidence from across Europe and listen to the experiences of former drug users. John’s life has stabilised on methadone and for more than a decade he’s been involved in advocacy and support for people who use drugs. He’s a firm advocate of heroin assisted treatment centres and has visited drug consumption rooms in several European cities and believes they should be introduced here. “We’ve spent billions on this pandemic; we should be doing the same to tackle drug use.” At the end of a long call he wryly remarks that “as a 63 year old drug user I’ve managed to get by quite well in life.” He basically wants enough resources to be made available for others to be able to do the same.

Some of these harm reduction measures would be controversial with cultural conservatives. That’s why Jamieson treads warily, even though he has the backing of his senior police officers. But he feels that “we’re refocusing the debate. We are seeing quite a softening amongst opinion formers even in the media. A sea change is happening, even if it’s a bit glacial. I’m optimistic about our policies but I know there are no quick fixes.” He talks about the new HAT centre and I ask him if he shall invite Home Secretary Priti Patel to open it.  He chuckles and replies, “She’d be most welcome. I’m here to move mountains, not to build divides. I’m about persuading people.”  It looks like the invitation will be in the post.

A full version of this article can be found here:
https://www.independent.co.uk/author/jon-bloomfield

Jon Bloomfield is an honorary research fellow at INLOGOV, University of Birmingham and a regular contributor to the Long Read.

Keeping the window open: the 21st Century Public Servant and Covid-19

Image by @laurabrodrick

Prof. Catherine Needham

Local authorities had experience of managing short-term local crises, but the national and long-lasting crisis created by Covid-19 has been something new outside wartime. Local authorities had to manage the local implications of the lockdown and Covid-19 preparedness in their area whilst also moving all of their own non-essential workers to a home working model.

Our 21st Century Public Servant research (first published in 2014) looked at the changing roles, skills and values of people working in local public services. Over the previous six months we have partnered with North West Employers to understand how Covid-19 is changing working practices and skills, and how it links to the 21st C Public Servant findings. Given the constraints of doing fieldwork with local authorities themselves at a time of crisis, we gathered the learning through a series of conversations with the NWE team, published in our new report Keeping the Window Open.

The strain on local authority staff has been intense, as it has on the whole population. However some of the changes in organisational practices have been seen as positive, and have flagged opportunities for long-term reconfiguration. Some of our key findings include:

The importance of Storytellers: the most effective public servants during the crisis were seen by interviewees as those who were values-based and able to tell stories that drew on those values, setting out a path for the long term. They were the energiser and cheerleader – ‘we can get through this’ – despite not knowing the length or trajectory of the story.

The need for Entrepreneurs: the pandemic context has meant that staff have had to innovate, without always waiting for permission, and in some cases bypassing the usual sign-off procedures. The speed and extent of change has been unlike anything in local government before.

A new kind of Resource weaver: A key part of the Covid response has been using internal resources differently. Redeployment has been extensive, which has helped to break down silos within organisations. Many teams changed roles completely – for example leisure services and democratic services teams took on tasks like delivering PPE and setting up community hubs. The urgency and scale of the task made possible changes that otherwise would not have happened. As one of our interviewees put it, ‘People have been more willing to cross organisational lines, looking at partners and saying we can’t afford you to fail.’

Professional skills have been vital for those working in public health, environment health, planning and emergency response. However for many others, it is their more generic skills that have come to the forefront during the Covid-19 crisis. Through skills matching processes, there has been a new understanding of which individual skills are transferable. As one interviewee put it, ‘Lifeguards and fitness instructors have been redeployed to do community support because of their personal style and approach rather than their technical skills.’

Mass working from home has required high trust relationships with and between staff: ‘I think some managers have had their eyes opened about how home working can work. One local authority had no home working at all before this, they didn’t allow it – they had to go straight to 100 percent’. This creates questions about the future beyond Covid-19: ‘Are we prepared to let go and let people continue working from home or will we go back to the long hours culture? Can we focus on outputs and outcomes rather than hours worked?’

Something we didn’t address in the original 21st Century Public Servant research was endurance. It is still unclear how long this crisis will last. In the early phases at least there was hope that the lockdown could be short. Now it is clear that home working will continue for many people: ‘we won’t have everyone back at work ever again’. However, many have found home working to be much more intense, with few opportunities for down time, such as the chats in the lift with colleagues or the daydreaming on the train: ‘There isn’t much informal in my day at the moment. The intensity of it can be quite exhausting. How do we sustain the informal interactions like we had in the office?’

The long-term organisational legacy of Covid-19 is unclear, but the months of the crisis have made much clearer what public services are for and what the people working in them can achieve. Organisations and individuals need to think about how to keep open the window of change, and what are the new working cultures, roles and skills that can be sustained for the future.

This blog was originally published on the 21st Century Public Servant website: https://21stcenturypublicservant.wordpress.com/

Catherine Needham is Professor of Public Policy and Public Management. She is based at the Health Services Management Centre, developing research around social care and new approaches to public service workforce development.

Meeting like this…

Bryony Rudkin

The fieldwork for my PhD has consisted in part in watching and transcribing webcasts of council meetings. This was in the ‘before times’. Councillors like me up and down the country would put on their glad rags once a week or so, tip up at town halls up and do their thing.

Some of them would be filmed doing so and webcasts of meetings put up on council websites. Some recordings would be professionally produced using external platforms with nice little extras such as the relevant papers attached and easily referenced timings making it easy to watch the part of the meeting you were interested without having to wade through matters arising from the last one. Some of them were a little more homespun, filmed on phones and iPads, as one colleague put it, “local government styled by the The Blair Witch Project”.

Audiences for these would vary. Anecdotally, I was told officers would watch meetings in their respective councils to follow how their policy ideas were translated and received by councillors. Planning Committee meetings would get more hits from residents who were unable to attend in person but nevertheless wanted to know about their neighbour’s home extensions. One Chief Executive told me her mum watched and sent notes back on how her hair looked. And then there was me, collecting data with which to test my research questions.

All well and good. Then came the pandemic and lockdown and everyone went online. Whether it’s Zoom or Teams (other providers are available…) everyone from toddlers to great grannies logged on it seems. Quizzes were ubiquitous at the start and my family played some great drawing games (none of us will trouble Hockney). It’s not all been plain sailing though and we’ve all heard tales of Zooms gone wrong. Kids, dogs, nudity and those chat messages sent to all in error. I sat through one where someone, in response to a dull peroration on cycle paths, lifted their foot up and started to scratch it.

My rather niche research field has become a daily reality for most of us. I get regular messages along the lines of ‘you won’t want to miss this one….watch from 29 minutes in!”. I’ve been asked to comment on individual performance and style – “does my bookcase look big in this one?” – and I’ve taken part in virtual peer reviews and given feedback, online of course. I’ve been a participant myself of course and not just in council meetings. I’ve presented to an academic conference, chaired a meeting with a shadow minister interrupted by an ice-cream van outside her house and next month I’m monitoring elections in Bulgaria.

What has all this brought to my research? Well, put simply, meetings held online are a different matter to those held in person and publicly broadcast meetings something else again. Being at home, being alone in a room without colleagues to encourage, moderate or provoke can lead to unguarded moments. ‘Home truths’ are just that sometimes.

The organisation and direction of online meetings is a different process and the outcomes unpredictable. I recently watched two recent meetings in one authority, one calm, the other chaotic but the former was darker in tone and raised issues of bias and the chaos of the latter simply demonstrated a community at ease with itself and its challenges.

How we move on from here is a brave new world. Viewing figures are undoubtedly up and residents are getting more engaged. Hybrid meetings are now a reality. We all have new skills to learn and mute buttons to press. Watch this space….

Cllr. Bryony Rudkin is a PhD student at INLOGOV, Deputy Leader of Ipswich Borough Council and is a member of the UK delegation to the Congress of the Council of Europe. Bryony also works with councils around the country on behalf of the Local Government Association on sector-led improvement, carrying out peer reviews and delivering training and mentoring support.

Healthy Neighbourhoods

Cllr Ketan Sheth

Brent Healthy Neighbourhoods have been making headlines and indeed these were debated at a special Full Council meeting a few days ago.

So what are these “emergency” Covid road closures and “low-traffic neighbourhoods” all about? Well these are a group of residential streets where vehicle traffic, which is not local to the area, is either discouraged or removed. These areas are commonly referred to as low-traffic neighbourhoods. Brent plans to roll out a series of these initiatives between August 2020 and February 2021, in partnership with Transport for London and the Department for Transport. So, how can we make this innovative initiative better and benefit all?

I love where I live. It is rich in the elements that make for a vibrant, connected community. There is a bus stop near my home, there are nearby parks, I visit with my two young sons, and neighbours who represent a wide range of ethnicities, ages, and incomes.

These are all elements of healthy neighbourhoods. Brent aims to create neighbourhoods, and communities that better support residents’ physical, social, and emotional wellbeing. A lot of living happens between buildings and we are starting to realise that reactive healthcare is not sustainable. We need to move to a more proactive mind-set and break down the silos between planners, healthcare, and governments. Then we can develop environments that improve health outcomes and help alleviate the burden of treating chronic conditions at a macroeconomic level.

This involves working with our communities and various stakeholders. At the individual and community levels, the more attention policy makers, planners, and developers pay to these principles, the more likely it is that we will all be able to proclaim our love for our neighbourhoods — and the healthy, supported, and connected lives they enable us to lead.

We know that stress plays a vital role in undermining health and wellness — whether it is caused by commuting, isolation, congestion, lack of exercise, or estrangement from nature — so it is not surprising that stress reduction and connecting residents, both young and old, with their streets is at the heart of healthy neighbourhoods’ initiative.

So, to enhance Brent’s innovative Healthy Neighbourhoods we should:

1. Think Smart location

We must reflect on how people have safe and easy access to public transport. Residents should be able to meet basic needs without using a car, which saves money, and walking on errands provides routine physical movement and social interaction.

2. Nature is integrated

Green spaces are abundant, or at least present. Natural landscapes help maintain and cleanse the environment by removing harmful toxins from the air and water, while open space promotes physical activity and psychological wellbeing.

3. Land use is mixed

Combining housing, schools, shops, and places of worship in a compact area provides easy access to services and decreases reliance on cars. This supports physical and social well-being.

4. Includes a variety of housing types

A mix of apartment buildings, small homes, and larger homes that can accommodate multi-generational families naturally encourages economic and demographic diversity. Combining incomes and generations decentralises poverty, enables “aging in place,” and encourages attainable housing for community members of all backgrounds, income levels, and ages.

5. Offers alternatives to driving

People in pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly communities have a reduced risk of obesity and cardiovascular disease and enjoy more routine social interaction.

6. Encourages pride of place

Healthy neighbourhoods host high-quality public spaces that encourage residents to come out of their homes to exercise, meet, and mingle (in post Covid times). This builds social capital and a sense of community.

7. Provides access to healthy foods

Community gardens, farmers’ markets, food co-ops, and shops that offer a wide range of fresh vegetables and fruits are critical amenities that support wellness.

8. Enables lifelong learning Community members of all ages and backgrounds have opportunities to share their skills, knowledge, and experience with others through mentoring, book clubs, informal lectures, classes, and workshops, all of which promote feelings of growth, self-sufficiency, and connectedness.

9. Incorporates sustainable development

Low-impact development and green building technologies yield positive benefits for human health as well as the environment.

Like other councils, we are taking the opportunity to “de-stress” our local area.  Local councils have the unique democratic mandate and place-shaping ability to make these difficult and complex decisions about conflicting perspectives, needs and preferences.

Cllr Sheth chairs the Brent Council Community and Wellbeing Scrutiny Committee