At the Labour Party Conference in Brighton last week four of my fellow Thanet Labour Group councillors, Clive Hart, Liz Green, Dave Green (pictured in the Conference hall as South Thanet Labour Party's delegate) and Linda Aldred (not pictured) attended a meeting to discuss the government's Total Place project.
Total Place is a new initiative that looks at how a ‘whole area’ approach to public services can lead to better services and at less cost. It seeks to identify and avoid overlap and duplication between organisations – delivering a step change in both service improvement and efficiency at the local level, as well as across Government.
Total Place is an ambitious government programme that is taking a fresh look at the totality of public money being spent in a local area, from the council and the NHS, through to policing and Jobcentre Plus. It aims to look at what might be done differently and what savings could be made.
With government spending on public services running at about £500bn across the UK, the project offers the prospect of saving billions of pounds of taxpayers money.
Kent was identified in the April 2009 Budget Report as one of thirteen pilot areas in England for Total Place and for Margate a Task Force will focus on the two multiply-deprived wards of Margate Central and Cliftonville West to rethink the way services are delivered.
Thanet District Council Labour Group Leader Cllr. Clive Hart told me
"The Leadership Centre for Local Government meeting in Brighton last week was very informative. It's clear that our local authorities at Thanet District Council & Kent County Council have been investing significant time and resources in the Margate Central and Cliftonville West district wards for some time now, but with little effect. A multi-agency approach to neighbourhood management that also includes the police and health authorities has to be the way forward if we genuinely want to improve services for local people. We need all public services to work together for the benefit of local residents if we are to make any real impact. If this project proves successful I would like to see the same approach extended to all parts of Thanet as soon as possible".
The way to tackle the financial difficulties public services face is not just to cut, but to think smarter.