Manchester City Council developed the system of ward coordination in 2000. Despite its evident economic prosperity, the city had some of the country's highest levels of social deprivation. The Index of Multiple Deprivation ranked 27 of Manchester's then 33 wards among the most deprived 10 per cent in the country. The remaining six wards fell below the national average in relation to most aspects of quality of life. Only a tough approach to neighbourhood renewal across the city could counter these statistics.
The council recognised that area-focused working was key to improvement. This is where mainstream services and partnership working are focused on the needs of individual neighbourhoods. High quality public services are central to reducing deprivation in Manchester. These must be focused on local needs. The emphasis is on the issues that most affect residents' quality of life and the areas where change is most urgently required.
In addition, an essential part of area-focused working is encouraging residents to take a pride in, and responsibility for, their neighbourhoods. Consulting residents, community and voluntary groups about local issues must take place at all levels, but especially neighbourhood level. All public services must develop appropriate community engagement skills. For more information on Manchester City Council's Community Engagement Strategy, visit Manchester City Council's website.
Principles of ward coordination
Four key principles were identified in determining how ward coordination could be developed. These were:
- putting residents at the heart of improving local services and making neighbourhoods safer and more attractive
- promoting the role of local councillors as community representatives and leaders
- ensuring all public service agencies and partnerships take responsibility for the part they play in creating successful neighbourhoods
- integrating public service improvements in the area regeneration programmes.
How does ward coordination operate?
Each of Manchester's wards has a ward service coordination group (WSCG). These are made up of council officers, representatives from the local community and other public agencies, and three ward councillors. The group's role is to identify issues that most concern local people and to develop and carry out action plans to address them.
Each WSCG is charged with:
- providing a forum for the planning and coordination of local services, and for addressing issues that affect the ward
- developing a three-year ward plan and annual ward action plan to improve the way services are delivered at local level
- recommending contents for ward newsletters, published twice a year and delivered to every household in the ward
- holding council departments and other agencies to account for meeting the objectives set out in the ward plans
- monitoring performance against local targets for service delivery
- using the ward action plan to monitor delivery of agreed action
- taking proactive steps to improve the condition of neighbourhoods in the ward and to give local residents a better quality of life.
WSCG meetings are flexible and timed to suit each ward, but the aim is not to spend too much time in meetings. Emphasis is placed on the action between meetings.
Every ward has its own ward coordinator who is supported by a ward coordination support officer. The council currently have 27 ward coordinators and 17 ward coordination support officers, as some cover more than one ward. They work closely with residents, councillors and other parties with an interest in the area. The ward coordinator is responsible for:
- organising the WSCGs
- ensuring methods are in place to address local problems and issues
- ensuring services work together efficiently
- ensuring service improvements are, where relevant, linked to regeneration activity
The future of ward coordination
When Manchester first established their area-focused way of working, they concentrated on council services. The system of ward coordination has gone from strength to strength. It is now being extended to make a much stronger contribution to the Manchester Partnership, the local strategic partnership. In July 2005, the Manchester Partnership commissioned a review of ward coordination. This aimed to determine the viability of absorbing more public services into ward coordination and discover whether non-city council services could provide ward coordination support. The review also highlighted that ward coordination needs to respond to:
- the drive from central government for double devolution - devolved governance and community empowerment over decision making in relation to service provision and budgets
- the need to strengthen elected members' roles as community leaders and develop stronger, more robust local engagement frameworks
- the need to develop ward coordination in the context of other district level developments across the city, ensuring that these links are strengthened and avoid duplication
These district level arrangements include:
- neighbourhood policing and the development of the local action partnerships
- district commissioning of children's services
- development at district level in health
- the new Neighbourhood Services Directorate
- the relationship between regeneration frameworks and ward coordination in the delivery of sustainable regeneration through mainstream services
For more information on ward coordination or its future development as a result of the ongoing review, contact:
Ward Coordination Development Officers
telephone: 0161 234 4094
telephone: 0161 234 4416
This page was published in November 2006.