Cannock Chase Council and PCT

Interview with Stephen Brown, Chief Executive of Cannock Chase District Council

The decline of the mining industry in Staffordshire had at least one positive consequence: it led to partnership working between a range of agencies. This was done via the single regeneration budget, which led on to the area's local strategic partnership.

When Stephen Brown became Chief Executive of Cannock Chase District Council he asked every partner in the Single Regeneration Budget (SRB) to contribute to the local strategic partnership (LSP) and it now has its own team of administrators. This way, everyone has a stake in the success or failure of the partnership. Brown says:

“There's a feeling that all agencies and the private sector have always worked together to do their best to regenerate the area. We have a strong history of working together with the PCT and other public agencies.”

Merger results

However, in October last year Cannock Chase PCT was merged with four others to form South Staffordshire PCT. There were two joint appointments: a director of partnerships and a director of public health. As well as her more traditional role the director of public health had also been in charge of waste management and environmental health. For the last two years the PCT has been reorganising and things are only now beginning to settle, says Brown. He believes that the relationship between the district council and its former PCT would have gone from strength to strength.

“If the partnership had been allowed to develop we could have ended up with one management team. Constant restructuring doesn't help.”

And this includes the current uncertainty over moves to unitary status, he says.

In 2005 the council won a beacon award for its partnership work in transforming healthy communities. Together with the health authority and the Forestry Commission it set up a health and arts trail around the area, which the beacon panel judges described as a “truly inclusive and inspiring project”.

In Cannock Chase there is a philosophy that improving the health of the local population cannot happen without partnership working between agencies. Brown says:

“Through our community strategy targets have been set for health improvement that require collaboration between agencies.”

The PCT and Cannock Chase have also worked together on public engagement. The council has a citizen's panel of 1,000 people, a third of whom are replaced every year, which the PCT can make use of if it wishes. The former PCT was an enthusiastic user of the panel, and other agencies have used it “spasmodically”, says Brown.

And health colleagues have also been open to the idea of scrutiny.

“I think health professionals find the way local government worked a bit strange. But they have been ready to give evidence and talk about how things can be improved.”

And councillors have also taken their health scrutiny role seriously. Brown says:

“Members are more and more embracing the idea that they are not just here to look at purely council services.”

Interview with Geraint Griffiths, Cannock Chase Locality Director

Local faces are the key to connecting a complex partnership between health, districts councils and a county council in Staffordshire.

Over the past six years the partners have overcome the problems associated with being in both a rural area and a two-tier local government system, to deliver a number of healthier outcomes through its local area agreement. The partnership has a history of joint appointments and delivers integrated services across mixed agency boundaries.

But, says Geraint Griffiths, Cannock Chase Locality Director, health reorganisation in the county depends on good personal relationships which take time to form. From last October four primary care trusts; Burntwood, Lichfield and Tamworth (being one PCT), Cannock Chase, East Staffordshire and South Western Staffordshire were merged into one PCT, which is then split into two localities. The structure of the former four PCTs helped the partners work at a very local level, mirroring more the configuration of the district councils.

District level partnership

Griffiths says:

“One of the big things for us was that we came from a history of district level partnership with local faces in each district. Previous to the reorganisation there had been lots of joint appointments and there was a strong community identity in the PCTs. It is going to be challenging to get that level of locality within a big organisation.”

Griffiths says the reorganisation has put the partnership on hold while the agencies are reforming key personal relationships. He says not all of the agencies have a history of working together and some are just getting used to the new structure. The partners are also redeveloping their joint vision for the area to take account of the changes.

That said, he says there have always been challenges in dealing with so many different partners.

“There are the usual tensions of a two-tier area and it is very complex working with so many partners. Splitting them between eight different delivery boards is sometimes difficult.”

He adds that this is further complicated by the differing approaches to partnership and public engagement across the county.

“It is noticeable the differences between the district, county council and some of the agencies. Some of them have more of an experience of partnership working then others and have consistent views, while for others it is still a fairly new element and they are getting used to it.

When it comes to budgets and assessing needs, the partnership also tries to take a very local approach. It has delivery boards that work at the local level between districts and parishes. These report to a county-wide group.

Projects are negotiated within each district, where funding and delivery plans are outlined between the partners before they are passed to the county-wide board for approval.

Each district has a director of social care, one of Griffiths' local faces, to help deliver adults and children's services. Each project within the partnership has a performance framework, which is monitored and signed off by the county partnership board.

17 October 2007

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