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Brentwood Borough Council and Rochford District Council: Partnership working between two councils and their communities

Brentwood Borough Council and Rochford District Council formalised their strategic partnership in February 2022 following a six-month trial period with a joint chief executive. The agreement sees each council retain its sovereignty and independent governance while exploring meaningful co-working opportunities to use their combined resources for the good of local residents.

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Collaborative working is day-to-day business for Brentwood Borough Council and Rochford District Council. What is particularly unusual about this partnership is that Brentwood and Rochford are just over 20 miles apart and do not share a boundary. Tracey Lilley, Director of Communities and Health, said:

As well as the distance we have two different sets of members and staff, different sets of residents and two different governance systems – so you would think it would never work!”

Communication and data collation

Staff and community partners have pulled together to ensure that residents know about the cost of living support available across these two Essex localities. The crisis has provided an opportunity to bring both sets of staff together to work side-by-side with a common aim, for the benefit of local communities.

While there were some initial challenges in working across two councils, the collaborative cost of living response is working well, which Tracey Lilley puts down to the enthusiasm and hard work of staff and partners. “Not only the strategic partners we all engage with on a regular basis, but the community partners – the voluntary sector, faith groups and community groups – all of those people who are delivering what we need to deliver during this crisis.”

Recognising that councils do not have the resources to deliver a cost of living response on their own, Rochford and Brentwood established a working group, which meets monthly as a forum for key partners and council staff to assess, discuss and action-plan. The group identified ‘communication’ and ‘data collection’ as critical, so task and finish groups were set up with these themes. Mapping of local provision took place and a dashboard was developed in-house: data is fed into the dashboard to establish use, trends and pinch-points.  

Social media campaign

The two councils worked together to develop and launch a #ByYourSide social media campaign highlighting the support on offer. They produced a toolkit of posters, flyers, a QR code and information that council teams and partners could use. They also produced a ‘pocket card’ with the QR code, web addresses and contact information – the cost was minimal as this was designed and printed in-house. 

Social media work has included shining a spotlight on partner organisations, highlighting the work they do and the donations or volunteers they need. The cost of living webpages for both Brentwood and Rochford are updated regularly.

A ‘cost of living roadshow’ is currently in development which will see partner agencies, supported by council staff, visit community groups such as youth clubs, senior lunch clubs and family centres with tailored presentations on cost of living issues. This programme was due to be rolled out early in 2023.

Tracey Lilley sees the role of councils in the cost of living crisis as one of communicator, coordinator and enabler, involving and supporting everyone to play their part. She said: “There are a lot of groups out there who are already doing the things that need to be done.”

The team is planning a collaboration session, bringing key partners together for a discussion of what is working well, what should be developed further, where there are gaps and where some funding should be injected.

Everybody now recognises the added value in partnership. Councils can achieve some things on their own but here in Brentwood and Rochford we really believe that together we’re stronger.”

Learning points

  • Cost of living websites should be kept up to date – partner organisations can help to highlight new or missing information.
  • Councils’ existing networks and social media platforms are invaluable in promoting the support that is available locally.  
  • Cost of living rises are bringing a whole new cohort of people into the category of ‘vulnerable’, who may never been in debt before and may not know what is available to help them or how to access it.


For more information contact Tracey Lilley, Director of Communities & Health, Brentwood Borough Council and Rochford District Council: [email protected]