Developing a cost of living action plan at Kirklees Council has been a joint effort between the public health and corporate policy teams, with strong councillor involvement.
The action plan's overarching themes – crisis response, resilience and prevention – reflect not only the short-term issues but longer term ambitions for Kirklees
Lucy Wearmouth, Head of Improving Population Health, said:
“We had a clear political steer that whilst it is vital that we enable residents to access immediate support, we also have a view to the future. A strong, sustainable and inclusive local economy is the best prevention against future crises.”
With this mandate, policy and public health officers worked together to develop the action plan. Both services work across the council and with external partners. Prior to the current crisis, public health was leading on the council’s approach to poverty, and through this work – and its role in setting up the Kirklees Tackling Poverty Partnership – had developed relationships and insight.
Tackling inequalities is at the heart of Kirklees Council’s cost of living response. “We know that the crisis is having a disproportionate impact on the poorest communities, who already experience significant health and wellbeing inequalities,” Lucy Wearmouth said. “Public health provides a clear voice around using data and intelligence, being outcomes focused, and the importance of the wider determinants of health.”
The input of the policy, partnerships and corporate planning service was about cross-council coordination and delivery (for example across health and economic outcomes) and linking to political priorities, as well as ensuring that actions addressed all the key drivers of the crisis.
Stephen Bonnell, Head of Policy, Partnerships and Corporate Planning, said the starting point was to look at where existing activity could be scaled up or accelerated to meet demand.
“It was about responding quickly – which meant building on what was already happening in our communities, rather than spending too long coming up with ideas for new projects and programmes.”
Three overarching themes
The action plan’s first priority is the immediate emergency response – such as the Household Support Fund, funding for three food banks, and seed funding to support the expansion of an affordable food scheme run by the Bread and Butter Thing (see an earlier LGA case study - Kirklees Council: The Bread and Butter Thing). The borough’s 24 libraries are providing a network of warm spaces where residents can access wifi, computers, meet friends and join in with activities.
The second priority is resilience, with the aim of building places where people look after each other. Kirklees Council’s voluntary, community and social enterprise investment strategy is central to this work – helping organisations to access funding, building links across the sector, and working with delivery partners to ensure sustainability. This is also about supporting the role of councillors in coordinating ward-level cross-sector partnership working.
The third priority is prevention – addressing the medium and long-term challenges for Kirklees, and acknowledging the need for continued investment in its towns and places. Investing to save will help to build resilience, lessening the impact of future crises. All the workstreams have a designated lead officer, with regular progress meetings and weekly reporting to the corporate portfolio holder and strategic director. Officers are looking at how to measure impact through data and stories.
The role of councillors
The crisis has reinforced councillors’ role as place leaders, coordinating local action. The council provides the framework and support but avoids a one-size-fits-all approach. Councillor Paul Davies, Cabinet Member for Corporate Services, said councillors were helping to shift the focus within communities from ‘what the council is doing’ to ‘how we are working on this together.'
For example, libraries play a key role as community spaces, helping people to keep warm and access support and information. Councillor Davies said:
“Councillors are proving crucial in terms of working with libraries to form connections and build momentum, and as a result we can start creating some sustainable responses which are not totally reliant on council funds.”
In his own ward, a cost of living ward forum brought service providers together to create networks and exchange ideas.
Kirklees Council aims to ensure that work continues on community resilience, economic regeneration and sustainable growth alongside immediate support. Lucy Wearmouth said: “Sharing of data and insight between teams, services and partners has facilitated the development of an action plan that aims to reach those most in need, while building resilience across the system into the future.”
- A lot of cost of living activity was happening organically. Having a plan and a clear reporting structure has helped to streamline communication and focus on delivery.
- It has created a framework for borough-wide conversations, sharing information and highlighting overlap or areas for coordination.
- Building in sustainability is particularly important in places where community capacity is lower, which tend to be more deprived areas where support is most needed.
For more information contact:
Lucy Wearmouth, Head of Improving Population Health. Email: [email protected] or
Stephen Bonnell, Head of Policy, Partnerships and Corporate Planning. Email: [email protected]