The Neighbourhood Management concept has been developed in Nottingham since 2007. Locality working is based on the key tenets that the local level is the most effective level at which to engage citizens and service users and fixing local problems, however small, has a profound effect on citizen’s quality of life.
The city has 20 Neighbourhood Action Teams (NATs) (one in each ward) headed up by a dedicated Neighbourhood Development Officer working in partnership with key agencies. This approach has seen crime and antisocial behaviour fall, satisfaction increase and the city become the cleanest large city and achieve a Purple Flag for its night time economy.
Nottingham in the 1990s and early 2000s was synonymous with high crime, low employment and low educational attainment. Its neighbourhoods were seen as dysfunctional and lacking in social cohesion and community engagement.
Recognising this, the City Council in 2007 embarked on a long term programme of locality working to regenerate its neighbourhoods and bring back a sense of community and connecting local people with the Council and its services.
20 Neighbourhood Action Teams (NATs), one in each ward of the city, have been established which are chaired by a Neighbourhood Development Officer. The overarching remit of the NATs is to create sustainable, resilient communities where people want to live, now and in the future. They work with citizens to actively shape services and their neighbourhoods, supporting social cohesion.
Each NAT is headed up by a dedicated Neighbourhood Development Officer (NDO) who work closely with key partners delivering services in the ward. Each NAT is comprised of a housing patch manager, a senior Community Protection Officer, the Police beat sergeant and an area representative from the Council’s social care early intervention team. Each NAT is closely linked to its ward city councillors and the appropriate City Council area committee (which comprise of two-three neighbouring wards).
The NDO is instrumental in allocating and delivering the annual ward budgets approved by the local Councillors. This is a dedicated resource aimed at making local improvements. This can include sponsoring local groups e.g. brownies, events, and physical improvements like litter bins etc. The NATs arrange over 250 local co-produced events each year such as a Christmas Lights switch-on and arranging local behaviour change campaigns, for example, in 2017, the ‘eyes wide open’ campaign on dog fouling.
The NAT model is based on early intervention so keeping residents out of needing to engage with expensive Council or health services unnecessarily. For example, local lunch clubs are arranged which help combat elderly loneliness and connect citizens better with the right services; ‘a local fix for local problems’.
It enables the City’s councillors to fulfil their role as ‘Champions of Place’, giving them direct and meaningful contact with their communities.
It leads to improved solutions to local issues through enhanced partnership working not only within the Council’s own services but with its key partner agencies.
The impact of this model can be quantified in the consistently high levels of citizens’ satisfaction with their locality and the Council. In 2016:
- 85 per cent said they were satisfied with their local area as a place to live
- 71 per cent are satisfied with the cleanliness of their local area
- 91 per cent feel that their local area is a place where people from different backgrounds get on well together
- 71 per cent are satisfied with the way the council runs things
In the NATs themselves, there is very low staff turnover and staff loyalty and satisfaction is high.
How is the new approach being sustained?
The current model of locality working has very strong political support and is enshrined in the council’s overarching vision to put Citizens at the heart of everything it does and in its key priorities outlined its current council plan (2015-2019). Recently, the service was brought into the Community Protection directorate so it can work closer with community cohesion, engagement and development services. A refreshed community facing strategy is currently being developed to direct the work and priorities to best benefit citizens over the next few years. It also has recently taken on the responsibility for working and engaging with the 60,000 students in the city from both the University of Nottingham and Nottingham Trent University.
However, sustaining the service in the current financial circumstances is proving to be a challenge and so the service is currently under review to ensure the work it has done to date can be sustained and for it to leave a legacy with a high degree of co-production of activities and delivery with citizens and partners.
The success of the model and its impact on neighbourhoods has been clear and made a demonstrable difference to the communities its supports and helps. However, work is needed on understanding the new and emerging communities and keeping track of the diversity that is appearing in them.
The NATs model is universal so there is no differential in the approach in all wards regardless of any local needs or particular demands of differing demographics. Therefore, going forward, a more targeted approach may be more cost effective by putting resources into the communities where they are most needed.
Heidi May, Head of Neighbourhood Management, Heidi.email@example.com, 07983 718859