OUR VISION FOR NORFOLK 2018
A County That:
Is Prosperous, Vibrant and Fair
Protects what we value, invests in our future and puts people first
Puts public transport on an equal footing to cars and other ways of keeping connected
Values partnership – working together for shared goals across communities and communities of interest
Thinks and plans long term – and counts the cost across generation
Recognises Norfolk County Council as an important democratic institution – part of Norfolk, but not Norfolk
A vision sets out a destination – in this case Labour’s ambition for Norfolk. We want Norfolk to become Prosperous, Vibrant, and Fair. Building on and protecting the things we love about our county together with those that share our vision. Labour seeks to forge confident, creative and caring communities. This vision is about Norfolk, not just Norfolk County Council.
A strategy sets out how we get from where we are now to where we want to be. Without a destination there can be no clear route map. Without a route map time, energy and money get wasted for want of a clear vision for Norfolk from the county council. That’s what is happening now. To break the cycle of same old, same old with reckless disregard for what Norfolk values we need clear sighted leadership.
Leadership engages the resources available to turn words into action. That should not be mistaken for top down, ‘we know best’ self serving control. You may not like the driver of the bus or the logo on the side of the bus. But if you believe the bus is safe and well maintained and the driver is competent and will get you to your destination, the chances are you’ll get on board.
Our vision for Norfolk is for the county to become:
‘A Fair, Vibrant, Prosperous county people are proud to call home: a place where we share a commitment to protect what we value, and develop our future as part of secure, confident, resilient and inclusive communities.’
Labour’s vision for Norfolk County Council as a key partner and democratically elected institution is to
‘Promote resilient, well connected communities working alongside partner agencies and communities to deliver the services and infrastructure needed to keep people prosperous, safe and supported; ensure the democratic health of the county by promoting inclusiveness, transparency and accountability.’
Labour’s vision is not about abandoning people to rely on their own devices, family or neighbours based on an assumption that Norfolk’s social structures are frozen in the 1950’s. Our Vision extends beyond terms of electoral office. Labour is for the long term, not a quick fix to make this years books balance with no thought of future consequences and future generations..
Leadership is about bringing people with different interests and priorities together. Our Leadership vision is working across communities – geographical communities, communities of interest, and others with whom we share common interests – to make things happen together. Norfolk County Council is important to Norfolk, but it isn’t Norfolk. Norfolk County Council is influential, but it isn’t all powerful. Norfolk County Council serves people though is too often seen as self serving.
Whole life/Whole system
Norfolk is a complex web of overlapping communities, communities of interest, public services, companies, charities…… the list is endless. The tendency has always been to look at a problem or idea from the perspective of one or a limited number of those involved. There is an overwhelming tendency to think short term and within the constraints of needing to balance the budget every year. This is a foolish and false economy. The government does not apply these constraints to itself but imposes short term thinking on local authorities. It is easy to become trapped behind those blinkers and fail to see the dire consequences.
To use a hypothetical example that involves the county council
‘George and Helen are in their 80s living in their own home on the edge of a market town. The bus used to get them back and forward from the shops, doctors, chemist and to where they change bus to the hospital. The bus route changed and became less frequent to reduce the subsidy and save the council money. Neighbours help a bit but have commitments and their family are far flung. George and Helen are proud and independent so don’t like to impose. Something Helen would usually have gone to the doctors about she left because it was difficult to get there and didn’t want to be a bother. Eventually the doctor had to be called out, Helen was admitted to hospital by ambulance. When she came home George couldn’t manage her care any longer. The consequent loss of independence and additional costs to the public purse far outweighed any saving on bus subsidies’.
From that hypothetical example drawn from the experiences of those working in the area it is clear that decisions made by one part of the system can have profound unintended consequences and costs in other parts, and on a much longer timescale.
Labour commits to service planning and budgeting based on the whole life of problems and projects and taking account of the impact on other public services
Labour will work with partners and communities to look for solutions that best serve the communities and enable public services working together to devise cost effective solutions that suit communities, not ones that just suit the short term needs of the county council
Important as roads and broadband are, significant parts of our communities don’t drive and are not computer savvy enough to rely on digital aids. Crucial to fully participate as a member of your community is the ability to get around and make contact. Like every Party. Labour supports high speed broadband and good road links where the financial, economic and environmental case can be made.
But public transport has been neglected. It must be considered as an equal priority to roads and broadband links. Recently we have seen Norfolk Conservatives row back from the false economy of reducing bus subsidy and a bus company threatening to reduce services and cut jobs. There has to be an unequivocal commitment to equally prioritise public transport.
Even so, not every location can be served. The mobile library service is a good example of a service being taken to where people are. Mobile libraries are being eroded. It is argued that they are no longer necessary but just as our static libraries have adapted and adopted a new and crucial role as information and advice hubs for our communities as well as places to borrow books and media, so can mobile libraries. Far from reducing the mobile library service Labour will look to use it as a foundation for a new outreach to those isolated for whatever reason.
Labour will campaign for
An integrated transport system linking bus, rail and air services and will directly intervene to bring operators together to make it happen
Better bus and public transport services – equal priority with roads
Improved Library, Advice and Information services provided in conjunction with partners - including a possible extension and expansion of the current mobile library service to improve accessibility to help and support for online services
Community infrastructure is more than roads and doctor’s surgeries. Proper water, drainage, electricity, mobile phone, broadband, dentists, Fire and Rescue Service, police service, schools and easy access by reliable public transport to services not locally available all make up resilient communities.
Grocery shopping, post offices, local hubs like pubs and parish halls are central to the fabric of a community. In more urban areas there is still the need for design and sustainable provision. In sparsely populated areas and towns where residents tend to commute and shop elsewhere the challenge of providing genuine community infrastructure becomes more difficult.
Overcoming this challenge require is not something for Norfolk County Council alone. Working with other councils, the NHS, local businesses and primarily with communities is crucial. Labour through the county council will give a lead to
Support and encourage community co-operatives to give local residents a say and a stake in the services in their communities
Provide preferential terms to help finance and locate co-operative organisations that generate community based jobs and services
Support community hubs that bring together services and local businesses
Use council owned property creatively to help start up local initiatives that support their community
Supporting people who need help
Older people choosing to live in Norfolk is often characterised as a financial burden or demographic time bomb. Governments dither about funding the cost of care. The cash gap needs to be resolved nationally. But in Norfolk Labour celebrates the wisdom of older people. Our vision is that Norfolk should be proud of all those that call our county home whatever their age and needs.
Norfolk is home to many with additional needs and disabilities of all kinds. They come from all age ranges and all backgrounds. Too often people with extra needs are shown as statistics and measured in terms of cost. Front line carers are restricted by cost and time pressures. Who gets what is increasingly dependent on meeting criteria that keep changing to fit budgets, not the needs of those who need support.
Caring is important work whether it is done by paid carers or voluntary carers.
Voluntary carers – deserve greater recognition, but there is a growing risk their voluntary help as friends, relatives and neighbours is being turned from valuable support for services provided by public service and voluntary organisations into an obligation. Withdrawal of services and tightening criteria soon becomes virtual coercion – if you don’t volunteer the cared for person won’t have the safety net to rely on. Labour is proud of voluntary carers and commits to promote their interests and rights, and protect them from being exploited.
Paid carers – It is time to start bringing paid care back under the direct or indirect control of the public sector. Labour’s vision for Norfolk means developing well paid jobs for local residents.
Norfolk County Council employs many thousands of people directly and through the services we contract with others to supply the County Council generates many thousands more jobs. Many of these are jobs involving providing caring services. As well as our caring services there are many provided by other organisation in the public, private and charitable sectors. Much of the funding to all those organisations originates from national or local taxation.
Much of the money the Council and others pay in salaries to direct and indirectly employed staff is spent in Norfolk and generates more jobs. The number of jobs, quality of jobs, pay and conditions and the pensions for those who complete their working lives from Council funded jobs makes a difference to everyone in Norfolk. Contracting out, cutting jobs, creating insecurity and outsourcing jobs where local staff could do work sent outside Norfolk, hurts Norfolk.
Caring jobs are an important part of the Norfolk economy and should feature prominently as part of our economic thinking. It is incomprehensible that there is no Norfolk wide economic plan currently. Labour will be producing its economic vision for Norfolk in the coming months.
Time to bring services back ‘in house’
Labour’s vision for Norfolk is an end to the default assumption that direct service provision is wrong and everything should be contracted out. Cost effectiveness is crucial, but so is quality of care, not syphoning off money for dividends that could be spent on better services, and not funding a multitude of management structures that support hundreds of small providers. Even more importantly, care services should be developed to meet the needs of the community they serve and take account of those communities – their location, demographic profile and community capacity. One size should not fit all and working with communities to plan for their needs and how to meet them gives ownership, accountability and opportunities to build trust so that voluntary care can be properly used to enhance services provided by others.
Labour will bring back in house or into directly owned providers all services other than those that are genuinely too specialised or where the case for buying in services is overwhelming. Working with other public sector providers we will look for ways of coordinating services that deliver better results cost effectively.
Recent events have highlighted contracting out services is not necessarily safe, cost effective or fair. The collapse of a private provider threatens, jobs, services and peace of mind. By paying hundreds of suppliers Council tax payers also pay towards hundreds of company management structures that are unaccountable and inevitably duplicate work. Where there are specialist services required or a genuine case for putting work to third party contractors (e.g. some IT or construction schemes) these will continue but will be assessed against the full cost and whole life cost of direct provision.
Norse and Independence Matters show there are other ways of delivering services that may not be as ideal as direct delivery but are delivered without private profit and with accountability back to Norfolk County Council. Labour commits to
Bringing back in house contracted out services except where very specialist or the economic case is currently unsustainable
Seeking directly owned alternative delivery organisations as a step towards ultimately bringing services back in house
Working with public sector partners on joint ventures to secure best value, job security, top class services, fair terms and conditions
Buying complimentary businesses to enable in house provision to become established quickly
Trading in house services into the market to compete with private sector providers.
Insisting on the Real Living Wage as a minimum for all staff funded directly, indirectly or in partnership
Growing up in Norfolk
Norfolk County Council finally shows signs of recovering from the poor standards that let down children in Norfolk. If we are to promise young people the better future they deserve they need a good start, first class education, support when they encounter difficulties and an equal chance wherever they start their journey from.
Norfolk under Conservative control has historically not had high aspirations for children. Labour has always had high aspirations. Services for children including schools and education have become fragmented. However they are organised the needs of our children and the aspirations of their parents can’t go on hold. There is no going back on childhood. It is critical to the county and our children that there is leadership and coordination now, and that it is sustained in the long term.
Norfolk County Council has an important leadership role in all matters affecting children and young people. Services were reduced to a deplorable state under the Conservatives as OFSTED reported in in 2013. This must never happen again. For this vision Labour also spells out wider goals in more detail and policies we would pursue through Norfolk County Council and with partners to ensure the highest standards for all children in Norfolk no matter what their needs or abilities. No child should be denied an equal opportunity to reach their full potential.
To achieve this, Labour will:
Retain and strengthen the universal service available through Children’s Centres – it is the best return on investment we can make in giving parents and children a good start
Rigorously hold schools of all kinds to account for performance and standards
Campaign to give parents a greater say in how schools run and challenge the academy culture
Strengthen wellbeing and mental ill health support for young people
Fight for equality of access for young people with additional needs, disabilities and difficulties of all kinds
Support learning in creative as well as academic subjects
Continue to develop vocational learning and apprenticeships as equally important to further and higher education
Norfolk’s responsibility for looked after children must ensure those in our care get the same life chances and support as every other child in Norfolk. We will always be searching for better ways of helping young people achieve but Labour starts and finishes from the position that no young person is less important than any other.
The need for a Labour Government
Let’s not pretend there are any magic bullets or money trees to shake – no quick fixes. There are always better ways of doing things and on the majority of issues Norfolk will broadly agree even though we may differ on the best way to do it. There is plenty of room for consensus, many areas of difference that should be settled by robust debate and no shortage of contentious political areas for party differences that need to be settled through the democratic process.
Norfolk Labour opposes austerity and believes government policy on withholding funding for essential public services while cutting taxes for the well off is responsible for many of our problems and is a barrier to achieving common goals and Labour’s vision of a Prosperous, Vibrant and Fair Norfolk. Council tax rises demonstrate government is shifting the tax burden from a progressive tax based on ability to pay onto council tax that is universally seen as much less fair and not based on ability to pay.
Whatever initiatives, plans and visions there are for Norfolk will falter unless there is government policy committed to fair funding through taxation, proper democratic accountability based on transparency, and a commitment to including all ages, backgrounds and abilities in making our communities work.
Labour’s vision for Norfolk is for Norfolk, not just it’s county council. But until there is a Labour government and stronger Labour representation in the democratic machinery of Norfolk the opportunities and potential for the people of our county will remain unfulfilled.
Norfolk Labour commits to fight for our vision for a Prosperous, Vibrant and fair Norfolk and a Norfolk County Council that is the democratically accountable servant of our county. Labour promises Leadership, Challenge and to Stand with Communities for a better future.