Swindon Strategic Partnership held its ninth conference at Steam Museum on Friday 8 October. Juliet Platt reports how 200 representatives from public sector agencies and the town’s voluntary organisations discussed what the era of austerity means for the town and how a new policy – OneSwindon – will give direction to future community development.
This four year partnership plan will replace the council’s existing Corporate Plan, Swindon’s 2010 Promises and the current Local Area Agreement. The four priorities identified by OneSwindon include:
• Cleaner, safer streets and protection and enhancement of open spaces;
• Encouraging regeneration, employment, skills and managed growth;
• Increasing sports, leisure and cultural opportunities;
• Providing a safety net for the most vulnerable.
However, massive local government cutbacks mean Swindon Borough Council has to fundamentally re-evaluate its role according to Tom Charnock, chair of the SSP’s Overview and Monitoring group.
“The whole concept of OneSwindon is about how we’re going to work together with limited resources. We’ve worked hard over the past five years on a community strategy for the town, and we’re not about to abandon our dreams for Swindon in 2030 just because of the cuts.
“We wanted the conference to be about better, smarter, realistic solutions rather than haranguing us for there being no money.”
Conference attendees heard inspirational stories from community groups who have found new ways of working to break down barriers, while public sector heads were unanimous in their commitment to continue delivering their service, with the emphasis on thinking differently and working more closely with businesses and the voluntary sector.
Partnership development manager Alison Chamberlain said, “this was by far the best conference we’ve had in recent years. People were very open-minded about the future, there were lots of questions and there was a real buzz in the room.”
There was definitely something of the Dunkirk spirit surrounding proceedings said Tom Charnock. “If there’s one thing that the British are very good at it’s working together to do exceptional things.
“People who take an interest in their community are clearly aware of their challenges and issues, and what they want is encouragement and a process to follow in order to resolve problems for themselves.”
SSP hope that OneSwindon will be agreed by the cabinet in December, and signed off in January.
Meanwhile, Tom Charnock is keen that community groups share best practice and good ideas about how they have tackled issues in their area.
If you have a story to share about your community, mail: Swindonsp@swindon.gov.uk