On Wednesday June 30th One Voice met for breakfast at the Spurriergate Centre with special guest Sally Burns, Director of Communities and Neighbourhoods for the City of York Council.
In post almost a year, Sally explained that restructuring, simplifying and cost cutting have been increasingly the main issues, and that her remit now includes Environment, Housing & Public Protection, Communities and Culture. That means that her directorate is responsible for everything from highways, waste, flower displays, trading standards, environmental health inspections, nuisance, festivals, adult education and the arts. The only thing that is certain in the midst of all these changes is that there are difficult times ahead in budgetary terms.
She said that she saw future engagement with the voluntary sector to be crucial in the days ahead and that working with partners such as the Church was a way to make a real difference in York.
Sally told us about 2 new projects which she felt the church was well placed to engage with, but that she recognised that the council needed to be smarter about providing opportunities to talk together.
“More for York” – is all about thinking innovatively and doing what is needed in each area rather than applying a ‘one-size fits all’ model to the city. An area based working pilot is being set up that involves wards that overlap exactly with policing areas and contain a broad mix of political representation. The pilot will be lead from the neighbourhood management unit using the existing Ward Committee structure. Initial priorities will be building up a ward profile, considering deprivation indicators, and local issues such as teenage pregnancy rates, homelessness, crime etc
The the project will get together with local partners and pose the question ‘how can we sort this out?’ Looking at assetts and whether the communities are getting the most from them will also be on the agenda.
Recent evidence from the Kingsway project supports this approach and it is hoped that the 6 month trial period will produce positive results.
The 2nd scheme that Sally told us about is ‘One City’. This project has three aspects to promote:
– Fairness and inclusion
– Community cohesion
One City will set out ambitions for the city in response to community changes and consider how we might make sure that no-one is excluded. There have been some suggestions that York is not a welcoming city (particularly of B.E.M.’s), therefore it is time to examine these issues and see how we can move forward.
From July to September there will be a consultation period using existing events as forums, with the aim to drive the project forward in September to produce a local strategic partnership document.
Sally was happy to answer questions – of which there were many. Finally Sally allowed us to pray for her and her responsibilities.
It was a great opportunity to meet and engage with Sally and we were pleased that she offered to return at a future date to update us on progress.