Eleven councils sign up to Locality’s new Keep it Local network putting communities at the heart of local services

Since 2018 we have been working with Locality on Keep it Local. It’s a campaign calling on local authorities to harness the power of community and work more closely with local organisations.

This work is in direct response to calls from the small and local charities we fund about the challenges they face when it comes to commissioning. It’s all about building strong local partnerships, sharing power and maximising local strengths. 

The forward-thinking councils that have signed up to the groundbreaking new project are:

  • Bristol City Council
  • Bradford Metropolitan District Council
  • Calderdale Council
  • Hackney Council
  • Kirklees Council
  • Lewisham Council
  • Newcastle City Council
  • Oldham Council
  • Rotherham Council
  • Wirral Council
  • South Gloucestershire Council

We’re delighted that these councils have now formally adopted a Keep it Local approach. They’re moving away from bureaucratic commissioning and outsourcing big contracts.

Instead they are choosing to unlock the power of community by commissioning trusted local community organisations to run services. Critically, these councils recognise the importance of local organisations which was highlighted through our Value of Small research

Local community organisations have multiple advantages over large national organisations, including keeping public resources invested in the local economy and having in-depth local knowledge and connections built up over many years.

This means they have a deep understanding of what local people need. They intervene early and work collaboratively with other community organisations to create services that really work for people.

By doing this, not only are councils having a transformative impact on individual lives, they have been shown to deliver savings for local authorities through prevention of demand for other public services.

What does Keep it Local look like in practice?

Keep it Local councils have appointed champions in their cabinet and senior leadership team, committed to working with Locality to assess and improve their current practice, and have committed to the following six key principles:

  1. Think about the whole system and not individual service silos
  2. Coordinate services at neighbourhood level
  3. Increase local spend to invest in the local economy
  4. Focus on early intervention now to save costs tomorrow
  5. Commit to your community and proactively support local organisations
  6. Commission services simply and collaboratively so they are local by default

How councils approach these principles varies between councils. They might approach it through the potential to help build an inclusive economy as part of a wider public service reform agenda, through to a drive to disperse power to a local level, or some combination.

In Bradford, the Metropolitan District Council is using Keep it Local to think about how they reform their homecare offer – to move away from the transactional model of support that has come to characterise this social service.

Alongside this they’re committing to increase their current level of local spend from 47% to 60% over the next five years, meaning an additional £45m into the local economy. 

In an environment where central government funding for local authorities has halved since 2010 and local authorities need to generate more income themselves, it’s more important than ever for councils to reassess how they work with local organisations and keep money in the local area.

As Susan Hinchcliffe, Leader of Bradford Council points out: This [Keep it Local] isn’t about altruism, or working with local organisations because it’s a nice thing to do. We want to Keep it Local because we know it’s the best way to provide the best possible offer for our communities.”

For us, this is key. Keep it Local isn’t a ‘nice to have’. It’s how local authorities can achieve their objectives and ensure local people can access the support they need. Which is why we’re calling on more local authorities to sign up and become Keep it Local councils themselves.

More information on the steps councils need to take to join Locality’s Keep it Local campaign can be found here.