Plymouth City Council’s ambition, community engagement and effective partnership working earned it The MJ’s Local Authority of the Year award. Michael Burton reports
For staff at Plymouth City Council, winning The MJ’s Local Authority of the Year category last autumn has been a huge tonic.
Chief executive Tracey Lee says: ‘I know the staff are great, they know they’re great and now with this external validation everyone else knows they’re great. We were absolutely delighted to win this award and the recognition has been really uplifting to the staff. It’s an opportunity to say a huge thank you to them.’
The awards logo is often used as a backdrop when she addresses staff and there are pop-ups throughout the civic building as well as featured on the council’s website. Tracey adds: ‘We even made a video of our staff saying what being Local Authority of the Year meant to them and played it a full council meeting. We’ve also been using it as part of our recruitment campaigns.’
The city council received the prestigious award at The MJ’s 2021 awards gala lunch event last September at London’s Hilton Hotel, Park Lane which was attended by over 800 guests. Judges of the category, sponsored by Green Park, described Plymouth ‘as a local authority that has put culture-led regeneration and a sense of place at its heart, one that is determined to put its city on the map for all the right reasons and where political and officer leadership is genuinely a single voice for the benefit of all residents’.
Council leader Nick Kelly, deputy shadow leader Cllr Sue Dann and chief executive Tracey were presented with the award by former politician and TV personality Ed Balls at the ceremony.
The judges added: ‘Pride in the city leaps off the pages of Plymouth’s submission. It has taken a novel, consistent and effective approach to putting the city on the map as Britain’s Ocean City. The council is clearly ambitious, strongly engaged in its communities and is working well with partners on key agendas.’
Cllr Kelly said just after the event: ‘It’s been a year like no other. I know staff have worked around the clock to deliver services as well as handle every challenge the pandemic has thrown at us all. I am absolutely thrilled that we have been named Local Authority of the Year. I want to build a real sense of pride in Plymouth and to get this award is just fantastic.’
Tracey adds: ‘I could not be more proud of all the staff and our councillors who have helped us to win this accolade. The commitment and the can-do attitude that our staff show day in day out is humbling.’
Leader of the opposition Cllr Tudor Evans said: ‘We all believe fiercely in Plymouth, in its potential and all work phenomenally hard from the directors to our street sweepers to do our best for the city. It’s great to have this hard work acknowledged.’
In its submission the council outlined some of the key innovations which won it the award.
–On the economy, it launched its Resurgam programme to address the unprecedented economic challenges caused by the pandemic and to get back on track in meeting the city’s growth targets.
–The council opened The Box, the £42m redevelopment of the Grade II listed former museum and art gallery and central library buildings as part of putting culture at the centre of its regeneration programme.
–The council maintained its improvement journey in supporting children and young people in need of social care. In spring 2020, social workers completed risk assessments for every child and young person in the service. These identified which children needed face-to-face visits. Some 800 laptops were delivered to vulnerable children, enabling regular contact and better management of schoolwork.
–The council supported 97 care homes with its adult social care provider Livewell Southwest, University Hospitals Plymouth and the Devon Clinical Commissioning Group, and provided dedicated infection control advice and training, managed staffing and resources, delivered emergency PPE, and stood up local testing arrangements for residents and staff prior to national testing programmes.
–Through Caring for Plymouth, its partnership with Livewell Southwest and the voluntary and community sector, the council took more than 8,000 calls from vulnerable people, carried out 3,000 welfare checks, delivered hundreds of food parcels and fetched medicine and prescriptions 1,600 times.
It also agreed its climate emergency plans. Successes so far include upgrading homes of vulnerable residents with energy efficient measures, installation of 77 electric charging points; a rolling investment in LED lighting in subways and other highway infrastructure.
Its Transforming Cities Fund programme includes 300 public electric vehicle charge points, 400 electric bikes, setting up an electric car club, 14 kilometres of off road-cycle improvements, junction improvements and a new control centre, hosting the latest in technological signal advancements.
The council’s Pause Social Outcomes Partnership was also Highly Commended in The MJ Awards 2021 Delivering Better Outcomes category. Pause is a charity that works with women who have experienced, and are at risk of, having children removed from their care.
To enter The MJ Achievement Awards 2022, visit: awards.themj.co.uk
Closing date for submissions is 28 January 2022