Devolution in action: London councils set up joint decision-making body
In a historic step towards genuine joint working, three London councils have held the first meeting of the Better Placed Joint Committee on skills and employment. While councils across the country develop their plans for devolution, Lambeth, Lewisham and Southwark are already delivering a devolved function, and have now set up a formal decision-making body to help drive the project forward.
The Leaders of Lambeth, Lewisham and Southwark councils met this month to agree next steps in the councils’ Better Placed project which helps people who are struggling to find employment get into sustainable jobs. In contrast to the broad brush government approach to getting people into work through the Work Programme, the three councils’ Pathways to Employment programme has a more intensive, people-focused approach.
This is already proving successful, with 119 people finding work through the programme in its first 12 months, as well as receiving support with other issues that might make it harder to hold down a job, such as debt and insecure housing.
The first decision of the joint committee was to award the Pathways to Employment phase 2 contract, with a maximum value of £1,823,611.60 to St Giles Trust for a period of two years, from mid-December.
Cllr Peter John, Leader of Southwark Council, who chaired the first meeting, said: “Governance and committees aren’t the things that get people excited, but what this means for Southwark, Lambeth and Lewisham, is a smoother process for helping people into work across our three boroughs, and that is great news for our residents.
“The project has already been a great success, and our first decision as a joint committee to commission up to £1.8m of services from St Giles Trust, will really help those most in need to prepare for work, and secure solid employment.”
“Cllr Lib Peck, Lambeth Council Leader, said: “ It’s common sense for us to work together to make sure local people gain from the growth and job opportunities across south London. We know local employment initiatives are far more effective than the ‘one size fits all’ approach and this is a great step forward.”
Mayor of Lewisham, Sir Steve Bullock, said: “Local people need local solutions that are focused on them and their individual circumstances. They need initiatives that work with them – not against them – to get them back into employment and that’s what, together, we are providing here.”
The south London community budget is one of several projects around the country being supported by the Public Sector Transformation Network, a government programme which encourages organisations to work together to deliver place-based services. Ultimately the projects should reduce the cost of services to the public purse by spending money more effectively; in this case, getting people into sustained employment will reduce the need for benefits, as well as helping the individual and their family.