Strengthening Democracy

Neighbourhood working

Oldham Council is leading the development of a Co-operative Public Services Model for the borough.

This model seeks to turn the current challenging relationship between the Council and its residents in order to provide more local services which are responsive to communities. In achieving the Oldham Co-operative Neighbourhood model, we will move from top-down services to citizen-led services, with ward members playing a crucial role to:

  • Reconnect the Council to its residents
  • Create social value for residents and communities
  • Enhance the independence, capability and resilience of individuals
  • Unlock the resource and potential in neighbourhoods
  • Support existing social networks and build collective community capacity
  • Ultimately, reduce demand on the public purse

We need to focus on what is needed locally and what works for that neighbourhood. Most importantly we need to focus on where we can work better with our communities – this is the essence of the Co-operative vision.

To support this the council created a new Neighbourhoods Directorate - bringing together all the services that matter to local people into one area.

Each district now has a dedicated team of staff from a wide variety of council services including:

  • District Co-ordinators
  • Member Support
  • Environmental Services
  • Youth Development
  • Sports Development
  • Community Safety

These local teams work to support ward members in their role as local leaders; working with local communities and members to help tackle neighbourhood problems.

Where it’s not appropriate to totally deliver a service on a local foot print, services are adopting new locally-focussed working practices. Across the council, services are redesigning the way they work to fit the district model.

District working also allows us to develop strong local relationships and work more co-operatively with local communities to solve neighbourhood problems. This can be as small as supporting a local litter-pick to larger projects such as exploring a development trust to run community facilities.

Local Leaders Programme

Strong local leadership is central to making our ambition for a co-operative future a reality for our borough and our council. This means councillors at the heart of civic and community leadership.

Our councillors are an integral part of the Oldham team, and play a broad range of roles: as advocates for their communities and the borough; in mobilising people in their communities to do their bit; as decision makers on devolved services; and in a range of committees and decision making forums.

The Local Leaders Programme is focused on developing the role of the councillor in delivering the co-operative council and borough. The content of the programme changes each year, but is primarily focused on the core skills and new thinking required for councillors to deliver their role, both now and in the future, with particular emphasis placed on the community leadership role.

Open Democracy

A major part of our co-operative approach is increasing the openness and transparency of the way we do business. As part of this we now stream our Full Council meetings live from our website – gathering around 300 viewers for each meeting.

We also take questions from residents as one of the first agenda items at every meeting. Residents can submit questions by email, Facebook and Twitter right up to the beginning of the meeting.

In May 2012 we made changes to the way the District Partnerships operated locally. These changes, designed to make local democracy more accessible, included a public questions session at the beginning of the District Partnership meeting.

In May 2013 we took this a step further and introduced a Community Call-in process to apply to District Executive decisions. The Community call-in offers a real opportunity to strengthen local democracy across the borough and also to build closer engagement between communities and decisions made at a district level. The Call-in also creates tangible local accountability and enhances the influence local people have over decisions that affect their neighbourhood. The Call-in has been introduced initially as a 12-month pilot.

Filming of a ful council meeting
Filming of a meeting of Full Council

Strategy, Partnerships and Policy team

For more information about Co-operative Oldham contact the Strategy, Partnerships and Policy Team.