Newcastle City Council's Vision
Aim of the Community Engagement Strategy
What are our objectives?
How will we achieve the objectives?
Who is this strategy for?
What has been achieved so far?
What do we mean by engagement?
What are our engagement standards?
How will we measure our achievements?
Who is responsible for this Community Engagement Strategy?
Community Engagement Action Plan
Download the Community Engagement Strategy (pdf, 569Kb)
Newcastle City Council's community engagement activities have been brought together into one overarching strategy for the city and, as a result, we are aiming to better coordinate how we engage with our customers, citizens and communities - based on our belief that:
- All communities should be involved in the decisions that affect them
- All communities deserve high quality public services, shaped around their needs
- City council policies and strategies should reflect local priorities, requirements and aspirations.
This community engagement strategy recognises the diversity of our communities, the importance of community capacity building and the need to provide appropriate opportunities for customers and communities to participate at whatever level they wish to influence service delivery, decision making and policy development.
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This strategy supports the council’s vision of Newcastle as a 'vibrant, inclusive, safe, sustainable and modern European city'. It provides a focus for all engagement activities, policies and processes to align with one of the council’s key objectives - "to create an improved quality of life by working with people and partners, devolving decision-making and empowering individuals and communities to contribute and influence services".
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This Community Engagement Strategy aims to support strong, active and inclusive communities, who are informed and involved in decision-making and enable us to improve public services to enhance quality of life across Newcastle. By this we mean:
- strong communities, who can form and sustain their own organisations, bringing people together to deal with their common concerns
- active communities, where people are supported to improve quality of life in their own communities
- inclusive communities, where all sections of the community feel they have opportunities to be involved in decision-making and influence public services
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The objectives below identify how we can contribute to the Council's vision and ensure that the Community Engagement Strategy delivers an effective and coordinated approach to community engagement for the benefit of all citizens and the diverse communities of Newcastle. We will:
strengthen, develop and sustain opportunities for local people and groups to influence what happens in their communities
provide opportunities for communities to shape and influence the development and delivery of quality services and policies that reflect local needs and priorities
manage and coordinate engagement activities to ensure consistency, quality and partner participation and avoid duplication
ensure that community engagement activities provide opportunities for participation for all sections of the community, particularly people and groups that are often missed out of community engagement activities
listen to communities and ensure feedback to participants about the outcomes of consultation and engagement
provide variety and flexibility and choice in community engagement activities
listen and learn from our own and others' experience and share community engagement skills and knowledge of putting the citizen at the heart of decision-making.
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A detailed action plan is being developed which sets out how we will achieve our objectives set out above. The action plan will be continually monitored and reviewed to ensure it is a flexible and evolving plan that responds to the changing needs of our communities and community engagement activities.
Our initial priorities include:
- improving coordination and governance of community engagement activities, by the development of protocols, toolkits and a performance management framework
- developing a web-based resource for consultation activities
- rolling out enhanced, more accessible and inclusive ward committee structures
- developing expertise in finding the views and opinions of people and groups who are often missed out of community engagement activities
- improve coordination with partners in engagement activities
- raise awareness of volunteering opportunities in the city
- developing and enhancing skills and expertise in engagement and participation
- participate in the national Civic Pioneer network to share knowledge and experience of community engagement activities in other areas
- rolling out our community engagement toolkit to key staff involved in community engagement activities.
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We recognise that the council alone cannot achieve the ambitions in this strategy. Everyone has a part to play in making this Community Engagement Strategy work, particularly:
- all Newcastle residents
- elected members, who play a key role in delivering the aims in this strategy
- council staff - everyone is involved in community engagement activity in various forms
- community and voluntary sector organisations, who provide local services, work directly with local groups and organisations and with members of usually excluded groups and represent the views of their sectors
- partners, by working with other organisations and partnerships to make sure that services across the city complement each other.
Through the Newcastle Partnership and other partnerships, we will work with other organisations, such as the police, universities, health service, and groups and individuals from the community, voluntary and private sectors to make sure that engagement activities influence the future direction of the city.
We also know that we need to work closely with communities to encourage effective community engagement and ensure that processes are flexible and can be tailored to different groups and individuals in different areas of the city. We understand that sometimes people are reluctant to get involved and we are working with other partners to ensure that community engagement is as straightforward as possible and targeted appropriately.
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A community participation plan was produced in 2002 and there have been plenty of changes, challenges and achievements since then. This strategy builds on the many good examples of community engagement activity from across the authority. Some of these are mentioned below.
- Engagement toolkit. We have worked with partners to create a community engagement toolkit to help officers in the Council plan and carry out community engagement more effectively and consistently.
- New ward structures. We are strengthening local ward committee structures to allow more people to become engaged in local activities and, where possible, devolving decision-making about services to the local level.
- Community development. We are transforming our community development service to undertake targeted community capacity building and community engagement, with a particular emphasis on promoting equality and diversity and involving communities in plans for their area.
- Localised working. In May 2005 we introduced more responsive and localised management and operation of mainstream environmental maintenance services. Each ward has a Neighbourhood Response Manager and a Neighbourhood Response Team. The role of the Neighbourhood Response Manager, working alongside the ward co-ordinator, is to ensure that residents' views on environmental priorities are fed into how the service responds in the short term, but also into how it develops medium and long term service delivery.
- Our Customer Service Strategy has developed a comprehensive consultation framework for involving residents and customers in relation to the delivery of services. This is an integral part of the development and delivery of the council's network of Customer Service Centres that provide a range of public services and information at a community level.
- Children's Services see participation as a key priority and have developed a children and young people participation strategy, parent and carer participation strategy, youth engagement strategy and listening to young people strategy. Pioneering work in this area includes appointment of a listening to young children officer, children and young people participatory budgeting pilot and children and young people's priorities embedded in the Newcastle Plan for children and young people.
- In September 2006 the Council adopted a Statement of Community Involvement (SCI). The main objective of the SCI is to encourage wider involvement in the land-use planning process by setting out when and how people can have their say on both city's statutory planning documents (Local Development Framework) as well as planning applications (Development Control)
- Civic Pioneer. Our 'Civic Pioneer' status demonstrates to government, and the public, that we are committed to developing and sustaining opportunities for local people and groups to influence what happens in their communities.
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Community engagement can mean different things to different people, different communities and different services and situations. We have designed our Community Engagement Strategy to ensure that we can provide the most appropriate means for communities and customers to be involved and give feedback. The various means of community engagement are:
- Information supports all types of community engagement and keeps people informed about such things as decisions, services and local events (e.g. Citylife is Newcastle’s free council magazine packed with lively stories and useful information. The Council's website is more accessible and it includes local information on each ward in the city).
- Consultation can be used when there is a decision to make about something or when there are a number of choices about the details (e.g. the Customer Service Centre private finance initiative consultation framework involved focus groups in the services to be delivered in a new network of one-stop shops).
- Deciding together. This is when local people are involved in deciding which options to choose, but it is the council that will act on the decisions (e.g. on Walker Riverside residents on the Cambrian Estate have worked with master planners to design the layout of the new estate and worked with partners to decide on house types).
- Acting together. This is when decisions are made by partnerships between local people or agencies and the Council. The people involved in making the decisions also take part in carrying them out (e.g. 'Shaping Your Service' planning events involve sight impaired people in developing service plans for sight impaired people).
- Supporting independent community initiatives. This is when independent groups get help to develop and carry out their own plans (e.g. the Millin Centre in North Benwell delivers community cohesion activities and has been supported by Community Development to develop a business plan and fundraise for a dedicated centre manager).
Every type of involvement is important in the community engagement process and different methods will be used depending on the activity and circumstances. Sometimes it may be appropriate to inform or consult on some activities, while at other times we will seek to involve communities and individual in much greater depth. Our aim is to work towards devolving decision-making and supporting independent community initiatives wherever possible and to demonstrate where this type of community engagement activity can make genuine improvements to services.
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These service standards are designed to operate alongside our community engagement guidelines and toolkit - they are a set of guiding principles that inform the way we carry out our community engagement activities. By ensuring that we adhere to these standards, we will support the Council's commitment to achieving high-level equalities standar ds. These standards can be read alongside the Engagement Toolkit - a resource for all staff involved in engagement activities.
In all of our engagement activities we will:
Co-ordination and Partnership
co-ordinate community engagement activities, with the council and partners, to avoid duplication and 'consultation fatigue', caused by too much consultation and too little action and feedback
provide leadership from the top, to ensure that community engagement influences services and plans.
Access and Inclusion
ensure that we take into account particular needs and overcome any difficulties participants may have to enable them to participate
involve communities that are usually excluded
ensure that there is equal access to services, and that services meet the needs of all communities
ensure adherence to
ealth and safety regulations
Clarity of Purpose
only use community engagement and consultation processes when there is a real opportunity for people to influence and change decisions and services
be open and honest about the aims of community engagement activity and what it hopes to achieve
ensure that community engagement activities are realistic and that expectations are not raised unnecessarily
have clear processes to feed back on community engagement activity and outcomes and give reasons if unable to deliver on expectations
ensure participants know what they are agreeing to take part in and how the information will be used
- ensure awareness of confidentiality issues in community engagement activities, with particular regard to the Freedom of Information Act (Confidentiality issues will be adhered to, within the constraints of legislation)
ensure that community engagement activities are voluntary, and that participants can withdraw at any time
ensure that information obtained from community engagement activities is honestly interpreted
ensure that the rights and dignity of all participants are respected at all times
respect the rights of participants to decide how much to reveal about themselves
give careful consideration to activities, information and questions to ensure that they do not offend, cause distress or embarrassment
- ensure that those most directly affected by plans and decisions are aware of opportunities for community engagement
- engage with key stakeholders and/or representative groups in advance of specific community engagement activities - to provide advance warning and to seek views on the most effective means of publicity
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It is important for us to know whether we are achieving our vision for this Community Engagement Strategy and we will use a varie ty of methods to measure this, including:
- using our residents' survey to measure achievement of two of our local public service agreement targets:
- to increase the percentage of adults who feel that they can influence decisions affecting their local area
- to increase the percentage of adults who feel that their local area is a place where people from different backgrounds can get on well together.
- monitoring, managing and reporting on the performance of this strategy and action plan regularly in the council and to elected members, partners and the public
- sharing experience and progress through national and regional civic pioneer networks
- acting on feedback from our inspections and external assessments of performance.
This strategy will be reviewed annually and a summary of progress and achievements will be published in Citylife and on the website. The strategy will be fully revised again in 2010.
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This strategy supports co-ordinated community engagement and consultation activities - the key to successful implementation of the strategy is effective management and governance. The following structure provides a governance framework for this Community Engagement Strategy.
- The Neighbourhood Committee (led by Elected Members) and Project Board (led by the Executive Director) work to enhance community engagement activity in council decision-making.
- The Community Engagement Officer Group is responsible for overseeing the development and implementation of the strategy.