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Solace blog

24th July 2019

Co-operative Working in South Tyneside

A co-operative council is one that works in partnership with local community organisations to get the maximum from all of the resources available for the area. In doing this, it builds the four key values of honesty, openness, fairness and social responsibility into day to day business.

With the public sector facing unprecedented financial challenges, the vital role played by volunteers, community groups and other third sector organisations is becoming increasingly important. South Tyneside Council took the decision in 2016 to actively develop voluntary community partnerships and co-operatives in the borough, its political leadership strengthened this approach by adding a cabinet portfolio to champion this important area of work.

In a climate where demand pressures increase whilst government funding fails to keep pace, South Tyneside has had to change the way that it works. Community groups have provided the council not only with new mechanisms for service delivery but also an opportunity to attract alternative funding to South Tyneside as a whole.

The council wants to maximise the money coming into South Tyneside, from any source, so that it can be used to make a positive difference to people’s lives.

A Funding Forum shares information about sources of external funding and identifies areas of collaboration. A Community Funding Web Portal can be accessed by anyone in South Tyneside who wants to explore funding opportunities. This helps community groups maximise funding – often opening up options traditionally closed to the council. South Tyneside is unique in its level of civic and community pride. Local people genuinely care about the place they live, their local community and are keen to help out where they can.

Over 1500 community and volunteer groups work across the Borough’s towns and neighbourhoods, making a difference to the local area every single day.  It is this army of volunteers in the third sector that can help South Tyneside Council deliver the services that its residents rely on.

Council services collaborate with service-users, residents, local businesses, local third sector groups, and other partners to promote community pride and support people to take part in activities. #LoveSouthTyneside is a campaign that promotes social action, from raising awareness of community group events to encouraging small actions such as helping a neighbour, recycling, sharing a photo or signposting friends and family to services and opportunities.

The third sector support organisation, Inspire South Tyneside, is a #LoveSouthTynseide ambassador and has introduced an innovative volunteer passport, enabling people to demonstrate the transferable skills they have that they can bring to other volunteering opportunities.

Local health partners have recognised the potential of the campaign to impact on health and wellbeing and are collaborating with the council in growing the campaign even further, demonstrating to health professionals why South Tyneside is an outstanding place to live, invest and bring up families.

Research by the IFS confirmed that South Tyneside is the third hardest-hit council in the country for real-term budget reductions for the period 2010 to 2016.

With almost half of the Council’s budget gone, new models of delivery are essential so that sustainable services can continue to be provided

South Tyneside’s community asset transfer is a great example of its cooperative and collaborative work. Against a background of cuts in central government funding, South Tyneside Council asked for community support to keep open the Borough’s community facilities which include once leisure centre, one youth facility, 12 community associations, and four branch libraries. As a result, all of the facilities have been saved from closure and are going from strength to strength as services become more aligned to what individual communities want. Being awarded Cooperative council of the year isn’t an accolade for the council but is a testament to communities in South Tyneside and the way they have stepped forward to support.