Staffordshire County Council already has links with the area’s eight district and borough authorities. But the new Staffordshire Leaders Board will bring the nine councils together more formally and enable them to seek extra powers and money from government to improve services and tackle issues such as climate change and health inequalities.
On Wednesday, members of the county council’s cabinet agreed to the authority joining the Staffordshire Leaders Board. Council leader Alan White will be appointed as the county council’s representative on the board.
He said: “For many of us we are not just county councillors but district or borough councillors. And during the course of the pandemic what became very clear to me was two-tier working in this county works really well.
“We worked as a brilliant team, we were able to get support out to businesses and individuals that needed it. And as a result of that the relationship that has existed between districts and boroughs and the county council over the past few years has gone from strength to strength.
“Formally coming together now creates a Staffordshire Leaders Board that will allow us to build on these strengths by focusing on joint approaches to the big issues that affect us all, including the economy, public health and reducing carbon emissions. It also creates an official structure by which Staffordshire’s democratic organisations can speak jointly to central government on how we can deliver better health and prosperity to the county.
“We want to be enhancing local government efficiency and effectiveness by making sure the communications between the two tiers of local government in this county work really well. Kicking off, there will probably be a single ‘front door’, so that people who often just refer to ‘the council’ and don’t know which council they’re necessarily referring to, will have that opportunity to just have that single contact.
“We have made sufficient room for Stoke on Trent City Council to join in the future, should they wish to do so, on an equal membership basis. And I hope Stoke on Trent City Council will give consideration to that in due course.”
Fellow cabinet members also welcomed the move.
Councillor Simon Tagg, who is also leader of Newcastle Borough Council, said: “The climate change agenda is something we’re already starting to work on very closely together – there is a sustainability board which all the district portfolio holders and county council are involved in. We are looking at a baseline pledge to put forward to cabinets across the districts and to bring to this cabinet so we can all sign up to a key set of deliverables on climate change.
“In Newcastle we have the Castle House civic hub which has the county council, police and borough council all in one building. It is the way forward and this structure we’re putting in place is key to enabling us to do that.”
Councillor Julia Jessel said: “A few years ago I would never have thought this was possible. In the last two years I think local authorities have had the confidence to work closely together and realise the benefits.
“I think this is a tremendous step forward and brings with it significant opportunities that perhaps aren’t necessarily apparent to the electorate out there. Members of the public consider us as ‘the council’; whatever tier, they really don’t care and they find it so confusing when they get passed from pillar to post.
“I’m sure if we can get things like the integrated front door in place that will be a tremendous step forward as far as the general public are concerned. I think that’s what’s really important – whatever this achieves it improves the services we provide to people who elect us.”