Plymouth wins ‘council of the year’ award

Plymouth City Council is basking in the glory of being named the Local Authority of the Year for 2020

The council scooped the top award, beating five other councils who were shortlisted for the 2021 Municipal Journal awards organised by the trade bible for local authorities.

According to the Municipal Journal, the total number of entries for the awards this year was “the highest ever” and stated that the award category “highlights success not just in one local authority department or project but right across the organisation”.

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The publication added that “winning this prestige category, or reaching the shortlist, sends out a message to both staff, partners and potential partners that the local authority is a high-performing council, an important factor at a time of increasing devolution.”

Council Leader Nick Kelly, Deputy shadow leader Councillor Sue Dann and Chief Executive Tracey Lee were presented with the award by Ed Balls at a ceremony in London on Friday.

The judges said: “Pride in the city leaps off the pages of Plymouth’s submission. It has taken a novel, consistent and effective approach to putting the city on the map as Britain’s Ocean City.

Council Leader Nick Kelly and Chief Executive Tracey Lee at the ceremony with the award for Local Authority of the Year
Council Leader Nick Kelly and Chief Executive Tracey Lee at the ceremony with the award for Local Authority of the Year
(Image: Plymouth City Council)

“The council is clearly ambitious, strongly engaged in its communities and is working well with partners on key agendas.”

Cllr Kelly said: “It’s been a year like no other. I know staff have worked around the clock to deliver services as well as handle every challenge the pandemic has thrown at us all. I am absolutely thrilled that we have been named the local authority of the year. I want to build a real sense of pride in Plymouth and to get this award is just fantastic.”

Chief Executive Tracey Lee: “I could not be more proud of all the staff and our councillors who have helped us to win this accolade. The commitment and the can-do attitude that our staff show day in day out is humbling.”

Leader of the Labour opposition, Cllr Tudor Evans, added: “We are all believe fiercely in Plymouth, in its potential and all work phenomenally hard – from the directors to our street sweepers to do our best for the city. It’s great to have this hard work acknowledged.”

The council has noted that 2020 was set to be one of Plymouth’s biggest years and most exciting of times, with years of preparation leading up to the 400th anniversary of the sailing of the Mayflower – but instead the authority – like many others – instead found itself dealing with a global pandemic, lockdowns and the myriad of challenges it brought.

A spokesperson said the council could stand behind some of its outstanding achievements in the face of such a problematic period:

They said: “We launched our Resurgam programme to address the unprecedented economic challenges caused by the pandemic and to get back on track in meeting the city’s ambitious growth targets. It set out action plans for the city’s 11 key economic sectors; including a focus on increasing spend in the local economy; a Skills Launchpad and supporting Marine, Green and Culture priorities.

“We distributed over £92 million to 7,440 Plymouth businesses. The Skills Launchpad worked with over 100 businesses to identify 8,000 job creations over 18 months, and enabled 10,000 citizens to access self-support.

“We invested £200 million into our infrastructure, including the Forder Valley Link Road and Interchange, the Brunel Plaza redevelopment at the railway station; £47m of highway maintenance and engineering projects and 12 projects under the Transforming Cities Fund for sustainable travel and green infrastructure.

“We opened The Box, the £42m redevelopment of the Grade II listed former museum and art gallery and central library buildings with a contemporary extension.

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“We’ve kept on track with our improvement journey in supporting children and young people in need of social care. In Spring 2020, social workers completed risk assessments for every child and young person in the service. These identified which children needed face-to-face visits.

“We delivered 800 laptops to vulnerable children, enabling regular contact and better management of schoolwork.

“We maintained the timeliness of single assessments at 95 percent, and children in need, child protection and children in care visits completed in time.

“Our school meals provider CATERed, which we own with the city’s schools, ensured free school meals were available to all eligible pupils throughout school closures – that’s nearly 14,000 meals a week in the summer 2020, rising to 47,000 meals a week when schools reopened.

Shaun Williamson (Catering Manager – Tor Bridge), Leanne Hengle (Account Manager) (at back) and Tina Wilson (Senior Catering Assistant)
Shaun Williamson (Catering Manager – Tor Bridge), Leanne Hengle (Account Manager) (at back) and Tina Wilson (Senior Catering Assistant)
(Image: CATERed PLYMOUTH)

“We supported 97 care homes with our adult social care provider Livewell Southwest, University Hospitals Plymouth and the Devon Clinical Commissioning Group, and provided dedicated infection control advice and training, managed staffing and resources, delivered emergency PPE, and stood up local testing arrangements for residents and staff prior to national testing programmes.

“Through Caring for Plymouth, our partnership with Livewell Southwest and the voluntary and community sector, we took over 8,000 calls from vulnerable people, carried out 3,000 welfare checks, delivered hundreds of food parcels and fetched medicine and prescriptions 1,600 times.

“Through the Plymouth Alliance Contract we are taking a system approach for people with complex needs, covering substance misuse, homelessness, mental health and offending and have seen a dramatic drop in rough sleeping and the prevention or relief of homelessness for 988 households over the last year – double our annual target.

“We agreed our City Climate Emergency and Corporate Carbon Reduction plans which have over 100 realistic, achievable and deliverable actions. Successes so far include upgrading homes of vulnerable residents with energy efficient measures; installation of 77 electric charging points; a rolling investment in LED lighting in subways and other highway infrastructure. Our Transforming Cities Fund programme includes 300 public electric vehicle charge points, 400 electric bikes, setting up an electric car club, 14 kilometres of off road-cycle improvements, junction improvements and a new control centre, hosting the latest in technological signal advancements.”

In addition to winning the overall award, the council’s Pause Social Outcomes Partnership was also highly commended in the ‘Delivering Better Outcomes’ category. Pause is a charity that works with women who have experienced, and are at risk of, having children removed from their care. The programme offers an intensive relationship-based, trauma-informed model of support to women, so the removal of a child should never have to happen more than once.

Plymouth was the first council in the UK to commission a Pause service through an innovative Social Outcomes Partnership, in which the council works collaboratively alongside other local and national organisations including Trevi, Bridges Outcomes Partnerships and the Pause national charity, with a shared aim to improve outcomes experienced by some of the city’s most vulnerable families.

In its citation for the Local Authority of the Year award, the judges described Plymouth City Council as as a local authority “that has put culture-led regeneration and a sense of place at its heart, one that is determined to put its city on the map for all the right reasons and where political and officer leadership is genuinely a single voice for the benefit of all residents.”

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