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Policy Clusters, Networks and Partnerships

In the development of its delivery programme the ILG has recognised that one key motive of partners joining the ILG has been the opportunity to work across boundaries with other public sector partners and university researchers. The focus of this interest among partners is wide ranging across the whole sphere of local governance. With a range of public sector activities and academic disciplines present in the partnership the scope to address a potentially diverse range of interests is considerable e.g. from climate change to child poverty.

One key barrier to developing such collaborative behaviour has been a lack of knowledge amongst practitioners of the presence of academic expertise across the universities and limited channels to enable academics to become aware of developing policy and practice issues and priorities. There is no single formula to address these barriers in a way which facilitates ongoing dialogue – rather it is a case of ‘horses for courses’ and being proactive when the opportunity arises.

Against this background the ILG has set up a number of tailored organisational arrangements or 'policy clusters' with the aim of providing a platform for practitioners and university researchers to come together to explore common interests, address policy and implementation issues, engage in advocacy and campaigning and develop research and knowldge exchange projects arising from the dialogue.

Some examples of initiatives of this kind which have been developed over recent months are summarised below:

Climate Change and the North East

The issue of climate change is widely acknowledged as a key challenge facing all sectors and walks of life in the region. Against this background the ILG has sought to explore ways in which its unique offer could make a contribution. Discussions established a lack of awareness amongst local authority practitioners of the world class expertise and research which was present in the region's Universities. Engagement with private sector bodies and Climate Change North East confirmed that this lack of awareness extended much more widely. Against this background, the ILG, in partnership with other stakeholders delivered a programme of research and awareness raising across these sectors.

In recognition of the need to engage senior public sector decision makers and elected politicians, the ILG organised a Masterclass in February 2011 at Durham University entitled ''Adaptation and Resilience' - how will climate change and future government policy impact upon the ability of local authorities to deliver future services?' Chaired by the Chief Executive of Northumberland County Council, contributions were made by the government's climate change advisor, as well as a senior official from the Department of Energy and Climate Change, followed by reflections on the implications for the North East by academics from Northumbria and Newcastle Universities, an official of the Environment Agency and local government practitioners.

In recognition of the interest in climate change, the ILG commissioned a register prepared by Northumbria University of research currently being undertaken in the universities on climate change. Working with Climate Change North East and with additional funding from DEFRA the ILG organised three awareness raising events in partnership with local businesses, the North East Chamber of Commerce and Federation of Small Businesses. 

Liberating the NHS: Implications for Local Government

In the autumn of 2011, discussions between the Association of North East Councils, the Wolfson Institute Durham University and the Institute for Local Governance established that there was significant interest amongst senior elected members and officers in exploring the implications for local government of the Coalition Government's health reforms

Given the potential significance of the Health and Social Care Bill, the ILG commissioned Professor Tim Blackman, Wolfson Institute to organise a seminar programme delivered by his professorial colleagues. The programme delivered in February covered three themes: an overview of the reforms; commissioning and local government; the public health role of local government. A key purpose was to help participants develop their thinking about responses to the national consultations on the government's public health strategy and outcomes framework as well as to support local authorities in responding to the opportunities and challenges presented by the reforms.

With this in mind, The Forum was formally launched in July 2011. Membership includes the National Housing Federation, various national and local housing associations, representatives of the private sector and ANEC. The aim is to bring together people from across the sector to develop both joint understanding and working in an attempt to find workable and beneficial solutions to common housing issues. The Forum will function as an organisational hub designed to address the North East’s housing challenges by bringing forward ideas and initiatives, promoting research and policy change, stimulating innovation and promoting the dissemination of good practice.

Criminal Justice and Community Safety Group

This group was launched in November 2010 to bring together senior policy with the relevant academics in the Universities. The aim is to share common research and policy interests with the object of facilitating ongoing research and collaborative research activities.

Recent events held include a presentation on the work of the Victims and Riots Panel by Baroness Sherlock. There was a comprehensive discussion and analysis of the North East reaction led by a description of local conditions by all three police forces. Assistant Chief Constable Michael Banks of Durham Constabulary also gave a presentation on the nature of organised crime and how to deal with it in one part of the North East.