Barking and Dagenham is experiencing huge challenges but also significant opportunities. Our mission is to help seize those prospects for the benefit of everyone. This has meant designing and implementing a new kind of council and forging a new relationship with citizens.

We’re one of the most deprived communities in the UK with poor outcomes for too many of our residents. We are experiencing huge demographic change. Our population was 90% White British in 2001 now less than half are. 30% are under the age of 18 and half of these are 7 or younger (we’re great at building schools). We’re less cohesive: too many of our older white British residents exist in a state of despair. Meanwhile we have a £68m funding gap to close.

But we’re also less than 20 minutes away from the most successful city economy on earth. Economic growth is moving eastward and we have a once in a generation chance to seize and shape it for the benefit of all residents. Ours is a vision of reform not as a euphemism for cuts but as a commitment to investment – in our physical infrastructure and in our community, convening the resources that help people, where possible, to help themselves. It’s about building trust, relationships and social capital.

We have been driving change hard for the last three years and now we are seeing the results. With a clear mandate to deliver £68m of savings by 2021 (having already delivered £110m) by changing what the Council does rather than salami slicing and a focus on enabling inclusive growth, the leadership team triggered two major borough wide strategic exercises.

First, an independent Growth Commission chaired by the economist Mike Emmerich. It delivered key strategic and practical recommendations based on the premise of growth that had the prospect of leaving ‘no-one’ behind.

Second, a sister project ‘Ambition 2020’, discerned a radical reshaping of the Council based on the presumption of a new relationship with citizens and wider civil society, and an embrace of the Growth Commission findings. It set out an affordable blue print for a new organisation.

Three imperatives emerged:

  • physical infrastructure: increase the volume of affordable housing across all tenures; deliver enabling transport schemes; and develop 21st Century workspaces (e.g. for London’s artists, entrepreneurs and makers who are otherwise leaving London).
  • social infrastructure: focus on prevention, resilience and social capital – take a long-term view (5-20 years)
  • citizen infrastructure: turbo charge community engagement, development and re-connection.

A new kind of Council

The blue print has now become a reality. In addition to setting a balance budget to 2021 (closing that £68m gap), and having very high levels of staff engagement – in 2017 we:

Physical infrastructure

  • Launched Be First: our wholly owned, arms-length growth and regeneration company. Chaired by Lord Kerslake early achievements include:
    • An agreed plan (with buildings under construction) to triple development by 2021
    • Railway to Barking Riverside agreed and due for completion in 2021.
    • Land assembly and procurement to build London’s largest film studio and TV theatres in Dagenham
    • Concluding a business plan to tunnel over a mile of the A13
    • Agreed a business plan that will incrementally deliver dividends to the Council
  • Agreed and implemented our radical new approach to investment and housing development
    • Right to rent through our Housing Company.
    • Right to Invest scheme – the first of its kind in the country we allow council tenants to own a stake of up to 70% in their home, benefiting from capital appreciation and protection from policy change
  • London’s first artist enterprise zone with new workspaces assembling land for a major town centre artist live/work space development.

Social and Citizen Infrastructure

  • Launched Community Solutions a bold and radical redesign of council services with the aim of resolving complex needs by tackling root causes. Bringing together: the MASH; adult care assessment; worklessness skills, poverty, debt, mental health, homelessness, domestic violence, antisocial behaviour, youth, libraries, family support into one 400-strong team that supports individuals and families to overcome their problems, become more self-reliant, connecting opportunities.
  • Secured a University low cost flexible degrees tailored for residents. Coventry University opened its doors to students at our former Civic Centre in Dagenham this September,
  • Secured London’s first Youth Zone bringing the innovative public-private-voluntary funded, at scale youth facility, pioneered in the North West to London, opening in 2018.
  • Launched the Borough Manifesto a consciously 20-year public vision for the Borough, reflecting the Growth Commission insight that socio-economic outcomes would take a generation to turn around. Over 3000 residents contributed their ideas (we’ve never seen this level of engagement before). We now have clear targets for the next two decades.
  • Meanwhile…our best-ever GCSE results; 93% of our schools are good or outstanding; a pathfinder for the Met’s new command arrangements, seeing improved DV, safeguarding and other pivotal outcomes. We’re the ACO health devolution pilot for London.

To achieve all of this we have worked together– across authorities, employers, schools, colleges and communities to ensure that Barking and Dagenham is a place where every resident has access to lifelong learning, employment and opportunity. As part of this we have established our place within London’s wider economy and delivered our own identity as a borough that sets us apart from our neighbours.

Come and join us


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