When you bring together leaders from around the world, it’s amazing how many are seeking solutions to the same problems.
They may be from different continents, but there’s always common ground – such as creating affordable housing for residents and finding the most effective ways to support employment.
Once again, this was the case when I attended the CityLab Conference 2015. The event, which was billed as ‘Urban Solutions to Global Challenges’, saw 300 city and district leaders gather in London to share ideas and best practice. Kirklees was one of only four English areas represented (the others being York, Cardiff and Bristol), while global visitors included mayors, leaders and experts from Beijing, China; Athens, Greece; Nairobi, Kenya; Aspen, Canada and many other places.
We were invited thanks to our strong links with Bloomberg Philanthropies, which awarded funding to the council last year so that we could develop our Comoodle project and create a strong culture of sharing across the district – helping residents to help each other and do great things in communities.
The conference was excellent for learning how different people tackle similar issues, depending on their circumstances. On the question of creating affordable housing, for example, we heard about housing trusts in America, a model that’s used in Singapore and the way that authorities in Mumbai, India, try to provide secure accommodation for their huge population.
As well as being thought provoking, this pooling of information sparks ideas and conversations that can help us tackle problems on a local basis. The conference was also attended by large businesses and corporations who are keen to work with local government, so there are lots of benefits to Kirklees – making valuable connections, raising our profile and developing new ways of working which will help our local residents.
Having mentioned the Comoodle project, which promotes the sharing of council resources with community groups who can use them, I’d like to give you an update on progress. Several pilot schemes are giving us insight into how Comoodle can work most effectively, we’ve finalised a system for lending council vans for community activities and we’ve also identified a whole range of equipment and assets which will be really useful for local people to use.
To show you how the scheme works in practice…
- Building Services lent portable heaters to a local church when their adult learning sessions were affected by a heating breakdown
- Local arts and health organisation Hoot borrowed a van from Fleet Services to kit out their new Oak Tree music studios in Dewsbury, enabling them to provide musical therapy for people with a range of health conditions
- And when our local Welcome Centre needed to free up more space, the council offered storage facilities at Huddersfield Market and moved 150 trays of tinned food
I’d also like to mention the Wishes pilot scheme, which gives groups and individuals a chance to tell us what they would like to borrow.
You can make a wish at www.comoodle.com now and give us as much information as possible about what you would like to borrow, for how long and what it will be used for. If we can find it, we’ll do our best to lend it to you!
I should probably also update you on where we are with government and devolution for the region.
While others are receiving their deals, we are still in negotiations – and it is vital that we come out of those discussions with the best deal for Kirklees and West Yorkshire.
If the price tag is an elected mayor for the region, then we have to be certain that the deal on offer is good enough to warrant paying that price. We have demonstrated to government that we are a successful economic area and we will need to be offered more than we got as part of the city deal we signed up to.
As soon as we have an offer from government, we will start the debate. This will involve full council discussions, but the views of the public and local business are important too and I will welcome those.