For the ANP sustainability is potentially difficult. The relatively large grants from the Coalfields Regeneration Trust that ANP benefited from in the past are no longer available. Instead loans are being offered, but projects such as ANP are wary of entering into these types of obligations. Similarly, they feel that operating by contracts to deliver employment services can entail too much risk. Instead, ANP are constantly applying for uncertain grants e.g. Big Lottery. As grants are now harder to come by and the project has had to become more targeted on certain users. It is innovating by generating income from selling services as a social enterprise, such as cooking and sewing workshops.
For Happy Feet Pre-School, sustainability prospects are good. There is local demand for paid-for child care services. The organisation generates income by hiring premises out to other groups, conferences, etc. However, there is some uncertainty about whether there may be less national government funding of child care in the future. This could lead to loss of workforce skills in the sector.
EKH can be expected to be sustainable as long as savings and improved service can be demonstrated.
The ANP “Family Learning” lifelong learning aspect of their work is very clearly the product of diffusion of an idea. It is a concept based on evidence of research in 1990s demonstrating the intergenerational effects of poor literacy and numeracy. For example, A Fresh Start – Improving Literacy and Numeracy highlighted the effectiveness of family literacy, language and numeracy programmes in engaging parents and tackling poor skills in families24. This was one contributory factor that led to the government identifying parents as a priority group and promoted the expansion of family literacy, language and numeracy programmes25. Family Literacy and Family Numeracy demonstration programmes were expanded with funding from the Standards Fund in the late 1990s, which came from the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) to local authorities with support from the Basic Skills Agency (BSA). In 2000, the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) was set up to fund Adult and Community Learning. The DfES sent Standards Fund money through the LSC and funding for family learning commenced in 200226.
EKH aims to achieve economies of scale and improve services to tenants by operating cross-district boundary working, and was the first instance in the country of four authorities sharing a single housing company, or “super ALMO”. As the first example of local authorities sharing a housing company in UK, it is not itself a product of diffusion. As such, it is seen as being particularly innovative and has attracted national attention as a potential model for future shared services. Similar arrangements have been developed in Cornwall and other councils in Shropshire and Co. Durham have shown an interest in what the East Kent councils have achieved. However, the principles underlying EKH are influenced by the diffusion of the present national government’s nudge towards local authorities to collaborate more such as in purchasing supplies, in sharing senior officials, and in sharing administrative functions (e.g. the collection of council tax, the administration of housing benefit, ICT technical support and customer services).
We are grateful for the participation of the following people in the compilation of this report. Nevertheless, any errors remain the responsibility of the authors.
- Cllr Linda Keen, District Councillor (Lab)
- Brian Horton, Researcher, Kent County Council
- Nigel Bainbridge, Business Manager, Happy Feet Pre-school
- Sharon Lucas, Operations Manager, Happy Feet Pre-school
- Professor Steve Fothergill, Sheffield Hallam University and Industrial Communities Alliance
- Tim Ingleton, Head of Regeneration, DDC
- Cllr Sue Chandler, District Councillor (Con)
- Brinley Hill, Alternative Service Delivery Manager, DDC
- Cllr Christopher (Kit) Smith, District Councillor (Con)
- Tracy Perrow, DOver District Home Start
- Brendan Ryan, Chief Executive, EKH
- Angela Doggett, ANP Family Learning
- Richard Collins, ANP
- Cllr Frederick Scales, District Councillor (Con)