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Partnership challenges...

Published: Monday, 9th October 2017

Nick Bussey, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice Rotherham and RTP Board Member

Nick Bussey, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice Rotherham and RTP Board Member

The first time I visited Rotherham was when I came for the job interview with the local Citizens Advice.

I arrived early and drove around the town, passing through some of the outlying villages and trying to get a feel for the community, it's needs and some of the challenges facing Rotherham. It is difficult to get a feel for an area from your car, but what was clear to me back then was that Rotherham has areas of need interspersed with more affluent areas, as well as a mix or rural and industrial areas and meeting the different needs of such a mixed society would be difficult. Since beginning my work in Rotherham I have found that the support from within the Third Sector is well co-ordinated, with organisations working well together and all seeking to make a difference for local people. Couple that with the new leadership at RMBC, both officer and member, and you have a powerful partnership driving through much needed change to start to make a difference for the most vulnerable communities in Rotherham.

It's fortunate that we have this strong partnership in place for we face something of a 'perfect storm' of problems and it will take all our good will and best efforts to overcome it. Firstly next year sees the government roll out of Universal Credit across Rotherham, this will impact on a large number of already vulnerable families, making it more difficult to claim benefit and reducing the income they get to live on; at the same time we will continue to see the impact of Brexit negotiations on the value of the pound, making imports more expensive and therefore increasing the cost of living for everyone in Rotherham. While this is all going on the Bank of England are considering raising the base interest rate over the next 12 months, that will impact on the cost of mortgages, credit cards and other borrowing, reducing people's disposable income even more. It's at times like this that local communities turn to the local authority for help, yet next year RMBC are going to have to find 10's of millions of pounds in savings in their budget next year, which can really only come from reductions in core service to local people. How do we manage to keep up the levels of support to local people who need it, while dealing with increased demand and cuts in services? I think we need to draw on the partnership between statutory and voluntary sector services, look at ways we can deliver more for less, develop our volunteering opportunities and help encourage more local people to step up to help those in need in our town. Thankfully there are many strong, well run organisations serving Rotherham and some great leaders, the next twelve months is going to challenge them all.