The Sutton Plan: back to Total Place – and beyond
Jessica Crowe, Assistant Director of Customers, Commissioning & Governance, London Borough of Sutton, 11 August, 2017

Do you remember the heady days of 2009? Back to one year PA (pre-Austerity), when Total Place pilots were busy mapping total spend across their areas, part of a Treasury mandated national efficiency programme led by Lord Bichard? Happy days!

In an attempt to recapture the mood before we had had to take nearly £100m out of our budget, Sutton Council has spent the past year working with a whole host of public sector partners, local businesses and voluntary and community groups to develop a new Total Place-style model for public services.

The continuing financial challenge facing all partners has given us the impetus to come together to try to construct more coherent, place-based services, built around residents’ needs rather than institutional loyalties, making the most of the total ‘Sutton £’. This ‘Sutton £’, the sum total of all public sector spend across the borough, amounted to an estimated £1.8 billion in 2016/17 – still a considerable amount, despite successive rounds of belt-tightening.

The Sutton Plan is our first draft of a new local way of spending that still considerable sum of money as a shared resource. During 2016-17, a number of partner events, informed by public engagement and shared data analysis, led to the draft plan. But recognising that, in the management jargon, ‘culture eats strategy for breakfast’, we first spent time developing and agreeing five public service reform principles for how we were going to work together, rather than what we were going to do:

1. Think Sutton first;
2. Work across sectors;
3. Get involved early;
4. Build stronger, self-sufficient communities; and
5. Provide coordinated, seamless services.

Year 2 of the project will be driven by four early policy priorities that emerged over year 1:
1. Tackling domestic abuse and its causes – underway, kick started with local authority investment using our transition funding 2017-20.
2. Early help to young families at risk of disadvantage – following the ‘get involved early’ maxim above.
3. Support for older people – requires a step-change in our health and social care integration efforts (see below).
4. Making Sutton a more attractive place to live and work for all age groups – driven by insights from the data that as a borough we lack the crucial engine for our local economy of the 20-40 year old age cohort, this is work to promote investment in the borough’s growth and development.

The policy priorities will in turn be supported by three key enablers:
● Public service leadership development
● Ongoing public engagement and communications
● Continuing cross-sector data work

It’s genuinely exciting and has already helped move relationships forward with local organisations with whom we had not had strong enough collaborative partnerships before – perhaps because until austerity really bit, we had not had to do so.

My reflections if you want to do something similar:

● Culture really does eat strategy for breakfast – invest in the relationships and ways of working and keep reinforcing it. The leadership development programme across our public services is intended to do this, as well as developing our 21st century public servants;
● Keep communicating – your team in the Council may be beavering away, but for other partners this will probably (certainly) not be top of their agenda so keep them informed between the set-piece events. We didn’t do enough of this in the first year and are catching up now;
● Local health partners are probably the most difficult but also the most crucial to engage; the quality of collaboration between social care and acute and community health services and shifting the balance of activity between these different approaches to well-being is what will really change how you all work with your populations. We’ve recently had a breakthrough locally in this so I am now optimistic, having not been previously.

Plenty of other great learning points, but the main one? Just do it! I would be interested to hear from others who are and who may already be further along the road, back to the Total Place future: jessica.crowe@sutton.gov.uk.