This is a summary of the key point of discussion from iNetwork’s Local reThink event on Friday 27 February, kindly hosted by Sefton Council and Chaired by John Morrissy, Bolton Council and Chair of iNetwork’s ESR2 community.

In her opening talk Margaret Carney, Chief Executive of Sefton Council challenged the group to think big and think different. “Some problems are so complex that you need to be highly intelligent to be undecided about them” she quoted. It was telling that her 20 minute session ran for almost 50 as colleagues responded to her insights and perspectives.The overall message of the day was a theme that is increasingly gaining currency – councils need to move from delivering “to” to delivering “with” their communities.For example there are 25,000 voluntary carers in Tameside on whom the state is complete reliant. If they were to unanimously stop providing support the NHS and care services would collapse in less than a day. This is the same for almost any council area but are we designing our services around the needs of carers to enable them to be more effective? Or is the opposite in effect?Delivering “with” communities needs to sit alongside service specific efficiency and integration in areas like health and social care, however it still feels unclear as to how big a contribution it could make in this environment of shrinking budgets.Nevertheless, the analysis of five recent medium term financial plans by iNetwork all indicate that councils are willing to make a leap of faith in this direction, encouraged by evidence from councils such as Wigan and Monmouthshire and reports from NESTA.

Roundtable discussions were equally fruitful with the tablecloths full of writing at the end of dialogue. Having established the aim, the focus here was the “how” and included discussions on culture shift, having open and honest dialogue with communities, encouraging innovation, “giving people back their jobs”, and taking a multi-year view.

Some great examples of current work included:

Lancashire County Council’s reorganisation around “Start Well, Live Well, Age Well”.

Barry Quirk’s “kindness in public services” challenge and the importance of design:

The move from CAF to eHAT by Liverpool City Council Children’s’ Service

Wigan Council’s work on community led social care

Oldham Council’s Cooperative Council:

“Have a brew” with Sefton Cares:

NESTA “People helping People”:

“Systemic reform vs specific reform” from Reform:

Tailor made: How community groups improve people’s lives:

In wrapping up John Morrissy neatly summarised the challenge for us “How do we get out of the way and find ways for people to find solutions for themselves?”.

That is perhaps a more appropriate purpose for local government.