A Message from the Chair

Dame Suzi Leather

The Plymouth Fairness Commission has come a long way since its start in April 2013. We have reached the crucial stage in what the Commission set out to do – our recommendations have been delivered to the city.

Our work as a Commission is complete for now, but there is a new beginning, turning those recommendations into reality. The work for Plymouth has only just started. The Commissioners and I listened to the people of Plymouth and made our recommendations based on what we learned. Now it is time for the change to begin.

In order for this to be a success, the city needs to work together and show how it is transforming. The people of Plymouth will want to know what progress is being made. That is why we have asked specific organisations to report publicly on what they are doing to make Plymouth fairer. Their response to our recommendations and their achievements in implementing them over the coming months and years will be on this website.

Some of the aspects of fairness we have drawn attention to do not just require organisations to do something, rather they are about how we as citizens live together. We hope that the relational changes we have highlighted, the need for greater social connection, tolerance and kindness, will also begin to impact on our lives.

The Plymouth Fairness Commission will reunite in 2015 to review the progress made by the city. We understand that making Plymouth a fairer city will not be an overnight transition; nothing of the scale and significance we have advocated is achieved immediately. But the blueprint is there and the will to effect change is already being demonstrated.

Finally, a thank you to the very many people and organisations that have contributed to our work over the past year, the Commissioners and I are truly grateful. You helped us set the vision. Making it a reality is a task for all.

Dame Suzi Leather

The Plymouth Fairness Commission Announces Recommendations to City

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Below are the recommendations from the Plymouth Fairness Commission which have now been presented to city leaders. A full copy of the report can be found on the website.

1. That the Plymouth Fairness Commission’s Principles of Fairness are agreed by all public bodies in Plymouth, with consideration of how they are included in decision making.

A New Approach to Leadership, local recommendations:

2. That all public bodies in Plymouth learn about the Systems Leadership approach.

3. That a similar approach is part of the induction and training process for all staff in Plymouth’s public sector.

4. That measurable objectives on implementing this type of approach are included in the performance objectives of senior staff in all Plymouth’s public sector bodies.

5. That all bodies cited against recommendations in the Plymouth Fairness Commission’s report agree a Systems Leadership approach to the way they implement them.

Strengthening Local Communities:

6. That all public sector bodies in Plymouth review the way they currently engage with communities and agree an approach which ensures benefits are shared across communities.

7. That public sector bodies fully explore ways of working with both geographical communities and communities of interest in a way that meets their individual needs.

8. That local councillors review their current ways of working as elected representatives of local communities.

9. That an external, independent civil society expert undertakes a critical review of Plymouth’s Voluntary and Community Sector and provide recommendations to strengthen it.

10. The urgent resolution of issues preventing the provision of professional indemnity insurance is needed to widen the availability of free specialist legal advice.

Individual and Family Wellbeing:

11. That a fair, needs based and long-term funding settlement for local government and other sectors should be urgently developed by central Government.

12. That Plymouth City Council’s current grant allocation for public health is urgently reviewed by Public Health England (PHE).

13. That the National Institute for Clinical Excellence’s guidance recommendation of a national minimum price per unit of alcohol is implemented.

14. That the Local Government Associations proposals for reforming the current licensing system for alcohol is implemented to limit 24-hour licensing in areas where alcohol causes harm.

15. That the current provision of universal free school meals to Year 1 and 2 pupils in infant schools due to come into effect in September 2014, be extended to all primary school children.

16. That the Department for Work and Pensions urgently address the delays in benefit payments when individual circumstances change, and the inappropriate use of benefit sanctions.

17. That all parts of the public sector jointly quantify Plymouth’s ‘Missing Millions’ to make the cases for fairer funding to Government.

18. That a review of primary care provision across Plymouth is undertaken to ensure equitable access to primary care based on identified local needs.

19. The development of an agreed comprehensive response to Plymouth’s mental health needs, and the publication of resourced commissioning plans.

20. That a joint review is completed to agree appropriate crisis responses for those presenting with a mental health need.

21. The development, resourcing and implementation of an evidence-based and coordinated approach to reduce the sale of cheap, super strength beer, cider and vodka as per Plymouth’s Strategic Alcohol Plan.

22. That confirmation is given that systems and funding to deliver the Commissioning Plan for the Plymouth Domestic Abuse Partnership 2012-2019 will be adequate and sufficiently resourced to meet the scale of the problem.

23. That cross-sector funding for Domestic Abuse services is protected and, where appropriate, increased to ensure sufficient services and support to meet rising demand.

24. That all primary school children in Plymouth are offered a free school meal.

25. That a pilot is undertaken to assess the potential take-up, costs and benefits of providing a free daily meal to disadvantaged pupils outside term-time.

26. That all schools providing meals in Plymouth should meet the National School Food Standards.

27. That Plymouth City Council’s Public Health remit on healthy weight be expanded to include food poverty, with responsibility for co-ordinating food poverty initiatives across the city.

28. That Plymouth City Council amend its spatial planning policy to enable the restriction of fast food outlets within 400 metres or less from a school, youth facility or park.

29. That Plymouth City Council work with the organisers of Plymouth’s main events, such as the Fireworks Championships, to reduce the provision of low nutritional value food and improve the food offer.

30. That current food initiatives are better coordinated to ensure they reach Plymouth’s ‘nutritional deserts’

Young People and Young Adults:

31. That the Department for Education takes active steps to ensure collaboration and sharing best practice is demonstrated by new types of schools, e.g. academies through formal policy and practice.

32. That extending the implementation of the Plymouth Primary Teaching School Alliance’s collaborative model to Plymouth’s secondary schools is made a priority.

33. That a specific review is held to consider all fairness characteristics preventing young people taking up apprenticeships, and concrete steps agreed to address them.

34. That a ‘Virtual Sixth Form’ is developed, providing city-wide timetable of courses available from Plymouth’s further education institutions made available online to support 16 – 18 year olds.

35. That a consistent set of Information, Advice and Guidance (IAG) protocols, covering all providers is developed for young people choosing their post 16 options.

36. That all primary and secondary schools develop an alumni programme.

37. That all Plymouth’s secondary schools and other learning institutions develop relationships with local and regional employers to encourage presentations, workshops and placements and help pupils become ‘work ready’.

38. That a formal system is brokered linking schools and businesses so all young people have fair access to internships, work placements and youth enterprise schemes.

39. That a ‘Positive Youth’ approach to the commissioning of services for young people in the city is developed.

40. That every young person in the city should be able to access free recreational and cultural activities within one bus ride.

41. That the touchpoints of contact for Plymouth’s young carers are identified and actively targeted to ensure more young carers contact and benefit from Youth Services.

Discrimination:

42. That bodies from all sectors agencies within the city generate leadership on tackling discrimination in all its forms, against specific actions.

Escalating Cost of Living:

43. That the Government leads in encouraging employers to pay the recommended Living Wage and requires all Government Departments to pay their employees at this level, as a minimum.

44. That the Local Government Association’s demands for changes to the existing planning and licensing laws in relation to new betting premises are actioned.

45. That all public sector bodies in Plymouth should commit to pay their staff, and those of the employees of agencies that work for them, the Living Wage.

46. That Plymouth City Council and other public sector agencies work with subcontractors and commissioned services to ensure they pay 100% of their workers a Living Wage within two years.

47. That all private sector employers in Plymouth aim to implement the Living Wage for all their employees to ensure Plymouth becomes a Living Wage City across all sectors.

48. That an annual ‘Fair Pay in Plymouth’ report is published in the Plymouth Herald, including an explanation of executive pay, with top to median pay ratios and all taxable earnings.

49. That the use of zero hours contracts across the city should be monitored annually.

50. That exclusive zero hours contracts are not advertised by job centres or recruitment agencies in Plymouth.

51. That all public sector agencies review their current use of subcontractors and commissioned services that use exclusive zero hours contracts and pledge to commission only from services that do not restrict their employees to exclusive zero hours contracts.

52. That Plymouth City Council demonstrates it is maximising its planning restrictions, within the current legal framework, to control the number of betting shops, fixed odds betting terminals and payday lenders in the city.

53. That the Plymouth universities partner with schools and youth organisations to provide peer mentoring to train young people to become confident in budgeting and managing money.

54. That Plymouth City Council works with partners to develop robust visible campaigns against the use of payday loans and illegal loan sharks.

55. That Plymouth City Council, Housing Associations and other agencies work together to consolidate customers debts, offer payment plans and signpost to expert sources of help and advice.

56. That every public point of access with public agencies should provide clear and accessible links to specialist debt advice, benefit maximisation and sources of affordable credit, readily and prominently available on their websites.

57. That Plymouth credit unions and their partners take greater responsibility for ensuring that they offer a broad range of services that benefit the city, against a number of specific steps. If this is unachievable, Plymouth City Council should step in to take action.

58. That a baseline of current need for, and availability of, affordable credit is developed to ensure city-wide access and availability to individuals and enterprises.

59. That an annual pre-Christmas campaign is held which brings together debt and money advice services, banks, trade unions, credit unions and relevant Council departments to raise awareness of their services and provide opportunities for action.

60. The development of an annual, city-wide ‘Fair Money’ awards dinner, sponsored by the large high–street banks, with award categories against which the people of Plymouth can vote.

Strengthening the local economy:

61. That the Department for Transport and the Treasury review funding allocations in the UK with a view to creating more equitable funding in the South West.

62. That the Department of Transport and the Treasury urgently address Plymouth’s need for a, fast and resilient rail line to connecting the South West to the rest of the UK.

63. That a ‘Buy Local, Give Local’ trademark scheme is developed for local traders, producers, public bodies and the voluntary sector to help customers and producers identify local providers.

64. That Plymouth City Council should review all the charitable trusts for which it is a corporate trustee and explore methods of amalgamating them and transferring the management of their assets to a Plymouth community-based charity.

65. That all public sector and all large private organisations in Plymouth develop a social value/sustainability statement with clear social value outcomes and measures.

66. That all public sector agencies fully explore the steps they could take towards meeting best practice, beyond the requirements of the Public Services (Social Value) Act 2012, to ensure the inclusion of social value in all contracts for goods and services.

67. That the City Deal clarifies both how it will deliver social value and how this delivery will be measured and evaluated.

68. That baseline data on current public spending with local businesses is established, to enable public bodies in Plymouth to create clear targets for their spending with local businesses, and report on them as part of their annual reporting mechanisms.

69. That work is undertaken with the South West Investors Group and other community finance organisations to increase the amount of capital available for microfinance and small business lending in Plymouth.

70. That a thorough review of the current Sell2Plymouth portal and associated procurement systems of public sector agencies is completed, and recommendations made for changes to ensure there is an efficient link up of public sector commissioners with private sector suppliers.

71. That the Growth Board reviews the way in which Micro businesses and SME’s contribute to current governance decisions and consultations, and makes recommendations to deliver show greater transparency, involvement of and engagement with them.

Housing:

72. That a National Register of Landlords is established.

73. That local Councils are given the ability to issue fixed penalty notices both to reduce enforcement costs and allow prompt action for breaches of legislation.

74. That new standards for housing are developed to make it easier for both landlords and tenants to know if standards are being met.

75. That the currently expensive, complex and bureaucratic Compulsory Purchase legislation available to councils should be simplified, as recommended by the Local Government Association.

76. That Plymouth City Council develops a comprehensive, and resourced, response to raising standards in the private rented housing sector.

77. That Plymouth undertakes a pilot to investigate the viability of a voluntary licensing and accreditation scheme for private sector landlords.

78. That the possibility of property-specific penalties for non-compliant Private Rented Sector homes is investigated, including whether non-compliant PRS homes could be earmarked as “not Housing Benefit eligible”.

79. That a comprehensive, measured and monitored Empty Homes Strategy for Plymouth is consulted upon, recommendations provided and action taken.

80. That a virtual Plymouth Private Tenants Forum is created, advising private tenants of their rights, offering an online space to exchange experiences, publicise consultations and offer contact details on further public sources of support.

81. That a full examination is carried out into the coverage of specialist housing provision in Plymouth, comparing what is available against known demographics of groups in need and including a full gap analysis.

The Implications of an Ageing Population:

82. That an ‘All Ages City’ Taskforce is created to co-ordinate both the social and non-social care aspects of Plymouth living for older people, as part of the Plymouth Plan process.

83. That the Plymouth Joint Dementia Strategy is given the highest priority to ensure its recommendations are actively delivered across the city.

84. As part of this strategy, that additional consideration be given to ensure that people with dementia who require, and can demonstrate they meet the eligibility criteria are encouraged to apply for the blue badge scheme using the discretionary powers of the Local Authority.

85. That a pack signposting sources of dementia support, information and advice is made freely available in all primary care settings and upon formal diagnosis

Talks on Cheap Alcohol Between Police and Supermarkets

Today (5 March) Police and Crime Commissioner Tony Hogg is meeting with supermarkets and retailers in Exeter to discuss the impact of cheap alcohol and the effects it has on people in the South West.

This article in the Herald shows that it has become a culture for people, particularly those aged 17-25, to purchase cheap alcohol to drink at home before going to clubs on a night out. This has been linked to impacting on crime and disorder on the streets. In Plymouth, 2,500 crimes each year are linked to alcohol, and that’s just the ones which are reported.

Alcohol is also putting a stretch on the NHS with nearly 7,000 hospital admissions each year in Plymouth. It is also a factor in the high levels of domestic abuse in the city, and is involved in over 40% of domestic abuse incidents in Plymouth. 6,500 children in the city are likely to be affected by parental drinking each year which then impacts their lives through their methods of coping. This isn’t fair.

Problems with alcohol can either stem from other issues, or can be a creator of further issues and it is obvious that it needs to be taken seriously by those at the top before a shift in the drinking culture can take place.

We all understand that this will not change overnight, but the fact that it is being addressed by the Police and Crime Commissioner for Devon and Cornwall Police shows that the issue is being taken seriously and is in need of change. We wish Mr. Hogg the best of luck for his meeting today and we hope that those he speaks to are keen to listen and get on board.

Update post meeting via Plymouth Herald

Unemployment figures: Comparing Plymouth to the rest of the UK

It has been announced that the number of people unemployed in the UK has fallen by 125,000 in three months to December. This announcement of recent statistics also shows that the number of women in work is at an all-time high of more than 14 million.

Nationally, this is a positive news story. However, when looking closer to the figures of Plymouth and the rest of the South West, they don’t give the region much to celebrate. The unemployment rate in Plymouth has risen by 285 people in two months, from October to December 2013, and a rise of 3,000 in the South West as a whole. Interestingly, the South West is the only region to actually record a rise in unemployment rates.

Why does the foreseeable future for Plymouth look so bleak? Could the local rates of unemployment coincide with the findings of the Centre for Cities Cities Outlook 2014 report that the rate of start-up businesses and organisations in Plymouth is in the bottom ten of cities in the country?

However, it has been stated that today’s positive figures for the rest of the UK could actually mask a more serious problem (via Sky News):

General secretary of Unison Dave Prentis said: “Sadly, today’s fall in the total number of unemployed masks the scourge of under-employment, which is growing at an alarming rate across the country.

“Too many people are stuck in minimum-wage jobs, on zero-hours contracts and part-time work when they are desperate to go full-time.”

Cities Outlook 2014 Report

Centre for Cities has released Cities Outlook 2014, a report which compares 64 of the UK’s largest cities and ranks them in order in a range of categories.

Plymouth interestingly features often throughout the report in both the top 10 and bottom 10 categories.

The categories that Plymouth features in the top 10 cities:
Lowest percentage of no formal qualifications
Lowest emissions per capita
Super Fast Broadband (SFBB) penetration rate

The categories that Plymouth features in the bottom 10 cities:
Business start up rate
Number of businesses
Private sector employment
Weekly earnings

It appears that even though the city has fast broadband and green credentials, when it comes to business growth and employment Plymouth is bottom of the pile. Whilst we need to celebrate the areas that Plymouth does well in, we also need to focus on the areas for improvement as they are key for increasing growth and prosperity to the city. As one of the Plymouth Fairness Commission’s key areas for concern is the local economy, this report is something to consider in the run up to deciding on the final recommendations.

Full data results for Plymouth…

The report also compares the relationship between London and the rest of the UK and states that there are three perceptions:
1. London sucks in all of the talent
2. London’s success is a threat to other cities
3. The rest of the country is a drain on London

The report then states key messages regarding the relationship between London and other cities after analysing these perceptions:
1. Cities are not islands – both will benefit from their relationship
2. Talk of constraining London is misplaced and would harm the UK economy overall
3. The next largest cities could be doing better
4. The policy privileges afforded to London should be extended to the rest of the UK

Read the full report…

Community Shops – The way forward?

Last month the first ever community shop opened its doors to shoppers who are in need by offering stock at a discounted rate, which would have otherwise been wasted.

The initial pilot is being held in Goldthorpe, Barnsley to 500 people who are finding it difficult to cope in the current financial situation and are on the cusp of poverty. The shop offers fresh, ambient and frozen food which has minor labelling errors, miss-forecasting or a short shelf life.

Until now, the items that this community shop offers would have gone straight to landfill. Now it can be used to help those who need it most. Hopefully this can prevent people from having to choose between heating their house and feeding their family – a choice that shouldn’t need to need to be made in this day and age.

As well as offering food at a discounted rate, the shop will also offer cooking classes, CV writing skills and budgeting advice, making it much more than just a shop.

This shop is the first of its kind in the UK, following successes in Europe of similar ‘social supermarket’ models. The plan is for this model of community shops to be implemented nationally this year.

It will be interesting to see what is learnt from this initial pilot as well as where the further stores are being planned to roll out later this year.

Position Statement

On Friday (13 December) we published our Position Statement, a report outlining our key areas for concern which the Plymouth Fairness Commission’s final recommendations will be based on in March 2014.

The eight key areas of concern (described in more detail below) are as follows:

1. Strengthening Communities
2. Individual and Family Wellbeing
3. Young People and Young Adults
4. Cost of Living Crisis
5. Housing
6. Strengthening the Local Economy
7. Discrimination and Social Exclusion
8. Implications for an Ageing Population

Strengthening Communities
We are concerned about people’s perceived lack of control over their own lives and of a culture of being done to rather than doing.

Individual and Family Wellbeing
We are concerned to hear that when people need help, they may be finding it difficult to see a doctor, dentist or other health practitioner, particularly around mental health. We are also concerned about the high level of family violence and will explore the adequacy of attempts to address the unmet mental health needs and domestic violence across the city.

Young People and Young Adults
We are concerned that some children are not being given the opportunity or resources to achieve their full potential. We will look at a collaborative approach to building excellence within schools and also explore how schools and business can work together better to enable work ready young people.

Cost of Living Crisis
We have heard the message loud and clear that, like in many other cities, Plymouth residents are struggling to cope with the rising cost of living. Some of the areas we will explore include the living wage, affordable credit, a sustainable food economy and co-operative ways to pay less for household basics

Housing
We consider good quality housing to be a basic right for people living in Plymouth. We have heard about the poor state of some of our private sector housing and how many people are scared of reporting irresponsible landlords for fear of being evicted. We will explore different ways to improve standards in the private rented market, models of reasonable rent and access to independent housing advice and legal representation.

Strengthening the Local Economy
We are concerned about the future for local business, in particular micro, small and medium enterprises. We will explore a fairer system for local procurement and look at how we can strengthen the sustainability of the local economy, keeping more money generated within the economy circulating locally.

Discrimination and Social Exclusion
We are concerned about the personal impact that discrimination and social exclusion is having on those affected, as well as the impact this is no doubt having on the city. We will look at ways of developing a stronger culture of kindness, respect and empathy, with the development of a city culture where people are encouraged and enabled to give their time, skills and support to help meet the needs of others across the city.

Implications for an Ageing Population
We have heard that Plymouth’s ageing population will grow very significantly over the coming decades and this brings with it challenges to ensure our older people are included and supported, and ensure the care they require is available

We will now be focusing on these areas in much more detail for the next three months, using methods such as best practice reviews, select committees, reviews of other Fairness Commission’s findings and local discussions with key stakeholders.

The Plymouth Fairness Commission’s final recommendations will be announced in March 2014 and will be presented to city leaders with a view to them implementing these across the city.

We are already starting to have an impact in the city with responses from the Police, Plymouth City Council, Plymouth University and Plymouth Community Homes – all of which can be found here on our website.

Small Business Saturday

Saturday 7 December will see the first ever Small Business Saturday. On this day people will be encouraged to shop locally to show their support for SMEs (Small and Medium Enterprises), organisations which have 250 employees or less.

Consumers will be asked to not use the big chain stores on this day, and will be asked to shop at local businesses. It will be interesting to see how difficult it is to find SMEs and how much of our everyday spend goes towards larger organisations.

Our select committee on local procurement highlighted some of the difficulties associated with buying locally. Whilst the select committee tended to focus more on trading amongst businesses, the principles are still the same when talking about consumers. For example, with chain stores, you can often buy more than one type of product under one roof. E.g. Tesco not only sells groceries, but you can also buy clothing and electronics there. When buying locally, you need to shop around more, not everything is right in front of you when you need it. With practice, shopping locally can become easier as people get used to what local shops are most convenient for them.

However, buying locally helps to support the city, putting money back into the local economy as well as supporting the local people who run the organisations, who in turn can then put that money back into the city.

Small Business Saturday on 7 December will hopefully be a start in encouraging people in Plymouth to shop locally on a more regular basis. The more people buy from local organisations, the easier it becomes; the key is changing attitudes. It will be great to see Small Business Saturday become a successful event and not just as a one off, but as a regular occasion for the city to be a part of.

A Conversation About Race

Last night we held “A Conversation About Race..” – a Listening Event with BME groups in Plymouth. It proved to be a very emotional two hours where we were told of individual stories of racism that people have encoutered in the city.

We heard of people being spat at in the street, comments made from young children and harassment from neighbours who want to drive their black neighbour out of her home. We were also told of incidents where young black people have wanted to bleach their skin and iron their hair. One of the things that came up, was the small things that happen on a day to day basis where the lines are blurred and some people don’t always realise that they are being racist and actually really hurting someone.

A white man spoke to us about his black grandchild – she asked him if it was okay for her to stare back at all of the people who stared at her as they both walked through town. It’s heartbreaking for a young child to have noticed that.

It was also said that their voices are not heard. There was a much better situation in Plymouth 20+ years ago than there is now, things seem to have gone backwards. This is a similar situation to what we heard from our LGBT event and also similar is the feeling that there is a lack of reporting incidents, because of a lack of trust in the system into actually doing something about it.

“Because I’m white people think it’s okay to share racist comments with me. It’s not. I try to challenge it as much as I can, but if I did every time I heard it… It’s tiring for me, so what must it be like to actually live it?”

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