We are a cross-party network, providing a single national voice for our member councils

Generic filters
Search in title
Search in content
Search in excerpt

We are a cross-party, member-led network, providing a single voice for our member councils

DCN launches transformation toolkit

Published: 17 May 2018


The District Councils’ Network has today launched a “Transformation in Localities Toolkit” to provide district councils with a practical evidence base to work together across local geographies that make sense to partners and at a scale that reflects the way people live their lives.

As well as demonstrating partnership working between councils, the toolkit also shows how right across the public sector, institutions such as LEPs, the Health Service, DWP and Homes England can work with districts as the building blocks to strengthen delivery partnerships.

The comprehensive guidance, developed in partnership with Grant Thornton UK LLP, offers pioneering solutions and examples of best practice from District Councils to respond creatively to long-term funding reductions by central government.

DCN Chairman Cllr John Fuller said:

“This is an important body of work, published at a pivotal point for local government, which will help all districts to reflect a future that is shaped by our residents and that the whole of Government can respond to at a local level. Using the toolkit to frame local housing, commuting, health and economic geographies will provide a practical evidence base to strategically engage across the public sector, but with the flexibility to respond to local circumstances, right down to street level.

“As LEPs are reviewed, we call on LEPs to work closely with district councils, through effective board level representation, to deliver local industrial strategies that incentivise opportunities and benefits for local businesses and communities across functional economic areas. And by encouraging joint-working on a housing market geography, opportunities will appear for districts to pool funds for infrastructure and to draw-down investment from Homes England.

“Crucially the toolkit underlines the vital role that districts have in public health through their critical role as the planning and housing authorities. It demonstrates to the NHS and STPs that our unique health prevention role is central to reducing demand for health and adult social care services and that districts can and must be part of the solution to putting social care funding on a sustainable footing.

“This toolkit also highlights the opportunities for districts to build on the economic, labour, health and commuting geographies that our residents experience as they live their lives. It will help those district councils that wish to work on a broader canvass, to deliver better lives and stronger economies for those we serve.”

Paul Dossett, head of local government, Grant Thornton UK LLP, said:

“Some of the most innovative and collaborative practice we have seen within local government has been led by district councils, so we are pleased to have worked with the District Councils Network to develop this practical toolkit. We hope that it will support all districts as they seek to work with their neighbours and local partners to shape vibrant places in which people and businesses can thrive.

“This is a volatile moment for public services, and it feels like the right time to emphasise the important role that district councils and their partners can play in helping to address some of our most pressing challenges, such as accelerating the pace of housing delivery and reducing demand for health and social care services.

“Momentum is building behind the public sector reform agenda in some parts of the country. This toolkit also emphasises the important and positive role that districts must play as democratically accountable bodies at the heart of transformation within their localities.”

The examples of transformation within the toolkit include engagement with health partners, businesses and local enterprise partnerships to deliver more joined-up and cost-effective services for the benefit of local residents and business.

By seizing compelling, strategic opportunities available for local partnerships, Districts can and are growing local economies, expanding their vital role in public health and prevention, accelerating house-building, and protecting and improving the quality of services for communities.

The toolkit also aims to help Districts work together to make the case for sustainable funding and, if they wish, to re-engage with devolution discussions and set out bold proposals for public sector reform with communities at their heart in their central role as the democratic gatekeepers for transformation in local areas.


Clustering to accelerate house building and drive local economic growth

To address challenges around health, housing, jobs and local facilities in Central Lincolnshire, a joint planning authority was formed comprising elected members from three local authorities of Lincoln City, North Kesteven and West Lindsey, as well as the county council. The partnership has developed a shared infrastructure delivery plan with agreed priorities, a community infrastructure levy sharing mechanism and an agreed set of funding parameters to support economic growth and housing delivery. The three districts have also each saved £100,000 per year through sharing of the Local Plan Team. Benefits have included pooling of Section106 funds to bring forward the East-West transport link across the city; use of the community infrastructure levy for shared priorities, such as the delivery of the Lincoln Eastern Bypass; and shared approaches to economic development which has facilitated the delivery of the largest business park in Lincolnshire. The partnership has also persuaded major employer Siemens from leaving the area for a bigger site after finding a suitable alternative site on the edge of the city.

North Essex Garden Communities

Colchester Borough Council, Braintree District Council, Essex County Council and Tendring District Council are collaborating to build garden communities in North Essex to address the 2,315 homes a year that the three district councils need to deliver individually. Sites for three of the nine garden communities – mixed-use developments including employment opportunities, commercial units and community facilities – have been identified. These will deliver at least 40,000 new homes over 20 to 30 years together with new infrastructure and economic growth opportunities. “In principle” support for the plans has already been obtained from Government.


West Kent’s ‘One You’ service is a devolved public health service hub emerging out of three district councils’ offer to Kent County Council. The service – delivered by Sevenoaks, Tonbridge Wells and Tonbridge & Malling, in collaboration with the county council – covers nutrition and physical activity, and referrals for poor housing, debt, mental health, loneliness and employment advice. By replacing a silo approach involving separate referrals, this joined-up strategy is providing a more seamless and cost-efficient service. One You teams have also delivered tangible benefits in terms of rapid discharges from local hospitals and to GPs due to the close working with housing adaptations and housing advice teams.

Business rates retention pilot

A partnership of 15 principal authorities including 12 Kent District Councils, Kent County Council, Medway Council and the Kent Fire and Rescue Service were successful in their proposal to pilot 100 per cent business rates retention in 2018/19 which could generate an extra £25 million for Kent and Medway. Each authority refined the model for the pilot to create a final scheme comprising two elements: a Financial Sustainability Fund (FSF) and the Housing and Commercial Growth Fund (HCGF). The FSF will ensure every authority benefits from the business rates growth across the entire economic area, directing resources to areas facing greatest pressures and demand on local services, whilst smoothing out significant differences in incomes. Thirty per cent of retained growth will be invested in the HCGF which will pool resources to support future delivery.


  1. Copies of The DCN Transformation in Localities Toolkit are available at this link.
  2. The toolkit has been developed in close collaboration with a reference group of District chief executives, with input from councillors and senior officers across the country.


District Councils’ Network media office, 020 7664 3333

Related Articles