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Update from the Finance, Resource and Policy Committee

7 March 2022

Cllr Gareth Roberts, Leader of Richmond Council, updates following the Finance, Resource and Policy Committee (24 February 2022).

Last week we had a full agenda at the Finance, Resource and Policy Committee. The February Committee is where we review the Revenue Budget and Council Tax proposals for the coming year, and I’m pleased that this year, as the cost-of-living hits many of our residents, we have been able to keep the Council Tax increase the lowest for six years.

We also had an introduction to the Council’s new Violence Against Women and Girls Strategy. This is a really important plan, which is now being reviewed by our local partners, and we’ll be able to share more details on this soon. We were able to confirm that we will be funding a new Safety of Women at Night programme, after the Home Office turned down a bid for local funding last year.

In addition to these important items, the Committee received updates on other core Council work programmes:

  • Future of our high streets
  • Delivering on equalities
  • Digital Strategy

Future of our high streets

Many of you took part in our Community Conversations last year, which were all about of the future of high streets and shopping parades in your local areas. Residents and businesses shared their ideas and visions and a number of projects, based on these ideas, were agreed by this Committee in November and are already progressing.

Our Economic Development team have now spent time further reviewing feedback from residents, businesses and key partners from the Community Conversations, the Richmond Partnership Conference and other feedback avenues, to propose four medium-term priorities:

  • Digital high street; develop one or more pilot projects to trial new approaches to supporting visitor engagement, wayfinding and place marketing using digital tools
  • Pilot a local service hub concept, pulling together a range of public services in a single location that could provide a more cost-effective approach for service providers whilst providing a civic focal point in town centres, encouraging footfall
  • Pilot the 'Living locally' concept and test out approaches to sustainable/net zero and socially inclusive town centres
  • Adopt new design-led approaches to improving the visual environment in one or more centres (decluttering, remove estate agent boards, dealing with local eyesore, arts/culture initiative)

Tourism is of course vital to the London economy, and as Richmond upon Thames is home to a number of world-famous attractions, it has a huge impact on our local economy. The Committee has approved significant funding to support a new tourism marketing strategy led by the Council's Visit Richmond team, which will aim to work with partners to ensure the recovery of the sector, bringing economic and other benefits to our communities in a financially and environmentally sustainable way.

This work is exciting and innovative – we are really looking forward to seeing this come to life starting this year.

Read the report Economic Recovery and High Streets update

Delivering on equalities

We were provided with an update the work undertaken to promote and enhance equalities and inclusion in 2021.

Throughout the year, Richmond Council held a number of events and worked on numerous projects to enhance equalities. While the list is long some of the highlights will be of interest to many.

To support the Council’s goal of becoming a dementia friendly borough, Age UK Richmond was commissioned to run the Dementia Friendly Communities initiative and provide organisations with free Dementia Friends training sessions and encouraged businesses to get involved with the Dementia Friendly Communities initiative and Dementia Action Week.

Richmond Council achieved White Ribbon Accreditation in 2021 to further support our role in tackling violence against women and girls (VAWG), and our new (VAWG) strategy was reviewed by this Committee last night too.

  • Black History Month events took place across the borough, including in Orleans House Gallery and libraries, celebrating black contributions to our borough.
  • We continued work on its Friendly Parks for All project which was developed in five parks last year.
  • The Richmond upon Thames Voluntary Fund supported local youth mental health charities in the borough.
  • We continued to provide support to Richmond’s Interfaith Forum which promotes mutual understanding and tolerance between faith and belief groups.
  • We reached over 1000 older residents with health, wellbeing and social information and activities, through our digital Full of Life Fair and the Full of Life Fund
  • We marked many awareness days including Holocaust Memorial Day (27 January), International Women’s Day (8 March), World Mental Health Day (10 October 2021) and Youth Mental Health Day (7 September) and International Day of People with Disabilities (30 November).

Read Delivering on equalities

Digital Strategy update

We also received an update on the Action Plan for our Digital Strategy, which was put in place in 2019.

The Strategy sets out how the Council will take advantage of emerging digital technologies to transform and make our services more efficient.

The extent of our digital work to date illustrates how mainstream it is now – it’s an increasingly integral part of how we do things and how we deliver services. Of course, the pandemic has seen a further shift by necessity to online services but we know there are, sometimes vulnerable, residents who struggle. Digital inclusion is a key focus, so we have wide range of activities across many services to help them.

Data is a very significant focus. COVID-19 brought to the fore the importance of high-quality, real-time data. We now have a well-established and growing team and over 30 data staff across the Council are doing a data apprenticeship, gaining formal qualification and expertise.

The potential for using data is great – we use it in our response to the climate emergency, we are using it realise efficiencies and make decisions around service delivery.

We are also part of InnOvaTe, an Internet of Things collaborative project with other South London Partnership councils. We are currently running  series of one year pilots, which will all be subject to rigorous analysis to test viability and usefulness in the long term. These include:

  • Cycle Route Monitoring – providing data on which routes are more popular
  • Air Quality and Traffic Insights – providing anonymised data on traffic passing through the borough and the associated impacts on air quality
  • Wildlife monitoring – gaining an insight into animal movement across the borough
  • Mink rafts protecting water voles - monitoring of protected animals to gain greater insight into their numbers
  • Gullies monitoring – providing data to reduce the risk of flooding and gaining insight into potentially beneficial changes to maintenance schedules
  • Using sensors in residents’ homes for homecare providers, personal assistants and care workers to monitor changes to normal patterns to enable them to identify more quickly when the person requires further intervention
  • Parking bay monitoring - gathering data to determine local parking trends and help the Council to monitor parking overstays to create more effective enforcement.

Watch this video to find out more about some of these projects:

Read the full report Digital Strategy update.

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Up to: March 2022

Updated: 7 March 2022

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