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Wiltshire Council announced as finalists for three national awards

Wiltshire Council has been announced as finalists for three categories in the prestigious Local Government Chronicle Awards 2024.

Published 15 February 2024

Wiltshire Council has been announced as finalists for three categories in the prestigious Local Government Chronicle Awards 2024.

The council has been shortlisted for campaign of the year, the housing category and medium team of the year in the awards which exist to identify, showcase and celebrate the finest examples of innovation and quality delivered by councils.

The council's innovative approach to increasing affordable housing in Wiltshire has been shortlisted in the housing category. The council has set up its own housing company, Stone Circle, to prioritise the provision of homes to the most vulnerable. Also by using Homes 4 Ukraine funding, the council has purchased additional homes for Ukrainian and Afghan refugees. The government subsequently launched the Local Authority Housing Fund (LAHF) in March 2023. Since then, LAHF funding of £4m has been used in Wiltshire to secure an additional 24 houses for Ukrainian refugees and six for Afghans.

In the 2023/24 budget the council set aside £10m in reserve to be used for house purchases to deliver long-term solutions to a wide range of needs. The £10m has been leveraged through a 25%/75% equity/debt ratio, increasing the total amount available to fund house acquisitions to £40m. The council has also been active in highlighting the potential for empty MoD homes in the county to be used to support those Afghans that worked closely with British forces.

The Coroner Support Service has been shortlisted for Medium Team of the Year. The collection of the deceased from within the community is a statutory requirement for local authorities. In Wiltshire and Swindon, this service is normally undertaken by funeral directors on a contract basis. The council found an innovative solution to bring this service in-house and provide high levels of service and value for taxpayers, and employed 11 experienced funeral director staff. The new service started on 1 July 2023, with five full-time staff and six casual hours staff providing sensitive and discreet care to collect bodies in all kinds of circumstances. Working closely with hospitals, the team designed new workflow processes, with supporting record management, to ensure that there was a clear and robust audit trail provided through every element of the process. A mortuary, managed by the team, was installed at a council site and purpose-adapted private ambulances with a range of patient transfer equipment were sourced at short notice.

The council's Recycling: Let's Sort It campaign to reduce incorrect items being sent to household recycling centres has been shortlisted for campaign of the year. In the first quarter of 2022/23 around 18% of the recycling materials sent to the processing facility were rejected as contamination, costing around £690,000 per year. The campaign was launched in February 2023, and by March there had already been a significant decrease in incorrect items from 18% to 10.3%, representing a cost equivalent saving of around £383,000. By October, the rate of incorrect items being sent to household recycling centres had decreased even further to 8.5%.

Cllr Richard Clewer, Leader of Wiltshire Council, said: "We know Wiltshire Council leads the way in providing innovative and high-quality services to our communities and being shortlisted for three prestigious national awards is recognition of the progress so far.

"There's never been a more challenging time in local government but these awards provide a platform to showcase the important work being undertaken across the services we deliver, and to inspire and be inspired by the innovative approaches taken by other local authorities.

"Being shortlisted in these highly competitive categories demonstrates the breadth of talent and dedication across the council to deliver our Business Plan which sets out a clear long-term vision for Wiltshire and has enabled us to maintain a strong financial position and high quality of service, especially at a time when many local authorities are facing challenges to do this."

Due to the high number of entries year on year, winning an LGC Award has become one of the most sought-after accolades in local government. The award winners will be announced on 12 June 2024.

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