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Telford and Wrekin Council - MJ Council of the Year 2022

In a departure from our usual climate change blog, this month we are focusing on ADEPT member Telford and Wrekin Council, named Council of the Year at the recent MJ Awards. Dean Sargeant, Director - Neighbourhood & Enforcement Services, explains the council’s approach.

Being named Council of the Year was a fantastic moment and a testament to the hard work put in by every member of staff at Telford & Wrekin Council, from the senior leadership team to those working face to face with people every day. They unfailingly give 110% and rise to every challenge from the Strengthening Families team, working with vulnerable young people, to leisure staff helping people stay fit and healthy. There really is a feeling of pride in our communities, as well as working for the council.

The judges cited three particular qualities they felt summed up Telford: ‘a hyperlocal approach to service delivery’, ‘fostering of a sense of empowerment among its employees’ and being a 'place shaper with a positive focus on partnerships as well as its residents’.

Telford is a co-operative council and these values underpin the authority. Being a unitary helps. We are a mixed of urban and rural which gives us the opportunity to innovate – trialling solutions that fit distinct areas. It’s a journey of managing expectations – when a new initiative hasn’t worked, we ask how can we amend and evolve rather than scrap.

In the two years I’ve been at Telford, I can honestly say I’ve never worked anywhere quite like it. The judges pinpointed exactly what, for me, makes the council so special as an employer; a deliverer of key services to the community and as an organisation with a strong ethos. Everyone pulls in the same direction with a single question underpinning everything we do – how does this benefit our communities?  

Nowhere was that more apparent than during the pandemic. It was a huge challenge for all local authorities but in Telford we quickly recruited 80 community groups to work with us and recruited more than 1,000 volunteers in just over a week.

As well as calling 1,000 people directly and writing to most homes reminding people and businesses of the support available, we delivered 52,000 free school meals directly to our children most in need - before the national scheme kicked in. We were also one of the first councils to fully allocate the discretionary business grant scheme after a three-phase campaign. Our approach was summed up brilliantly by one resident who said on Twitter; “They’re doing an absolute standout job. Carlsberg don’t do councils but if they did….” What more can you ask?

Teams were deployed wherever there was most need. In Telford our tech teams, who ordinarily are not outward facing, were despatched to deliver prescriptions and meet some of the most vulnerable members in our communities. That type of work drives people to focus even more on what’s important, when they can see the direct impact of what they do.

We have experienced significant River Severn flooding incidents over the last two years, linked to climate change. Those directly impacted are on first name terms with the teams going out to support them; while this sets a challenging yet fulfilling high bar when it comes to how we manage our ongoing relationships with communities, it sums up our approach in what is a difficult time for those affected.

Earlier this year we scooped the top ‘small project’ award at the Institute of Highways Engineers (IHE) for the work done along The Wharfage in Ironbridge. How the scheme’s environmental credentials benefit the local community is another perfect example of us always going the extra mile.

As a co-operative council, partnerships are really important and we have a hugely engaged voluntary sector that works with us. But it’s more than that. The council puts the foundations in place that enables community empowerment and in return we gain a clear understanding of the challenges our residents face.

A great example of our partnership approach is the Safer and Stronger Communities project. We work with the Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC), West Mercia Police and residents to tackle issues such as crime, anti-social behaviour and fly tipping cent making a huge difference to the lives of so many people.  In one area alone we have seen a reduction in overall crime by 15%.

Another initiative through this project is our Friday night football offer for 12-16s, it has grown to over 120 young people playing in different areas across the borough.  This fantastic youth offer is supported by the AFC Telford Foundation but it also has links to our neighbourhood coordinators, ward members and town/parish councils.

We cover youth sport and wellness but also fly-tipping and, in line with the broken window theory, can address problems before they become a bigger issue. All this fosters a pride of place and gives communities ownership in their neighbourhood. This is typical of Telford’s approach. When we put programmes together there are always these cross linkages and I think that’s central to our success.

I’m fortunate that my role spans highways, household waste, parks, grounds and cleansing, public protection, trading standards and neighbourhood services. This puts me firmly across people as well as place and in a rare position to enable the council to act as a bridge across place and community.

I can’t finish without talking about our communication team because how we communicate is also innovative and engaging.  We don’t shy away from the difficult stuff!  

We’re currently concluding a large highway scheme on one of Telford’s main roads which is understandably frustrating road users. We started off with explanation videos where we also allowed open comment and of course, these were initially focused on complaints.  However, we engaged with each and every one, offering explanations and responses and it really has changed opinions. The engagement is still there but the style of comment has changed. We have built relationships and now become a trusted source.

Winning this prestigious award helps us to push even harder. What are the next challenges, how can we adapt to offer the best support for businesses and residents, how can we improve the lives of people and address inequalities, how can we grow our economy?  

We’ll never stop striving to achieve and all of this is to make sure we continue to deliver the best for the people we serve.

Further information

More information on the MJ Awards 2022 is available here.


Dean Sargeant is the Director - Neighbourhood & Enforcement Services for Telford & Wrekin Council.

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