Background Information

Review of Blackpool Fairness Commission

National Context

Over the last three years 12 Fairness Commissions have been set up nationally, with three other similar initiatives also being developed.

There are currently Fairness Commissions in:
• Islington 20 Commissioners
• York 6 Commissioners
• Liverpool
• Newcastle 20 Commissioners
• Sheffield 25 Commissioners
• Tower Hamlets 14 Commissioners
• Newport 10 Commissioners
• Plymouth 21 Commissioners
• Bristol 9 Commissioners
• Oldham 17 Commissioners
• Southampton 11 Commissioners

In autumn 2013 the Webb Memorial Trust commissioned work to evaluate the effectiveness of the Fairness Commission movement. This was carried out by Edge Hill University, who made a number of recommendations.

There is no consistent look,feel or function of Fairness Commissions nationally. However there are some common themes:
• Almost all are Local Authority led;
• They are often instigated by the Council Leader or Leader of the ruling party;
• Most are enquiry led;
• The level of public engagement is variable;
• They are fairly small with between six and 25 Commissioners being the norm.

Local Context

Blackpool Fairness Commission was introduced in 2012. A partnership body supported by stakeholders from across the Public, Private, Voluntary and Community Sectors. It is Blackpool Council led – the day to day management is undertaken by a Blackpool Council Officer. At a strategic level level, all partners represented on the Steering Group have an equal voice.

Blackpool Fairness Commission 2012-2014
At its inception, the structure of Blackpool Fairness Commission was made up of:
• 120 Fairness Commissioners;
• A Steering Group of 16.

The motivation for inviting such a large number of participants was no doubt to encourage inclusivity and try to create a fairness movement through the commitment of the Commissioners.

In August 2013, the Fairness Commission appointed a new Chairman and Blackpool Council assigned additional officer resources to manage the Fairness Commission. This saw momentum increase and in the last 12 months there have been a number of significant achievements including:
• North of England Fairness Conference – 450 Delegates;
• Children’s Summit – 80 Children;
• 100 Acts of Kindness – 542 Acts of Kindness recorded;
• Enjoy & Respect Campaign;
• Easter Buddies Campaign – 150 participants;
• Community Farm Development Group;
• Dementia Friends and development of Dementia Alliance.

Communication with stakeholders has been good through:
• Social media;
• A quarterly newsletter;
• Publication of an annual report;
• Publication of a children’s version of the annual report;
• The development of a new dedicated website.

The work delivered has been jointly funded by partners with the following contributing financially:
• Lancashire Police;
• Lancashire Fire and Rescue;
• North West Ambulance Service;
• Public Health England;
• BSafe.

Review of Blackpool Fairness Commission – Edge Hill University September 2014
Some of the 120 Fairness Commissioners appointed had very clear personal ideas from the start about how it would operate and what their role and authority would be. There were some fundamental misunderstandings about the differences between the Fairness Commission and the old Local Strategic Partnership and the expectations of the Fairness Commissioners in relation to their roles and responsibilities was not clearly communicated or at least not clearly understood.

As a result, there has been some ill-feeling towards the Fairness Commission in the last two years. Some flashpoints of tension exist between the Steering Group and a small number of Fairness Commissioners who feel frustrated about their perceived lack of authority and responsibility.

For example:
• The Chairman should not have been appointed by the 16 Steering Group members but by all 120 Fairness Commissioners;
• The Steering Group members should not be appointed according to skills but elected by the 120 Fairness Commissioners.

Whilst the Steering Group is very clear about the purpose of the Fairness Commission and delivering a considerable amount of work on its behalf, confusion and dissatisfaction remains among some of the wider group. This is despite numerous attempts to provide clarity around the purpose of the Fairness Commission.

The Fairness Commission has developed organically over the last 12 months, with all of the aforementioned work undertaken by a small number of people who are committed to the cause and passionate about delivering the activity. Vacancies on the Steering Group have been filled strategically, by identifying skills gaps and recruiting people into those positions who can add value, rather than a nomination and election process.

This has worked well and the achievements of the Fairness Commission and functionality of the Steering Group speak for themselves.