The Role of Local Government

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Background – Changes in the last 10 yrs
Since 1997 central government has been pursuing an agenda of local government modernisation designed to tackle some of the fundamental public service, governance and accountability concerns facing local authorities and the public sector more widely. From CCT to Best Value, one of the biggest changes has been in performance management and the rating of authorities in relation to the CPA regime and the drive for continuous improvement and value for money.  This has now moved on to Gershwin and the move towards efficiency savings.

Nick Raynsford (MP) in a discussion in 2004 said the changes in recent years have been incremental and have led to incremental improvements. The changes he said have been responses to immediate problems and what is needed was a longer term vision dealing with the fundamentals about what local government should be doing in 10 years time.

For the purpose of this presentation it is important to highlight central government modernisation agenda which include:

The requirement that local authorities must produce community and neighborhood renewal strategies

The requirement that local authorities must create Local Strategic Partnerships as a method of engaging the necessary local players in the development of such strategies

The introduction of Best Value to replace compulsory competitive tendering (CCT) as the mechanism for reviewing, and where appropriate outsourcing, public service delivery

The publication of a National Procurement Strategy for Local Government

The introduction of the Comprehensive Performance Assessment as a way of assessing local authority effectiveness

Greater freedoms and financial flexibilities for high performing local authorities

The introduction of negotiated Local Public Services Agreements which also bring greater freedoms to those local authorities willing to strive for stretching targets

Constitutional reform allowing for the creation of directly elected local Mayors and the shift to cabinet style local government (Local Government Act 2000)

Expected changes in the next 5-10 years

The changes in local government over the next 5-10 years will centre mainly on demonstrating that it is relevant to the local community and securing the skills and capacity to do its job well.

Decision Making

In the future I see residents and stakeholders having a greater say in local decision making geared towards community cohesion integrating the private and public sectors.  This will involve Registered Social Landlord's (RSL), private house builders, the Council, health, social care, education and the justice system all working together to plan for communities.

Local Democracy

The local government's democratic accountability to local people will be very crucial. Local government is the only body accountable to the whole community. No other body is answerable to all local people for the decisions it makes. This is vital when decisions in one area have an impact on the wider community.

Better local accountability and citizen engagement leads to choices about how users and local people are involved in the decisions which affect them. This will mean going beyond local elections, to find other ways of giving individuals and local communities a more direct say in what is done in their name. Local government will be expected to explore models which will differ from council to council depending on local circumstances for engaging smaller groups with particular interests.

The growing expectations of users will require local government to make choices about the nature of the public services provided. A genuinely user-focused service will require a fundamental change in the way local government approach delivery, thus giving local people a bigger say in the design of services and a wider choice between products and...
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