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14 Dec 2010
Localism and cuts

So, the Localism Bill has finally appeared – and along with it a new financial settlement for local government. The Localism Bill is a disappointment True, it includes the promise of a general power of competence for councils to bring us into line with most other European countries. But that is heavily qualified by a reserve power for the Secretary of State to overrule it as (s)he sees fit. True, it includes greater powers for citizens to initiate referenda –...

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22 Oct 2010
Comprehensive spending review

So The Coalition Government has cut £81bn from public expenditure. There was NO ALTERNATIVE. Rubbish. Massive public sector deficit ? The 2008 World Economic Crisis was caused by finance capital & bankers, not by a supposedly “bloated” public sector. Before then the UK public sector deficit was 45% of GDP. The Conservative Opposition at that time promised to match the Labour Government’s public spending plans. After the £1.3 trillion bail-out of the banks, the deficit rose in all Western countries,...

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The Local Government Group has launched a consultation document, Sector Self Regulation and Improvement, on how local government should respond to life after CAA/Audit Commission etc. The document raises important issues on partnership working, citizen involvement and performance management. It includes many positive proposals but there are weaknesses too. What role for LSPs ? First, it stresses councils’ leadership role in improving outcomes for local people. But it has little to say about how the council should work with other...

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16 Sep 2010
“Lifestyle choices”

Two years on from the collapse of Lehmann Brothers and the onset of the world financial crisis, I’m delighted the Government has decided to open a debate on “lifestyle choices”. Sadly, the government’s focus is on the feckless and the workshy, living it up on benefits at the expense of the taxpayer. Now, we all know a story about someone pulling off this naughty trick and we rightly resent it. But is it the big “lifestyle choice” problem we face...

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14 Aug 2010
So farewell then audit commission

Set up by the Tories in 1982 – abolished by them in 2010. I knew her well – spending over 8 years working there with some great colleagues and friends. They deserved better than this. Devolution strikes Like Comprehensive Area Assessment (CAA), Local Area Agreements (LAAs), the Place Survey, and probably the National Indicators (NIs), the Audit Commission is abolished in the name of devolution. While many will celebrate the demise of them all, as so often happens, they may...

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It’s hard to see beyond the “cuts, cuts, cuts” message from the millionaires Government (17 in the Cabinet). This gratuitously vicious attack on public services is entirely ideological and unjustified. It will lead to a blunt deterioration in the living standards and quality of life of all but the rich, with the poorest and most vulnerable suffering the most. Contrary to the Government’s promises, it is also likely to be carried through with little consultation or public involvement. Indeed, with...

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4 Jun 2010
After the election

Economy Above all, the new Government is determined (wrongly in my view) to drastically reduce spending on local services, especially local government (despite it being one of the most efficient parts of the public sector). The cheaper 3rd sector and volunteers will play an expanded role in service provision. But are there adequate safeguards in place to scrutinise this process? The voluntary sector risks being transformed into part of the private sector by taking on more service provision. And what...

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17 Apr 2010
The election & local government

So what do the main political parties promise local government in their manifestos? Amazingly, they all speak of more devolution of powers from Government to local services and more citizen engagement. Labour Labour promises more (and less) of the same! More mayors, more powers for local authorities around social housing, climate change and social care, and more experimentation with Total Place to save money and focus on prevention. And less targets, indicators & ring-fenced budgets. Otherwise the vision remains the...

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16 Mar 2010
2020 Public services

Very interesting new report out today by a cross-party group of intellectuals on the future of public services. You can find it here: http://www.2020publicservicestrust.org/ Essentially it argues that as a nation we will not be able to afford to continue to fund public services to the extent we are used to – due to the economic crisis on the one hand and the ageing population on the other. It argues persuasively that we will sleepwalk towards greatly reduced services, aimed...

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18 Jan 2010
Beyond CAA

So, the dust has now settled on the release of the CAA results. What do we find ? No surprises There are precious few people complaining about their assessment. So, it hasn’t told us much we didn’t already know. Interesting that 9 green flags were given for community involvement, including three (Norfolk, Tower Hamlets & Wiltshire) explicitly linked to the use of Participatory Budgeting (though inexplicably, Newcastle, the leading PB pilot in the country wasn’t one of them !). And...

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