The need for radical change to public services and the value of local solutions to national problems featured largely at the LGA's highly successful annual conference last month. The funding outlook for councils that we published at conference spelt out the scale of the challenge – a likely funding gap of £16.5 billion a year by 2019/20, and after funding social care and waste, other services facing cuts of more than 66 per cent by the end of the decade.
The consensus at conference was also clear – the only solution is fundamental change, in Government thinking, in the relationship between national and local government and most critically, a shift in the balance of power from Whitehall to town halls, from centralised solutions to local solutions.
And the conference certainly was a showcase of those innovative local solutions. One such example was the plenary session I chaired on Community Budgets. Public sector leaders from the ‘Whole place' pilot areas discussed the challenges they face and the solutions they are exploring in joining up services to reduce costs and improve outcomes for local people. It is clear from what we heard that the whole place pilots are a new way of shaping public services – collaboratively, a shared enterprise between local government, local partners and central government departments. The conference also featured our Independent Local Government campaign, place based leadership, new perspectives on local governance, and collaboration between councils and the voluntary sector on public service delivery.
Back in Westminster we have been engaging with the Communities and Local Government (CLG) Select Committee inquiry into the role of councillors.
In his evidence to the inquiry, Councillor Peter Fleming, Chair of the LGA's Improvement Board talked about how the role of a councillor is hugely varied and changing as we take on new responsibilities. He also highlighted the unique role that councillors have – with the democratic mandate, accountability and knowledge of place – in providing the leadership that brings communities and partners together. I wholeheartedly agree. Our ability to do so will be ever more important in leading our communities through the changes ahead.
If you have any questions or would like more information, please email the Localism Programme team at: email@example.com.
Cllr Sir Merrick Cockell
Chairman, Local Government Association
The LGA annual conference 2012 provided an excellent opportunity for us to engage with our membership. Visit our dedicated Knowledge Hub Group for online coverage of the event, including blogs and video interviews with delegates, speakers and sponsors. Below is a brief overview of sessions exploring localism issues.
Kindly sponsored by the National Association for Voluntary and Community Action (NAVCA), our In it together for communities workshop brought together councillors and voluntary sector representatives. Chaired by Dame Clare Tickell of Action for Children, speakers shared their experiences of collaboration, service delivery in the face of rising demand and falling funding, and barriers and challenges overcome.
Our Magna Carta for Local Government? workshop launched the next steps in our Independent Local Government campaign. Mayor Dorothy Thornhill of Watford Borough Council chaired a session with Graham Allen MP, Cllr Robert Light, Lord Tyler, and Cllr Apu Bagchi. Delegates heard of the need to formalise the relationship between central and local government, and of the mechanisms that could make this happen.
We were joined by the Rt Hon Greg Clark MP, Minister for Decentralisation and Cities, who lent his support to the campaign and the work of the LGA and the Political and Constitutional Reform Select Committee.
The Unlocking local capacity: switching on the power of councillors as community leaders session featured the work of OPM and Shropshire Council have been doing to empower neighbourhoods to improve their own communities. This included building the capacity of elected members to help residents and communities do more for themselves. Councillors and officers established into a 'what can we do together approach' to enhance understanding of neighbourhoods and to focus more on doing the right thing rather than on getting re-elected, while officers started to focus on what the community wanted delivered The council is now embedding it into the wider culture of the council.
The place based leadership and social inclusion lunchtime session described an Anglo-Dutch action-research project funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF), which examined place-based leadership in Bristol, Swindon and Enschede in the Netherlands. Against a background of a difficult economic outlook with sharp reductions in public spending the three cities are working to co-create new solutions to the problems of social exclusion. Through collaborative working that releases the community and business energies of the locality, the cities are building new relationships that can lead to an expansion of the total resources available in an area.
The regulations that will guide the next round of the Sustainable Communities Act were laid in Parliament last month and are due to come into force by 26 July 2012.
The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) have also published the response to their last consultation on the regulations and have launched another consultation specifically on whether to allow parish councils to submit proposals directly. If you wish to respond to this consultation please feel free to copy in Daniel Shamplin-Hall: Daniel.Shamplin-Hall@local.gov.uk.
The LGA will also be responding to the consultation. In our view, there are already mechanisms in place to enable town and parish councils to submit proposals through their councils – the previous round demonstrates that councils were very effective in putting forward proposals from town and parish councils. Allowing parish and town councils to submit separate proposals under the Act will duplicate and confuse processes and waste resources at a local level at a time when they already under severe strain.
The neighbourhood community budget pilot work is continuing apace. All the pilots came together at a highly successful and positive event in Birmingham on 13 June to update on progress. Some of the issues coming out of the discussions included:
The role of principal authority elected members.
The need for compelling stories as well as cost-benefit analysis to make the case for a neighbourhood community budgeting approach.
The difficulties of gathering information for resource mapping against a background of staff reductions in the principal councils and other key partners.
The pilots are now entering an intense period of activity leading up to the delivery of draft budgets and operational plans to DCLG in the last week of September. This will be followed by a series of peer challenges before moving on to develop and finalise the budgets and plans throughout the remainder of the financial year.
Formal and funded DCLG support for the pilots is currently scheduled to end on 31 March 2013 once budgets and plans are in place. The challenge then will be finding the resources and support to deliver the plans and prepare new plans and budgets for the following year.
See the events section of this bulletin for more information on the events we are running in line with the pilots.
The Commission on the Future of Local Government led by Leeds City Council published its final report on 3 July. The report examines the role that local government can play in helping the UK meet the big social and economic challenges we face and explores the concept of civic enterprise: a new leadership style for local government where councils become more enterprising, businesses and other partners become more civic, and citizens become more engaged.
In response to Government's call for evidence on proposals for enshrining in legislation a Right to choice, Cllr Sir Merrick Cockell wrote to Oliver Letwin at the Cabinet Office to highlight local government's strong track record in expanding choice and the importance of building on local approaches, not centrally-prescribed models for choice. We are interested in further case studies of how councils have been working to expand choice in local services, please email your examples to the team: firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Monday 2 July, Cllr Peter Fleming gave evidence on behalf of the LGA to the CLG Select Committee Inquiry into the role of councillors. Cllr Fleming emphasised that the role of a councillor is not simple to define and it can be hugely complex. Furthermore, he spoke about how the role is changing, with new responsibilities in health and other areas. He emphasised the community leadership role of councillors and how they can bring communities of interest and places together.
The committee has issued a further call for evidence on why people decide or decide not to stand at local elections and would welcome submissions from: people who have wanted to stand to be a councillor but have encountered barriers to becoming a candidate and recently elected councillors.
As part of the Independent Local Government campaign, the LGA sponsored a Parliamentary Reception, held jointly with the Chair of the Political and Constitutional Reform Select Committee (PCRC), Graham Allen MP, to update stakeholders about the LGA's campaign and the PCRC's consultation. The Minister of State for Decentralisation and Cities, Greg Clark MP spoke alongside Graham Allen MP, Cllr Marianne Overton (representing the LGA) and Chair of the CLG Select Committee, Clive Betts MP.
The LGA recently published its 'Next steps' report, which provides a summary of the responses we received and the discussions we have had, recommendations and next steps for taking forward this important issue. The PCRC inquiry is still open and submissions are invited on the issue before 5 October.
The LGA is campaigning for greater clarity about the relationship between central and local government and, over the last few months, we have been consulting with our members on the issue of codifying the relationship between central and local government.
Since the beginning of the year, the LGA has been speaking to its members through regional events, discussion groups, online communication, and a variety of other means to ask our members what they want to happen. This paper provides a summary of the responses we received and discussions we have had, recommendations, and next steps for taking forward this important issue.
The essay 'A new General Power of Confidence' was commissioned by the Local Government Association from Nicholas Dobson of Pannone Solicitors to offer an independent perspective to inform thinking, stimulate thought and generate debate around the potential of the new power.
LGA annual rural conference
12 September 2012 | Windermere
The LGA's annual rural conference is the key event for rural policy and decision makers in local government. This well-established event provides a unique opportunity for elected members, officers and others involved in rural affairs to network and discuss how rural issues can be addressed by local authorities. Caroline Spelman MP, Secretary of State, Defra will be giving the keynote address and other confirmed speakers include Suzanne Caldwell, Head of Communications and Business Services, Cumbria Chamber of Commerce, Ivan Annibal, Economic Development Practitioner, Chair of the Institute of Economic Development Educational Trust and Charlotte Harrison, Executive Director, Northern Housing Consortium.
Neighbourhood Community Budgets
In order to help elected members understand neighbourhood community budgeting and to expose them to the opportunities offered by this approach, the LGA in association with the Regional Employers Organisations and the Regional Local Government Associations is organising a series of free events around the country in September/October. The events are for elected members of principal authorities, are free and are entitled, 'Community Budgeting: an opportunity or a threat?' They will take place as follows:
More information on these events can be obtained from Welna Bowden email: email@example.com or telephone 07766 251639.
To book, please contact Rachel Stevens email: firstname.lastname@example.org, or telephone 020 7664 3055.
Increasingly councils are exploring the role that staff-led mutuals and social enterprises can play in delivering public services, but encounter a range of barriers to enabling new models. In 2011, the LGA published a practical guide to handling the process.
We are now working with the Office for Public Management to produce a set of case studies to capture learning from the sector about how specific barriers have been overcome. We would welcome input to this work from areas that have been successful in developing staff led models or are well-advanced in the process. Contact the workforce team for more information: email@example.com.
In June, the Mutuals Taskforce, Chaired by Professor Julian Le Grand of London School of Economics, launched its independent report, 'Public Service Mutuals: The next steps'.
The report highlights a number of local authorities already working towards mutualisation across a diverse range of service areas – from social care to youth and children's services to fire and rescue. The Cabinet Office is keen to engage directly with local authorities interested in mutuals and is offering tailored support to assist them in exploring potential models. Contact the Cabinet Office for more information: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Responding to the Government's announcement on City Deals, Councillor Peter Box, Chair of the LGA's Economy and Transport Board, said:
"This announcement of six new City Deals is very positive and indicates the success council leaders have had in their discussions with ministers. Along with previous deals for Liverpool and Manchester, these will give cities more power to bring in investment, boost the skills of local workers and crucially create new jobs. Town hall leaders now want to see progress from the Government on confirming the next round of City Deals – in addition to 'local growth deals' for counties and other places seeking them. The LGA stands ready to assist in helping push out local growth deals around the country and recognises the significant value they can play in boosting growth locally."
31 January 2013