Editor's Comment

19.08.15

Power levels

Source: PSE - Aug/Sep 15

PSE has long been supportive of the ‘Keep it Local’ campaign, run by Locality – the membership body for community organisations. The thrust of the campaign is that some ‘common sense’ ideas actually have pernicious consequences, including the repeated drives to save money via economies of scale, standardisation and amalgamation when it comes to procurement and outsourcing. 

For this edition, we caught up with Locality’s chief executive, Tony Armstrong, to get an update on that campaign. He told us how services that can be commissioned and delivered locally should be – outcomes are better and costs are lower. There are scores of great examples of this working, but unfortunately there is a definite counter-trend of services that were once delivered by his neighbourhood-based members being taken off them and handed to big outsourced ‘delivery partners’ (and sometimes national charities). These ‘partners’ often win contracts because of their sheer size and scale, making bidding for them unviable for smaller community-level groups, and to make their promised efficiencies the outsourcer inevitably has to standardise, streamline and take a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach. This may look good in the immediate short-term as far as the balance sheet is concerned, but as Locality says, it’s really a “false economy of scale”. Our interview with Tony Armstrong is on page 28, see what you think of his arguments. 

It is part of a wider section on Service Redesign, which also features an interview with Lord Kerslake – whose many and various past senior roles across the public sector are too extensive to list here. But, most pertinently to this edition, he is leading a new inquiry into the shape and content of the current crop of devolution deals, and whether the city-based, mayor-dependent model really is the best way forward. He is not alone in thinking that while any march towards devolved power and money represents progress, there are risks and dangers that other areas, layers of government and aspects of public services might just be missed out completely. 

Cllr Julie Dore, leader of Sheffield City Council, makes a similar point in our interview with her on page 26. In her capacity as a cabinet member in the Core Cities group, she makes a strong case for place-based public services, with the authority and budgets this implies. 

There’s lots more in this edition too, of course: a whole clutch of government ministers, senior civil servants (and former civil servants), councillors and officers, campaigners, analysts, chief executives, lawyers and commentators. Let us know what you think of what they have to say.

Adam Hewitt

Editor

Tell us what you think – have your say below or email opinion@publicsectorexecutive.com

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