Editor's Comment

13.12.14

Trust in town halls

Source: Public Sector Executive Dec/Jan 2015

George Osborne said something interesting during his Autumn Statement. “Six months ago people would have said it was completely impossible to get the 10 local authorities of Greater Manchester to come together with the government to agree a major devolution of power to the city and the creation of a new directly elected mayor.”

What was most striking about this passage, actually, was not the ambition but the lack of it. This government has supposedly had a localist and devolutionary agenda since Day One (more in theory than in practice, of course). So why, four years in, would the agreement of a package of devolution measures to a city-region that so clearly wanted it and deserved it be so “impossible” to imagine?

Osborne made it sound like Greater Manchester’s 10 councils were angry tribes at war, but in fact they have worked together professionally and effectively as a ‘combined authority’ for years, in a model others are now belatedly copying. They also agreed a £1.2bn city deal with Greg Clark, one of the first wave of eight areas to do so. 

The mayor is a different issue of course, and one rejected (narrowly) by the voters of one of those 10 councils, Manchester itself, as recently as 2012. A non-scientific newspaper survey at that time suggested a majority would back a mayor for the city-region however, and now – without the pesky hindrance of an actual vote – they have what they (and George Osborne) want. 

There have been innumerable reports in the last few years about the magic effects of devolution: some evidence-based and some little more than fantasies. What is clear is that the UK is far too centralised compared to international comparator countries, and that when given the chance, cities and regions tend to make effective decisions. Power should be exercised, and money spent, at the lowest practicable level – which will sometimes be in the parish hall, sometimes the city council chamber and sometimes in London or even, dare I say it, Brussels. But far too often, Whitehall clings to its power and prerogatives for its own purposes, not for the good of our towns and cities and the people who live in them.

Local government in England saw its opportunity with the Scottish referendum result and jumped on it to demand devolution. Can it really save the billions of pounds that the LGA says it can? Can public services really be ‘re-wired’ from the ground up, if only Whitehall would let go of the purse strings and easy up on the regulations, ring-fencing and rationing? Judging by the scale of the cuts to come, demanding devolved budgets may end up a poisoned chalice. 

There is plenty about devolution and public service redesign throughout this edition of Public Sector Executive – I’m sure you’ll find plenty of thought-provoking articles to get your teeth into. 

Adam Hewitt

Editor

Comments

There are no comments. Why not be the first?

Add your comment

 

public sector executive tv

more videos >

latest public sector news

Councils must set out rough sleeping strategies by 2019 or face government action, Brokenshire warns

10/12/2018Councils must set out rough sleeping strategies by 2019 or face government action, Brokenshire warns

All councils must publish detailed rough sleeping and homelessness strategies by winter 2019 or face government intervention if they fail to do s... more >
Council fined thousands after pleading guilty to ‘catastrophic’ disease outbreak

07/12/2018Council fined thousands after pleading guilty to ‘catastrophic’ disease outbreak

Tendring District Council has been fined £27,000 after the local authority pleaded guilty to a health and safety breach when an outbreak of... more >
High Court slams Herefordshire council for ‘woeful’ children’s care after failing children ‘on a serious and serial basis’

07/12/2018High Court slams Herefordshire council for ‘woeful’ children’s care after failing children ‘on a serious and serial basis’

Herefordshire council has apologised for failing children in two separate cases through its “woeful” children’s services after ... more >

comment

The digital buying community is live

12/11/2018The digital buying community is live

Many of the requirements from buyers posted on the Digital Marketplace were either non-compliant or poorly worded, which resulted in challenges f... more >
A force to be reckoned with

12/11/2018A force to be reckoned with

The South Bank plan, which refers to a number of investments and proposed activities across a massive plot of land south of the River Aire, is on... more >
Less for less: the risk of 'core offers'

12/11/2018Less for less: the risk of 'core offers'

As councils across England struggle with their finances in the face of massive cuts from central government, Simon Edwards, director of the Count... more >
Social value in Greater Manchester: lessons learned

05/11/2018Social value in Greater Manchester: lessons learned

Peter Schofield, Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) collaborative procurement programme manager, looks back at the region’s histo... more >

editor's comment

25/10/2017Take a moment to celebrate

Devolution, restructuring and widespread service reform: from a journalist’s perspective, it’s never been a more exciting time to report on the public sector. That’s why I could not be more thrilled to be taking over the reins at PSE at this key juncture. There could not be a feature that more perfectly encapsulates this... read more >

last word

The importance of openness after Grenfell

The importance of openness after Grenfell

Following the recent Grenfell Tower tragedy, Lord Porter, chairman of the LGA, argues that if the public are going to have faith in the safety testing process then everything must be out in the o... more > more last word articles >

interviews

New Dorset Councils CEO on the creation of a new unitary: ‘This is going to be the right decision for Dorset’

05/11/2018New Dorset Councils CEO on the creation of a new unitary: ‘This is going to be the right decision for Dorset’

The new chief executive of one of the new unitary authorities in Dorset has outlined his approach to culture and work with employees, arguing tha... more >
Keeping the momentum of the Northern Powerhouse

15/10/2018Keeping the momentum of the Northern Powerhouse

On 6 September, the biggest decision-makers of the north joined forces to celebrate and debate how to drive innovation and improvement through th... more >
Cllr Cutts on dealing with children’s services pressures: ‘I can’t magic money out of the air’

26/09/2018Cllr Cutts on dealing with children’s services pressures: ‘I can’t magic money out of the air’

The leader of Nottinghamshire County Council has outlined her priorities for dealing with soaring demand of children’s services and social ... more >
Nottinghamshire considers unitary shake-up proposals in a bid to balance books

05/09/2018Nottinghamshire considers unitary shake-up proposals in a bid to balance books

Nottinghamshire County Council is considering proposals to scrap its current two-tier structure for a new unitary system in order to save on... more >

public sector focus

Local government finance settlement delayed by Brexit

05/12/2018Local government finance settlement delayed by Brexit

The announcement of the local government funding settlement has been delayed as Parliament looks to grapple with Brexit. In a statement released this afternoon, communities secretary Ja... more >
Home care provider Allied Healthcare saved from bankruptcy

03/12/2018Home care provider Allied Healthcare saved from bankruptcy

One of the largest home care providers in the UK has been sold two weeks after it announced it was selling or transferring all of its contracts after regulators reported it was on the brink of ba... more >

the raven's daily blog

New framework addresses the importance of digital transformation for the public sector

04/12/2018New framework addresses the importance of digital transformation for the public sector

Ryan Reed, head of public sector sales at Swiss Post Solution (SPS), reveals the new ESPO 390 framework, which can help address the need for digital transformation across the public sector.  The administrative and financial burden of manual processes and physical records is taking its toll on across the public sector. The g... more >
read more blog posts from 'the raven' >