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

Gov announces £10m Tourism Package for small businesses

03/07/2020Gov announces £10m Tourism Package for small businesses

The Minister for Regional Growth and Local Government, Simon Clarke, has announced a £10m Kick-starting Tourism Package today (July 3) to s... more >
Wakefield Council secures £1.75m from Towns Fund

03/07/2020Wakefield Council secures £1.75m from Towns Fund

Wakefield Council has secured a £1.75m Government grant (July 2), to support projects to immediately improve Wakefield city centre and Cast... more >
West Midlands secures £66m for 'shovel ready' projects

03/07/2020West Midlands secures £66m for 'shovel ready' projects

Up to £66m in additional Government funding has been secured by the West Midlands today (July 3) to begin a series of ‘shovel ready&r... more >

comment

Peter Kyle MP: It’s time to say thank you this Public Service Day

21/06/2019Peter Kyle MP: It’s time to say thank you this Public Service Day

Taking time to say thank you is one of the hidden pillars of a society. Being on the receiving end of some “thanks” can make communit... more >
How community-led initiatives can help save the housing shortage

19/06/2019How community-led initiatives can help save the housing shortage

Tom Chance, director at the National Community Land Trust Network, argues that community-led initiatives are a productive way of helping to solve... more >
Aberdeen's green transport fleet attracting international attention

19/06/2019Aberdeen's green transport fleet attracting international attention

Aberdeen City Council’s hydrogen spokesperson, councillor Philip Bell, highlights the Granite City’s determination to play a leading ... more >
A fifth of public sector workers have never received a thank you from the people they serve

13/06/2019A fifth of public sector workers have never received a thank you from the people they serve

A fifth of the country’s public sector workers say they have NEVER received a ‘thank you’ for doing their job as Public Service... 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

Prevention: Investing for the future

Prevention: Investing for the future

Rob Whiteman, CEO at the Chartered Institute of Public Finance (CIPFA), discusses the benefits of long-term preventative investment. Rising demand, reducing resource – this has been th... more > more last word articles >

interviews

Artificial intelligence: the devil is in the data

17/12/2018Artificial intelligence: the devil is in the data

It’s no secret that the public sector and its service providers need to invest in technology to help make better use of their resources. Bu... more >
Digital innovation in the public sector: The future is now

17/12/2018Digital innovation in the public sector: The future is now

One of the public sector’s key technology partners has recently welcomed a new member to its team. Matt Spencer, O2’s head of public ... more >
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 >

public sector focus

Councils react to Government’s £500m support package

03/07/2020Councils react to Government’s £500m support package

The Government announced a range of support m... more >
Extra £500m and supportive measures announced for councils

02/07/2020Extra £500m and supportive measures announced for councils

An additional £500m funding package and... more >
Gov announces £10m Tourism Package for small businesses

03/07/2020Gov announces £10m Tourism Package for small businesses

The Minister for Regional Growth and Local Government, Simon Clarke, has announced a £10m Kick-starting Tourism Package today (July 3) to support the sector in time for summer. Many co... more >
Wakefield Council secures £1.75m from Towns Fund

03/07/2020Wakefield Council secures £1.75m from Towns Fund

Wakefield Council has secured a £1.75m Government grant (July 2), to support projects to immediately improve Wakefield city centre and Castleford. The Council were chosen for the oppor... more >

the raven's daily blog

Cleaner, greener, safer media: Increased ROI, decreased carbon

23/06/2020Cleaner, greener, safer media: Increased ROI, decreased carbon

Evolution is crucial in any business and Public Sector Executive is no different. Long before Covid-19 even became a thought in the back of our minds, the team at PSE were looking at innovative ways to deliver its content to our audience in a more dynamic and responsive manner. We’re conscious to take the time to both prot... more >
read more blog posts from 'the raven' >