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

Up to 2,500 homes on the way as part of York Central development proposals submitted

14/08/2018Up to 2,500 homes on the way as part of York Central development proposals submitted

Around 6,500 jobs and a 20% surge in the local economy are expected after landmark new plans were submitted for planning permission in York. ... more >
Fight against Dorset merger ends as Christchurch council accepts defeat

14/08/2018Fight against Dorset merger ends as Christchurch council accepts defeat

Christchurch Borough Council has agreed not to take its legal fight to the Court of Appeal following the refusal of its Judicial Review applicati... more >
Social housing green paper only small step compared to ‘huge need’ for affordable homes, LGA says

14/08/2018Social housing green paper only small step compared to ‘huge need’ for affordable homes, LGA says

The government’s social housing green paper is “only a small step” in delivering more social homes says the UK’s largest ... more >

comment

A new era of opportunity for the north

13/08/2018A new era of opportunity for the north

It’s time to stop seeing transport investment as a nice-to-have: it’s a cut-through catalyst for growth in sectors across the north. ... more >
Council mergers: little gain, less democratic

13/08/2018Council mergers: little gain, less democratic

Dr Linze Schaap, associate professor at the Tilburg Centre for Regional Law and Governance, and Dr Niels Karsten, assistant professor at the Tilb... more >
Creating a council cloud-first approach

13/08/2018Creating a council cloud-first approach

Georgina Maratheftis, programme manager for local government at techUK, makes the case for wider adoption of cloud technology by local authoritie... more >
The strength of districts

13/08/2018The strength of districts

Cllr Isobel Darby, member lead for quality of life at the District Councils’ Network (DCN) and leader of Chiltern District Council, shares ... 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

Modern policing: the future is bright

06/08/2018Modern policing: the future is bright

SPONSORED INTERVIEW The public sector, and policing in particular, has often been criticised as being slow to adapt to change. But now, says L... more >
Michael King: Time for Ombudsman reform

06/08/2018Michael King: Time for Ombudsman reform

Michael King first joined the Local Government Ombudsman service back in 2004 as deputy ombudsman. At the start of 2017, he was appointed as the ... more >
Helping a city understand itself

06/08/2018Helping a city understand itself

SPONSORED INTERVIEW The urban landscape is changing. How can local authorities keep up with citizen behaviour? Stephen Leece, managing directo... more >
Data at the heart of digital transformation

03/04/2018Data at the heart of digital transformation

SPONSORED INTERVIEW Grant Caley, UK & Ireland chief technologist at NetApp, speaks to PSE’s Luana Salles about the benefits of movin... more >

public sector focus

Understanding the apprenticeship levy

13/08/2018Understanding the apprenticeship levy

YPO has launched the first national apprentices... more >
LGO upholds 60% of investigations against councils

12/07/2018LGO upholds 60% of investigations against councils

Article by Callum Wood of Public Sector Magaz... more >
Fight against Dorset merger ends as Christchurch council accepts defeat

14/08/2018Fight against Dorset merger ends as Christchurch council accepts defeat

Christchurch Borough Council has agreed not to take its legal fight to the Court of Appeal following the refusal of its Judicial Review application, with leader Cllr David Flagg apologising for t... more >
At-risk Leicestershire councils team up to evaluate ‘rushed’ merger plans

30/07/2018At-risk Leicestershire councils team up to evaluate ‘rushed’ merger plans

District and borough authorities at risk of being axed due a potential merger into a unitary authority have declared that they will adopt a “collaborative approach” for the future of ... more >

the raven's daily blog

Don’t horse around! Council finds new home for house-bound pony

13/08/2018Don’t horse around! Council finds new home for house-bound pony

A council that took four years in a legal wrangle to remove a pony from an Isle of Lewis house may have found the four-legged beast a new home. Western Isles council removed Grey Lady Too – a Connemara pony that was taken into the home by pensioner Stephanie Noble on Christmas Eve in 2011 – from its residence in 2014 because i... more >
read more blog posts from 'the raven' >