National and Devolved Politics

05.07.18

We won’t force council reorganisation where it isn’t wanted, Brokenshire pledges

James Brokenshire, the communities secretary, has promised that he won’t force through council reorganisation in situations where it isn’t wanted or needed, but did throw his support behind the concept of local government reform.

Speaking at the LGA Conference this week, Brokenshire said he wants to support the work that some councils are already undertaking to reorganise the way they operate, “by, for example, combining in the interests of your communities where there’s a good deal of local support and it involves credible geographies.”

But he added that he has “no intention of forcing reorganisation on local government where it isn’t wanted or needed.”

“There is so much impressive work going on out there and so much talent and expertise in the sector,” said Brokenshire. “And I want to do all I can to help you celebrate and spread this; to increase transparency and share best practice.

“We want to hear from you about how we can best do this, so that councils can not only make their funding go further, but truly transform services and engage those who use them.”

He also outlined his desire to see an element of “onward devolution of service delivery” in existing and future devo deals, “with local communities deciding what outcomes matters most and finding local solutions that suit local circumstances.”

“Which is why we’ll be publishing the civil society strategy this summer, setting out our vision for how government can work positively with groups on the ground,” said the secretary of state. “And why we created the city region mayors, who have got off to such a successful start.”

Some councils are already stepping up to ensure deals include ‘onward devolution,’ something Brokenshire considers “true localism in action and a much-needed renewal of our democracy.”

While his thirst for greater reorganisation – which has lately included several council mergers up and down the country – and devolution might be welcome, Brokenshire’s comments – and lack of them – around local government funding did not bode well with the audience.

Some delegates, for example, expressed their “astonishment” at the communities secretary’s failure to promise that he will be knocking on the Treasury’s door to ask for more cash in the Spending Review.

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