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LGA has ‘insufficient contact’ with councils on a daily basis

The LGA has “insufficient contact” with councils on a daily basis, according to its chairman Cllr David Sparks.

He made the revelation during a Q&A session at the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives (Solace) Summit in Liverpool, which PSE attended yesterday.

Cllr Sparks said: “I’m acutely aware that…one of the deficiencies of the LGA is the fact that there is insufficient contact on a daily basis with local authorities. That can lead to a situation where it’s almost as if we become a third estate in Whitehall and we have to watch that.”

During his speech he addressed the devolution debate. He outlined his position that he believes people identify with cities, counties, towns and villages, rather than regions. As a result, he said, devolution would look different in different places.

Cllr Sparks said local government would need to argue for devolution to a combination of local authorities. He also warned that gaining more powers and control over funding were not inevitable. He said the challenge was “to make sure people know how relevant local government is”.

“We have got to argue on the basis that it’s devolution to communities through councils,” said Cllr Sparks. “We have to anchor ourselves in local communities, not just because it makes for effective local government but because individuals relate to communities far more than they do to arbitrary boundaries.”

The other highlight at the conference yesterday was a morning session on Public Service Redesign. Barry Quirk, chief executive of London Borough of Lewisham, led a spirited discussion that took a look at public sector services and how they are designed. Helen Lazarus and Gavin Pryke of the Design Council gave a fascinating talk on how services can be designed and explained their process in going about doing so.

The highlight of the session was a funny, and eye opening presentation from David McNulty, chief executive of Surrey Council, who explained how he has helped overhaul the culture and services provided by the authority.

In-depth coverage of the Solace Summit will be featured in the next edition of PSE.

(Image: c. Joe Giddens/PA Wire)

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