This report from the Institute for Public Policy Research says that any plans by the new government to decentralise the delivery of public services to achieve greater efficiency must be coupled with minimum guarantees so the poor and excluded don’t end up with sub-standard provision.
The report argues that localism could provide the best model for delivering services in a way that is more democratic, more cost effective and more efficient. But at the same time, councils and other bodies mustn’t be allowed to go too far with ‘no frills’ budget airline type models, where only the basic services are delivered for free, and everything else is paid for. This would inevitably lead to the poorest people in the poorest areas getting the worse service.
The danger with this very attractive approach is that ‘pushy and vocal’ middle class people shape services to suit themselves, while poorer groups and minorities, who have less of a voice but more need of some services, get ignored.
To ensure that localism works without increasing inequality and disadvantage the report stresses that a national set of rights and entitlements needs to be put in place which guarantee minimum levels of public service provision for everyone. It also wants a new public sector equality duty to be imposed on service deliverers, such as councils, voluntary and community groups and private providers.
EQUALITY ENTITLEMENT AND LOCALISM is available from the ippr