Book News: November 24th, 2003

This report summarises the outcome of a New Local Government Network Policy Summit. It contains many seeds of ideas and proposals which offer the beginnings of a coherent view about the future role of local government and its partners. The reality is that a world of true Freedoms and Flexibilities raises enormous challenges to the local government community that it must face up to. Local government has to do more to convince the centre – and the public – that it recognises the challenges that a new localism involves and is up to meeting them. They include issues of risk management, of how to move into new areas without losing focus on the core, how to create the new skills and capacity which are necessary, about the need to shoulder true blame and take responsibility for decisions in a way that has been avoided by the centralised system.The Network believes that there are clear wins to be had if a more dynamic local governance can be kick-started. It also expresses confidence that there are enormous gains to be made as a consequence of joint-working across different public sector bodies at the local level. Some of the biggest blockages to joint working stem more from the inability of local bodies – Police, hospitals and Primary Care Trusts, Learning and Skills Councils etc.- to deliver commitment to real joined-up working and carry it through in the face of their command and control hierarchies, than it is to the limitations of local government.

The report concludes that a short term framework needs to be created, which is acceptable to both local and central government, in which there is flexibility for discretion and difference, and to which all stakeholders can sign up to and from which those at the centre and locally can learn for the future. The Freedoms and Flexibilities agenda post Comprehensive Performance Assessment and Second Generation Local Public Service Agreements, has the potential to offer just such vehicles at this stage in the journey to a Brave New World.

Freedoms and Flexibilities for Local Government: A route map to a ‘Brave New World’ is published by the New Local Government Network.