Headlines: March 19th, 2004

The Local Government Association has responded to the Chancellor’s announcement of a radical efficiency programme with a plea for greater freedom for local government so that councils can deliver greater efficiency. The Association wants councils to be freed up to build flexible partnerships with other councils, public sector bodies, and the private sector to get the most cost-effective deals in buying and delivering services.Sir Jeremy Beecham, the Association’s chair, said: “The drive to secure efficiency is not new to local government. Councils have developed cutting-edge practice and striven for value for money for years. The way to get value for money is to put devolved decision making at the heart of an agenda of localism, where directly elected councillors are responsible and accountable for their financial decisions. Top-down solutions to efficiency or remotely derived models will fail – an agenda that twins the efficiency drive with a devolution drive is the answer.”

In a speech earlier this week Local Government Minister, Nick Raynsford said: Some people would argue that central Government should give local government much more discretion to get on with the job. And, more crudely, to get off its back. In my view, that’s not the right way forward. What we need is a better partnership between local and central Government. One which recognises that the public expects decent standards of local services everywhere, and that both of us have an important role in securing this. We must be better at joining up and presenting a more coherent and consistent approach to local government, taking forward the principles of decentralisation and devolution and turning them into reality across the range of locally delivered services.