Headlines: September 16th, 2005

Sir Sandy Bruce-Lockhart, Chairman of the Local Government Association, has called for a joint plan of action to deliver the deal on devolution to local government. He said that: “At its heart should be a bold and ambitious deregulation and decentralisation of power from central government – to bring real freedom and autonomy to local councils, to release the energy, innovation and motivation of those at the front line of delivery. This will also allow local people and local communities greater choice and involvement in the services they receive.”Joining up government locally is already delivering results. Across the country, councils are bringing together the local Chief Constables, Chief Fire Officers, Chairmen of Health Authorities, heads of Learning and Skills Councils, Education and Social Care, University Vice Chancellors and the Heads of the Department of Work and Pensions into small Boards to join the totality of public services in their areas and co-ordinate, focus and drive public service innovation, co-ordination and improvement. Joining up is proving more effective at the local level than it is at the centre.

Taking this joined-up approach further could result in substantial savings in back office staff, finance, personnel and information systems in a wide range of public bodies. If local councils were empowered to lead the restructuring of wider public sector back offices and join-up services it is estimated that savings would amount to 3 billion pounds.

Devolved local government and the current Comprehensive Performance Assessment are not compatible. The Local Government Association will shortly start work with the Audit Commission on a replacement arrangement that retains the rigour and independence of CPA but reduces the bureaucratic burden and stimulates local self-improvement.