Headlines: February 20th, 2006

David Miliband, Minister of Communities and Local Government, wants to hear about approaches that have proved effective in enabling individual service users to exert influence, as well as views on the obstacles in the way of the Deal for Devolution. A booklet explaining the feedback required, together with David Miliban’s speech in which he launched the New Deal for Devolution, has been published by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister.The Deal for Devolution seeks to close the power gap between what people can do and what the system encourages them to do. The starting point is to devolve as far as possible. Its effect would be to devolve power firstly from central government to local government and secondly beyond to neighbourhoods and individual citizens. It will provide challenges and opportunities for local and central government and the result will be radical changes in responsibilities and relationships.

The empowerment of citizens as envisaged in the New Deal would drive fundamental changes in the way that services are provided. Citizens would commission their own services and this would then put them in the driving seat to influence quality and the way the service was tailored to their need. This form of empowerment already happens to a limited extent in social care where direct payments are made to the service users who then decides how the budget will be spent. The aim is to build upon these initiatives and to explore further opportunities for extending the role of citizens in shaping and delivering the services that they use. Feedback is needed on approaches that have proved effective in enabling individual service users, neighbourhoods or interest groups to influence or take control of the public services they receive.

Views are also sought on what stands in the way of devolution. Empowering citizens will not be universally popular with the citizens themselves and feedback is needed on the key factors that will help to make empowerment more attractive. There are also many other barriers to sharing more power with local people and ideas are needed on how local government and its partners and central government can work together to overcome them.

The Deal for Devolution will bring an end to the Comprehensive Performance Assessment regime and different approaches will have to be devised for ensuring value for money. There will continue to be some national standards which reflect Government’s priorities, but this would be combined with arrangements in which performance could be challenged through citizen power. Top-down controls such as inspection might be used where the citizen is unable to monitor and control. A key issue which needs exploring is how can the current performance framework be re-balanced so that local authorities can better respond to bottom up pressures to improve the quality of public services.

The ODPM requires views by 31 March 2006.

Link to the ODPM publication: http://www.odpm.gov.uk/pub/602/EmpowermentandtheDealforDevolutionPDF254Kb_id1163602.pdf