Headlines: August 24th, 2006

MOVE MORE LOCAL DECISION MAKING OUT OF THE POLITICAL ARENA

 

Local communities should be empowered to have a direct input into the management of their local services and decisions should not be made on purely political grounds. This call for change comes from the National Federation of Arms Length Management Organisations, representing 60 organisations responsible for over 906,000 council properties across England.

The Federation believes that the model on which its organizations operate can be used to improve services across the board. Each of its organizations is accountable to a local council, but day to day management of council housing stock is handed over to Boards made up of councillors, independent members and tenants, who constitute at least a third of the board. This results in tenants having real power to make decisions about their homes, holding equal, if not more weight on the Board. The effect of this is that services directly meet the needs and aspirations of residents and the communities they serve.

The Federation has introduced a wider range of innovative services, from social inclusion programmes to community safety agendas and it believes that it could take a broader role in the delivery of wider community services including community programmes to improve standards and enhance cost efficiencies. This would then free up councils to focus on a more strategic role.

The call for community engagement is very much in line with the report from the Confederation of British Industries which called for local communities to be given more say over their public services. See Publicnet 23rd August. The CBI believes that empowering local people to help design services focused on their needs is one of the most important emerging challenges in local government today.