Headlines: June 18th, 2010

Local authorities should be given more responsibility for policing and health care as part of a package of measures that would see a devolved, locally-focused system for public service delivery. The ideas are set out in a paper from the New Local Government Network which says scrapping entitlements offered to service users is a step in the right direction.

The NLGN report says while reversing entitlements such as the promise of free care at home and the scrapping of maximum hospital waiting times rang alarm bells with some people, entitlements and guarantees replicate many of the problems of performance targets.

‘Making Sense of Entitlement’ argues that there would be better outcomes and benefits for users if public services were subject to less central instruction, as long as the safeguards of transparency, scrutiny and accountability to local people were in place. It recommends that policy aims and priorities should be formed through a negotiated agreement between central government and a local authority. Both sides should ensure service outcomes are clearly transparent and accountable to citizens.

It calls for councils to be given greater responsibility for services such as healthcare and policing to strengthen joined up working and to give a cohesive democratic mandate to locally-responsive priorities. The report adds that where the Government chooses to maintain or introduce entitlements, these should be broad and outcome-focused, rather than narrow and procedural.

Luke Hildyard, the report’s author said: “Fears of public services suffering as a result of the abandonment of entitlements are unfounded. Equivalently resourced services ought to be capable of producing better outcomes if they are subject to less central instruction, not worse.”