Headlines: December 15th, 2010

All public services should be open to diverse provision, with monopoly provision justified on an exceptional basis. This principle is embodied in the Localism Bill which will give rights to new and established service providers.

The effect of widening the right to do provide services beyond the third sector and employees of public bodies to include community groups, will widen choice and bring greater diversity. It will allow things to be done differently in different places. There is an expectation that it will result in greater innovation and improved service delivery with a greater response to local conditions.

Local community groups have plenty of experience in managing local services, from running a post office or pub, managing schools and even hospital staff encouraged to adopt a degree of self governance. But when it comes to actively competing for local authority contracts, co-operatives and mutuals will have to compete with the horrendously complex EU procurement requirements and employment legislation.

Simon Randall, a consultant at law firm Winckworth Sherwood and former elected member of Bromley Council says: “There is much to commend in this proposed change in the way local services are to be delivered. Staff and other community groups invariably have a better grasp of what is needed and how best to deliver such services, but they will have to overcome some pretty major obstacles.”

The Localism Bill will also give community organisations greater opportunity to bid for assets of value to them and from which they can deliver existing or new services. It is expected that as well as empowering communities, this will diversify the providers of services and stimulate creative and imaginative new patterns of service and enterprise.