Headlines: October 14th, 2002

Chancellor Gordon Brown added his voice to what is becoming a chorus for new localism, freeing frontline services from the grip of Whitehall. He said there will be a range of new financial freedoms and new powers for local authorities to trade, retain fines, develop new services and decide council tax exemptions and discounts. Details of the freedoms will be announced in the local government bill, but it is already clear that the proposals go much further than those announced in the white paper.Gordon Brown also said he recognized that much more needs to be done and he and Home Secretary, David Blunkett, will shortly publish a discussion document that highlights how decisions in the Treasury and Home Office can do more to devolve power to communities. The need for a discussion document is a clear indication that the boundaries for new localism have not been set and that this is the start of the process rather then the end.

Following the announcement of financial freedoms for the proposed foundation hospitals, he made it clear that new localism would be extended public service wide. The Government’s approach is to empower people, bringing public, voluntary and private sectors together, encouraging innovation to deliver shared goals of high quality public services. For local government he said it would allow responsible councils to innovate and respond to local needs. The greatest freedom will be restricted to the best performing councils and they will be identified before the end of the year in the Comprehensive Performance Assessment arrangements.

Freedom will come with strings and the partnership between central and local government will bring flexibility and resources in return for reform and delivery. The partnership will also be extended to the voluntary sector and this is why there is renewed interest at all levels in voluntary organizations. The aim is to move power from Government and put it into the hands of local communities.