Government Coalition Brings Change

The first six months of the Coalition Government have seen a stream of policy announcements heralding some fundamental changes to housing, welfare and the role of local authorities at the same time as the inevitable major cuts in public funding which we had been warned to expect. As the Localism Bill begins its passage through Parliament there will be heated debates about the potential impact of these changes.

Eric Pickles, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government says that they are "setting a framework for government to decentralise by removing central burdens, empowering people to take action, letting local people control public spending, breaking apart monopolies, making public bodies and services transparent and strengthening accountability". A key part of the solution is to give greater say to local communities about the services they expect and how they are delivered.

But the spending reductions are particularly severe for local authorities and in addition they are front loaded in the first year. So not surprisingly we are seeing some programmes and services quickly slashed with significant redundancies.

Housing associations are facing a climate where grant for new homes will be cut very significantly with an expectation that rents will take the strain.

In recent years some local authorities and housing associations have seen outsourcing as the way of dealing with services that are perceived to be expensive or inefficient. But the demise of Connaught and more recently Rok, both contractors specialising in maintenance and similar services for the public sector, shows that the private sector can't necessarily deliver services consistently better and more cost effectively than well run public or independent sector organisations.

The Coalition Government says that it wants to give local authorities greater freedom over the funding they do have and that it will play its part by reducing bureaucratic controls. But what is certain is that in future services have to be delivered at lower cost and to higher standards and the performance achieved will be open to greater scrutiny than ever before.

We cannot be sure what the combined impact of all the government's changes might be. And as we haven't seen such radical change in a number of interlinked policies at the same time for decades we don't know whether these new approaches will or will not work.

But for all organisations there is an imperative to take a considered view of how services are delivered or procured. With such fundamental changes to central government policy and approaches there are opportunities to look at services from first principles and assess how they can best thrive in the new world to come.

In this new environment both local Councils and their third sector partners have a pivotal role in enabling communities to prosper and thrive. But will they seize that opportunity? To do so they need to be proactive and make sure that they use wisely the resources that will enable them to make things happen. PMCDE have the knowledge and experience to help local authorities in meeting this challenge.

Key Points

  • Major cuts in public funding
  • Spending reductions
  • Public bodies and services transparent and strengthening accountability
  • Empowering people to take action
  • Potential impact of these changes
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