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Commission on the Future of Local Government

Commission on the Future of Local Government

🕔04.Jul 2012

A Secretary of State for England is needed to strengthen local government- and local growth England’s economy needs to be given the same attention that the other countries in the United Kingdom receive – that’s the message from The Commission for the Future of Local Government.

Led by Leeds City Council, the commission is calling for a dedicated England Office, with its own Secretary of State, ministers and Select Committee; in a shake up of existing resources within Whitehall.

This would place England on a level footing with Scotland,Wales and Northern Irelandwho each already have a government department focused on their needs.

Since November 2011, the commission has been examining the real experiences of local councils, business groups and voluntary organisations. It has been asking how local government can do more to tackle social and economic problems in its communities, and what changes need to happen to help it seize the initiative.

With country-wide economic recovery such an urgent priority, a central aim of the commission was to identify how local government can take control of local growth and prosperity. It argues that while the will is there, local government still needs to be given the powers and resources to make growth happen. A stronger voice for England within anUKwide parliament would help ensure better support for enterprising English councils.

The commission examined how less Whitehall control has given Scottish and Welsh councils the ability to do more to get their towns and cities growing than those in England. The power to make landmark decisions on economic development, transport and the local environment would also make councils more relevant to the public’s concerns, encouraging more people to get involved, or at least turn up at the ballot box on polling day. The report also calls for a fresh look at the way Whitehall funding is distributed across countries in the UK.

The commission welcomes the City Deals currently being rolled out across the UK’s eight core cities, giving councils bespoke bundles of powers for driving growth, tailored to their city’s unique priorities. The commission recommends this concept is now extended to give city governments’ broader control across regions, in recognition of how local economies and markets work.

 Commission Chair, Cllr Keith Wakefield said:

“Our challenge to communities is to take control of their own destiny to enable them to survive these challenging times and thrive into the future. Our challenge to businesses, councillors, voluntary groups and others is to become civic entrepreneurs: the Joseph Rowntrees or Joseph Chamberlains of the 21st century–lending their expertise and skills to serving their community, and teaming up with councillors to make things happen. Our challenge to government is to give councils the powers and resources to make the most of our energy for action, our determination to get our cities growing, and to tackle their big social inequalities.”

Calls to action include:

  • Government to establish a new English Office in Whitehall with dedicated ministers, Secretary of State, and a Select Committee.
  • Government to review the Barnett Formula* and develop a fairer system for allocating funding across the UK.
  • Councils to be given a leadership role in a new care system building on Dilnot’s** findings.
  • Incentives to be found for boosting public-private partnerships to develop 21st century infrastructure, such as ultra-fast broadband, public spaces, low-carbon energy, affordable housing and elderly care.
  • The Bank of England should consider establishing Shadow City Banks in the German Landesbank model to channel Quantitative Easing resources more directly to small businesses.

Next steps include:

  • The commission has asked for a formal response from government on its proposals, particularly in relation to the creation of an English Office, the review of the Barnett Formula, the role of councils in a new care system, and the incentivisation of public-private partnerships.
  • The commission has established a Civic Enterprise Network to take its work forward.

The network aims to identify and connect the civic entrepreneurs who are working to develop 21st century cities. The network will create an online resource to advise individuals and organisations about how to turn the spirit of civic enterprise into action.

If you wish to find out more go to http://civicenterpriseuk.org/

For the full report click here http://civicenterpriseuk.files.wordpress.com/2012/07/final-commission-on-the-future-of-local-government-electronic.pdf

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