LGC’s essential daily commentary
Today’s long overdue meetings: Hammond to meet northern mayors for the first time
Today’s warning from the NHS: NHS Improvement calls for ‘urgent’ action over winter beds as DTOCs rise
Today’s plea for sense: ‘Government must invest in early help as it does in infrastructure’
As the summer parliamentary recess comes to an end and MPs return to Westminster, LGC rounds up the most important developments in local government this summer, in no particular order…
There are only two STPs still led by council officers alone after Norfolk CC managing director Wendy Thomson stood down as head of the Norfolk and Waveney partnership in early August. Ms Thomson said the time was right to hand over to an NHS leader as the STP moved into delivery phase. Only Nottingham & Nottinghamshire and Somerset – led by Nottinghamshire CC director of adult social care David Pearson and Somerset CC chief executive Pat Flaherty respectively – are still headed by council officers alone. Following their launch last year five of the 44 STP footprints had local government leads. Surrey CC chief David McNulty, who retires this month, is in a group leading the Surrey Heartlands STP.
Councils are to get an almost “constitutional” role in the government’s industrial strategy, business secretary Greg Clark has promised. Speaking in July he said: “If we can establish consensus, not just around industrial strategy generally but the pivotal place of local government within it, then we will have made in effect a commitment that is almost constitutional in establishing the importance [of local government].”
There have been some encouraging signs on devolution this summer, not least chancellor Philip Hammond finally getting around to meeting some of the new metro-mayors today. In addition Theresa May’s first public appearance after her holiday was at the launch of the South Tees Development Corporation, chaired by Tees Valley mayor Ben Houchen (Con). Meanwhile, as LGC has reported, discussions are under way on a second devolution deal for the West Midlands and a deal for councils north of the Tyne.
The Department for Communities & Local Government is pushing ahead with 100% business rates retention after communities secretary Sajid Javid announced plans to launch new pilot schemes in 2018. The focus will be on two-tier areas, however participants may not be offered the same no-detriment clause as the existing pilots which cover mainly metropolitan areas. This may dampen enthusiasm somewhat.
Reorganisation in some two-tier areas is still on the cards. Mr Javid plans to make an announcement on the reorganisation bids sitting on his desk for Dorset, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire “as soon as practicable”, LGC has been told.
The new local government pension scheme pools have been threatened with government intervention if they cannot demonstrate they are making adequate savings through the Whitehall imposed arrangements. In mid-August, fund chairs received generic letters from the DCLG, Treasury and Cabinet Office expressing disappointment with funds’ progress. It said the DCLG would consult on using its powers “if we are not satisfied that there is a clear path and timetable for delivery”.
Almost all Yorkshire councils have signed up to a ‘coalition of the willing’ to pursue a One Yorkshire devolution deal, despite the government’s continued insistence it will not entertain the idea. Wakefield MBC did not attend a meeting last Thursday while Sheffield City Council and Rotherham MBC have not joined the coalition, preferring to focus on the existing Sheffield City Region devolution deal. However, Barnsley and Doncaster, which are also part of Sheffield’s deal are amongst the willing. Northern Powerhouse minister Jake Berry has warned the Sheffield City Region that the government can impose a mayor on the area next May under existing legislation, whether they like it or not.
The government appointed Birmingham City Council improvement panel is set to step aside, more than two years after it was set up in response to concerns about the council’s governance and capabilities. Panel chair John Crabtree said positive working between council leader John Clancy (Lab) and interim chief executive Stella Manzie, appointed in April, meant “the prospects of further improvements are good”.
PLUS… West Midlands CA mayor Andy Street (Con) has had had twice as many meetings with ministers as any of the other recently elected metro-mayors, Cambridgeshire & Peterborough CA mayor James Palmer (Con) has not got off to a good start with local business leaders while political tensions threaten progress in the Tees Valley CA. All this and more in LGC’s special focus on the mayors’ first 100 days.
Welcome back guys (assuming you’ve left your desks in the first place).