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LGC View: Future councils

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The lateness of the last financial settlement and the frontloading inevitably meant that for most the focus for 2011-12 has been managing cuts.

Several councils have also worked to pioneer new approaches, such as Barnet’s easyCouncil, Lambeth’s John Lewis Council, Brighton’s commissioning council, and less talked about but nonetheless ambitious models such as West Lindsay’s Entrepreneurial Council.

But these front runners should be thought of as the start of the conversation rather than the answer. They provide important thinking about the future structure of councils and how councils might deliver outcomes or services. But to some extent, this is to answer the second question before asking the first: what is the future role of local government, which outcomes should it deliver and which should it not.

Local government has never been static. Its role and function have changed over time. As we enter one of the most rapid periods of change for many years, that role must evolve in line with societal expectations, technological opportunities and financial realities.

A healthy number of initiatives are underway to consider the transformation journey ahead. Early work by the Local Government Group, Leeds City Council, IPPR North and the New Local Government Network highlight the need for collaboration and working across organisational and geographical boundaries, and the need to strong local democracies. The outcomes from these projects will provide vital stimulus for the ongoing debate about the future shape of local government.

Emma Maier, editor, LGC.

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