Total Place has become shorthand for the future of better, more efficient public services. But it is the direction of the scheme itself that is in the spotlight.
As the brainchild of local government stalwart Sir Michael Bichard, the concept has been associated with a strong feeling of local ownership - reflected in the 77 unofficial ‘parallel places’. But it remains a government programme, with 13 official pilots.
That tension has proved productive in maintaining the twin goals of Total Place: broadly speaking, government - or at least the Treasury - has focused on efficiency; councils on service improvement.
If Total Place is to deliver, the confusion must be overcome
Emma Maier, editor of LGC
But quantifying pilot outcomes has emphasised that the relationship between partnership, improvement and efficiency is complex. At the same time, the question of the future direction of Total Place has come to the fore.
LGC understands that senior government officials are working on a plan for a ‘Total Place 2’, with developments including a greater emphasis on the voluntary sector. Meanwhile, a sector-driven ‘TP2’ initiative has emerged, led by consultant Stephen Taylor, who has approached nine councils about taking part.
If Total Place is to deliver, the confusion must be overcome. The pilots were about exploration; efforts must now be focused on action. High on the priority list should be a power of general competence - or a Total Place law - to give councils the ability to work with all local partners.