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Local and central government must operate as one team to succeed

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You’ve doubtless been asked for the your local government ‘wish list’: the devo demands, the retained rates, news on new homes bonus, the health wealth, the EU funding fix, a Mayoral myth.

Nicola bulbeck

Nicola bulbeck

Nicola Bulbeck

Perhaps now that Rio has restored Great British brio there’s an opportunity to flag further requests to support local government, with its evidenced track record of overcoming fiscal, policy and demand-led hurdles, to become truly self-sustaining, leave a legacy for residents, businesses and visitors and build a balanced and mutually rewarding relationship with Whitehall.

A one-team approach to policy, strategy and reform would enable locally-led, integrated, targeted and better value-for-money service delivery, which is difficult to achieve with disconnected, prescriptive and inconsistent short-term policy announcements that send the players off in different and potentially conflicting directions.

The government should take a fair, tolerant and equitable tenure-neutral approach to subsidising housing supply. From our viewpoint, current government policy is creating less rather than more community cohesion, while the lack of grant for rented housing may only attract buyers of a certain income bracket and socio-economic group. Stratifying groups of people in such a way leads ultimately to tensions, with the risk of longer housing waiting lists, homelessness and disenfranchised communities. A return to previous policy, with mixed tenure types peppered around developments, would address social inclusivity and diversity: a winning formula.

Key welfare reforms, such as freezing local housing allowance, restricting housing benefit payments for under-35s in social housing or private rented housing and the reduction of incentives for private landlords to invest are likely to perpetuate private rental demand outstripping supply, pushing up rents and pricing those on benefits out of the market: a real hurdle for community cohesion.

Then there’s the democracy relay; let’s not treat it as a last minute sprint. Relevant new legislation needs to be in training at least six months before polling day to be a winner. Ditto any legislative changes recommended in Sir Eric’s report on electoral fraud.

Commercialism yes, but we need flexible legislation and a level playing field. We can out-perform the competition but are hamstrung by residual process burdens. Let us make a profit from car parks, not have to provide services at break-even, access cheap borrowing to build houses and employment areas and develop town centres, and re-calibrate planning fees.

Local government is a winning team with progressive, entrepreneurial leadership, watched closely by the public and with potential to build community wellbeing and drive and deliver growth. However, it needs to attract and manage talent with vision, integrity and relevant expertise to keep performing, so refocusing on exit and severance proposals would mitigate unintended consequences and foster alternative business models, collaboration, innovation and efficiencies.

Nicola Bulbeck, chief executive, Teignbridge DC

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