Last week the government published a bill which, in the name of growth, massively centralises the planning system and curtails councils’ ability to negotiate development deals.
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It is worth comparing two points made at the Solace Summit, which was taking place in Coventry at the time the bill was pubished.
Delivering a ‘provocateur’ session, broadcaster and consultant Simon Fanshawe said he didn’t feel the innovation from delegates discussing economic growth was matched by those discussing public service reform.
Meanwhile, in an interview with Ruth Keeling, Solace’s new chair Joanna Killian made a quite different point - the expertise of council chief executives in areas such as children’s and adult services is harnessed in a way that for economic growth and infrastructure it is not.
Ms Killian’s point probably rings truer.
However ill-disposed Michael Gove may be towards local government, the department at least acknowledges the expertise that exists in the sector through its ministerial advisory group on which chief executives, children’s services directors and councillors sit. Similarly, networks of chief executives are assisting with the public health transition and provide a voice into the Department of Health.
By way of contrast, when it comes to the pursuit of growth, it is businesses that advocate relaxing planning regulations as a cure-all that get in the front door while local government’s voice is lost.
If Ms Killian can give councils genuine clout in the Treasury, hers will have been a successful term as Solace chair.
Dan Drillsma-Migrom, deputy editor
LGC View - A new chair at Solace