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Lib Dems to vote on joint local services bodies

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Liberal Democrat members are set to debate a call to create local ‘better outcome boards’ at their conference in Glasgow next week.

These would be formed voluntarily by any three or more public bodies to commission services in an area, and would get extra funds from central government in return for efficiency savings.

A paper Protecting public services and making them work for you, drawn up by a policy working group, said boards might include, for example, councils, the NHS, the police, fire services or JobCentre Plus.

If passed by the conference, the paper will inform the party’s manifesto for next year’s general election.

It said the concept of better outcome boards built on earlier initiatives such as “total place” and community budgets, which brought together public service budgets in local areas.

“We believe there are great gains to be made from bringing together those responsible for commissioning services,” it said.

Under the plan, boards would decide their operations according to local priorities “not in a structure designed by central government”, the paper said.

Efficiency savings would be rewarded by increased funding from central government, “bypassing divisions created by organisation boundaries or Whitehall silos”, though the paper did not specify the exact relationship between savings and additional funds.

Boards would have to be “led by people who are accountable to the electorate and run in a transparent way”.

The policy paper would extend Freedom of Information obligations to private providers of public services.

Health and wellbeing boards should include a higher number of councillors drawn on a politically proportional basis, the paper said, and would “increasingly take on more responsibilities, including if they wish to for commissioning local GP services, and to be able to amend the commissioning plan of local commissioners”.

The paper also said local authorities should gain greater influence over transport, with powers for councils to commission bus services.

Elsewhere on the conference agenda, a motion proposed by party president Tim Farron urges the creation of a Housing Investment Bank to “draw in private investment and improve access to finance for social housing providers”. Local authorities would be allowed to develop homes across a range of tenures.

A separate motion on crime proposed by Cambridge MP Julian Huppert includes a proposal to devolve the custody budget for young offenders to local authorities.

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