Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

Nigel Keohane: Five future models for local government

Nigel Keohane
  • Comment

Councils have it hard.

nigel

nigel keohane

Nigel Keohane

The Local Government Association has estimated a funding gap of £5.8bn by 2020. The Social Market Foundation’s latest report, Local Public Services 2040, points to a fall of a quarter in the local government workforce this decade and borrowing on the rise.

Things are not set to get any easier over the next two decades. The over-75 population is set to grow by 89%, putting huge pressure on the health and social care services. Expectations of public services are likely to rise. Environmental risks are likely to intensify. The strength of the local tax base will increasingly determine the resources that councils have to play with, whilst disparities across regional economies may well continue.

It is easy to be gloomy about the future role of councils but this is to ignore some huge new opportunities, responsibilities and roles for local government over the coming years. Our report sketches out five possible future models:

  • ‘Industrial Councils’ – large councils with stronger tax-raising powers, with their own muscular business departments. Such councils would play important roles in addressing local market failures in, for instance, digital and communications infrastructure, and re-skilling the population for the technology revolution.
  • ‘Ofcouncils’ – Funding pressures may steer councils to pursue social and economic objectives through regulation rather than service provision. Concerns over safety, affordability and tenure rights may see councils do more to regulate the private rented housing sector. Ethical questions and new risks around emerging technologies such as driverless cars may require councils to act as arbiters and regulators.
  • ‘Tech opportunists’ – Tech is often viewed as leading to less human services but in healthcare, devices and apps that help monitor conditions can help individuals live much more independently at home and with their family. In social care, robots could be used for basic activities efficiently, leaving carers to devote more time to human interaction.
  • ‘Community Councils’ – In a more atomised society, councils will seek to address the growing shortfall of family carers through networks of intergenerational support. Steps to promote community integration will also help prepare areas to respond to external incidents such as floods or disasters and counteract the threat of social disorder.
  • ‘The Commissioning Council Revisited’ – Drawing on experiments already underway, councils will prioritise the role of local market-makers and look to financing methods such as crowd-funding that engage citizens in prioritising and funding community projects.

These are just some potential visions of the future, in a world where diversity and innovation will be greater than ever.

Nigel Keohane, director of research, Social Market Foundation

 

  • Comment

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions.

Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.