Labour leader Ed Miliband has said he would expand councils’ financial powers if he won next year’s general election, but only if local equivalents of the public accounts committee were created.
Mr Miliband launched a report by Labour’s Local Government Innovation Taskforce, which he said “charts a new course away from the old top-down command model and towards an era of people-powered public services”.
Councils would be given long-term funding settlements in which to plan ahead for their services, and unspecified new powers and access to central funding.
The only specific funding stream earmarked for devolution was £1.5bn for further education for 19- to 24-years-olds and responsibility for a new service for those under aged 21 looking for work.
Mr Miliband said the new local versions of the public accounts committee would be led by councillors to “challenge, hold to account and improve all public services in their area”.
He added: “I know there is a certain cynicism about promises to hand power from Whitehall to local people; they are often made in opposition and then broken in government. But the difference is that I am setting out a plan designed to meet the challenge for progressive parties in our age.”
The taskforce was set up in June 2013 led by Manchester City council leader Sir Richard Leese, Stevenage BC leader Sharon Taylor and Jules Pipe, elected mayor of Hackney LBC.
It recommended that the best performing local authorities with strong governance arrangements – it gave the example of the Greater Manchester combined authority – would be able to negotiate further devolution of powers and funding.
Labour said it would give local areas greater powers to integrate health and social care, with health and wellbeing boards gaining new responsibilities to deliver a commissioning plan for people with long-term conditions, disability and frailty.
The party said it would also look at “ways in which local authorities could be given a greater say in appointing local police commanders, setting priorities and ensuring that every neighbourhood gets value for money from the police”, though it did not say whether it would retain the coalition’s system of elected police and crime commissioners.