NLGN’s new commission for our times.
There has been a radical shift in the past year in the way the UK is governed. For the first time in a generation, a group of politicians is actually loosening the reins of control and removing the bureaucratic infrastructure of targets and inspections that have shackled local public services for decades.
Combined with deeply challenging cuts, the government’s localism agenda is creating a pressure cooker for change across the boroughs, districts and counties of England. From street cleaning to criminal justice, almost every facet of local public service provision will have to change over the next decade.
We believe that local government has a key role to play in leading this process - its democratic mandate puts it in a unique position to redesign services, change behaviour and encourage civic engagement.
But councils cannot expect to be handed this role from on high. In a world of free schools, rights to challenge and elected police commissioners, local politicians need to establish that they are more than just one clamouring voice among many.
We need to move away from the new localism of the past decade, which emphasised squeezing more power out of Whitehall. Instead, we need to develop the next localism - a new agenda for helping councils seize their own destiny.
This is the goal of our new commission: to develop a new generation of thinking that will help revitalise local government for an era of startling social, technological and environmental change. We do not plan to preach to local government: many of us come from the sector, so we know that councils are already innovating their way out of the current financial crisis. We plan to draw liberally on their work.
At a time of dramatic short-term cuts, we also know that local government badly needs thinking space and the chance to focus on the long term.
Our commission hopes to generate new thinking in key areas of policy, including future models for local government, new routes for economic growth, innovation in local services, the future of finance and the structure of Whitehall.
Whatever you think of the government’s current policies - and we know there is much scepticism - the incumbent administration represents a unique opportunity to develop a more localist style of governing.
If we can successfully navigate the profound challenges of the coming years, then we might be able to achieve the goal of socially powerful, self-governing localities.
That is the vision this commission will champion.
Any media enquiries on the commission should go through NLGN.
The commissioners are:
- Chair - Rafael Behr (chief leader writer of The Observer)
- Indy Johar - Consultant
- Sheena Ramsey - Chief executive, Knowsley MBC
- Dr Andrew Povey (Con) - Leader, Surrey CC
- Cllr Peter John (Lab) - Leader, Southwark MBC
- Catherine Staite - Director, Inlogov
- Chris Bull - Chief executive, Herefordshire CC and Herefordshire PCT