Much of the government’s policy agenda has been framed around the pursuit of a more democratic Britain. This was, of course, the soul of the Big Society initiative, the heart of the coalition’s localism drive and a key part of the rationale for Andrew Lansley’s controversial health reforms.
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And who could object to these noble aims - greater transparency, more choice and control in the hands of citizens, services wrapped around the needs of individuals, shared decision making and co-production of services with communities?
The building work came thick and fast. The Police and Social Responsibility Act, which paved the way for police and crime commissioners (PCCs), was quickly followed by the Localism Act. The Health and Social Care Act led to the creation of a complex web of new bodies, all with a leadership responsibility for driving improved outcomes for health and wellbeing.
More than halfway through the construction process, it is perhaps time for ministers to pause for breath, survey the changing landscape and consider whether it will all come together in the end.
Indeed, perhaps it is no mistake that David Cameron’s Big Society has been quietly locked away and a carefully crafted government reshuffle has moved certain key players into new terrain.
Rather than simplifying the system for citizens, has the government created a monster that is even harder for individuals to understand, let alone navigate or have any real influence over?
What does the arrival of newly elected mayors, PCCs, clinical commissioning groups, police and crime panels, health and wellbeing boards and local enterprise partnerships mean for community governance and the leadership of place?
What is the role of Solace and the local authority chief executive in this context and does it place at risk the creation of stronger local democracies, communities where citizens are empowered individually and collectively to make change in their own lives and in the lives of others?
Philippa Mellish, policy manager, Solace
The Solace Summit will be will be the UK’s largest gathering of local authority Chief Executives and senior managers. It will be held in Coventry between 16 and 18 October.
Book your place by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or phoning 0845 652 4010. You can pay over the phone by credit card or request an invoice. FInd out more at http://solacesummit2012.wordpress.com/bookings.