Review of Reviews: People Powered Public Services

Laura Wilkes

Labour’s policy review considered how to tackle some of our biggest political challenges. We asked a panel of experts whether its external commissions make the grade…

What it says:

The state was built to meet the needs of a different era, when communities were less diverse and citizens didn’t live as long. Government is struggling to deliver the resources required to meet rocketing demand for public services. People Powered Public Services by the Local Government Innovation Taskforce recommends a New English Deal, which would devolve power and financing to local governments to provide longer-term funding certainty. Local governments would therefore possess greater control over health and care, education, policing and childcare services. Independent Local Public Accounts Committees would also be implemented to assess the efficiency and delivery of these services. 

Laura Wilkes (New Local Government Network):

“Basing the future of public services around people power, collaboration and prevention is a positive first step for Labour in making concrete proposals on devolution. Devolving powers will have great benefits locally, not least in enabling councils (and their partners) to shift towards preventative public services, which through local determination could better meet the complex needs of communities.

While many of the recommendations are pragmatic, we must question whether they go far enough. The Taskforce recommends setting out a path to sustainable public services, but the devolution plans in the report will not do enough to shift the relationship between local and central government. Central government will still hold power and control the purse strings, infantilising local government. While there is potential in the report, we are not told whether a radical redistribution of power would involve more localised taxation arrangements, less reliance on central grants or whether local governments would be equal partners of central government.

Instead, the report appears to propose a trade-off between limited powers in exchange for greater local responsibility. While we know that with power comes responsibility, and that councils should be accountable for the right outcomes, we must also recognise the implicit dangers. Will central government slip back into systems of old; making local government responsible for delivering central pledges rather than locally determined core priorities? Will local government be answerable to ministers or to local people? Ultimately, devomax must set out further devolution plans to councils. This report is a step in the right direction but there is still a long path ahead”.

This article originally appeared as part of a larger feature ‘Review of the Reviews’, collated by Rebecca Staddon, in the Winter edition of the Fabian Review. Look out for our other scorecards, which will be republished on the Fabian Review Online soon. 

 

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