The Future of Local Government

14 August 2014

A report looking at the future of local government has been published by the Association of North East Councils. Findings, recommendations and actions are set out in ‘The Future of Local Government Task and Finish Group Report’.

The report was informed by a Member-led Task and Finish Group convened by ANEC, which included members from all 12 North East authorities. The context of the report was that it should, through evidence gathering and subsequent recommendations, contribute towards developing ANEC’s advocacy position, ‘asks’ of Government and feed into specific debates and consultations in the run up to the 2015 General Election. In particular, the Group also looked to feed into the debate around the Local Government Association’s ‘Rewiring Public Services’ paper.

Three key areas of focus for the Group were as follows:

  • Financial issues - the financial challenges facing local authorities in the North East, as well as wider issues such as fair funding, multi-year settlements, the concept of the ‘local treasury’, economic growth and the ‘single pot’ and the future of the Barnett formula.
  • The Transforming Public Services agenda - including the integration of health and social care; community budgets, the Open Public Services White Paper and the role and aims of sector-led improvement.
  • Constitutional issues - including the constitutional position of local government, codifying the relationship between central and local government, devolution to Scotland and Wales – and its impact on England.

The report highlights the fact that local government faces severe financial challenges, which pose a real threat to the sustainability of the funding system, and the most deprived areas face the worst challenges – a position which the Government’s move to an incentive-based system can only exacerbate. Pressures on services continue to build, while the reduction in funding has a serious impact on the wider local economy. On a more positive note, many local authorities are seizing the initiative to transform public services – working with each other and with partners. The LGA’s Rewiring Public Services campaign picks up many of these themes.

In terms of constitutional issues, the report highlighted the need to consider the role of local government in terms of the services provided, and the case for devolved powers in line with Scotland and Wales. Additionally, the report highlighted the need to consider in due course the outcome of the Scottish Referendum, whether or not that results in a vote for independence.

Short, medium and long term actions are set out in the report along with a series of recommendations around fairer funding, the provision of public services, sector-led improvement and the role of local government.