What will local government look like in 2020?
Published by Paul O'Brien on Thursday, October 11th, 2012 at 17:04 pm
This article is based on a recent column I did for the MJ magazine.
What will local government look like in 2020? My answer is that it will depend significantly on what elected members and officers want it to look like and the policy choices they make.
Whilst I accept that central government decisions will always have an impact in shaping local government, it is members and officers, in conjunction with the local public, who will decide what the political vision for an area is, what outcomes are pursued to achieve this and how this is implemented through the services the council is responsible for providing and delivering.
By 2020, hopefully the country will have moved beyond the age of austerity and the significant funding crisis faced by local authorities at present. In APSE we are debating ideas about how local government can become more self-confident, more self-reliant and more self-sufficient. Our model 'the ensuring council' continues to develop and gain traction.
What does an ensuring council look like? Well it is leaner but not hollowed out. It retains the ability to respond to the public policy issues of the day because it continues to have the capacity that allows it too. It is the steward of place by playing an active role, both directly and indirectly, in the local economy. It also maintains democratic accountability over the area and ensures a fair distribution of resources by promoting social justice. The ensuring council is an active community leader not a passive bystander allowing others to ration its resources and make decisions based on profitability not local priorities.
When we face the huge public policy challenges of today and tomorrow on local economic growth, climate change, housing need, youth unemployment, elderly care, public health and welfare reform, should local government have the ability to respond or should it be a creature so emasculated of capacity that it merely stands aside and watches as others force market solutions on local communities? In APSE we believe that communities deserve something better, we need a model for local government that ensures that current and future public policy challenges are met and solutions are found.
At present it’s about staying calm and carrying on, it’s about developing a balanced and proportionate response. It’s about efficiency, innovation and income generation. It’s about developing solutions and adapting to change. It’s your time, a time for political vision and leadership, a time for professional officers to develop and implement strategy, a time to engage the public, a time to harness the energy of the workforce and lead them on a journey to a new model of public services that is fit for the future.