England & Wales Brexit, Democracy, devolution and governance

Memo for the new PM…let local government deliver

Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

And then there were two…. After a dramatic week last week (followed by a tumultuous weekend) we now know which of two men will become Prime Minister at the end of July. This is about as close as things get to certainty in British politics right now, writes Jonathan Carr-West.

A lot of the focus is inevitably on the candidate’s approach to Brexit; parsing in huge detail their level of commitment to leaving on 31st of October and their degree of willingness to leave without a deal.

But while Brexit remains a crucial issue for the future of the country, it’s just one thing on the new Prime Minister’s in tray. There’s a whole host of domestic policy issues which need picking up.

Just this week our Local Government Homelessness Commission published a compelling report detailing the lack of any sort of comprehensive policy strategy to tackle homelessness and the causes of homelessness. We know that the Social Care Green Paper has been kicked endlessly into touch. And I can hardly bear to talk any more about the sheer insanity of the fact that we don’t know how local government will be funded this time next year.

And that’s just the key issues on the local government wish list. Every other part of the public policy landscape will have a similar list of issues.

How on earth can we expect a new government and a new Prime Minister to get on top of all this?

Well, I have a suggestion that might help reduce their work load…..

They could not do it. That is, they could let local government do it. We know that local government has the ideas and the capacity to deliver on key challenges like building homes, growing local economies or integrating health and social care if they’re given the ability to get on with it: through a stable funding system and through adequate powers and through the removal of government interference and ring fencing.

I don’t have any great expectation that this is going to happen but, as I argue on our latest podcast, the new Prime Minister could be the one to decide to give their government more bandwidth, to focus on Brexit and other key national priorities, by finally creating a decentralised political settlement in this country. Creating a stable, sustainable funding system for local government and then devolving delivery.

Westminster is convulsed by drama and when this drama is over there’ll be another one: the Brexit deadline, a general election, another leadership election. It will go on and on.

But local government is still there, still delivering. Ready, willing and able to do more. The next Prime Minister will have plenty of challenges. This is one opportunity he could seize.

Jonathan Carr-West is Chief Executive of LGiU.