England & Wales

What we’re reading 22/11/10


Government backtracks on school-funding proposals. Michael Gove told Andrew Marr yesterday that “local authorities will still be responsible for distributing the money that they receive to schools which are still part of the local authority family”. This won’t mean much, however, if there’s no top-slice for shared services.

Five Foundations of Real Localism. A useful contribution to the debate about the imminent Localism Bill from IPPR. The most important passage argues that it is “not uncommon in British public life for a minister to be called to answer for the conditions in a particular local hospital or school and even to assume responsibility for individual cases of failure”. The report argues that clearer local accountability structures could help tackle this problem. True. It’s also true that our national politicians will have to abandon their sado-masochist obsession with taking the punishment for local failures.

Children at risk: how Kent has let them down. Kent CC have been given a grilling by Ofsted. The report doesn’t make easy reading for the council. But, as Paul Francis rightly points out, Paul Carter is to be commended for taking this on the chin. The pervasive culture of low expectations for children in care will only be tackled if political big beasts like Paul Carter are willing to put their reputations on the line over this issue.

100 councils open their spending to public scrutiny. South Ribble Borough Council has become the one hundredth local authority to put its spending data over £500 online for “armchair auditors to scrutinise”. The wealth of data will be too much for mere mortals to process but, as in the US, a number of websites have sprung up to help people make sense of the data deluge. Interestingly, CLG has highlighted some of the best in its press release (including the excellent Openly Local). I’m almost tempted to believe that the coalition is serious about citizen-led scrutiny.

Six Rochdale Liberal Democrats resign. The BBC reported on Friday that six Liberal Democrat councillors from Rochdale Council’s Lib Dem-Conservative Coalition have resigned from the party in protest over its leadership nationally and locally. These stories are always to be treated with a pinch of salt. It’s hard to get to the bottom of the local machinations behind councillor resignations. It is interesting, however, in light of The Guardian’s report last week that grass roots Lib Dems and Labour members are “reaching out across the divide“.