Magazine article Public Finance

Kelly Pledges Shift from 'Top-Down' to 'Trusting'

Magazine article Public Finance

Kelly Pledges Shift from 'Top-Down' to 'Trusting'

Article excerpt

The tangle of performance indicators and reporting requirements that are throttling local government will be swept away following a wide-ranging review being set up to slash red tape in the sector, Ruth Kelly pledged this week

The communities and local government secretary, giving her maiden speech to the Local Government Association's annual conference in Bournemouth on July 5, said the time had come for a radical shift from a 'top-down state" to a 'trusting state', in recognition that local authorities had risen to the government's challenge to improve.

A high-level task force, to be chaired by Telford and Wrekin Council chief executive Michael Prater will sift through the plethora of almost 600 items of performance information that councils have to submit to an array of government departments and inspectorates.

Research commissioned from PricewaterhouseCoopers and published by Kelly to coincide with her speech found that 80% of councils' performance reporting is information required by Whitehall, while just 20% is for the direct benefit of residents.

The study also concluded that these requirements cost authorities on average £1.8m a year to comply with them.

Kelly said it was time for Whitehall ministries to realise that 'their job is to set clear frameworks for delivery and reporting, not to interfere and micro-manage' local public services.

But she hinted that other departments remained to be convinced of the merits of deregulation, telling local government it would have to prove itself worthy of greater responsibility.

'There will be others less confident of the ambition that we share and our ability to deliver it,' Kelly told delegates, and vowed to 'prove the sceptics wrong'.

She sought to allay suspicions among some delegates that her promises would not yield tangible results. 'I guess you have heard some of this vision before and are asking: "is it for real this time?". Well, I'm clear that it is.'

Kelly also used her speech to promise a 'radical' white paper in the autumn that would deliver significant deregulation and a devolution of power and responsibilities to the appropriate level.

Kelly defended the centralising target-driven approach the government had introduced after 1997 as necessary to tackle underperformance. …

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