Magazine article Public Finance

Green for Go

Magazine article Public Finance

Green for Go

Article excerpt

How can ministers in Whitehall change the behaviour of the public services without resorting to the clunking fist of state control?

It's a question Chief Secretary to the Treasury Andy Burnham, one of Gordon Brown's sharp young blades, sought to answer this week in his first major speech since joining the Cabinet.

He promised to use the Comprehensive Spending Review to join up government, slash targets and empower the professionals to respond to local priorities. Sound familiar? Well, the rhetoric certainly is.

Whether in Burnham's case it is genuine will become clear when he unveils the Public Service Agreements, which underpin the CSR, in the autumn. These will be the vehicle by which his pledges are delivered, if at all.

A further test will be whether the government makes good on the recommendations of the sub-national review, published this week, which outlines the case for a range of powers to be devolved from Whitehall to local government.

Burnham's speech addressed an interesting question though, and it was also raised at last week's Public Finance round table on sustainability in local government, hosted in association with the 4Ps (see cover feature on pages 16-19).

As veteran green campaigner Jonathon Porritt told the participants, there has been a calamitous process' of 'incoherence and mixed messages' on the sustainability agenda, which has led to a frustrating lack of progress. …

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