Magazine article Public Finance

LGA Plans Sector Shake-Up

Magazine article Public Finance

LGA Plans Sector Shake-Up

Article excerpt

Sir Merrick Cockell interview

The Local Government Association is set to launch a radical reform plan for councils that will outline new ways of allocating public funding and providing services, chair Sir Merrick Cockell has revealed.

In an interview with Public Finance, Cockell set out details of the LGA's attempt to develop a 'new model' for local government, which will be launched at its annual conference in July.

In February and March, the group examined five key issues for local government at ten regional roadshows across England. Areas under the spotlight included the financial sustainability of local government, as well as the future of adult social care services and welfare reform. The group also examined what additional powers could be devolved to create an 'independent' local government sector, as well as what councils can do to boost economic growth.

Cockell said there would now be a 'deep dive' into the detail of each area to devise proposals. 'We haven't reached the conclusions yet, but we have been doing this for a few months now, going round our member authorities, with councillors and officers from those authorities and people in communities,' he told PF.

'If s focusing on the real priorities over the next years and then looking from base principles at how we can achieve those results more effectively.'

With funding reductions planned by central government until 2018, a reform package is needed to ensure councils are 'sustainable in the medium term', he said. 'It isn't just going to be for one year, or a four-year Spending Review or whatever it will be, and is actually looking to what will work better in the future.'

The proposals are being made so they can influence manifestos for the 2015 general election, and will build on the LGA's recent campaign for greater power for local government. The group assisted on the House of Commons' political and constitutional reform select committee's report on achieving independence for local government, which called for greater autonomy and fiscal powers for English authorities when it was published in January.

Cockell said the 'very core' of the model would build on independence for local government, including what he called 'real freedom' for councils.

'That's going to be one of the key elements from which the rest would flow, and therefore we'll be able to point to how greater freedoms can lead to increased growth, more infrastructure investment and more housing, and join everything together.'

Among the possible financial freedoms being examined is whether councils could be given a wider role in Comprehensive Spending Reviews, including a possible power for the LGA in dividing up available funding. …

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