LGiU reaction to Open Public Services White Paper

Today sees the long awaited launch of the government’s public services White paper opening up of public services to private and third sector providers. For local government much of this will look familiar.

Around the country councils of all political persuasions have been looking at different ways of delivering services, but while some are leading the way with innovative new approaches others are struggling to look forward at the same time as managing huge budget cuts in year. This raises questions about how prepared the public sector is for this approach.

Recent LGiU research showed that more than 9 out of 10 councils had not conducted assessments of the risk and opportunities presented by the community right to challenge.

Jonathan Carr-West, director, LGiU said;

“The key to delivering the choice and local control the Prime Minister wants is to break the budgetary stranglehold of the big Whitehall departments – a point made clearly in the CLG structural reform plan but yet to be delivered on.

At present CLG is the only government department actively pushing community budgets. This needs to become standard practice across Whitehall and the resulting pooled budgets used to support the open services approach. Without this there is a real danger that a more diverse public service supply side will be fragmentary and ineffective.

There are also important issues around accountability. The Prime Minister talked about new forms of accountability through the exercise of consumer choice, but this must operate alongside, not in competition with, the exercise of local democracy.

Giving power to citizens and communities to shape the public services they use is an important objective. David Cameron said ‘other governments pay lip service to localism we’re really doing it’ but it is only as individual departments formulate their implementation plans that we’ll see whether this is really true”.

Notes

The Local Government Information Unit (LGiU) is a think tank and registered charity working to strengthen local democracy to put citizens in control of their own lives, communities and local services.

If you require any further information, please contact Rob Dale on 020 7554 2855 / 07854 138517 or on rob.dale@lgiu.org.uk.