Giles Roca, Head of Strategy at Westminster City Council sees a future without councils but with more choice for communities.
Councils will no longer exist as we currently know them by 2043. Instead, a series of democratically elected local leaders with a mandate as the guarantor of all public services across functional economic areas will emerge.
Such leaders will have responsibilities and powers now the preserve of the Whitehall including welfare, employment support, skills and taxation – they themselves will have a duty for reducing inequality whilst making their areas economically attractive and prosperous. The leaders will hold to account the full range of blue light services scrutinising the work of the NHS and overseeing local justice models.
Local leaders will need to work together to improve connectiveness in areas such as transport, IT infrastructure and global networks to attract new investment both nationally and internationally.
Devolution along the lines envisaged by the London Finance Commission will mean that leaders will have the full range of fiscal tools available to them to target local priorities and attract investment. With this will come new obligations and forms of scrutiny. For example, in return for the localisation of business rates, businesses will have local representation.
Early preventative intervention will run through all future service delivery as leaders recognise that only with such an approach will the issues of an ageing population be tackled. New digital technologies will mean communities will have far greater choice over the services they receive; residents will be able to choose to receive personalised services from any area they wish creating a market within local public services.
Leaders will be held to account by their own local electorates, including business, but also by a new constitutional settlement enshring their role and responsibility in statute and meaning that parliament, rightly, will also play a greater role in holding local leaders to account.
That this vision will need fundamental change in structures, models of delivery and mindset is beyond doubt; as it will new devolution and constitutional settlements.
To get there will need strong leadership, determination and a clear vision from today’s local politicians. But the prize is well worth the effort – as the vision for local services in 2043 will see local leaders with the full range of tools at their disposal resulting in better, more responsive services and better value for money that will ultimately benefit local people and their communities.