A practical guide for Local Authorities – from the New Economics Foundation
All local authorities hope to govern in a way that promotes well-being and tackles societal problems at their root. But with finances slashed and demand for public services swelling, struggling councils are seeing these objectives drift further and further out of reach. What can be done? A new model of public service commissioning is evolving across England that may hold the key.
The word ‘crisis’ has become commonplace in local government over the last five years. Reeling from cuts of up to 30%, councils are faced with the seemingly impossible task of stretching dwindling funds ever further. But new strategies are out there. By embracing the skills, time and energy of those who know most about public services – the people who use them – and switching focus towards identifying and achieving the long-term outcomes that really matter, councils are breathing new life into the services they commission. This handbook and practical guide is the result of eight years of collaboration between the New Economics Foundation (NEF) and local authorities.
Right across the length and breadth of the country many local and principal councils have already seen the benefits of devolving service delivery to a more local level. By working more closely on shared ambitions they are already reaping the rewards.
The models described in this publication are based on the experiences of just some of these councils.
But with nearly 400 principal councils and around 9,000 local councils in England alone, there could be an almost infinite number of ways that they could work together. The five approaches described are not meant to offer a prescriptive solution to partnership working and delivering localism and community empowerment. Rather, drawing on the experiences of those that have already done it, they aim to offer food for thought with some recommended do’s and don’ts for those councils that are just contemplating setting off down this path to consider.
Readers of this report – be they councillors or officers – are invited to take a ‘pick and mix’ approach to the models outlined and adapt the elements and ideas included to create a plan and way of working together that best suits their local context.
This workbook has been designed as a learning aid for all councillors, regardless of their experience or responsibilities. It makes no assumptions about how long they have been elected or their experience or lack of as a leader in their community.
Those who are relatively new to local government or the practical and philosophical issues concerning their community leadership role may feel there is much ground to cover. This workbook will brief and update on the key aspects of this role in the context of the opportunities and challenges facing our communities today.
A guide for councillors to understand difference, work more effectively, and get their message across.
In a nutshell you need to be prepared to speak out but also to listen; to focus on the here and now as well as the big picture stuff of the future; you need to develop empathy with people and motivate them but check out the business case and press for real outcomes; and you need clarity of thought and clear goals but not be too rigid but be able to adapt quickly to unforeseen circumstances and changes in plan
This is an updated edition of the ground breaking research into the personality of local politicians and how that affects their ability to lead across a range of activities. Over one and a half thousand councillors are included in this study together with updated information relating to public sector managers.
Recognising that the landscape is far more complex than it was a decade ago and that local government has a democratic right to provide leadership across a geographic area, the LGA has produced a framework of new leadership skills to meet this challenge and maximise the opportunity for councillors to provide genuine local leadership of place.
The Local Government Association believe that great leaders make great places and this is their third iteration of the political skills framework as they aim to keep pushing forward the thinking and development of political support for councillors.
The Six core skills for councillors include:
- Local leadership
- Partnership working
- Communication skills
- Political understanding
- Scrutiny and challenge
- Regulating and monitoring
Each of the skill set definitions describe what is expected of councillors if they are to be effective and influential in their role. It is recognised that there is no ‘one best way’ to be a councillor. Each member will approach their role as a community leader in a very different way from their colleagues, but by discussion with over 350 members
and officers the indicators below reflect commonly held views about what might be considered excellent and poor councillor behaviour.
The publication encourages councillors to ask themselves a variety of questions and reflect on their current and potential role.
In autumn 2012 the New Local Government Network (an independent think tank that seeks to transform public services, revitalise local political leadership and empower local communities) conducted a survey of district council chief executives and this was followed with interviews and round tables to discuss a series of thematic areas discussed, hosted by Lancaster City Council and Newark and Sherwood District Council.
This report argues that District Councils have a unique contribution to make to local governance, offering a powerful mix of democratic leadership, stewardship of place, proximity to people, a high degree of public visibility, are responsible for largely universal services and touch the lives of many citizens.
If they are to be fit for the future they must relentlessly focus on achieving the best outcomes for people and place. This means they may have to restructure, lead on unfamiliar policy areas or partner where they would previously have worked alone. The journey may not be smooth and the speed of change unprecedented but, it is essential that they recognise and take up the challenge of working differently. In this report the new ways of working have been grouped as 6 pathways to help shed some light on what the future could hold. They are:
The pathways account for the short term policy environment, on-going debates on economies of scale versus locality and the longer terms trends.
The gauntlet is thrown down – retreat to a role as residual service provider or champion a coherent and compelling account of place to meet local needs – and the debate kicked off!
Perspectives on the Localism Act for union and community organisers and activists
National Coalition for Independent Action and the TUC
The government claims that the Localism Act will “shift power from central government back into the hands of individuals, communities and councils”. But how far does it devolve to the local level? How will it affect communities and the voluntary groups that serve them? What impact will it have on public services and the workers who deliver them? What will it mean for social housing tenants? And how will its impacts be shared across communities?
This booklet looks at some of those question, inviting a number of different community and voluntary sector groups, along with the TUC, to offer their perspectives. A unifying theme that comes through is a shared concern about the government’s ‘big society’ and ‘open public services’ agenda and how the creation of public service markets and an individualist and consumer-led approach to public service reform might lead to growing inequality within and between communities, markets that exclude community participation, competition at the expense of collaboration and localism that devolves responsibility and blame but not resources or power. As well as threats, the Localism Act does provide opportunities and this booklet also acts as a guide for community and trade union activists, pointing them to some of the ways in which new powers might be accessed to help promote and build community action from neighbourhood planning to living wage campaigns.
Over the next few years, the implications of the Localism Act for local community action and public services will become clearer. This publication flags up some of the issues that are likely to arise, recognising that it will be on the ground where we see what really happens and the impact it has on the community organisations and trade unions representing local people and workers in public services.
The Community Right to Challenge is expected to come into force on 27 June 2012
This is a great introduction to asset based working, locating it in global roots and offering inspiring cases studies from around the world as well as posing helpful reflective questions to the reader. I found the questions around structures and systems helpful to identify what might be needed to move organisations to an asset focus.
The Power Cube has been developed over the past few years and made available by The Participation, Power and Social Change team at the Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex.
They acknowledge that there are just as many approaches to analysing and understanding power as there are debates about its meanings! Although The Power Cube uses one particular approach, it has also been used effectively in combination with other concepts, tools and methods for power analysis, some of which are also included on the website.
The Power Cube is an innovative tool that can be used for understanding and analysing the way power works in processes of governance, in organizations, and in social relationships. It provides practical ideas, materials and resources to help think about and respond to power relations within organizations and within wider social and political spaces and institutions. Although applicable anywhere it has been used extensively by NGOs and other international development organisations, grappling with what gets in the way of change and exploring complex relationships.
For any of us who want to see change and feel frustrated why inertia often seems to be a default position, exploring power dynamics can help to expose the blockages and point to ways forward. The Power Cube can help us to:
- explore various aspects of power and how they interact with each other – both ‘visible’ and ‘invisible’ power
- visually map ourselves and our situation, including other actors, relationships and forces
- think about how power is ‘expressed’ – ‘power over’, power to’, ‘power with’, and ‘power within’
- look at possibilities for movement, mobilization and change.