Office of The Deputy Prime Minister Committee
HC 547, Third Report of Session 2010-12 - Report, Together with Formal Minutes, Oral and Written Evidence
- House of Commons - Communities and Local Government Committee
- TSO (The Stationery Office)
'Localism (HC 547)' finds that the Government's desire to deliver localism is neither supported consistently across Whitehall nor implemented coherently by each department of state. This inquiry examines the interpretation and implementation of this policy throughout Government and finds that the approach to the principle of localism has been marked by inconsistency and incoherence.
MPs warn that the Minister for Decentralisation will need to bring coherence, rigour and clear priorities to the Government's programme. The MPs call for a more explicit statement about where the dividing line will be drawn between a central, light-touch framework for local services and unwarranted interference from ministers in local affairs.
So far the Government has shown itself all too eager to impose its preferences on local decision-making. Ministers have also introduced policies that circumvent rather than empower local government: elected police commissioners, free schools, academies and health service reform, threaten to fragment rather than integrate delivery of better public services at local level.
As devolution proceeds, the manner in which local decisions are taken come under greater scrutiny. Any reduction in the inspection and performance management required by Whitehall must be accompanied by stronger local democratic accountability.
Broadening the provider base for public services is an important plank of the government's decentralisation agenda, but it remains unclear how far the 'Big Society' can expand to take on services and functions shed by statutory bodies.
Localism should not be adopted purely as a way to curb public sector costs not least because the financial benefits of more tailored services may not offset the loss of efficiencies of scale. Stimulating greater democratic participation and civic activism will itself cost money if it is to be successful and sustainable.
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