7th January 2014
As regular readers of our blog will know we have recently embarked on a small mini-series of posts about the relationship between local and central government and how they can be improved. Before Christmas we discussed secondments, internet dating, the possible abolition of the DCLG the Barnett formula, safe spaces for discussion, the Public Sector Transformation Network and sharing the policy making process.
It’s quite a list and ranges from the cultural elements we believe are absolutely crucial to more structural issues that are far more difficult to fix. Today, we wanted to address an issue which is a combination of both but has become so entrenched that it is basically a structural issue now; that of trust between the sectors.
Simply put, central government does not really trust local government to deliver services in the interests of the populations it serves and local government does not trust central government to stop interfering in its work. In the first instance this leads to central government delivering services that should really be delivered locally and interfering in those services that have already been passed to local authorities. Examples of the latter are not difficult to come by.
Central government, in these cases through the DCLG, is constantly interfering in issues that really should have nothing to do with them. That is why Eric Pickles, as Secretary of State, can feel justified in launching new guidance on issues such as regularity of bin collections (this guidance had money attached), parking in town centres and local authority magazines to name but three high profile examples. What is striking about this is that it is not just local government who seem to be untrusted but also the local populations who vote for these local councils. If town centre parking or bin collections or even council newspapers are such a problem surely the local people will just ‘vote the bums out’ without the intervention of Mr Pickles or his predecessors?
And yet, just as central government doesn’t trust local government it also doesn’t trust local people to either vote out their local council if they disagree with them OR not vote out the national government for the sins of their local council.
Likewise, central government doesn’t trust local authorities to take on the delivery of more services.