Working Characterising Central Local Government Relationships Since 97
A Framework for Analysis
• Ideological / Managerial
• Tempestuous / Harmonious
• Clarity & Consistency / Confusion
• Effective Change / Process
• Repeated structural reform ‘pre’ and ‘post’ Maud Commission
• Cyclical economic and social distress; urban riots, poll tax riots,
spending cuts, public sector strikes
• Ideologically driven divisive relationships e.g. GLA, Livingston, Hatton,
Sheffield, Ridley, widespread capping
• Rapid centralisation to central government
• Forced outward transfer of functions / power often highly contested e.g.
Compulsory Competitive Tendering, UBR, UDCs, EZs, SRB, City
Challenge, Right to Buy, Water Supply, growth of the ‘Quango State’
• Northern and Midland cities perceived as ‘problems’
• Central = Conservative Local = Labour
The Government and the LGA have agreed that the framework should:
•promote effective local democracy, with strong and accountable
•support continuous improvement in the quality of local government
•increase the discretion and local accountability of local authorities on
expenditure and revenue raising matters;
•enable and encourage local authorities to modernise and revitalise
their structures and working practices;
• provide for services and decision making affecting local communities
to be undertaken at the level which is closest to the people and area to
be served; and
•uphold standards of conduct in public life
A Framework for Partnership (1997)
• Leadership; Armstrong, Miliband, Kelly, Blears and
Denham; Elected Mayors, Beacon Councils, Cabinets,
• Organisational; DoE, DETR, DTLR, ODPM, DCLG and
• Legislative; Main Acts of ‘99, ‘00, ‘03, ‘07, ‘09
• Geography; Regional, Core Cities, City Regions (1 & 2),
Sub Regions, ‘Neighbouring Authorities’ and boundary
• Tools; Best Value, LPSA, Lyons Review, CPA, CAA, LAAs,
MAAs, Prudential Borrowing, LABGI, Supplementary
Business Rates, CDCs, EPBs, Area Based Grant, ADZs,
Case Study: Area Based Grants
• Over £4.8 billion from approx 40 former specific grants from
DCSF, DfT, DEFRA, Communities & Local Government, Home
• Allocated on a three year basis according to specific policy
priorities rather than general formulae
• ‘Local authorities are free to use all of their non-ring fenced
funding as they see fit’
• ‘There is no expectation that local authorities will use the
funding to support the objectives of the former specific grants’
• ‘No restrictions on ability to carry forward into next financial
• A role for Local Strategic Partnerships in shaping mainstream
Case Study: Area Based Grants
• What impacts on and re-action from other central departments?
e.g. Department of Transport
• What impacts on and reaction from local services e.g. adult social
care, teenage pregnancy etc
• Specific allocations from former specific grants still identified in
• No capital included despite importance of ‘place’
• No requirement to spend on LAA targets?
• Perverse incentive; more deprivation brings more cash
• Specific indications already given by central government e.g.
Working Neighbourhoods Fund of £10.294m in Newcastle in
FY10/11 from total of £40.8m (CLG = £27.28m)
Case Study: Local Area Agreements
• Statutory (but MAAs are voluntary)
• “Set out the priorities for a local area agreed between central
government and a local area (the local authority and Local Strategic
Partnership) and other key partners at the local level”.
• “Simplify some central funding, help join up public services more
effectively and allow greater flexibility for local solutions to local
• “Through these means, LAAs are helping to devolve decision
making, move away from a 'Whitehall knows best' philosophy and
• No more than 35 negotiated (designated) alongside 16 statutory
education and early years targets.
• A single annual performance review
Case Study: Local Area Agreements
• Only 51 indicators! Why measure remainder of 198 if they are not
important? Many indicators simply not readily available at local level.
• Full freedom to choose the 35 indicators?
• How assess propensity to improve performance? Performance often
indicative of structural, cyclical and macro / national or city-region
conditions … not likely to improve on an annual basis …and not
necessarily of actions of local government and other agencies
• What real relationship between LAAs and MAAs?
• Do all places want growth?
• What relationship between leadership role of local authorities and Local
Strategic Partnership (with increasingly emphasised role of agencies of
• A mechanical / mathematical system of performance management
offering a massive 0.54% ‘reward’ on 100% completion.
Post ’97: A Commentary
• Real opportunity of historically benign fiscal environment
• Unusually ‘polite’ debate between central and local
government (central = Labour local = Conservative)
• Greatest focus on outcomes or on process?
• Post recession expansion e.g. post offices, TV stations,
mortgages, loans, house building, land / property purchases,
statutory duty on local economic assessments etc
• Understanding the perspectives of central government e.g.
39% real growth in expenditure, Section 2, power to trade &
charge, Prudential Borrowing, Area Based Grant, ability to
make byelaws, and what specific additional ‘freedoms and
Ongoing Fundamental Challenges
• Relative priorities, assessing political gain and pain?
• Legal uncertainties within a constitutional vacuum; how to clarify the power
of ‘well being’ or of ‘general competence’
• Leadership / Accountability vs. ‘Gearing’ and new Transparency of
• Democratic community leadership or one partner amongst many? What
potential of ‘Total Place’ to overcome the power of other centralist
• Variable functional geographies vs. practically fixed administrative
boundaries; and persistent ‘intra’ and ‘inter’ local and regional disparities
• Universal service provision vs. ‘post code lottery’ or the ‘easyjet’ model?
• Historically rapid and unrecognised demographic shift
• Building democratic legitimacy
‘We want to generate vibrant local
democracy in every part of the county, and
to give real control over local decisions
and services to a wider pool of active
citizens. We want to shift power, influence
and responsibility away from existing
centres of power into the hands of
communities and individual citizens’.
‘UK Government (2008) White Paper: Communities in
control, Real people, real power'
‘By giving power and financial incentives to local
authorities to foster growth, we can start to move
towards a national economy that is built from
strong, vibrant, local economies – an economy
that is far less vulnerable to global shocks or the
failures of a few dominant industries. By giving
people more power and control over the
services that are delivered in their areas, we can
inspire a new spirit of civic pride in our
communities. It’s simple psychology – when
people know their actions can make a real
difference they are far more motivated to get
‘Conservative Party (2009) Control Shift: Returning
Power to Local Communities’