Public sector devolution – the revolutionary way

AnnieM, February 10, 2010

Public sector budget deficit. Cutbacks. Pay freezes. Public sector debt.  These are all terms that are set to sum up 2010 and beyond. Rather a depressing forecast for the next few years you might think, and you’d be right. And to top it all, no one seems to know when the public sector recession will recover, if at all. Votes are cast, predictions are in, but we are rather lacking in definitive answers. We may as well give up now and move in our thousands to the private sector. Sell our public service souls and transcend to the Other Side.

Perhaps this won’t be necessary (unless you really, really want to, of course). We at Jobsgopublic believe there is another way. London Councils have just launched a ground-breaking manifesto which should (if it lands on the right desk and in the right e-mail boxes) move mountains.

Devolution, devolution, devolution

Forget the devolution of the late 90s. This time, it means business. Public sector business, at that.

In The Manifesto for Londoners, London Councils propose a new system of power centred round local government which collaborates with local public bodies and organisations in order to deliver efficient services which directly meet the needs of local residents. The proposals put forward in the Manifesto are designed to simplify processes and bring clearer accountability within London boroughs. It is not intended solely for London. In the future, if these proposals are adopted by Whitehall (and therefore, handed over to local councils), London will be the flagship of a successful system of devolution. Other boroughs throughout England will follow suit.

Depending on this potential power shift, residents throughout England will see vast improvements in local services. It will give local residents a voice in shaping decisions affecting their local area and solution-based services will be better tailored specific to an individual’s needs (for example, health care, specialist education, etc.) In short, devolution will work because it will allow greater collaboration and an increased use of joined-up services.

Why London?

According to the Manifesto for Londoners, London was an obvious choice for this proposal because of its economy, diversity and willingness to change. The Manifesto states that London “is vital to the success of the UK.” It reports that London’s economy brings in £251billion and consists of 400,000 businesses, 1 in 5 of which has a turnover of £5 million. 300 languages are spoken in the capital, and it is home to over 40 per cent of British Ethnic Minorities. As a result, “London local government is ideally placed to bring all public services together... services designed to fit public expectations.”

The Manifesto proposes:

  • To increase accountability of PCT non-acute care budgets within their borough
  • To bring together back-to-work schemes through a joint London board
  • To promote good practice in reducing crime and re-offending
  • To promote the London Safeguarding Children Board as the flagship body
  • To transfer overground rail responsibility to Transport for London
  • To bring together specialist disability transport services (dial-a-ride, Taxicard etc.)
  • To invest more efficiently in housing and infrastructure improvements
  • To allow all boroughs to keep council tax increases
  • To dissolve the Government Office for London (the role of Elected London Mayor duplicates many of the roles of the GOL) and transfer the remaining functions between the Mayor of London and London Boroughs.

As London Councils acknowledge, public finance is in a precarious situation that will only worsen in the coming years. But by implementing this necessary power shift from central to local government, it is believed that savings of £1.2 billion will be delivered within five years. And if this process of devolution is to be accepted, it is London that must embrace it first. The Manifesto concludes:

"By delivering the first wave of devolution we can chart a path for better public service and more value for money in England as a whole."

Viva La devolution revolution!