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Is Denham going centralist already?

June 23, 2009

Oh dear… less than three weeks after his appointment it seems the new Secretary of State for Communities is already slipping into the easy language of centralism. Commenting on the long awaited CLG place survey released today, John Denham said,

“There is a challenge here for both local and central government. I want to see local councils do more – and gain more power – to shape the services offered in their area. There is an untapped demand for local people to have more say in what goes on.

Improving services is a good end in its own right, but it needs to be matched by increased public satisfaction and increased confidence in local councils.

The opportunity for councils to gain new powers in future will depend on increasing public confidence in their role as well as the efficient and responsive delivery of services.”

So we find ourselves re-rehearsing the chicken and egg of earned autonomy. Councils need more powers to deliver better services and increased public confidence, but to get more powers they need to deliver better services and increased public confidence.

As Andy said in an earlier post, LGIU welcomes John Denham’s appointment, but his key challenge is to find ways to move beyond this Catch 22.

We’ll keep trying to help CLG to do that, but in the meantime, here’s an idea….

Let’s have a public confidence test by all means, but let’s not make it absolute: do you have confidence in local government? Let’s make it relative: who do you have more trust in, local or central government?

Wonder what the result would be…?

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Amelia Cookson permalink
    June 24, 2009 11:07 am

    Indeed – given that Westminster interprets local elections as a poll on the current government, shouldn’t we interpret council satisfaction levels as a reflection of satisfaction with Whitehall?

    I wonder what the satisfaction ratings would be for the Home Office?

    And let’s not forget some councils are hugely popular – wonder whether CLG would poll 75% public satisfaction like Wandsworth?

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