16 May 2008
The local government minister has called for improved links between local authorities and the business community.
Speaking at the PricewaterhouseCoopers Government Forum on transforming public services through collaboration, John Healey said he would like council leaders to be confident enough to 'set up a town hall of all the talents'.
Answering questions at the conference, held on May 13, he hinted at changes to how non-domestic rates are redistributed to increase the involvement and influence of business in local government – as taxpayers, investors and also service partners or contractors.
He said: 'I'm interested in seeing whether we can adjust the tax system in a way that allows local areas to gain some recognition, some reward, some retention, where there are increases in their tax-funding base.'
He added that there were far-reaching challenges for the public sector that would have to be met through more innovation and collaboration.
Healey made much of the success of Local Area Agreements, saying there was 99% agreement between central and local government on priorities, despite early doubts over whether Whitehall departments would cede control.
In a statement released the same day, the Department for Communities and Local Government said 80% of councils had agreed their LAA indicators.
Healey said the LAA approach should be seen as a way for central government to commission and fund local services, with stronger shared services, pooled budgets and duties to co-operate.
Speaking at the conference, Professor Sue Richards, director of strategic capability at the National School of Government, said there was reason to believe that 'we are at a tipping point in terms of a transformational change'.
She added: 'There are significant numbers of senior civil servants who believe in the need for fundamental change.'