Councils 'must be freed from dependency on Whitehall', says NLGN

25 Jan 11
Councils must be given greater financial freedom and new powers over local services, a report from a leading localist think-tank recommends today
By David Williams

26 January 2011

Councils must be given greater financial freedom and new powers over local services, a report from a leading localist think-tank recommends today.


Next localism, published by the New Local Government Network, calls for a new relationship between the citizen and the state, and between local and central government.

NLGN director Simon Parker, who wrote the report, said the Localism Bill currently going through Parliament had devolved some major powers to councils and the communities they serve.

‘But the framework in which our town halls operate is still severely limited, and the latest financial settlement ties one hand behind their back.

‘At a time of challenging cuts, there is a real danger of localism becoming associated with low cost and low value public services. Councils themselves must rise to this challenge by meeting budget cuts with innovative and ambitious thinking.’

His report says that councils must be freed from dependency on Westminster, and be allowed to raise more than half of their resources locally. At present, the average authority raises just 36% of its revenue through fees, charges and council tax, the NLGN estimates.

Parker also recommends that councils be given the ability to bid to manage a wider range of services, including health, the police and Jobcentre Plus. The move would enable councils to provide more efficient and personalised services.

To help set the agenda for the localist debate over the coming years, the think-tank is to set up a Commission on Next Localism in April. It will aim to encourage local authorities and their partners to share experiences and to gather and disseminate data and evidence on how councils are coping with funding cuts.

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