Heseltine calls on local authorities to reinvent themselves

30 Jun 15

Lord Heseltine today told the annual conference of the Local Government Association that it is up to local authorities to reinvent themselves.

Speaking on the first day of the three-day convention in Harrogate, the Conservative grandee said: “It would be idle to pretend that government will devolve power to the same structures of local government that they have been taking it from for decades.”

He said local authorities must propose better ways to organise themselves for the future, making the connection between the effectiveness of local government and the UK’s international competitiveness. “For Britain to win, you have to be in the front line of our attack,” Heseltine said, observing that factors such as local transport and education have a direct bearing on long-term economic success.

Heseltine told LGA delegates he had no direct knowledge of the scale of cuts to come in local authority funding. “I suspect they will be significant,” he added. “They would have happened whichever government was elected but that won’t prevent controversy. Only the most Canute of politicians would have expected otherwise.”

Answering questions from delegates, Heseltine voiced support for the government’s policy of insisting on directly elected mayors as a condition for regional devolution. “There have to be effective structures and effective leadership,” he said, adding that he considered clear lines of accountability to the electorate a vital ingredient for improved local government: “You have to have a structure that is robust and accountability that is convincing.”

He also argued that full autonomy for all regions would always be impractical, stating that it is unreasonable to expect any financial structure to allow hundreds of different local authorities to be financially self-sufficient. “You will always have a massive redistribution from prosperous to less prosperous areas,” he said.

In answer to a question about the impact of funding cuts, Heseltine quipped that, as he is no longer a minister, he no longer has an answer for everything.

  • Lem Bingley

    Content Development Director at Public Finance and Public Finance International

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