Give districts key devolution role, INLOGOV suggests

8 Oct 15

District councils must play a key role in forthcoming devolution deals by agreeing to take on a greater share of the cost of local economic development and early intervention projects, a report has concluded.

A report by the University of Birmingham’s INLOGOV centre examining the role of districts in devolution concluded two-tier working had stood the test of time. However, there was now a need for strong action and leadership from district councils to drive public service reform.

Some two-tier areas are among the 38 places that submitted devolution bids to ministers last month, and the Building Better Collaboration report stated that districts would need to be “selfless” in taking on devolved responsibilities.

The report, which was launched at the joint County Councils Network and District Councils’ Network summit in London, stated improved public sector performance would depend upon an organisational culture of cross working across councils, central government departments and NHS clinical commissioning groups.

In particular, districts will need to work together to overcome regulatory and national policy hurdles.

“In practical terms, this means district councils shouldering a bigger share of the costs for innovative projects (economic growth, early intervention, homes or shared services) delivered for the good of the people and places they serve than they will get back in direct benefit,” it stated.

Councils must also ensure momentum for reform is maintained, and that small obstacles are not allowed to risk stalling projects.

Responding to the report, District Councils Network chair Neil Clarke said it provided evidence of the central role played by district councils in delivering better outcomes for communities, and the importance of collaboration to achieve this.

“Districts are integral to such collaborative arrangements, and the selfless behaviour identified by INLOGOV as a critical success factor is indeed ‘completely role-appropriate for districts’,” he stated.

“The DCN welcomes the report’s findings and will continue to promote the pre-eminent collaborative leadership skills of districts to influence decision makers, develop future work with our partners and provide support to our members.”

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