Catalyst councils: new approach will see councils working with organisations across the public, private and voluntary sectors

Local government think-tank, Localis, has launched a major new report that predicts that the world of local government is about to change irrevocably. Instead of the 'traditional' council that does everything itself, a more diverse approach will see councils working with a patchwork of organisations from across the public, private and voluntary sectors to deliver the local services that communities rely on – waste collection, road maintenance, social care, planning, housing, environmental health etc.

Click here to read a copy of the report

At the same time, Communities Secretary Eric Pickles has made a renewed call in Parliament for hard-pressed local councils to consider merging the work of their planning departments with neighbouring authorities.

That option arose during oral questions in the Commons in which both Mr Pickles and new Planning Minister Nick Boles said existing policy on Green Belt was not about to be changed. However, the Localis report suggests that more than 40 per cent of council chiefs say planning should remain in-house.

‘Catalyst Councils’, launched today by the Minister for Government Policy, Rt. Hon. Oliver Letwin MP, and the Chairman of the Local Government Association, Councillor Sir Merrick Cockell, finds that, in these testing times for town hall budgets, more than a third of council leaders and chief executives think that there are no local services that could not delivered by a 3rd party – whether a private or voluntary sector provider.

The report, produced in partnership with Capita Symonds (part of Capita plc), has received cross-party support from leading figures in local government and beyond [see below] and looks at the various ways councils are developing services that meet savings targets while retaining quality (e.g. ‘next generation’ partnerships with the private and voluntary sectors, co-operative and mutual models, shared services, trading ventures and more) and concludes that both councils and external providers will need to embrace more risk and reward, as part of a more mature and strategic partnership approach.

Catalyst Councils demonstrates councils’ two-fold need for skills – with more than two thirds of council chiefs saying that making use of external expertise and skills was a major reason for working with partners. It also finds that, despite having more experience than the rest of the public sector at commissioning, many councils would like to have greater skills in order to successfully commission these external poviders.

Hence, the report calls for the Government and the LGA to establish a ‘Commission on Better Commissioning’ which could close the commissioning skills gap across the public sector by training up public service commissioners, and helping them to understand what they can and cannot do with regard to e.g. EU procurement directives.

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