Local government challenges

Devolution is currently the must-have accessory for all three major parties. Without it, their outfit looks outdated. But with it there is still a degree of scepticism as to whether local authorities are actually capable of delivering. The big issue which needs to be addressed is the reversal of the steady erosion of local financial autonomy and buoyancy. Solve these problems, and many other issues such as adult social care will be eased.

Others will be more difficult. Regional organisation in the form of Regional Development Agencies (RDAs), has frequently been called into question over their increasing role in economic development, planning and regeneration – the traditional preserve of local authorities. Will the emerging frameworks such as multi-area agreements (MAAs) be successful enough to replace them? And then there is the local government performance framework.

Overall then, if all parties are committed to devolving more power to local areas, then they must also be committed to greater financial autonomy and local accountability. Only then will the country take local government seriously.

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