Thursday, 11 August 2011

The Co-ordinating Council

A striking title and the subject of a stimulating event convened by the London Borough of Enfield in June (summarised recently in this article

The central 'who decides' question underpins most of the issues which were considered. Ultimately there are only a few options which have been the basis of much discussion in public policy circles in recent years: the politician, the professional, the community or the individual. A very sophisticated discussion of the role of each is set out in Barry Quirk's recent book (see presentation at

Accountability in the sphere which one would anticipate as being properly the province of the politician - choices between competing outcomes and the allocation of resources to meet them - is currently fractured between national and local and between different organisations at local or sub-regional level.

This fragmentation in what should be political decision making seems a critical problem for attempts to address the role and opportunities of a 'co-ordinating council'. One proposition which I made at the Enfield conference but which was largely side stepped in the discussion is for the development of a council executive which is a more genuinely multi-functional public service board.

This would involve directly or indirectly elected council executives with cross sector portfolios (health and social care, community safety and policing, education and employment etc). It moves the executive into being much more clearly an assembly for their area, avoids further silo accountability of the kind that is engendered by separately electing commissioners and the like and offers the possibility of giving effect to the underlying vision of more integrated and effective use of public resources that have underpinned the incremental movement through LSPs, LAAs, Total Place and Community Budgets but doing so in a way that goes beyond just managerialist or professional approaches.

Ideas of this kind are not new. Some huge questions have to be addressed. But for democratic localists surely this has to be considered as a way of making sense of the contradictions within the approaches currently being promoted.

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