The political uncertainty of the last three years appears to be coming to a head - a new Prime Minister may handle the next milestone of 31 October as a break to Brexit negotiations, resulting in an immediate exit. While this may end the uncertainty that is damaging investment decisions, it may escalate into a constitutional crisis between Parliament and government that leads to government meltdown. We have no administration in Northern Ireland. Might such stasis occur in Westminster too?
Given the context, CIPFA believes that both the Comprehensive Spending Review and the Fair Funding Review should be deferred. Alongside colleagues, we will continue to lobby government for top-up funding for public services. In the meantime, while the outgoing Prime Minister appears very keen on making a significant settlement for schools, the new Prime Minister may instead wish to apply fiscal headroom to tax cuts. It’s all a bit wild!
In the midst of it all, it’s more than just a cliché to say that local government has reached a crossroads. Through difficult decisions and imaginative transformation, austerity has led to fundamentally altered council services. We also see sometimes positive, and at other times strained, relationships with other parts of the public sector. Compounding this pressure is a material growth in service demand and increasing pressure to deliver quality services in the midst of cuts. A patchwork of new structures of local governance have emerged in some places to better manage these challenges, including combined authorities, integrated care partnerships and unitary reorganisation.
The year-long debate will invite councillors, officers and citizens to address the challenges of effective service delivery, explore what can be done to restore trust in local systems and ask how techniques to manage resources can really add value. Our aim will be to identify a set of recommendations that answer these questions, but we can only achieve this with the sector’s help and widespread collaboration. I invite you to join the conversation.
This article first appeared in The MJ.