Collaboration, often translated as partnership working, has become in recent years one of the cornerstones of ‘good governance’. Better coordinating the engagement and participation of various actors and agents who operate in and around local governance has promised better designed services, ‘joined up’ provision and resource savings, but was this model of collaborative governance more fit for times of plenty than times of austerity?
In early July the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) published the initial findings of Roger Witcomb’s investigation into the UK energy markets. With the average UK household currently spending around £1,200 on energy each year, energy prices have turned up the heat on politicians.
The Witcomb findings suggest that we need to make the energy market work better for consumers. But do we really believe that after a 75% rise in electricity and 125% on gas prices over the past decade we can simply tweak the medicine of market regulation in order to make those markets work better? I would beg to differ.
In 1966, the TV drama Cathy Come Home was described as being like 'an ice-pick in the brain of all who saw it' such were the hard-hitting messages of homelessness, poverty and despair. Sadly nearly 50 years later we are still plagued by housing shortages and homelessness. Cathy's despair didn't transfer into the political will to make homes for all a priority.
DCLG released quarterly figures on 21 May and yet again council house building is at the bottom of the pile with just 1,230 homes completed between April 2014 and March 2015 in England. Set these figures against the backdrop of some 1.7 M on council waiting lists in England, and it’s clear that housing remains an ongoing national crisis.
Looking to the future, one theory that increasingly catches my attention is that of ‘collaborative innovation'. It's part of the move away from the outdated concepts around new public management towards ideas around new public governance.
So what’s it all about? Whilst new public management focused on markets, competition and customers and obviously delivered benefits for some, it failed to deliver innovation for the public themselves. New public governance is more about actors across the public, private and third sectors coming together with service users, through partnerships and networks, to learn and contest each other’s thinking and generate new solutions to the challenges society faces.
APSE’s recent publication Two Tribes? Exploring the future role of elected members, has proven timely given some of the recent governance challenges that have been thrown at local government.
More than a decade on from modernisation of political management structures, which replaced the existing committee system with a formal cabinet, overview and scrutiny system, one of the main issues emerging from the research is the feeling of disillusionment amongst non-executive elected members, who feel marginalised from real decision making with little influence over issues that affect their local areas.
A lively APSE meeting in Edinburgh yesterday with debates taking place on governance, environmental challenges, commercialisation and demand management. With over 60 delegates present including Chief Executives, Directors, Leaders and portfolio holders a healthy discussion flowed across all of the topics.
The recent Public Accounts Committee report on contract management made for interesting reading over the holidays with some important lessons for local government contained within it.
In launching the Committee's findings, its Chair, the Rt Hon Margaret Hodge MP, pointed to the fact that £90bn of taxpayers' money is spent each year on the private sector supplying public goods and services. She quite rightly stressed that, with this amount of public money at stake, it is vital that the highest ethical standards are practised by contractors.
With APSEs headquarters being based in Manchester many in our Northern Region see themselves as being the soul of the organisation, although other areas would argue this point.
Our annual performance networks seminar takes place in Blackpool with 450 delegates in attendance. It always annoys me the way local government officers and members are portrayed in the media when I see the enthusiasm and hunger to learn that exists at this type of event.
Last week's BMJ article, which accused local authorities of 'raiding' public health budgets to prop up other services, shows a surprising lack of insight into the reasons why councils actually took on the public health role in the first place. It also fails to grasp well-evidenced connections between health and wider social factors that are dependent upon public services such as housing, sport and leisure, greenspace or school meals.