This paper presents in five sections a proposal for a radical programme of decentralisation to a substantial group of ‘forerunner’ councils to trail blaze a community leadership practice for all localities. The case is established for giving councils an additional capacity to drive up public sector productivity and make a real difference in their community.
The first half of the argument is that the earned autonomy agenda needs to be connected to a challenge to councils to deliver community leadership.
The second is that existing reform measures are not sufficient to deliver as much transformation as will be required.
The Government has done much and proposes to do more to deregulate councils. However, a truly inspiring performance from councils will require more than deregulation. It will need a programme of positive capacity and confidence building. While a number of worthwhile initiatives are in operation or on their way, more should be done. We need reforms that can capture the public’s imagination, and persuade the brightest and best to come or to stay and work for local government.
In this paper, a general set of new freedoms and responsibilities for councils to pursue community leadership more effectively is identified. A selection process is also outlined to reveal how the first wave of councils designated as ‘forerunner’ could be chosen in a way that reflects their potential and capacity. The final section looks at the potential benefits to central government, local government, other stakeholders and the public if these proposals were adopted.