Research Project

Councils embracing localism: lessons in decentralisation from Birmingham, Wakefield and West Sussex

Local government is being required to find new ways to engage citizens, deliver responsive and high quality services and work with local partners. With the freedom to work in more local ways and some powers decentralised from Whitehall, councils are developing new devolved structures within their own boundaries.


Councils embracing localism: lessons in decentralisation from Birmingham, Wakefield and West Sussex is invaluable reading for all local authorities considering their own approach to decentralisation, whether introducing new models, refining existing structures, or thinking about the future challenges of area working and neighbourhood governance.


The report is the result of three months embedded research inside three councils trying new and different ways to decentralise locally. West Sussex County Council, Wakefield Metropolitan District Council and Birmingham City Council face a range of challenges according to their local context, and have developed structures to reflect both a common set of challenges and national priorities, and their own local circumstances. Councils embracing localism examines the localisation being undertaken, including the local context; the models being developed; the motivations for going down this route; and how localisation fits into the councils’ wider agendas. It extracts key lessons for other councils contemplating their own response to localisation, including the questions, risks and opportunities raised by working in this way.


Councils embracing localism also offers thoughts about the developing neighbourhood agenda, the new challenges this might pose to councils, and what might be learned from current models of area working. And as Whitehall thinking moves clearly in the direction of encouraging more local devolution and greater influence for citizens, the author makes recommendations to councils and central government about the future development of the localisation and devolution agenda.


The report is the eleventh in NLGN’s ‘Delivering Change’ series, which aim to help senior officers and elected members learn from practical evidence of change to respond positively to the local government modernisation agenda.


This report is available at a cost of £20 (plus £1.25 p&p) per copy.


Councils embracing localism – summary version.pdf