Local communities key to reviving national growth says Leeds-led report

Published : 03/07/2012 00:00

Local communities key to reviving national growth says Leeds-led report

Locally-based people, businesses and communities are the key to economic and democratic revival of our towns and cities according to a Leeds-led national commission.

The Commission on the Future of Local Government says communities must be empowered to re-invigorate themselves to weather current economic conditions and develop for the future.

And its says local councillors should be at the heart of driving forward development at community level, as their democratically-elected mandate gives them a key leadership role.

In a bold move to enable local areas to seize control of their own destiny the commission also calls for a dedicated England Office and Secretary of State and urges the government to address the unresolved “English question” over devolution.

The call comes as Leeds is one of eight areas across the country due receive a new City Deal, in which the government hands down certain powers to drive growth, tailored to local needs.  The Leeds deal is set to be announced on Thursday (July 5).  The commission welcomes these deals and calls for them to be extended across regions.

It also challenges local communities to embrace its principle of “civic enterprise” by bringing together councillors, residents, private, public and third sector groups to be the driving force for their area’s future development.

Led by Leeds City Council, the commission brings together leading doers and thinkers from a wide spectrum of public, private and voluntary organisations nationally, from politicians to academics and charities.

It wants the government to consider how the ability to enable change at local level could be greatly enhanced by a strong say in local taxation, resources and infrastructure.  Its ideas are spearheaded by a number of calls to action, anchored by commitments from a wide group of local and national bodies to contribute to their achievement.

Calls to action include:
• The government to establish an English Office in Whitehall with dedicated Secretary of State, ministers and select committee;
• Local authorities to take up the challenge of leading civic enterprise in their own areas;
• Councils to be given a leadership role in a new care system building on Dilnot’s* findings.
• Government to establish a fairer system for allocating funding in the UK with a review of the **Barnett Formula;
• Incentives to be identified to enable public-private partnerships to establish a new 21st-century infrastructure such as ultra-fast broadband, affordable housing and elderly care and low-carbon energy;
• The Bank of England to consider shadow city banks- allowing quantitative easing funds to be channelled more directly to small businesses, modelled on the German Landesbank system.

The commission was set up in November 2011 to examine how in challenging economic times local democracy and communities could become the catalyst for their own survival and future prosperity.

Its members include Will Hutton, Principal of Hertford College Oxford and chair of the Big Innovation Centre, Lord Victor Adebowale of Turning Point, Dame Jo Williams of the Care Quality Commission and Rashik Parmar of IBM.  The commission is chaired by Councillor Keith Wakefield, Leader of Leeds City Council and insight was offered into areas already devolved by Glasgow City Council Leader Cllr Gordon Matheson and Cardiff Council Chief Executive Jon House.

It calls for a new generation of civic entrepreneurs and enterprising councils to be the solution to some of the biggest problems facing the country.  It believes local councillors should use their unique, locally-elected mandate to lead local people, businesses and voluntary organisations to empower themselves to do more for their communities.

Commission chair Cllr Keith Wakefield said:
“Our challenge to communities is to take control of their own destiny to enable them to survive these very challenging times and maximise their ability to thrive in the future.

“Our challenge to businesses, voluntary groups and others is to join their locally-elected councillors in real local partnership- as “civic entrepreneurs” in the spirit of Joseph Chamberlain or Joseph Rowntree- to achieve the best they can for their people.

“Our challenge to government is to give us the powers and resources to capitalise on our drive and determination to grow our cities and tackle our big social inequalities.”

Commission member Rashik Parmar, IBM’s chief technology officer, North East Europe, said:
“Local government has to be the force that unearths and articulates the value of a place and its people: it should create the unifying agenda where leadership comes together from all sectors of the community.”

The Commission has asked for a formal response from Government on its proposals, particularly in relation to the creation of an English Office, the review of the Barnett Formula, the role of councils in a new care system, and incentives for public-private partnerships.

It has established a Civic Enterprise Network to take its work forward. It has commitment to turn suggestions into action from nearly 20 major organisations.  These include the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), the Local Government Association (LGA) and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.
Notes to editors:
The report will be available in summary or in full at http://civicenterpriseuk.org/ from Tuesday July 3 and can be obtained under embargo on request from the Leeds City Council press office before then- contact details below.

Commission members: Cllr Keith Wakefield (Commission Chair), Leader, Leeds City Council), Cllr Gordon Matheson, Leader, Glasgow City Council, Jon House Chief Executive, Cardiff Council, Cllr Sir Merrick Cockell, Chairman, Local Government Association, Will Hutton, Principal, Hertford College Oxford and Chair of the Big Innovation Centre, Dame Jo Williams, Chair, Care Quality Commission, Professor Sir Tim Brighouse, The 21st Century Learning Alliance, Professor David Begg Chairman,  Commission for Integrated Transport, Lord Victor Adebowale, Chief Executive, Turning Point, Tony Travers, Director, Greater London Group at the London School of Economics, Andrew Murphy, Retail Operations Director, John Lewis, Baroness Margaret Eaton, Vice-President, Local Government Association, Helen Bailey Chief Executive, Local Partnerships, Sally-Anne Greenfield, Chief Executive, Leeds Community Foundation, Christine Adshead, Partner, PwC, Professor Michael Arthur, Vice-Chancellor, University of Leeds, Simon Parker, Director, New Local Government Network, Rashik Parmar, Chief Technology, Officer, North East Europe, IBM, Dr Mike Grady, Principal Adviser, Marmot Review Team, Tom Riordan, Chief Executive, Leeds City Council) Emma Maier, Editor, Local Government Chronicle), Patrick White (Director of Policy, Department for Communities and Local Government) – Observer

Methodology: The Commission made two calls for evidence in November 2011 and January 2012, designed to stimulate debate about strong local government, its challenges and opportunities. It received around 150 submissions from councillors, other commissions, think tanks, businesses and the voluntary sector. Through an extensive series of discussions and meetings, the evidence was distilled into propositions for helping meet the big economic, social, environmental and democratic challenges facing the UK in the 21st century.

*The Dilnot Commission is the commonly known name for the Commission on Funding of Care and Support which was launched on 20 July 2010. The commission was chaired by Andrew Dilnot with Lord Norman Warner and Dame Jo Williams as fellow commissioners; tasked by the Government with reviewing the funding system for care and support in England. The report Fairer Care Funding was published providing advice and recommendations on how to reform the system to government on 4 July 2011.

**The Barnett Formula is a mechanism used by the Treasury in the United Kingdom to adjust the amounts of public expenditure allocated to public services.

Report launch event: The Commission for the Future of Local Government is launching its report in Parliament on the 3rd July at an event hosted by Baroness Eaton. Among those speaking will be Rt Hon Hilary Benn, MP for Leeds Central and the Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Will Hutton of The Work Foundation and Baroness Hanham CBE, Government Spokesperson for the Department for Communities and Local Government.

For media enquiries please contact:
Donna Cox, Leeds City Council press office (0113) 224 3335
e-mail: donna.cox@leeds.gov.uk