LATEST ARTICLES
CV
Local realities stymie dreams 30 September 2011 There is a touching naivety about national politicians. As they write their speeches, flesh out their "vision", they begin to believe they can reorder a complex world with simple solutions. In contrast, local politicians and officers see complexity. They understand the rough edges of policy, the unintended consequences. This reality gap between the national and the local was evident in Liverpool this week as Labour began to develop its local government policies. Read full article on the Guardian local government network ____________________________________________________________________ The headache of public health 23 September 2011 As the health reforms near the end of their parliamentary journey, many councils have yet to get to grips with their imminent responsibility for public health. The tasks involved are wide-ranging and touch on every aspect of a council's work – housing, transport, leisure, disadvantaged families, local businesses, infants and children, community safety, the elderly and much more besides. Read full article on the Guardian local government network ____________________________________________________________________ Trying to decide localism funding 16 September 2011 As MPs make a brief return to parliament before dispersing to the annual drinking marathons that are the party conferences, the Commons' public accounts committee has been passing the time unpicking the impact of the government's localism policies on how money is spent, and who is held to account for it. The Labour chair – big-hitting former Islington council leader Margaret Hodge – made her feelings clear on how the Department for Communities and Local Government distributes its cash to councils: "Nobody can really understand anything that comes out of DCLG in terms of rationality." Read full article on the Guardian local government network ____________________________________________________________________ Localism, what localism? 9 September 2011 The government is developing a disturbing habit of making a lot of noise about granting councils new freedoms, which never materialise. This has happened twice in the last few weeks. First there was the announcement by Nick Clegg at the Local Government Association conference that two councils would be used as a test bed for pooling all the public service funding in their area, assessing the impact on service delivery, particularly for the most chaotic families. Read full article on the Guardian local government network ____________________________________________________________________ Planning reform - start digging 2 September 2011 Local government is currently embroiled in solving two of the economy's biggest problems - achieving growth and building more houses. Common to both is the planning system. The government regards slashing regulations in order to make it easier and quicker to build homes, factories and offices as crucial to getting the economy moving and addressing the housing shortage. Read full article on the Guardian local government network ____________________________________________________________________ Celebrity culture in town halls 26 August 2011 Is celebrity culture about to engulf local government? The suggestion by Ken Livingstone that Eddie Izzard could be the next Labour candidate for London mayor highlights the political culture shock that could await towns and cities opting for mayors in the referendums next May. Livingstone points out that the public knowing your name and face is far more important than having the backing of a political party. Read full article on the Guardian local government network ____________________________________________________________________ Smoking gets another kicking 24 August 2011 Four years after the ban on smoking in public buildings was extended across the whole of the UK, libertarian hackles are being raised again, this time by local government moves to ban it outdoors. The localism bill, soon to reach the end of its parliamentary journey, includes a "power of general competence" allowing councils to act in the interests of their communities, unless that action is prevented by other law. Read full article at the British Medical Journal ____________________________________________________________________ Councils should lead riots debate 19 August 2011 Local government needs to get a grip on what ministers are planning in the wake of the riots before it is too late. We will soon have populist, trigger- happy police commissioners who will be encouraged to deploy plastic bullets and water cannon. The home secretary, Theresa May, is considering curfew powers. Read full article on the Guardian local government network ____________________________________________________________________ Where were leaders during riots? 12 August 2011 It has been a bittersweet week for local government. Widely praised for the speed and dedication with which staff cleared up after each night of rioting, many councils felt they were sweeping away the wreckage of three decades of community work. But this is not a return to the 1980s. This week's trouble in Brixton was started by a group hanging around after the annual Brixton Splash reggae festival, held on the newly rebuilt Windrush Park, next to where the Black Cultural Archive is being developed. This is no urban wasteland stripped of civic pride and culture. Read full article on the Guardian local government network ____________________________________________________________________ National Trust provokes Neill 8 August 2011 The government seems to have learned nothing from its forced retreat over plans to sell off the forests. Massed ranks of green welly wearers, in the form of 3.7 million National Trust and Campaign to Protect Rural England members, are mobilising to oppose their reform of planning policy. The government proposed new National Planning Policy Framework – which would slash the pages of guidance from 1,300 to just 52 – would lead councils to make planning decisions under a "presumption for development".  The National Trust is organising its members against the plans and encouraging its many thousands of visitors to follow suit, while the CPRE is planning to attack David Cameron personally for reneging on promises he made to them to safeguard the landscape. The response from local government minister Bob Neill verges on the unhinged. According to the Sunday Telegraph he has caricatured the concerns of the rural lobby as "a carefully choreographed smear campaign by left-wingers based within the national headquarters of pressure groups". "This is more about a small number of interest groups trying to justify their own existence, going out of their way by picking a fight with Government." This is a foolish response to the legitimate concerns of a powerful lobby with deep roots in the Conservative Party. The Big Society may not grab their attention, but the merest hint of unchecked despoiling of the countryside will. Respecting their views and offering reassurance would surely be a better strategy than implying the National Trust is in the grip of a Trotskyist clique bent on confrontation. Neill's attack is similar to that of health secretary Andrew Lansley a few days earlier, when he accused the King's Fund think tank of "talk[ing] down the NHS" after they made some reasoned and moderate observations on health policy. If ministers are this sensitive to criticism after little more than a year in office, what are they going to be like by 2015? ____________________________________________________________________ Running transparency gauntlet 5 August 2011 The public consultation launched by the Cabinet Office into open data marks another lurch forward in local government transparency. Having the ingenuity and thick skin to navigate the ever more exposed world of local government is fast becoming a core skill for managers and staff. Read full article at the Guardian local government network ____________________________________________________________________ Resist manager slashing 29 July 2011 An all party group of MPs has exposed the fallacy of indiscriminately driving down public sector pay and slashing management. The Commons' public administration select committee's report into government IT procurement – unsubtely titled Government and IT: a recipe for rip-offs, time for a new approach – exposes vast waste within the £16bn annual IT spend. Read full article at the Guardian local government network ____________________________________________________________________ Pickles’ flawed local revolution 22 July 2011 As parliament rises for the summer, how much success is communities secretary Eric Pickles having in remoulding local government? His early months in office were characterised by him using the "bully pulpit" of his office to try to impose change. His attack on "town hall Pravdas" has had success... The experiment in councils sharing chief executives is imploding. Read full article at the Guardian local government network ____________________________________________________________________ Devolved NHS issues first decree 16 July 2011 "The headquarters of the NHS will not be in the Department of Health or the new NHS Commissioning Board but instead, power will be given to the front-line clinicians and patients. The headquarters will be in the consulting room and clinic." So proclaimed the health white paper a year ago. Last week's paper from NHS chief executive Sir David Nicholson on developing the NHS Commissioning Board showed health secretary Andrew Lansley had been misinformed – the board is unquestionably the new NHS headquarters. Nicholson's plan is awash with evidence of how the serious flaws in Lansley's plan to hand commissioning power to local GP consortia have backfired, leading to the recreation of a heavily centralised command and control health service. While MPs and peers are busy abolishing strategic health authorities and primary care trusts through the Health and Social Care Bill, they are being reincarnated as the regional and local arms of the commissioning board, with a staff of 3.500. The whole tone of the commissioning board's role has changed from supporting, overseeing and holding to account to directing and controlling. The new paper certainly states that the board will ensure clinical commissioning groups "have the freedom to deliver improvements in outcomes for their local populations in a clinically led and bottom up way". But taken as a whole the plan leaves little doubt that the national board will have a strongly controlling role. The paragraph on working with local government is a giveaway in terms of the centralising culture the board is imposing on the healthcare system. It could have said that the board will work closely with local government to ensure the work of clinical commissioning groups meets the specific health needs of the local area and ensuring effective integration with social services and other local services, while also ensuring national health standards and priorities are met. What it actually says is: "[elected] Local government will need to work closely with the [unelected] board to ensure there is strategic coherence and alignment in how the board seeks to deliver its priorities in partnership with the wider public sector and at national and local level.” The great tension in the new healthcare system is the conflict between upwards accountability to the National Commissioning Board and horizontal, local accountability – meeting local health needs and collaborating with the council's health and wellbeing board to fulfil the aims of the Joint Strategic Needs Assessment. For NHS staff and GPs it is not difficult to work out whose priorities will be attended to first and who will win if they are pulling in different directions. ____________________________________________________________________ White paper naive about reform 15 July 2011 The open public services white paper superficially has much to commend it – increasing transparency and accountability by publishing performance data, putting power in the hands of individuals through personal budgets and vouchers, freeing up the resourcefulness and expertise of council staff by allowing them to take control of services. Read full article at the Guardian local government network ____________________________________________________________________ NHS and new era for healthcare 13 July 2011 The survival of the NHS is again being questioned. As the service reels from cuts and the wreckage caused by the latest political masterplan, doubts are being raised about how long the NHS can survive in its current form, offering free care for all at the point of use. So what does the future look like for healthcare? Read full article at the Guardian ____________________________________________________________________ Dilnot misses real ageing debate 4 July 2011 Those who see implementing the Dilnot Commission's recommendations on reforming social care as a solution to the issue of caring for our elderly need to think again. The commission has done its job in outlining a sustainable funding system, but there is a far bigger question that needs to be faced up to and answered. The current care system meets a basic level of subsistence need, but it does not, with rare exceptions, address the need to ensure elderly people have happy, fulfilling and productive lives - whether leisure and education opportunities, exploiting new technology to overcome isolation and loneliness, passing on life experiences and wisdom to younger people, or the simple sharing of the company of others. This issue of "well-being" was addressed most directly in the report for the King's Fund by Derek Wanless on the future of social care in 2006. Wanless estimated that by 2026 the cost of providing a service focussed around well-being would be £31bn, compared with £24bn for the current minimal service. But this is about far more than cost. It's about whether leaving large numbers of elderly isolated and unfulfilled is acceptable for our communities - and in due course for ourselves. It's about articulating a new respect and inclusivity for our elderly, both inside and outside our own families. It's about effective prevention and rehabilitation. And it's about finding new ways - volunteering, technology, supporting elderly people in helping each other - to enrich people's lives in ways that they, not the state, decide and that do not impose unacceptable burdens on the taxpayer. David Cameron is battling to get traction for the Big Society. With some imagination he could draw together Andrew Dilnot's ideas with Big Society themes and the innovations families, voluntary groups and councils are already putting into practice to begin some public soul-searching about what faces many of us towards the end of our lives and how we could do it differently. That could mark the beginning of a sustainable care system which is about people, not just the costs. ____________________________________________________________________
July to September 2011
Public Policy Media Richard Vize
LATEST ARTICLES
CV
Local realities stymie dreams 30 September 2011 There is a touching naivety about national politicians. As they write their speeches, flesh out their "vision", they begin to believe they can reorder a complex world with simple solutions. In contrast, local politicians and officers see complexity. They understand the rough edges of policy, the unintended consequences. This reality gap between the national and the local was evident in Liverpool this week as Labour began to develop its local government policies. Read full article on the Guardian local government network ____________________________________________________________________ The headache of public health 23 September 2011 As the health reforms near the end of their parliamentary journey, many councils have yet to get to grips with their imminent responsibility for public health. The tasks involved are wide-ranging and touch on every aspect of a council's work – housing, transport, leisure, disadvantaged families, local businesses, infants and children, community safety, the elderly and much more besides. Read full article on the Guardian local government network ____________________________________________________________________ Trying to decide localism funding 16 September 2011 As MPs make a brief return to parliament before dispersing to the annual drinking marathons that are the party conferences, the Commons' public accounts committee has been passing the time unpicking the impact of the government's localism policies on how money is spent, and who is held to account for it. The Labour chair – big-hitting former Islington council leader Margaret Hodge – made her feelings clear on how the Department for Communities and Local Government distributes its cash to councils: "Nobody can really understand anything that comes out of DCLG in terms of rationality." Read full article on the Guardian local government network ____________________________________________________________________ Localism, what localism? 9 September 2011 The government is developing a disturbing habit of making a lot of noise about granting councils new freedoms, which never materialise. This has happened twice in the last few weeks. First there was the announcement by Nick Clegg at the Local Government Association conference that two councils would be used as a test bed for pooling all the public service funding in their area, assessing the impact on service delivery, particularly for the most chaotic families. Read full article on the Guardian local government network ____________________________________________________________________ Planning reform - start digging 2 September 2011 Local government is currently embroiled in solving two of the economy's biggest problems - achieving growth and building more houses. Common to both is the planning system. The government regards slashing regulations in order to make it easier and quicker to build homes, factories and offices as crucial to getting the economy moving and addressing the housing shortage. Read full article on the Guardian local government network ____________________________________________________________________ Celebrity culture in town halls 26 August 2011 Is celebrity culture about to engulf local government? The suggestion by Ken Livingstone that Eddie Izzard could be the next Labour candidate for London mayor highlights the political culture shock that could await towns and cities opting for mayors in the referendums next May. Livingstone points out that the public knowing your name and face is far more important than having the backing of a political party. Read full article on the Guardian local government network ____________________________________________________________________ Smoking gets another kicking 24 August 2011 Four years after the ban on smoking in public buildings was extended across the whole of the UK, libertarian hackles are being raised again, this time by local government moves to ban it outdoors. The localism bill, soon to reach the end of its parliamentary journey, includes a "power of general competence" allowing councils to act in the interests of their communities, unless that action is prevented by other law. Read full article at the British Medical Journal ____________________________________________________________________ Councils should lead riots debate 19 August 2011 Local government needs to get a grip on what ministers are planning in the wake of the riots before it is too late. We will soon have populist, trigger-happy police commissioners who will be encouraged to deploy plastic bullets and water cannon. The home secretary, Theresa May, is considering curfew powers. Read full article on the Guardian local government network ____________________________________________________________________ Where were leaders during riots? 12 August 2011 It has been a bittersweet week for local government. Widely praised for the speed and dedication with which staff cleared up after each night of rioting, many councils felt they were sweeping away the wreckage of three decades of community work. But this is not a return to the 1980s. This week's trouble in Brixton was started by a group hanging around after the annual Brixton Splash reggae festival, held on the newly rebuilt Windrush Park, next to where the Black Cultural Archive is being developed. This is no urban wasteland stripped of civic pride and culture. Read full article on the Guardian local government network ____________________________________________________________________ National Trust provokes Neill 8 August 2011 The government seems to have learned nothing from its forced retreat over plans to sell off the forests. Massed ranks of green welly wearers, in the form of 3.7 million National Trust and Campaign to Protect Rural England members, are mobilising to oppose their reform of planning policy. The government proposed new National Planning Policy Framework – which would slash the pages of guidance from 1,300 to just 52 – would lead councils to make planning decisions under a "presumption for development".  The National Trust is organising its members against the plans and encouraging its many thousands of visitors to follow suit, while the CPRE is planning to attack David Cameron personally for reneging on promises he made to them to safeguard the landscape. The response from local government minister Bob Neill verges on the unhinged. According to the Sunday Telegraph he has caricatured the concerns of the rural lobby as "a carefully choreographed smear campaign by left-wingers based within the national headquarters of pressure groups". "This is more about a small number of interest groups trying to justify their own existence, going out of their way by picking a fight with Government." This is a foolish response to the legitimate concerns of a powerful lobby with deep roots in the Conservative Party. The Big Society may not grab their attention, but the merest hint of unchecked despoiling of the countryside will. Respecting their views and offering reassurance would surely be a better strategy than implying the National Trust is in the grip of a Trotskyist clique bent on confrontation. Neill's attack is similar to that of health secretary Andrew Lansley a few days earlier, when he accused the King's Fund think tank of "talk[ing] down the NHS" after they made some reasoned and moderate observations on health policy. If ministers are this sensitive to criticism after little more than a year in office, what are they going to be like by 2015? ____________________________________________________________________ Running transparency gauntlet 5 August 2011 The public consultation launched by the Cabinet Office into open data marks another lurch forward in local government transparency. Having the ingenuity and thick skin to navigate the ever more exposed world of local government is fast becoming a core skill for managers and staff. Read full article at the Guardian local government network ____________________________________________________________________ Resist manager slashing 29 July 2011 An all party group of MPs has exposed the fallacy of indiscriminately driving down public sector pay and slashing management. The Commons' public administration select committee's report into government IT procurement – unsubtely titled Government and IT: a recipe for rip-offs, time for a new approach – exposes vast waste within the £16bn annual IT spend. Read full article at the Guardian local government network ____________________________________________________________________ Pickles’ flawed local revolution 22 July 2011 As parliament rises for the summer, how much success is communities secretary Eric Pickles having in remoulding local government? His early months in office were characterised by him using the "bully pulpit" of his office to try to impose change. His attack on "town hall Pravdas" has had success... The experiment in councils sharing chief executives is imploding. Read full article at the Guardian local government network ____________________________________________________________________ Devolved NHS issues first decree 16 July 2011 "The headquarters of the NHS will not be in the Department of Health or the new NHS Commissioning Board but instead, power will be given to the front-line clinicians and patients. The headquarters will be in the consulting room and clinic." So proclaimed the health white paper a year ago. Last week's paper from NHS chief executive Sir David Nicholson on developing the NHS Commissioning Board showed health secretary Andrew Lansley had been misinformed – the board is unquestionably the new NHS headquarters. Nicholson's plan is awash with evidence of how the serious flaws in Lansley's plan to hand commissioning power to local GP consortia have backfired, leading to the recreation of a heavily centralised command and control health service. While MPs and peers are busy abolishing strategic health authorities and primary care trusts through the Health and Social Care Bill, they are being reincarnated as the regional and local arms of the commissioning board, with a staff of 3.500. The whole tone of the commissioning board's role has changed from supporting, overseeing and holding to account to directing and controlling. The new paper certainly states that the board will ensure clinical commissioning groups "have the freedom to deliver improvements in outcomes for their local populations in a clinically led and bottom up way". But taken as a whole the plan leaves little doubt that the national board will have a strongly controlling role. The paragraph on working with local government is a giveaway in terms of the centralising culture the board is imposing on the healthcare system. It could have said that the board will work closely with local government to ensure the work of clinical commissioning groups meets the specific health needs of the local area and ensuring effective integration with social services and other local services, while also ensuring national health standards and priorities are met. What it actually says is: "[elected] Local government will need to work closely with the [unelected] board to ensure there is strategic coherence and alignment in how the board seeks to deliver its priorities in partnership with the wider public sector and at national and local level.” The great tension in the new healthcare system is the conflict between upwards accountability to the National Commissioning Board and horizontal, local accountability – meeting local health needs and collaborating with the council's health and wellbeing board to fulfil the aims of the Joint Strategic Needs Assessment. For NHS staff and GPs it is not difficult to work out whose priorities will be attended to first and who will win if they are pulling in different directions. ____________________________________________________________________ White paper naive about reform 15 July 2011 The open public services white paper superficially has much to commend it – increasing transparency and accountability by publishing performance data, putting power in the hands of individuals through personal budgets and vouchers, freeing up the resourcefulness and expertise of council staff by allowing them to take control of services. Read full article at the Guardian local government network ____________________________________________________________________ NHS and new era for healthcare 13 July 2011 The survival of the NHS is again being questioned. As the service reels from cuts and the wreckage caused by the latest political masterplan, doubts are being raised about how long the NHS can survive in its current form, offering free care for all at the point of use. So what does the future look like for healthcare? Read full article at the Guardian ____________________________________________________________________ Dilnot misses real ageing debate 4 July 2011 Those who see implementing the Dilnot Commission's recommendations on reforming social care as a solution to the issue of caring for our elderly need to think again. The commission has done its job in outlining a sustainable funding system, but there is a far bigger question that needs to be faced up to and answered. The current care system meets a basic level of subsistence need, but it does not, with rare exceptions, address the need to ensure elderly people have happy, fulfilling and productive lives - whether leisure and education opportunities, exploiting new technology to overcome isolation and loneliness, passing on life experiences and wisdom to younger people, or the simple sharing of the company of others. This issue of "well-being" was addressed most directly in the report for the King's Fund by Derek Wanless on the future of social care in 2006. Wanless estimated that by 2026 the cost of providing a service focussed around well-being would be £31bn, compared with £24bn for the current minimal service. But this is about far more than cost. It's about whether leaving large numbers of elderly isolated and unfulfilled is acceptable for our communities - and in due course for ourselves. It's about articulating a new respect and inclusivity for our elderly, both inside and outside our own families. It's about effective prevention and rehabilitation. And it's about finding new ways - volunteering, technology, supporting elderly people in helping each other - to enrich people's lives in ways that they, not the state, decide and that do not impose unacceptable burdens on the taxpayer. David Cameron is battling to get traction for the Big Society. With some imagination he could draw together Andrew Dilnot's ideas with Big Society themes and the innovations families, voluntary groups and councils are already putting into practice to begin some public soul- searching about what faces many of us towards the end of our lives and how we could do it differently. That could mark the beginning of a sustainable care system which is about people, not just the costs. ____________________________________________________________________
Public Policy Media Richard Vize