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Prime Minister, let local public services providers get on with it

A rainbow painted by a child. There's a ladybird on one of the rainbow's stripes.

Dear Prime Minister,

Welcome.

Your First 100 Days in office. It’s an artificial idea that has no real-world significance but given the state of things and what we all fear could be coming it is also a useful one. There’s plenty to do, so let’s get on with it.

Where we’ve been

The collective experience of the pandemic feels almost like a dream at this point. Individual and organisational responses to the uncertainties of Covid-19 were rapid and bewildering. Most people did their best in a very difficult situation. That we now leave our houses, and things seem much as they ever did. But this is deceptive. While it can seem that things are “back to normal”, there was a step change. We are still battling to cope with the consequences of that sudden change.

Many of us “rediscovered” during lockdowns the world just outside our homes. Places and the people around us became essential. We revelled in the delights of what we could see on our own doorsteps. We spotted rainbows and bears in windows on a daily walk. The geography of our lives became very local.

Socitm’s geography has always been local

Our members strive to do their best for their local communities – regardless of pandemics. But their response in this most recent pandemic was immense. Their collective knowledge was essential. That reaction wasn’t possible from central government. Local public services and professionals were the only things that worked. The instinct to maintain control is a strong one. But for individuals and organisations, the only way to thrive is to trust. To delegate.

Where we are

Confidence in local expertise and knowledge is vital. If things go wrong, solutions will be found locally.  But we can only be confident in what we do if we trust each other.

Markets prize consistency. So do we. There’s another Secretary of State at DLUHC, the seventh in seven years. [Putting the five, continuous, years of Eric Pickles under the coalition government to the side.] Whether the phrases big society or levelling up remain or get left behind the actions they need continue.

What we want in your First 100 Days

Trust
We ask that you trust us. Give people the freedom to create solutions for themselves. Give people the power to use their knowledge and experience to do what is needed.

Simplicity
Stop asking local authorities to bid for different funding pots. Not only is it time consuming, inefficient, and dispiriting, it splits up service provision and tends to encourage a silo culture. Let local authorities manage and provide for their communities. Encourage cooperation, not competition.

Civility
Niceness is underrated. Organisational culture is created by its leaders. We take cues from the behaviour and language of our leaders. With many people and communities to support, empathy and emotional intelligence play a key role in public service provision. Local governments can set the standard for an ethical leadership that’s been so carelessly ignored by the previous administration.

Connection
The devolution of control gives local governments the room to work flexibly and respond to the needs of their communities. Sitting alongside this is more collaboration. Local public services providers are well aware that it takes communities to support communities. 

Socitm Connects
We look to work with you on the strategic priorities identified by our members, national organisations, commercial partners, the wider private sector and partners; those working on the front lines of local public services so we can all:

  • build on the phenomenal public sector response to Covid-19
  • sustain the step change taken by local public service providers
  • harness digital (cultures, skills, technologies, and data) to enhance the resilience of people, communities, organisations, and places
  • champion central and local collaboration across the UK in support of place-based innovation, modernisation and technological change.
  • develop leading-edge thinking, skills, policy, and research into to what works and what needs to change.

Socitm members are hopeful and pragmatic. Whatever comes from Downing Street in these 100 days they will be ready.

Yours sincerely,

Socitm

References and sources

Local government use of data during the pandemic
The COVID-19 crisis has accelerated the innovative use of data at a local level, with a range of data-driven interventions launched or repurposed during the pandemic. Examples include: the use of the ‘VIPER’ tool by local authorities in Essex, which has enabled emergency services to share data in real time; Argyll and Bute Council’s trial of drone technology to deliver vital medical supplies across its islands; Glasgow City Council’s online platform to promote social distancing; and Hackney Council’s analysis of internal and external datasets to help them identify residents who are vulnerable to COVID-19.

England’s patchwork quilt governance is not strong enough for a crisis like coronavirus
As the response to the coronavirus pandemic has become more local and regional, nobody should be surprised that things have become confusing. There are complex differing remits and responsibilities in various parts of the country. Powers have been devolved and decentralised in a fragmented way

Blackburn with Darwen developed their own systems to manage Covid-19 within their part of Lancashire
a) Digital services to help provide safer workplaces

b) Test, Trace & Isolate – utilising local resources to keep our communities and residents safe

Local public service providers are getting on with and preparing for worsening effects of the cost-of-living crisis
Britain is entering a profound social emergency. Why is nobody acting like it?
John Harris

“…funding moves away from the sporadic use of different funding pots…”
PWC Insight: Future of local government.