On the eve of the June 2013 Spending Review, the Guardian Local Leaders Network published an interview with Michael More, outgoing chief executive at the City of Westminster. Among other comments on his tenure, More called for relief from central government’s austerity programme and the local-government cuts that come with it, warning of serious impacts on service delivery if the squeeze continues much longer. He also highlighted the positive outcomes of the current regime: efficiencies, partnerships and tools driven by Localism-based service delivery reform – and by the cuts themselves.
This situation formed the basis of Future of London’s latest report, Doing More with Less. This paper positions service delivery reform in the wider localism agenda, and then identifies existing approaches to local service delivery in London, and considers the benefits and challenges of each:
- Seeking efficiencies across boroughs
- Joined-up working within the borough
- Galvanising communities
- Council as commissioner
This paper builds on Future of London’s previous work on localism, including our 2012 report Localism in London. At the heart of this paper was an analysis of practitioner attitudes towards the localism agenda – responses that also contribute towards ‘Doing more with less’. As the responses show, many public sector practitioners are already looking towards new models for service delivery in their boroughs, but challenges remain. In the words of one respondent:
“there is a long way to go in London before public sector organisations feel comfortable in working across boundaries and in partnership”.
Local authorities across the country are feeling the budget crunch. In London, the situation is particularly grave, due to the capital’s rising population, demographic complexity and the pincers of rapidly rising housing cost and the latest welfare reforms. To deliver services in this challenging context requires new approaches. Moving forward, strategic alliances both within and beyond boroughs will become increasingly important for delivery – but not without our attention and resources.
None of the options explored have been completely smooth sailing, but as this report shows, boroughs across Greater London are realising savings, and finding ways to deliver services as well as, or even better than, before. Despite – and in part due to – ongoing budget cuts, local authorities are making increasing use of the powers and tools provided by service delivery reform.
If the boroughs continue to innovate and cooperate, there is a chance that this period of austerity could give Londoners a legacy of responsive local government that will outlast the hard times. Future of London will be following developments closely, and invites you to stay involved.