The authority to lead innovation
by John Craig
One of the surprises of the Coalition so far is its support for local government. Sure, localist rhetoric has for a long time been a feature of Conservative campaigns. But this was often more a about a rejection of central government than a real celebration of local government. Policies like elected police chiefs and foundation hospital boards can feel more like a strategy of divide and rule from the centre than genuine local empowerment. Public health and anti-social behaviour are such cross-cutting issues that one service alone is always likely to disappoint its electors.
So, I am genuinely heartened that Michael Gove wrote before the summer to Directors of Children’s Services to reassure them that they would retain a pivotal role in ensuring that ‘all children’ are cared for and achieve their full potential. Equally, I’m pleased that, seemingly following Liberal Democrat lobbying, the health white paper strengthens the role of local authorities within health. At last, authorities have the chance to convene and lead genuinely radical and cross-service innovation.
The challenge is whether they have the capacity to do it. From the skills and method to managing the politics of risk, many authorities simply aren’t set up to innovate. That is why I continue to be so excited by our work with Knowsley, helping them to develop their innovation capability. And increasingly, I think it’s work whose time has come.
Entry filed under: Local Authorities.