Localism is one of the government’s new big ideas. The principle
underpinning the concept for local authorities is devolution or
decentralisation to give more power to local communities.
But is localism simply about transferring power and resources
from cabinet to local councillors? Or is it about giving the wider
community a greater say? Or, specifically, giving people who use
our public services a greater voice in how services are developed
and delivered locally?
Clearly, localism affects all agencies that deliver public
services. These include health services, education, housing, social
services, waste management, highways maintenance and the police.
But does localism work for some services and not others?
Localism is about giving people who live in a locality more say.
Service user involvement and consultation is about giving people
who use a service more say. Both are about giving people more say
in service delivery.
This distinction doesn’t matter if most local people use a
public service, such as refuse collection. But perhaps it is
different when only a few use a public service, such as home
So, with greater emphasis now on localism and service user
consultation, who should have greater say in how day services for
frail older people are delivered, for example? People in the local
community and local member representatives? Or older people who
actually use the service and their relatives?
Devolution should be about giving local people more say, and
thus a greater voice and more power. Localism, however, should
enable people who use public services to be the focus for
delivering and developing local services, not just local
politicians or the wider community.
Localism is the right way forward, but one model for embracing
it does not fit all. For this reason consultation and service user
involvement on health and social care services remain
Blair McPherson is director of organisation development
at Lancashire Council adult social services.