Open Forum

    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
    care.

    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
    paramount.

    Blair McPherson is director of organisation development
    at Lancashire Council adult social services.

     

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