Give councils more freedom, says aide

Councils should face fewer targets and have greater freedom to set their own priorities and shape their communities, the government’s chief adviser on local government reform has said.

Sir Michael Lyons, who is leading a government-commissioned review into the future of local government, suggested that social care, public health and Connexions could all benefit from a greater degree of local flexibility.

In an interim report this week, Lyons said the “vast majority” of councils’ resources was taken up with meeting government targets, reducing their ability to respond to local needs and make the best use of funding.

Echoing calls from the Local Government Association, Lyons, a former chief executive of Birmingham Council, called for ministers to set national targets in priority areas with performance management in other services carried out locally.

Lyons said councils should be seen as “place-shapers” in their communities. This would require them having more influence over other service providers, who should face a duty to co-operate with local authorities.

He also called for closer scrutiny of whether requirements placed on councils were adequately funded by the government, perhaps by an independent agency.

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