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“Beyond the Big Society?”

  • by JW

“How to level up the country” through a “double devolution to councils and communities”

The Wigan Deal: how to continue providing services and serving the community.


This is from the latest newsletter from the Exeter Observer:


Michael Gove, recently reshuffled to a new post as communities secretary, has thrown his support behind a devolution model outlined in a pamphlet published by the New Local think tank in partnership with The New Social Covenant Unit. “Trusting the People: the case for community-powered conservatism”, by ten Conservative MPs from the 2019 intake, makes a case for “community power as the future of the party”. It claims to explore “how to level up the country” through what it calls a “double devolution to councils and communities” while calling for “businesses to act like citizens” via reform of the Companies Act and “an end to top-down funding decisions”.

The report champions the “Wigan Deal”, which saved the borough council £115 million over ten years by encouraging residents to “take more responsibility” for public services themselves.

While it’s not clear whether the Treasury will embrace the ideas contained in the report, the UK is among the most centralised mature democracies in the world, so there is plenty of interest here, not least because some of the pamphlet’s policies would look at home in the Labour manifesto. PDF here.

Exeter Digest #7: CityPoint pop-ups reprieve – When is a PBSA not a PBSA? – Greta tells it like it is – Exeter Observer

New Local and the New Social Covenant Unit co-published the report: 

Trusting the People explores how to level up the country through a ‘double devolution’ to councils and communities. It includes recommendations on how to trust the people to transform our public services, run a stronger economy, and build stronger communities. This report is the first in a series of New Local reports with UK political parties. READ THE PRESS RELEASE

Trusting the People: the case for community-powered conservatism – New Local

Meanwhile, there’s been a lot of interest in the “Wigan Deal”:

‘˜Transforming services’ is key to saving them | Wigan Today (March 2017)

Power-Partnerships-learning-from-Wigan.pdf (Sept 2019)

In 2010, the British government introduced austerity measures across the country. Wigan, a borough in the north-west, was the third most affected local authority in England. Wigan Council had to deal with substantial budget cuts and devise new ways to continue providing services and serving the community. As a result, Wigan Council created The Deal, an informal agreement between the public sector, citizens, community groups and businesses to create a better borough.
The Deal’s main objectives are to eliminate waste from its budget and reduce demand for services while improving the lives of citizens. The Deal is composed of several smaller deals on healthcare, children, social services and community funding. It has been successful in many ways: Wigan Council has reduced its expenses, improved certain services, frozen council tax, and improved health outcomes for citizens.

The Wigan Deal | Centre For Public Impact (CPI) (March 2019)

This affecting, even moving video comes from people and stories that feed into a new report from the King’s Fund, reporting on the progress of “The Wigan Deal”.

Rekindling hope: the story of the Wigan Deal – YouTube

“The Wigan Deal” beats austerity by putting unique human relationships at the core. Does it anticipate a more radical future too? — THE ALTERNATIVE UK