The Financial Times has just published its latest survey of the latest local government cuts. This follows a similar survey by the BBC.

As well as the level of cuts reported, what does this tell us about some of the current trends?

So far these reductions are seen almost purely in local government terms with local Councils collaborating with others to share back office services rather than attempt service reconfiguration collaboration with other local Local Strategic Partnership (LSP) Partners.

Those with experience of the past might wonder whether newly ringfenced Health Services are likely to see themselves as losing out if they collaborate too much with the local authority as they may fear the Council will simply try to off-load some social care service delivery on to them as they may have more immediate resources to hand. An example might be the grant funding of some voluntary organisations? The proposed abolition of Strategic Health Authorities and the changing role of Primary Care Trusts’ (PCT’s) may also lead to mergers that remove their coterminosity with local government that may reduce collaboration and again may lead to organisations seeking savings within the health sector rather than cross-sector service change?

Police forces may also look to increased shared services at Local or Borough Command Unit level, so again they may not have much incentive to collaborate.

Thus the incentives to develop wider cross-sector Total Place initiatives may well be badly skewed across various sectors as we see various local partners operate at different speeds when it comes to seeking efficiencies. Service transformation at this cross-sector level may be held back unless local leaderships in those sectors seize the initiative and engage with each other and their local communities early in the efficiency process.

Though Total Place has recently been referred to in positive terms by ministers, more interestingly it is LSP’s that have not had any mention by the coalition.  possibly because the abolition of the CAA may make them less urgently required at present. Whilst it is likely they will survive at local level to coordinate some activity, will the Government in future say how they operate is down to local partners as part of an approach along the lines of: “we should trust the professionals at a local level” that CLG ministers have recently argued for. Is the new localism also going to create a disparate “new magistracy” that was debated a length in the 1990’s? If so, can local engagement make this more accountable than it was in the past?

Charlie Mansell is Research and Development Officer for the Campaign Company

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