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Central-Local Relations: a Perspective on Single Outcome Agreements Richard Parry Reader in Social Policy University of Edinburgh Scottish Policy Innovation.

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Presentation on theme: "Central-Local Relations: a Perspective on Single Outcome Agreements Richard Parry Reader in Social Policy University of Edinburgh Scottish Policy Innovation."— Presentation transcript:

1 Central-Local Relations: a Perspective on Single Outcome Agreements Richard Parry Reader in Social Policy University of Edinburgh Scottish Policy Innovation Forum 13 March 2009

2 Acknowledgement Scottish Public Management Network seminar 6 February 2009, with contributions from: Justina Murray (North Ayrshire Council), Arthur Midwinter, Kirsten Gooday (Community Care Providers Scotland)

3 Two traditions in central-local relations 1.Grant consolidation in which central transfers come in a block and sub-central actors have the legitimacy and capability to allocate it Centre reduces demands upon itself; sub-central gains autonomy; potentially at least, a relative lack of mutual blame

4 2. Grant transfers for specific ring- fenced projects Centre controls spending of money and makes local delivery actors dependent upon it; central-local relations become a continuous political tool which demonstrates the unequal resources between the levels

5 Tendency to oscillate between these two traditions In Scotland, both reorganisations legislated by Conservatives as part of pro-local spirit in 1970s (strong regions) and pro-central in 1990s (weak councils) but inevitably overlain with political calculation New Labour liked specific grants – purchase of a headline

6 SNP political strategy 2007 Establishment of credentials with actors in the political system and civil society in order to normalise an independent political system Concordat November 2007 made possible by the fragmentation of local political control under new voting system, and pent-up anti- central resentment

7 Complexity of Concordat deal freeze (= making available grant to allow freeze) of council tax Consolidation of many specific grants efficiency savings retained by councils No structural reorganisation Rapid production of Single Outcome Agreements (by April 2008, building on previous CoSLA/Scottish Executive work)

8 SOAs – not single Not a consolidation of objectives or a tool for choice of priorities by local authorities; tendency to be a single document containing multiple orientations and purposes

9 Not outcome-based Range of variables, many of them about output or level of activity: not a consistent focus on outcomes (end-states) and many of the outcomes are aspirational or not susceptible to any particular leverage by local authorities

10 Not agreements Expresses local conformity with national outcomes as part of the protocol of central- local relations; initially at least, more like filling in the application form in the correct way Some resemblances to Open Method of Co- ordination of European Union (soft law); eg annual reports on European Employment Strategy

11 Positive signs Relationship with Community Planning Partnerships is being rationalised Scottish Government Directors being linked with local authorities, with interaction on drafts A safe location for dialogue within Scottish public services (including asks of the centre)

12 But the context is fragile Little flexibility on the financial side of the Concordat; plans are rolling 3-year but spending review framework is fixed 3-year Many tactical decisions by cross-cutting interests of political parties and levels of government Will get caught up in electoral politics

13 Policy directions - 1 Development of SOAs into the expression of an effective reciprocal learning process, more discriminating and diverse in the choice of indicators, the output of Community Planning, and a means of promoting the grant consolidation tradition

14 Policy directions - 2 Narrowing, not widening, the gap between the aspirations of the centre and the ability of local government to deliver them, including stronger fiscal instruments for local government that (unlike Burt recommendations 2006) are politically as well as technically robust


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