Public Sector Leaders
22 June 2018
Dear Public Sector Leader
Local Governance Review – engagement phase
Programme for Government 2017-18 set out the intention to "decentralise power to a more local level in Scotland and launch a comprehensive review of local governance ahead of a Local Democracy Bill later in this Parliament". In December 2017, the Scottish Government and COSLA jointly launched the Local Governance Review.
We believe that it is important to review how powers, responsibilities and resources are shared across national and local spheres of government and with communities in the context of significant change to the governance of Scotland over the last two decades, and in recognition that outcomes for citizens and communities are best when decisions are taken at the right level of place.
This review reflects local and national government's shared commitment to subsidiarity and local democracy, and builds on joint agreement between COSLA and the Scottish Government to focus on and strengthen local and community decision-making and democratic governance in ways that improve outcomes in local communities, grow Scotland's economy for everyone's benefit, support communities to focus on their priorities, and help new ideas to flourish.
The Review of Local Governance will explore what might be achieved, and highlight opportunities for positive change. In doing so it brings a wide range of Scotland's public services into scope, takes cognisance of reforms where work is already progressing, and will include powers and functions held at national level. It is therefore very important that we hear from you.
Many of you will know that the review is being undertaken in two key strands. First, a highly inclusive conversation with communities is getting underway, and will listen to views about how decision making can work best for towns, villages and neighbourhoods around the country. This reflects our shared commitment to community empowerment, and builds on the work already done to give people a direct say over the decisions that matter most to them. If you would like to support this process, for example by hosting events, please get in touch. As part of that conversation, we expect people will be interested in how decisions about a range of public services can be made in the communities that they serve.
Second – the main purpose of this letter – we wish to involve you, as Scotland's public sector leaders, in a dialogue about how changes to how Scotland is governed can make the lives of Scotland's people better. Accordingly, we are now inviting you to bring forward proposals to feed into the review.
Just like the first strand, the second strand of the Local Governance Review offers a broad scope, and we anticipate that all public services will wish to offer proposals for improved governance arrangements at their level of place. This is based on an acceptance of increased variation in decision-making arrangements across the country: what is right for one place will not necessarily be right for another. For example, these could be at the level of a city or local authority, community planning partnership or regional economic grouping, or focus on how existing national arrangements can support a more local way of working.
We know that there are already many examples of working creatively across traditional boundaries to deliver responsive services for people. We want to hear how these approaches can be strengthened and scaled up, whether there are new powers or other changes that are needed to make more progress and the benefits these would produce, and about opportunities to hardwire better local governance arrangements into the places you serve. We are also keen to hear about how this landscape could be made to work better overall.
What is important is that proposals reflect our shared aspirations in light of the new National Performance Framework to tackle inequalities and drive inclusive growth, are consistent with Christie Commission principles, and strengthen local decision making.
We also want to have an interactive process with you to consider and develop ideas. Whilst we are setting a deadline for written proposals and evidence of 14 December 2018, we want to hear from you as early in the process as possible in order to understand your proposals, help them take shape and identify where other evidence or assurances might be required to deliver change, and consider how they might link with other ideas.
To get that process underway, we are seeking an initial indication of the kind of issues you would like to discuss by the beginning of September, and we will follow up this letter at that point. There is no fixed format for this, however we do want to receive your initial input no later than early Autumn in order to leave enough time to work with you on proposals. We also want to avoid setting an arbitrary date that would put you under undue pressure to take things forward. But we can't stress enough that we would welcome you getting in touch as early as possible in the process of you forming your ideas. We would of course be happy to meet with you and your networks as part of this process too.
Where there is interest in developing an idea, it will also be important to involve all partners with a potential contribution to make. For example, this approach is already opening up new possibilities for the Islands, following the commitment in Programme for Government 2017-18 to support those Island authorities who want to establish a single authority model of delivering local services.
These two strands of the Local Governance Review will run in parallel for a period of around 6 months, and inform a programme of changes to governance arrangements in different places where these can increase the pace and scale of public service reform, focus on shared outcomes, and strengthen local decision making. In the event of legislative change being required a Local Democracy Bill is provisionally scheduled for introduction later this parliament. However, should you have ideas that will make a real difference, but will take longer to develop and deliver, we do of course still want to hear from you.
Joint oversight for the Local Governance Review overall is provided by the Cabinet Sub-Committee on Public Service Reform Delivery and COSLA's Political Leadership Team. These arrangements provide the primary forum for determining how proposals will be progressed, with Ministers reflecting this in the scope and content of legislation.
The Local Governance Review is part of a long term commitment by national and local government to place based reform and a more local approach to decision making in Scotland. The newly refreshed National Performance Framework provides a shared set of outcomes that this way of working can help to deliver. It is therefore vital that we hear from all parts of Scotland's public services in line with the timescale above. We look forward to your participation, and to discussing your proposals in the coming months.
To begin this process, you can make contact with the team at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 0131 244 0709.
ANGELA CONSTANCE, Cabinet Secretary for Communities, Social Security and Equalities
MSP JOHN SWINNEY, Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills
MSP CLLR. ALISON EVISON, COSLA President