The commission on the future of local government was set up to reassess the role of local government in the 21st century and put forward practical actions to revitalise local democracy and public service.
A key task of the commission was to take the concept of ‘Civic Enterprise’ and test its practical application across a broad range of services to identify genuine opportunities for new ways of working between the public, private and third sectors.
This concept is based on the premise that services built on the strengths of the public, private and third sectors will produce better outcomes for local people.
The commission made five propositions, one of which was about devising a new social contract. The following is taken from the executive summary;
Society faces big challenges that cannot be solved by the state alone, but require the state to orchestrate action. Polls suggest that the public know that they need to do more, with many willing to do so, but equally they cannot do so without well-functioning public services. The challenge is to change the nature of the relationship between the citizen and the state, rebuild trust and ensure good local integration between health, social care and other services.
Our ageing population brings with it a number of challenges. The existing system of care and support is no longer fit for purpose and the gap between demand, funding and provision is forecast to increase further. For older people, local authorities should use their leadership role in Health and Wellbeing Boards to bring the entrepreneurial resources of citizens, communities and all sectors alongside integrated health and social care. Central government must ensure the adequate resourcing of care, by building on Dilnot’s findings and supporting local integration.
Outcomes for children from disadvantaged backgrounds are not good enough and the state is not managing to engage with many of these families.
The economic outlook and welfare changes could make this worse and if schools do not work with other local services we are likely to let down even more children. Additionally, outcomes for children in care are unacceptably low and the costs of intervention are prohibitive and rising. The relationship between the state and families who need support has to change and be based on a restorative high support and high challenge way of working to help people be more productive and make positive choices. Those in positions of authority should therefore do things with families rather than to or for them. Collective action, led by local government, could be accelerated and communicated under the banner of a new social contract with citizens that would include support for the Troubled Families Initiative and encouraging schools to be part of a community that supports wellbeing.
So, bring on the debate, planning and testing of practical application.