Nick Plumb, Locality – How councils can Keep it Local

Nick Plumb Policy Officer - Locality

Nick Plumb Policy Officer – Locality

On 9 June, I spoke at the Co-op Party’s local government conference in London. We were asked to consider how councils can procure for social good, and learn the lessons from the collapse of Carillion.

At Locality, we believe there are many lessons to be learned, but primarily that the tide is turning on large scale-outsourcing and that we need to seize this moment to forge a new direction. Local authorities need to utilise the strengths of co-operative and community-led organisations when commissioning and procuring public services.

Community organisations are uniquely placed to deliver services

Community organisations play a unique role in the local service landscape through delivering person-centred services. In particular, working with people with complex needs, who find themselves a long way away from the labour market, or who face loneliness or social exclusion.

But the recent trend towards scale and standardisation has led to poor quality, tick box services and the crowding out of smaller, local providers which are so well placed to deliver these services with relationships at their core.

Locality’s Keep it Local campaign – which has been an ongoing piece of work since 2012 – seeks to make the case that there is a better way. We believe that through a Keep it Local approach to commissioning, local authorities can create better, more responsive services that reduce long-term pressure on the public sector and invest in the local economy.

Implications of Carillion’s collapse

I believe the Carillion debacle is changing the debate around risk. Its collapse is accompanied by many other examples at a local level where large contracts going to big companies or large national charities have ended up delivering poor quality services, or gone spectacularly wrong and ended in expensive legal proceedings –  something we term ‘scale fail’. Following these failures, the benefits of spreading risk across a range of smaller, simpler contracts are now being recognised.

As councils seek an alternative, the Preston Model has received a great deal of attention (indeed, Leader of Preston Council, Matthew Brown led a fascinating session on community wealth building at the conference). Initiatives like this and our Keep it Local campaign ask local authorities to think about how they draw on the strengths of all sectors – and harness the power of community – for the benefit of a place.

Keep it Local Network

In order to capitalise on this moment of concurrent crisis and dynamism, we want to involve as many innovative councillors in our Keep it Local campaign as possible. Through our Keep it Local Network, which we’re running in partnership with the Lloyds Bank Foundation for England and Wales, we’ll share insight into innovative approaches to commissioning, run expert-led webinars, and provide updates on current trends and news. We’ll also be also running events up and down the country to facilitate peer-to-peer learning and co-design our Keep it Local principles, to ensure our approach is feasible and realistic. So please do explore the links below, and join the conversation.

Nick Plumb
Policy Officer, Locality

[email protected]

Our campaign briefing provides detail on our draft principles – the five steps to Keep it Local – and you can join the Keep it Local Network here.

Our first event, being held in Leeds on 12 July, will explore the ways a Keep it Local approach can boost health and wellbeing outcomes.