New Office for Local Government receives mixed response from Bedford Borough Council’s three main political groups

“We welcome any increased transparency of local government performance”
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The new Office for Local Government could be a “burden on local services without the funding to deliver it”, a “key pillar of democracy” or a tool to help the government “realise the damage it’s done” – depending on which political party you ask.

The Secretary of State Michael Gove MP officially launched the Office for Local Government (Oflog) at the Local Government Association’s annual conference on Tuesday (July 4).

Mr Gove said Oflog will “improve accountability and transparency” and “help all councils succeed”.

The Rt Hon Michael Gove MP  Open Government LicenceThe Rt Hon Michael Gove MP  Open Government Licence
The Rt Hon Michael Gove MP Open Government Licence

“By providing targeted data and analysis, Oflog will champion the very best in local government and also help us to identify where councils need targeted support to deliver,” he said.

“Oflog is about supporting [local authority leadership] to get on with the job of running local government and delivering for residents and communities, and we will work with you to establish the best indicators of performance that will be upheld via Oflog.

“And Oflog should also support us and the department in another vital way. And that is identifying potential problems in councils earlier.

“We, collectively and in the department, I think, need to be able to respond to the warning signs,” he said.

The new department has received a mixed response from Bedford Borough Council’s three main political groups.

A Liberal Democrat spokesperson said: “Tory councils across the country are failing and going bankrupt, and our last Tory Council in Bedfordshire left a record of £90m of debt so this could be useful when holding incompetent administrations to account.

“But it could also be yet another Conservative burden on local services without the funding to deliver it.

“What local councils actually need from the Conservative government is a sustainable funding model whereby councils do not have to waste time and resources bidding for money whilst the pressure on vital frontline services increases every year.

“Properly funding local government through a multi-year settlement is what the government should be focused on,” they said.

Bedford Borough Labour Group leader Carl Meader said: “Given the chaotic state of so many Conservative Central Government departments and offices already in existence, I’m surprised they have decided to create another one, rather than fixing the myriad problems of the ones they already have.

“The reason so many councils are at potential risk of failure is because of the savage cuts to funding of local authorities over the past thirteen years.

“If the creation of an Office for Local Government is needed to help the Tories realise the damage they have done, so be it.”

Conservative Group leader and portfolio holder for finance, councillor Graeme Coombes, said: “Bedford’s Conservative Group welcomes the Government’s announcement establishing the Office for Local Government (Oflog).

“This level of openness and transparency forms a key pillar of democracy that will strengthen accountability, provide information and empower residents to truly understand and scrutinise the decisions and performance of their local council.”

A Bedford Borough Council spokesperson said: “This has been a recent announcement and the council will look into the implications.

“We welcome any increased transparency of local government performance but will need further detail before understanding the implications for Bedford Borough Council.”