Today there is a significant number of very clear examples of how the Government and indeed all parts of the public sector need to start cooperating and working together. There appears to be a view amongst some people that conflict and opposition is good for the winners and valuably defeats the losers. Whilst this can make some sense for some people in certain settings, there are very few places where this achieves an overall positive outcome for everyone and indeed there are far too many examples where this leads to human damage or even destruction. If people who want one winner and one or more losers when it comes to games and competitions this will no doubt carry on. However when it involves lives and communities the damage set out to the losers can never justify the extra benefit handed over to the winners. This morning in social media a number of messages have demonstrated how the current Government has sought to defeat or at least to diminish locations such as Manchester where there are a significant number of Labour run Councils, a Labour Mayor and mostly Labour MPs, whilst at the same time to be generous to other locations such as Lancashire where the Council is dominated by the Conservative Party. In another case according to twitter earlier today
“And now it’s Nottingham’s turn to get played. Johnson claimed constructive support discussions underway, Leader of Council on #r4today saying no discussions have been held. It’s all spin and grudge payback.”
And not surprisingly Nottingham is a Labour led Council. Another example is what I wrote about a few days ago, when the Eastbourne MP raised her concerns about the Brighton Council over their housing of homeless people in her town. Caroline’s response and perhaps more acutely the criticism towards Brighton and Hove by Jacob Rees-Mogg demonstrated that party politics is what lies behind their conflict. Given that this relates to a period of COVID and Homelessness one can question if competition and conflict is very helpful for the people who run the Hotels or the people who have been living on the Streets.
The publicly listed and legal term cooperation was introduced to local Governments in 2011 when the coalition Government that had arrived a year earlier had already brought the Regional Assemblies to an end. The Regional Assemblies provided a legal basis for local Governments to work with their neighbouring local Governments and also with the businesses and voluntary sectors in the same area. They also included other parts of the public sector. According to this Kingston Upon Thames website
The 2011 Localism Act and the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), local planning authorities have a legal Duty to Cooperate with other local planning authorities and organisations to seek to address strategic planning matters that are driven by larger than local issues that are likely to have an impact beyond their immediate Local Plan area. The Duty to Cooperate is the mechanism for ensuring the right issues are addressed, in the right way, and with the right partners to maximise the effectiveness of policy and plan-making…….Cooperation will involve social, environmental and economic issues that can only be addressed effectively by working with other local planning authorities and organisations beyond our own administrative boundaries. For example, housing market areas, travel to work areas, river catchments and ecological networks may represent a more effective basis on which to plan for housing, transport, infrastructure, flood risk management, climate change mitigation/adaptation, and biodiversity.
According to a publication on the County Councils Network website today there is a new report that argues for stronger collaboration between councils to fill the strategic planning void. Stronger collaboration between councils, health bodies, and business could set out ambitious visions for housing and economic growth in county areas, filling the strategic planning void if the duty to co-operate is axed, a new report argues. This report written by a friend of mine, Catriona Riddell and her Associates Company comes at a time when government is proposing substantive planning reforms, including the removal of the duty to co-operate, which encourages district councils and county councils – plus neighbouring authorities – to work together on Local Plans. It seems very disturbing that the current Conservative Government is planning to remove the duty to cooperate that the previous Conservative led coalition Government introduced in order to justify their abolition of the Regional Assemblies. Tragically their decision to remove the duty to cooperate is not currently any mechanism to compel or encourage local authorities to work together on planning and infrastructure in their areas.
It seems clear that the need for local cooperation and National cooperation has the potential to improve our communities for the immediate future and the long term future. There is a website called #BuildBackBetter that has a great deal of value on it that has nothing to do with party politics or even the public sector, but yet it is a way for all of us to associate ourselves with cooperation.