‘Co-production in local public service reform: perspectives from a network of Northern Town Halls’
‘Co-production in local public service reform: perspectives from a network of Northern Town Halls’ – Jenni Viitanen (Institute Public Policy Research)
Unprecedented cuts to local authority budgets have given renewed urgency to the need for radically reformed and efficient public services. In the same time, the coalition government’s decentralisation and localism agenda is engineered to empower communities to be in the driving seat of local public service delivery. In order to resolve these tensions, coproduction has been identified as one part of the jigsaw which local government needs to piece together in reforming neighbourhood services. Building on all the assets held within a community purportedly holds out the potential of realising public service improvement and efficiency, and what might be termed a ‘Big Society’ approach to neighbourhood working. Using action research methods involving local government professionals through five case studies, this paper presents fresh evidence from a ‘learning network’ of local authorities in the North of England, comprising Liverpool, Trafford, Wakefield, Northumberland and Newcastle. The opportunities and challenges associated with different approaches to coproduction in neighbourhood services are discussed, focusing on organisational, cultural and resource challenges within the Town Hall in leveraging community assets. The findings are used to illuminate the tensions between decentralised, localist and coproduced services on the one hand, and the drive to pool and centralise resources in order to gain economies of scale on the other.