Public services north: time for a new deal?

Document type
Ward, Michael
Smith Institute
Date of publication
1 February 2013
Community Development and Regeneration, Social Policy, Social Policy
Social welfare
Material type

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Fiscal austerity presents enormous challenges for the three Northern regions, not least because, as this report expertly shows, the North faces a triple burden: low growth, disproportionate spending cuts, and a diminishing local tax base. These pressures are dramatically changing the public services landscape, forcing local politicians as well as senior executives and their boards to rethink how best to meet rising demand.

There are no quick fixes on hand and, arguably, no turning back. The evidence in this report suggests that public services in many places in the North are close to crisis point, and that the full effects of the cuts and recession have not been properly acknowledged. The report shows it is important to understand more clearly the social and economic pressures placed on public services and the differing impacts they are having regionally and locally. The North faces similar challenges to other regions, but as the report explains, it also has distinct problems and unique opportunities.

The report aims to not only highlight the difficulties facing many public service providers in the North (notably in places where local funding prospects are diminishing), but also demonstrate how local government and other public service agencies are innovating and facing up to the task of providing more for less. Indeed, the good practice and new ideas discussed in the report, including homegrown solutions and the proposal for a new Northern Centre for Public Services, show what can be achieved despite the bleak outlook.

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