Engagement and accountability have become mainstream concepts in the public sector. What will this mean in the future as the recession fuels an increase in social need at the same time as public spending falls?
The last decade has a seen a cascade of reform from Whitehall, channelled through local government and other public services, to increase engagement and accountability – white papers, citizens’ juries, neighbourhood management, community charters and calls for action, area working, the councillors’ commission, the choice agenda, web feedback on public services – with the words empowerment, engagement and accountability becoming part of standard public sector language. There is now a fairly broad political consensus in support of this agenda amongst the three main parties, albeit with a difference in emphasis: whether the priority is to help those with least power and resources get a fairer deal; or to help everyone regardless of background to have more control over local services.
This paper was commissioned by the Department for Communities and Local Government to feed into their May 2009 conference – The Local Revolution.