Place-based public service budgets

Think tank: New Local

Author(s): John Denham; Jessica Studdert

January 31, 2024

This report from UK think tank New Local looks at making public money work better for communities.

Severe challenges face public services in England. Austerity has created a ‘doom-loop’ whereby the short-term urgency to respond to crises prevents the development of long term solutions to underlying problems.

Top-down efficiency initiatives no longer produce real savings, while weak public finances, record levels of taxation, slow growth and debt repayments constrain the possibility of new investment in the immediate future.

The government of the next Parliament will have no choice but to find new ways to make better use of existing spending. This report argues that this can also be an opportunity: an ambitious new approach to better coordinating all public spending in a local area would enable new ways of designing and delivering services that better meet people’s needs.

Inspired by the Total Place pilots of the last Labour government and informed by locally-led practice which work with the assets of communities, we set out how pooling existing public service budgets across a place can be a more effective use of resource which would transform the way communities are supported to thrive.

By repurposing the system to focus collectively on outcomes that are meaningful for people to live a good life, it will be possible to overcome the waste and fragmentation inherent in the dominant model of provision.