What does the Office for Local Government need to succeed?

Think tank: Institute for Government

Author(s): Rhys Clyne; Stuart Hoddinott

July 13, 2023

This report from UK think tank the Institute for Government looks at the newly-launched Office for Local Government and the potential to make government more effective.

The newly-launched Office for Local Government (Oflog) has the potential to make government at all levels more effective – but there is a risk that Oflog will be held back by conflicting purposes and competing audiences. This paper welcomes the launch of Oflog more than 18 months after it was announced in the Levelling Up White Paper. It can play an important role in making data more consistently available, comparable and usable for local government, central government and the public, with better use of data helping local government to shape policy decision. However, the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities’ (DLUHC) initial plans risk falling short of what is required. Oflog must avoid the perception of partiality, narrow views of ‘good performance’ and burdensome Whitehall assessments. This means more clarity is needed about the way Oflog will use data to spot failing councils and ensuring that it avoids concerning itself with narrow scorecards of council performance. It also requires the government to give Oflog the independence it needs to succeed. It has been set up as a unit within the DHLUC, but this means it could be more difficult to act with the independence required to gain the trust of its audiences, especially given the poor relations between central and local government in England.