Place Leadership – what does this mean for the voluntary and community sector?
Public sector cuts and the recession has had a dramatic impact on the resources available for local services. Yet the national policy framework has largely restricted the ability of localities to shape their future. Certain services and programmes have been driven by a national agenda without necessarily considering different challenges and opportunities in different parts of the country. The move towards regional devolution based on creating new local levers and pooled resources across geopolitical areas. To enable better co-ordination of economic development, could opens up some real opportunities for local priorities to shape future services and programmes. However, this could be constrained by the rigid governance requirements of combined authorities and an elected mayor in return for these new regional powers. Yet in principle this could afford opportunities to work creatively with other local actors and stakeholders in shaping their future.
So what is the potential role of place leadership? The development of place leadership has grown and is seen as having the potential to deliver place transformation, because it recognises the interconnectedness of services, institutions and organisations, and the unique identity and culture of the locality. The New Local Government Network (NLGN), an independent think tank that seeks to transform public service, revitalize local political leadership and empower local communities has drawn together a series of essays from a range of different stakeholders to show place leadership is already emerging.
The role of the voluntary and community sector should be critical to the potential of place leadership. Sadly though their role has been marginalized and in particular for smaller to medium sized organisations that dominate the delivery of services to meet local need and contribute to the local economy. It can be difficult to justify spending on ‘personal development’ for smaller organisations, but without investment in the right leadership to participate could undermine the contribution of the sector and work in a collaborate way with other actors and stakeholders.