Oflog body will not ‘micromanage’ local government

The government has launched a local government body responsible for identifying financial problems in councils earlier and strengthening accountability

In a speech to the Local Government Association conference this week, levelling up secretary Michael Gove officially launched the Office for Local Government (Oflog).

The body will seek to address the depth of financial challenges faced by local councils in recent years and will provide ‘authoritative and accessible’ data on financial performance, and support improvement.

However, Gove emphasised that it will not attempt to ‘micromanage’ councils, neither will the body replace the Audit Commission.

But he did promise to take ‘concrete action’ on reforming the external auditing system in response to the current backlog in local authority audits.

Gove said: ‘The Audit Commission was regulating, micromanaging, and inspecting local councils, forcing them to spend time ticking boxes and filling in forms rather than getting on with the business of local government. In doing so it was hindering local transparency and scrutiny.

‘Local government already works within a framework of statutory powers and responsibilities. Oflog will not add new responsibilities onto local government or seek to establish an expensive compliance regime, thereby safeguarding the principle of democratic accountability.

‘To give greater clarity to local authorities – and help to identify potential failures – we are also launching a consultation into new statutory guidance on what constitutes best value, and the standards authorities are expected to meet by government and residents.’

Some of the body’s objectives from launch include providing taxpayers with information about their local authority, enabling them to hold local leaders to account when needed.

It also intends to increase central government’s understanding of the performance of local government, identifying any risks of failure.

Gove added: ‘Oflog should also support us and the department in another vital way, and that is identifying potential problems in councils earlier. We all know that there have been local authorities where problems have arisen – notably Thurrock, Liverpool, Croydon, Slough and most recently Woking.

‘A handful of cases, the exception… but the problems did not happen all at once – they were there for some time, and they worsened over time. We need to be able to respond to the warning signs.’

The body will use a new online tool called the Local Authority Data Explorer to provide metrics across a subset of service areas to help improve the transparency of local government performance.

In seeking to identify at-risk areas, Ofleg will monitor any indicators and use them to inform whether a dialogue needs to be opened within local authority – bringing in local leaders and experts to explore what is happening on the ground.

In a policy statement, Gove said: ‘Data alone cannot provide the full picture, and therefore Ofleg will take the approach of using these indicators to prompt questions, not judgments. It will also explore whether the council is already taking action to address the underlying causes, and how effective this action is being.’

Office for Local Government

Max Austin |Reporter, Accountancy Daily 

Max Austin is a reporter at Accountancy Daily.If you have any news stories, please email me at: ...

View profile and articles

Average: 4 (2 votes)

Rate this article

Related Articles