Interesting report in The Guardian that the Shadow Treasury team are in talks with Conservative councils about handing over to Town Halls the responsibility for setting and distributing certain benefits such as Job Seekers Allowance.
The Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury Phillip Hammond confirmed that the idea was being looked into when he spoke to the New Local Government Network. "Huge potential savings," were available he estimated and added:
"There are some key challenges we will have to face in delivering this agenda. Can we take the public with us in this agenda? Can we persuade people living in your area, for example, they would rather see the management of workless benefits in the hands of a local authority than in the hands of a national government setting standards nationally?"
Kent has been pioneering in this area with its Supporting People programme. Lord Hanningfield, the leader of Essex County Council, has set out specific proposals to change the current arrangements of "parking people on benefits."
The principal is that Councils should have an incentive to get people off welfare. Also that there should be some flexibility to reflect local priorities. The need to save money is helping to give localism an extra edge.