By Tim Montgomerie
One of the great problems in the fight against poverty and dysfunctionality is that the right hand of government often doesn't know what the left hand is doing. Different agencies of local, central and quangocratic government are relating to the same disadvantaged households with no coordination.
Eric Pickles tells Tory Conference this afternoon that he'll give City Mayors the power to bring agencies together for a co-ordinated and decentralised assault on poverty:
"We are putting in place national welfare to work and offender rehabilitation schemes, operating on a payment by results basis. But we do not just want that important support to be done by central government – we want local government to get involved too, putting its own funding and expertise into developing enhanced programmes to work alongside the core work that we are doing nationwide.
We see the new generation of Mayors as being crucial to bringing these different programmes together in order to turn around the lives of families with the worst problems, and be at the forefront of this decentralisation. After all, these Mayors will be responsible for our big cities, where so many of these issues are to be found. For example, in Birmingham two criminal families alone cost £37 million over three generations in criminal justice costs alone. Nationwide, these families costs the taxpayer tens of billions of pounds a year to maintain, so radical reform has the potential to save huge amounts of money.
So we will create the opportunity for Mayors to bring together different devolved budgets and pool them with our national payment-by-results systems. Together, Mayors will be able to help design services specifically targeted at the hardest-to-help families. They will be able to add their own budgets – social services, care, housing, health improvement – to the national programmes. This will give Mayors the power to change lives, and help save money at the same time."
In the speech the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government will promise "Home Rule" for Britain's major cities, including Birmingham as part of his determination to see power transferred downwards from Whitehall.