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Heading Upstream published

The Centre for Welfare Reform has published a major report offering an independent evaluation and critical review of the work of Barnsley Council.

The report brings together data from multiple evaluations and a fresh analysis of publicly available data. It demonstrates:

  • Barnsley is making positive progress, despite austerity, by shifting power and control to local people, families and communities
  • Barnsley is making this progress despite harsh cuts that unfairly target the places where people are poorer - Barnsley has already lost more than 31% of its funding and cuts in benefits will take £129 million per year will be taken out of the local economy
  • Barnsley is deprived of its fair share of resources by a system of centralised power and spending in London - if public spending was shared equally Barnsley would have £0.75 billion more in local spending
  • Barnsley only controls 11% of local spending and most remains in Whitehall
  • The capacity of local people, which Barnsley Council is beginning to tap, is enormous - equivalent to £1.7 billion in public spending (which is about the same as all current public spending in Barnsley)

This report has been written by Dr Simon Duffy, Director of the Centre for Welfare Reform. Dr Duffy commented:

"Barnsley's achievements are significant, because they are not based on another management fad or theory. Instead local leaders have been working hard, for over 12 years, to shift the balance of power towards local citizens, families and communities. None of this is easy, but the benefits have been very significant, especially when you consider the enormous pressure placed on local government by austerity.

"I particularly hope that this report will provide hope to those in the United Kingdom who still believe in social justice, fairness and the role of local government. Barnsley don't see themselves as a service provider; instead they aim to respect and strengthen local communities and raise people's expectations. Barnsley is a proud Northern town and it expects to achieve great things.

"This report is also relevant to the current debate on devolution. It demonstrates that the current balance of power is not neutral. Barnsley are losing out financially and politically, because power is centralised in London. Current discussions of devolution will not change this unless there is a more fundamental discussion about the financial and constitutional protections that places like Barnsley need."

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