Fundamental change will come from place-shaping

After tumultuous changes inside the main political parties and a multitude of cabinet appointments, local government finds itself with a new communities secretary.

Whether you were a supporter of Greg Clark or not, the progress towards devolution that he helped push forward is gathering pace in many parts of the country. Sajid Javid may be just as supportive of devolution – we will have to wait and see. But the key question remains largely unanswered – will devolved powers strengthen or weaken a local authority’s place-leading role? As authorities look to introduce more community-focussed activity to counter the diminished social interaction caused by more and more self-serve solutions, it’s important we find the answer… and quickly.

In recent conversations NSL has had with local authority chief executives the role of councils as place leaders was discussed and real concerns were raised. Previously, councils were able to shape communities through funding and investment. Even with the transfer of additional budgets alongside new powers there is no guarantee of the formation of more integrated and engaged neighbourhoods where people are more inclined to look out for one another. It’s now becoming clear that an aspirational and more progressive mind-set – shifting the focus from outputs to outcomes – is needed to help deliver the results that matter and to meet local government’s financial and service challenges. From this standpoint, the key question is what more can be done with partners to rebuild and reshape local communities?

With all the focus on digital transformation and service automation, one area that seems to be forgotten is the importance of our frontline colleagues to help shape and lead on the place agenda. Operating right in the heart of local communities, they are the on-the-ground experts. They can be technology-enabled and highly trained in many different services areas and are working right at street level. And one service area that reaches out into the community more visibly and more completely than any other is civil enforcement.

Here, uniformed council representatives help to keep traffic flowing, our streets safe and town and city centres accessible to everyone. Put simply, they are there to encourage and optimise compliance in the best interests of local people, businesses and places. With additional powers and skills they can encourage positive new behaviours and maybe even rekindle some civic pride for tackling challenging issues such as littering, vandalism, even antisocial behaviour. Aligning existing frontline community resources more closely with wider community issues, it is possible to support the role of councils as place leaders and to deliver meaningful outcomes – more ’joined-up’ neighbourhoods with increased community engagement and less strain on local authority services.


For further information, please contact Luke Allen, Director of Communications, 07468 701361, or

Notes to Editors:

NSL is a leading UK company specialising in the delivery and management of frontline services in complex public sector and regulated environments. Our core services include business process management; enforcement; passenger and social transport; street management and technical design services. We currently have over 70 contracts with local, regional and central government, as well as with the airport and the private sector, and have delivered contracts for high-profile government agencies, such as The Royal Parks, DVLA, Transport for London and Transport Northern Ireland.