The Ensuring Council: An Alternative Vision for Local Government
Submitting InstitutionDe Montfort University
Unit of AssessmentBusiness and Management Studies
Summary Impact TypePolitical
Research Subject Area(s)
Studies In Human Society: Policy and Administration, Political Science, Sociology
Summary of the impact
The Local Governance Research Unit (LGRU) undertook a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP)
with the Association for Public Service Excellence (APSE), a not-for-profit local government
association that provides policy and operational advice to over 300 councils. This partnership
informed APSE's strategic policy review, co-producing a new model of the Ensuring Council, which
was adopted by its national council, and used to brand and position APSE within local government.
Seven evidence-based policy tools were created through the partnership and taken up and used
by APSE for consultancy and membership services. Externally, APSE used these outputs to
increase its influence over national policy.
The LGRU and APSE's ESRC-funded KTP (January 2011-13) was forged by Dr. Steven Griggs
(Reader in Local Governance, De Montfort University, 2009-), supported by Professor Lawrence
Pratchett (De Montfort, 1993-2010) who oversaw the initial negotiations and appointment of Adele
Reynolds (De Montfort, 2011-13) as KTP Research Associate. Griggs was subsequently joined on
the KTP team by Dr. Catherine Durose (Senior Research Fellow, De Montfort, 2007-2012) and Dr.
Melvin Wingfield (Research Fellow, De Montfort, 1993-). Griggs was lead academic. Durose was
The origins of the collaboration are in two streams of research:
- In 2008-09, Griggs and Dr. Mark Roberts (Associate and Research Fellow, De Montfort, 2009-)
evaluated local authority neighbourhood working. The research, adopted by APSE (2009),
identified the need to retain the strategic coordinating capacities of local authorities. It
challenged the fragmentation of community governance, calling for the development of an
Ensuring Council which retained the core capacities of authorities to act as stewards of local
communities. These findings were supported by the LGRU's review of neighbourhood working
in Derby (2009) by Steven Leach (De Montfort, Professor of Local Government until 2011),
Durose and Roberts.
- Durose's research (2004-07) on frontline practitioners identified the importance of civic
entrepreneurship and local knowledge. In addition, Griggs' contribution to the national
evaluation of the local government power of wellbeing (2005-2008) demonstrated how local
practitioners shape top-down regulations and performance regimes. This work on policy as
practice informed an ESRC seminar (2009-10) led by Griggs in collaboration with the
Universities of Edinburgh and Birmingham, and APSE, which evaluated new understandings
and engagements with policy-makers.
This research structured the collaborative agenda of the KTP, which responded to the shifting
policy and advocacy demands of APSE practitioners, while formulating the Ensuring Council as an
alternative model of local strategic leadership. It produced the following research outputs:
- Griggs and Durose, with Reynolds and Mark Bramah (Assistant Chief Executive APSE)
undertook (2011) a qualitative case study analysis of the impact of cooperatives and mutuals on
public services, which identified the limits of the existing evidence base informing government
policy on mutualisation.
- Griggs, Durose, Reynolds, Bramah and Paul O'Brien (Chief Executive APSE) (2011) undertook
a Q-method analysis of attitudes towards localism, discovering three original perspectives on
the Ensuring Council: public stewards; local brokers; public valuers.
- Reynolds, Debbie Johns (Principal Officer, APSE) and Bramah evaluated (2011) collaboration
and shared services for the Welsh Local Government Association. This research found that
collaboration should reflect local circumstances and that shared working through existing
powers avoids costly contractual arrangements.
- Durose, Griggs, Reynolds and Wingfield and APSE officers evaluated (2012) case studies of
municipal entrepreneurship, identifying the neglected role of local practitioners acting as
innovation `deliverers' who ensure that service outcomes are met.
- Durose, Griggs, Reynolds and Wingfield surveyed (2012) local authority responses to youth
unemployment. This research highlighted new opportunities to exploit the core capacities of
local authorities, calling upon national government to attribute local authorities a lead role in
tackling youth unemployment.
References to the research
TSB/ESRC Knowledge Transfer Partnership, KTP008212, Association for Public Service Excellence-
De Montfort University, £83,564
* Griggs, S. and Roberts, M. (2012) `From Neighbourhood Governance to Neighbourhood
Management: A `Roll-Out' Neo-Liberal Design for Devolved Governance in the United Kingdom?',
Local Government Studies, 38 (2): 183-210. (Research which led to calls for the development of
the Ensuring Council)
Durose, C. (2009) `Front line workers and "local knowledge": neighbourhood stories in
contemporary UK local governance', Public Administration, 87 (1): 35-49. (Research on local
knowledge and frontline practitioners as civic entrepreneurs)
*Griggs, S. and Sullivan, H. (2012) `Puzzling Agency in Centre-local Relations: Regulatory
Governance and Accounts of Change under New Labour', The British Journal of Politics &
International Relations. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-856X.2012.00544.x (Research on the implementation
of the power of wellbeing)
Freeman, R. and Griggs, S. (2011) `Policy as Practice', Special Issue, Evidence and Policy, 7 (2).
(Research that reports the findings of ESRC seminar series)
*Griggs, S. Bramah, M., Durose, C. and Reynolds, A. (2011) Proof of Delivery? A Review of the
Role of Co-operatives and Mutuals in local public service provision, APSE: Manchester. (Reports
findings of co-produced evaluation of the evidence base for the impact of co-operatives on public
Durose, C., Griggs, S. and Reynolds, A. (2012) The Ensuring Council. An Alternative Vision for the
Future of Local Government, APSE: Manchester. (Reports findings of Q-method analysis of views
of local practitioners towards Localism agenda)
Details of the impact
The work of the LGRU-led APSE, one of the UK's leading local government associations, to
advocate nationally a new Ensuring Council vision for local government. The LGRU and APSE
generated this vision collaboratively, with the end-of-award KTP evaluation grading it as
Impact on APSE's organisational strategy: APSE's National Council (its governing body of
senior councillors and local officials) adopted the Ensuring Council as its strategic vision in March
2011. The Ensuring Council principles were the object of APSE's chief executive's keynote speech,
'Developing Effective In-house Services', at the 2011 annual seminar, while APSE's October 2011
study of the green economy, undertaken with the think tank Infrangilis was entitled 'The Transition
to a Green Economy. The Vital Role of the Ensuring Council.' Its November 2012 report `Local
Authority Sport and Recreation Services in England. What next?' also endorsed the Ensuring
Council as central to the future of leisure services — it was distributed UK-wide to all 300 member
In 2012, APSE undertook a national commission into the potential strategies open to an Ensuring
Council in 2020. As part of a national call for evidence in June 2012, the Ensuring Council KTP
report was distributed to over 80 leading opinion-makers, organisations and think tanks (including
the Communities and Local Government (CLG) Select Committee, Local Government Association,
TUC, UNITE, UNISON, Centre for Local Economic Strategies, Local Government Information Unit
and the Institute for Public Policy Research). The chair of the CLG Select Committee publicly
endorsed the Ensuring Council in his response to APSE. In August 2012, APSE's chief executive
briefed Jack Dromey MP, shadow housing minister, and Chris Williamson MP, shadow local
government minister, on the Ensuring Council.
Impact on APSE's national policy advocacy: The research undertaken with LGRU increased the
capacities of APSE chief officers to influence national policy debates, professional organisations
and think tanks. In March 2012, O'Brien, APSE chief executive, gave evidence to the Associate
Parliamentary Corporate Responsibility Group on public sector mutuals, endorsing the systematic
review of cooperatives and mutuals (`Proof of Delivery' report) undertaken as part of the KTP. In
May 2012, Bramah, assistant chief executive, gave evidence to the inquiry by the CLG Committee
on mutuals and cooperatives, directly referring again to the `Proof of Delivery' report. The CLG
Committee subsequently make reference to the systematic review in its final report. In addition,
KTP research on municipal entrepreneurship was taken up by the think tank Localis in its policy
guidance on the `catalyst council' and public services. The shared services research was promoted
by Councillor Arwyn Woolcock (Neath Port Talbot) `as a good source of guidance for Welsh local
authorities' (APSE, press release 23 March 2012). In May 2012, APSE advocated its findings to
the Head of Policy Improvement at the Welsh Local Government Association.
Generation of tools and guidance on policy development: Seven sets of tools and guidance
were circulated to member authorities. APSE principal advisors took these tools into their work with
councils. Principal Advisor Mo Baines used guidance from the `Proof of Delivery' research in work
with the Senior Management Team at Telford Wrekin Council on service delivery models in October
2012. The work on cooperatives generated a diagnostic tool used with local government officers in
London in March 2012. The same research was applied, in July 2012, to a project on joint working
with Hampshire UNISON; it was used in August 2012 to generate an option appraisal tool for APSE
consultancy. In June 2013, APSE and the LGRU were engaged to design moves towards area
working on the model of the Ensuring Council by Derbyshire County Council.
Additionally, LGRU's research has been used for training seminars with member authorities. In
June 2012, the shared services research was presented at the APSE Wales' seminar on
innovation, income generation and efficiencies, following the circulation (August 2011) of a policy
briefing on the research to all APSE Wales member authorities. The youth unemployment
guidance was used in August 2012 at an APSE Wales Seminar on skills and apprenticeships. The
lessons on municipal entrepreneurship were promoted at a policy development seminar in
November 2012 to over 200 paying delegates.
Finally, the KTP research was popularised in the professional press. O'Brien published articles on
mutuals and the Ensuring Council in the Society Guardian, Public Finance, Municipal Journal, the
Guardian Local Government Network, as well as articles in Direct News magazine (circulated to
27000 local government practitioners), his Chief Executive's Blog and 24dash.com. Leading
professional journals, Local Government Chronicle and Municipal Journal, also profiled research
Sources to corroborate the impact
The two chief executives of ASPE are prepared to verify all the claims in this case study and to
provide documentary evidence of both the chair of the CLG Select Committee's response to APSE,
and the meetings between the APSE Chief Executive and the two MPs.
For further information about APSE please see http://www.apse.org.uk/ (accessed 06/08/13) From
this link it is possible to access a PDF of APSE's manifesto, which describes the Ensuring Council
on page 2.
Further information about "'The Transition to a Green Economy. The Vital Role of the Ensuring
Council" can be accessed via this link: http://www.apse.org.uk/blog/post/2012/04/16/Councils-role-in-shift-to-green-economy-must-be-recognised.aspx
(accessed 06/08/13). A hard copy of the
report is available from the case study authors upon request but more information can be found at
this link: http://www.apse.org.uk/research.html (accessed 06/08/13).
The `Local Authority Sport and Recreation Services in England. What next?' report is available via
this link: www.apse.org.uk/page-flips/2012/Sport&Recreation.pdf (accessed 06/08/13).
A copy of the House of Commons Communities and Local Government Committee (2012) report
Mutuals and Cooperative Approaches to Delivering Local Services can be accessed via the
publications tab on this web page: http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/communities-and-local-government-committee/news/co-op---op-note/
(accessed 06/08/13) or a PDF can be made available upon request.
The `Proof of Delivery' report was used as part of the evidence submission to the Co-operative
Council inquiry held by the Communities and Local Government committee. See
For the uncorrected transcript of oral evidence (accessed 06/08/13)
A copy of the Localis and Capita Symons (2012) Catalyst Councils. A New Future for Local Public
Service Delivery Report by Daniel Crowe (London: Localis) can be accessed via this link (or a PDF
can be made available upon request) www.localis.org.uk/article/1160/Catalyst-Councils.htm
The Acting Chief Executive of Derbyshire County Council is happy to provide further evidence
about the consultancy work with Derbyshire County Council.
Evidence that the research was featured in the press can be seen through these links (which are
Guardian Local Government Network: Co-operatives and mutuals: proof of delivery?
Public Finance: Mutuals: where's the proof? http://opinion.publicfinance.co.uk/2011/08/mutuals-wheres-the-proof/
Society Guardian: Co-ops, mutuals and public services
Press coverage of municipal entrepreneurship research, see G. Carson, `Local authorities get
down to business', Local Government Chronicle, 06 December 2012, pp. 4-5.(PDF can be made
available on request).