This positioning paper, by ippr north and Social Regeneration Consultants for the North East Regional Improvement and Efficiency Partnership, presents the business case for 'good conversations'.

Community engagement and empowerment - or 'good conversations' - has been on the policy agenda for some time. But as the UK moves into an era of budget restraint policymakers are asking themselves whether the time for good conversations has come, or if they are a luxury we can no longer afford.

The government's twin agendas of the Big Society and localism bode well for good conversations remaining on the policy agenda. But as the realities of the public sector budget cuts hits there is a risk that good conversations will fall by the wayside.

It is imperative that cuts are made with long term improvement in mind, not just quick cashable savings. Local authorities, and their partners, need to find radically different ways of working over the coming years. The redesign of services must be founded on the basis of good conversations.