Skip navigation
The Progressive Policy Think Tank

Who's accountable? The challenge of giving power away in a centralised political culture

All parties appear to support greater localism but given the tendency to hold ministers accountable for all aspects of public service performance is it really possible for government to 'let go' in our centralised political culture?

All parties appear to support greater localism but given the tendency to hold ministers accountable for all aspects of public service performance is it really possible for government to 'let go' in our centralised political culture?

Ministers will understandably be reluctant to devolve powers if they are still held accountable for things if they go wrong. Conversely, however, they may be more inclined to devolve power where lines of accountability are clear and when they can be assured that once they've let go the public, the media and the opposition will accept that responsibility rests at the local level. The question therefore arises about how best to devolve power and accountability.

Original research by PwC and IPPR suggests that although the public does hold the government in Westminster responsible for core parts of public service delivery, public perceptions of accountability - and hence credit and blame - will change if devolution is well communicated, clearly enacted, and if real powers are transferred to highly accountable bodies. When this isn't the case, responsibility tends to stay with Westminster, regardless of formal accountability structures.