How devolving power saved Britain, 1871


2013: Britain’s first real local government in 142 years.

Responsibility for public health was centralised in 1974 after a century of huge progress by local authorities. By 2012 Britain’s social health record had become the worst of the 29 most developed countries. Local authorities had become ‘branch offices of Whitehall’ as Lord Heseltine put it in his 2012 report to the Cabinet.

Heseltine wrote that the UK’s disastrous record of failure to solve social problems would never improve until power was devolved to local government. In 2013 the Health and Social Care Act and the Localism Act did so.

Hugh Small spent 15 years studying what happened the last time we tried it, in 1871, when the Local Government Board Act devolved responsibility for public health to local authorities. The results are on the left. Click here to find out how it happened …

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