Food policy coherence in local government: who does what and why?

Freelance management consultant, educator, and former City University Master's student Rob Kidd, shares insights from his dissertation. 

Rob Kidd

Why I chose this topic

While food policy is often made at the central government level, by ministers and departments representing the national interest, it is often interpreted and implemented (or not) by councils. When I worked in local government, I found it to be complex, inconsistent and hard to navigate. It took me a long time to get to grips with the wide range of stakeholders and their myriad policy positions.

There are hundreds of councils around the country, with dozens of coordinating and representative bodies involved, many of which have an interest in food policy. In her research, Kelly Parsons helped food policy researchers and practitioners to understand the complexity of central government departments with an interest in food.

My goal for this research is to give food policy practitioners a similar way to navigate the complexity of local government. In doing so, I hope that they will be able to design better, more coherent policies, that have a greater chance of success, by acknowledging and accounting for the complex policymaking environment.


My conclusions

Local government is even more complex than I imagined! There are vast opportunities for greater efficiency and simplification, though these largely do not enjoy political support. With regard to food policy, almost every council function has, or should have, an interest to some extent.

There are several areas (notably trading standards, planning and public health) where there is a lot of good work happening. However, this is often done in isolation and with limited political support. There are also several local government functions (especially adult social care, children’s services and procurement) that could do much more to support public health and sustainability goals around food.

I believe there is an opportunity for more consistency within and between councils. Local food partnerships are perhaps the most promising and widespread means of fostering good practice at the local level. Hopefully, these partnerships will spread and join up to create a more coherent national picture.

Read the full thesis here. 

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