Strong and prosperous communities - The Local Government White Paper
Department of Communities and Local Government, October 2006
This is a wide-ranging white paper, which aims to give local people and communities more power to improve the services that affect their everyday lives. It emphasises a reduction in top-down control, to enable local authorities to respond more flexibly to local needs, and citizens and communities to have a greater say in how things are run. It sets out clearly the need for partnership working across agencies and authorities .
This summary covers some of the major points, and highlights areas of the paper that most relate to the work of the Trust.
Responsive services and empowered communities
Local authorities will involve and consult service users more fully and provide better information about standards in their local area. They will be encouraged to develop ‘neighbourhood charters’, setting out local standards and priorities. There will be measures to promote increased community ownership and management of local facilities and assets.
Effective, accountable and responsive local government
Overview and scrutiny committees will be strengthened, to allow them to call on local public service providers for evidence and demand a response to reports from the council. There will be three choices for councils: a directly elected mayor, a directly elected executive of councillors, or a leader elected by their fellow-councillors with a four-year mandate. All the executive powers of local authorities will be vested in the leader of the council, with a strong role for the council to scrutinise the leader's actions. Councils in shire areas will be able to seek unitary status. An independent review will look at the incentives and barriers to serving on councils.
Strong cities, strategic regions
The Government will promote the concept of city development companies and encourage Employment and Skills Boards to be formed in core cities to provide a more strategic approach to employer engagement, skills and employment (the Leitch Review of Skills recommends a national network of such boards). Areas that wish to will be able to develop Multi-Area Agreements that cross local authority boundaries.
Local government as a strategic leader and place-shaper
The Local Strategic Partnership will be the overarching strategic partnership in each area. These partnerships have the same boundaries as the local authority, which is a key member of the partnership. Local authorities are already under a duty to prepare a Sustainable Community Strategy, which sets the strategic vision for an area. County and unitary local authorities, in consultation with local partners, will now be required to prepare a delivery plan for the strategy – known as a Local Area Agreement.
The Local Area Agreement will include a single set of targets for improvement, tailored to local needs, agreed between central government and local partners. Local authorities and other local partners will be placed under a duty to work together to agree the priorities in the Local Area Agreement. Organisations subject to the new requirement will include Youth Offending Teams, the Learning and Skills Council (for England) and Primary Care Trusts. Delivery of the priorities will be the responsibility of key local partnerships like the children’s trust, the Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnership and new health and well-being partnerships.
A new performance framework
Instead of the many hundreds of indicators currently required, there will be a single set of about 200 outcome-based indicators covering important national priorities, agreed through the Comprehensive Spending Review. These will inform around 35 priorities for each area, tailored to local needs through the Local Area Agreement, plus the statutory educational attainment and childcare targets. The Outcomes-Targets-Indicators Framework diagram gives more details: it can be found on page 123 of Volume 1 of the full White Paper. A new assessment regime – Comprehensive Area Assessment – will replace Comprehensive Performance Assessment. This will be more proportionate and risk-based, and enable more targeted support or intervention when things go wrong. Local areas will be given, through these measures, the freedom to tackle complex, cross-cutting issues like social exclusion and anti-social behaviour. Efficiency – transforming local services
The Government will encourage greater collaboration between councils and across all public bodies, in order to help meet the efficiency gains required as part of the 2007 Comprehensive Spending Review.
The measures set out in the white paper aim to support stronger local leadership, greater resident participation in decisions and an enhanced role for community groups, in order to help local areas promote community cohesion.
The second volume of the paper considers how it applies to a number of cross-cutting issues: community safety; health and well-being; vulnerable people; children, young people and families; economic development, housing and planning; climate change; and the third sector. Some of the points it raises are:
- The following groups are identified as being in need of attention: children in poverty; children in care; families of disabled children; teenage parents and their children; children with mental health problems; children who are unaccompanied asylum-seekers; and families in which problematic circumstances and behaviour among parents increases the social exclusion faced by their children (including where parents are offenders, have mental health problems or misuse drugs).
- The Department for Communities and Local Government will work with the Social Exclusion Task Force to ensure there is a new focus on identifying and targeting the key issues for children, young people and families in the new performance framework, either before problems arise or at the earliest opportunity
- The paper recognises the need to continue to drive forward the Change for Children programme by:
- Strengthening links within the wider strategic management of areas, and in particular developing children’s trusts to support partnership working between local authorities and Primary Care Trusts.
- Strengthening the local authority leadership and commissioning role.
- Making a reality of prevention and early intervention.
- Giving local leadership greater freedom to deliver better outcomes for children and young people.
- Developing the infrastructure of children’s centres and extended schools that will help deliver integrated services to all communities.
What this means for literacy
The publication of the White Paper challenges the literacy community to deepen its engagement with local authority delivery. Specifically we need to work to promote:
- The visible prioritisation of literacy as a theme within the work of Local Strategic Partnerships and the development of Local Area Agreements.
- A convincing evidence base of how literacy activity contributes to key outcomes including stronger and safer communities.
- The development of literacy activities in extended schools and children's centres.
- The focus on early interventions to achieve better outcomes, particularly through programmes which embed literacy and language activity in health, therefore supporting links between local authorities and primary care trusts.