Abstracts: October 10th, 2005

This first interim report on the Agreements prepared by the Office for Public Management and the Universities of West of England and Cardiff, shows that the initiative has been welcomed by local authorities, but central departments are less enthusiastic. The attractions at the local level are the ability to influence the focus of effort and the reward for achieving targets. The report recognizes that negotiating a dozen or so targets covering policies owned by eight central departments with each of 130 local authorities over a three year period was a hugely ambitious undertaking, and it is not surprising that the process did not always go smoothly and was sometimes characterised by confusion and delay.Aims vary widely between and within authorities, are generally mixed, not always made explicit and often not shared between the leadership and those responsible for delivery. At corporate level delivering improvements in relation to strategic goals is the main driver, with reward grant as a powerful incentive. At service delivery level the emphasis is more on sustained improvement in outcomes. Lack of a coherent shared ‘story’ about the rationale for the LPSA and specific targets leaves progress very vulnerable to changes in personnel.

Amongst central departments LPSA is seen as a way of achieving departmental priorities. But significance varies between departments depending on the alternative levers at their disposal.

The next phase of the initiative, LPSA2, will lead to a shift in emphasis to local priorities with an impact on central departments. There is concern that the problems of negotiating local targets and throughput or output indicators may continue to result in not measuring what is most important.

The report is available at: http://www.odpm.gov.uk/stellent/groups/odpm_localgov/documents/page/odpm_locgov_