Book News: March 24th, 2005

This discussion paper published jointly by ODPM and the Treasury is an essential part of the ‘Local Vision’ which is taking a long view of where local government is going. It examines the development of a more effective and flexible performance framework to secure public services that are better focused on the needs of local people. It is intended to stimulate debate around developing a more devolved approach to improving outcomes across local government. It emphasises opportunities for users and local people to influence local priorities and the design and delivery of services.The paper presents a vision of reduced bureaucracy through a more coherent approach to managing performance, more flexibility to enable faster and better tailored responses to local circumstances with greater potential for developing an increasingly area based approach between councils and their partners. It also stresses the importance of strategic, integrated relationship management through Government Offices to tailor negotiations, co-ordinate engagement, and challenge and respond to significant under-performance.

The vision for the future depends on doing much more because of under-performance in councils and other bodies, corporately and at individual service levels. There is also a wide variation in performance. Examples quoted include adult social services, where the top quartile of councils provide intensive homecare for four times more households than the bottom quartile, and the best performing councils are three times as likely to provide assessments of new clients as the worst performers. More generally, research findings show evidence of significant differences in services in terms of improvement in Comprehensive Performance Assessment scores. There are also wider challenges that must be met to improve public services such as tackling disadvantage, inequalities gaps and poverty and in joining up delivery to meet multiple needs and provide more personalised services.

There will be a series of opportunities to take the debate forward in seminars, workshops and meetings over the coming months. Any views and comments can be sent to   The strands from the debate will be drawn together over the next 12 months, along with reactions to other local vision documents. This will lead to the development of a strategy document setting out a path to realise the vision.

The discussion paper is available at: