Book News: November 16th, 2006

This report outlines progress in implementing the first round Local Area Agreements and explores the negotiation of the second round. Although there is support for agreements in localities, Government Offices and central government departments, fundamental differences of understanding about the focus and the intended scope have caused confusion and wasted effort. Despite these differences, there is a consensus that possible benefits that could come from the scheme over the longer term.This divergence of views is a fundamental weakness. Localities tend to see agreements mainly as a dialogue, with central departments viewing them more as contracts. The different interpretations have important implications in relation to performance management, and the extent to which agreements are designed to sweep away existing performance management systems and reporting, or sit alongside them.

The report describes the difficult role of the DCLG. It is seeking to generate wider ownership of the principles underpinning the agreements and at the same time forcing change that will demonstrate their ‘added value’. Championing additional costs now, in exchange for potential benefits in the longer term is a hard message to get across. There is a clear need for some further demonstrable ‘wins’ in reducing the burden of reporting to government and the removal of barriers to effective implementation. Without this evidence of the potential of Local Area Agreements, it will be difficult to ensure that energy and commitment are sustained over time.

Published by the Department for Communities and Local Government and available at: http://www.communities.gov.uk/pub/107/LAAResearchRound2NegotiationsandEarlyProgressinRound1_id1504107.pdf