Book News: January 24th, 2008

The Beacon Scheme, introduced in 1999 for councils and in 2003 extended to other bodies including police and fire authorities, is designed to improve performance. The scheme aims to share good practice on improvement across local Government and provides for awards to authorities that demonstrate excellence or innovation in specified service themes.

The Warwick Business School was commissioned by Communities and Local Government and the Improvement and Development Agency to evaluate the impact and effectiveness of the scheme over three years.

Researchers found evidence to demonstrate that the Beacon Scheme has clear links with capacity building and that individual and collective learning takes place between authorities participating in the scheme. They also found that learning leads to adaptation, innovation and capacity building in and between individual authorities, which in turn leads to improved performance and increased capacity in local government.

There is evidence that for those authorities which participate in the scheme, there is considerable learning between organisations and that learning leads to both corporate and service improvement, and that learning is two-way between Beacons and their visitors.

The analysis of the capacity questions in the two national surveys indicated that over the same two-year period, local authorities reported a significant increase in capacity. Perceptions of capacity reported by all respondents in 2006 were greater than perceptions of capacity reported in 2004 in 32 out of 46 areas included in the survey. The greatest increases in capacity were reported to be in: sharing and making use of information; enabling conditions for learning, change and improvement within their authority; and in performance and planning activities. The smallest increases in capacity were found in networks, partnerships and national agencies as sources of learning; understanding complex learning needs; and creating cultural change.

The report is available from DCLG.