Book News: August 28th, 2008

This report from Communities and Local Government assesses the impact of Local Public Service Agreement targets on local service performance. It concludes that the LPSA regime was not as powerful a driver of local organisational change as the Comprehensive Performance Assessment which succeeded it.

The report provides useful insights into the relationship between central and local government and into target setting regimes in general. It also casts light on the barriers to improvement in local authorities more generally.

The implicit assumption within central government underlying the LPSA policy was that the real barrier to improvement in local government is the lack of will and lack of capacity to improve. Local government assumed that the problem was central government ‘red tape’.

The reality proved that the major barriers to progress were a lack of focus, the difficulty many public agencies have in devoting sustained resources and attention to a particular area and a lack of clarity about desired outcomes. There was also a lack of understanding of the root causes of problems and how to tackle them.

The key barriers in partnership targets were the difficulty of getting partners to agree priorities and work together to achieve them. Partners were focused on silo-driven priorities and they resisted getting blown off course by changes in the priorities of their parent departments.

The report is available from DCLG.