Headlines: February 16th, 1999

More detail is emerging on the delicate path the Government has walked to try to please all over its proposed ‘beacon council’ programme.Its proposals, which are posted on the web at www.detr.gov.uk and are now being consulted on, retain kudos for the small number of authorities which will achieve beacon status. But they also put money into best practice so that all councils are involved in learning about how such an award is achieved.

There were fears that the term ‘beacon’ may fail to carry weight, if it were too easily won, and yet many managers feared the demoralising effect of not being part of the project.

The Government is putting aside seven hundred thousand pounds per ‘beacon’ for the hosting of open days and talks so that best practice can be shared.

An authority is entitled to make only one corporate nomination per year. Each year the Government will request hearing about specific types of achievement. Themes for first year include community leadership, tackling crime, competitiveness, education and health, modernising, regeneration and promoting sustainable development.

In future, following legislation, the Government intends that beacon councils will be a test bed for new freedoms and flexibilities.

The developments will be keenly watched in the health service, where the term ‘beacon’ is also starting to be used as a tool for measuring good performance.