Over 200 applications for Beacon Council status in the first round of the Beacon Council Scheme have been received by the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions. This is almost half of the councils in the UK. The number of applications is seen as an endorsement of the Scheme which has been under criticism from different quarters. Councils selected as Beacons will act as pace setters and centres of excellence. Through a nationally co-ordinated programme, organised by the Improvement and Development Agency, they will help spread good practice around the country through open days, secondments and publications.
The next stage of the selection process will be assessment of applications by an independent advisory panel and the production of a shortlist. All shortlisted councils will be visited and asked to present examples of best practice to the panel. The councils selected as beacons for the first year of the scheme will be announced in November.
The success of the scheme carries seeds of discontent because it is planned to restrict beacon status to some 40 councils, which means that some 160 councils will feel disappointment at their failure to achieve the coveted status.