Headlines: May 24th, 2000

The Local Government Association has launched an initiative to give local councils greater freedom and flexibility to set priorities and deliver excellence tailored to local needs. In return, councils will commit to delivering stretching targets. The move meets the growing concern in town halls that the Government is increasingly adopting a ‘Frontline First’ approach where money is ring fenced and goes straight to schools or hospitals, cutting out middle men such as health and local authorities.The initiative is based on the Public Service Agreements between the Treasury and other government departments. Councils would commit themselves to 12 tough targets, some of which would stretch national standards, such as increasing the achievement of 11 year olds above standards of literacy and numeracy. Other targets would relate to local priorities such as tackling crime or social exclusion. The targets would be agreed with local people and central government.

The freedoms and flexibilities which would form a crucial part of the Agreement include a reduction of the burden to produce plans, relaxing capital controls, allowing budgets to be pooled and giving local business rate relief to aid regeneration.

The LGA has drawn up a local Public Service Agreement framework in discussion with the Government and 25 councils are working up proposals. The aim is to pilot local PSAs from April 2001.