Headlines: February 16th, 2001

Following the award of beacon status to 43 councils earlier in the month, themes have been announced for the third wave of the beacon scheme. Applications from councils that want to become exemplars in their chosen theme must be submitted by May and the results will be announced early next year. The 50 councils that achieve beacon status in the third wave will then open their doors to colleagues to demonstrate how they are meeting the various challenges.Crime reduction in rural areas features among the themes. Although evidence from the British Crime Survey shows that levels of general crime, and the levels of fear of crime,are significantly lower in rural than in urban areas, the threat of crime felt by rural communities is still very real. Councils wishing to achieve beacon status in this field will have to show that their strategies are dealing effectively with burglaries, thefts of and from cars, violence and drug offences, as well as crimes peculiar to the countryside, such as thefts of livestock and farm equipment, wildlife crime and mass trespass.

Councils are among the biggest funders and providers of legal advice services and community legal services also feature among the themes. The Community Legal Service, which was set up last year, aims to address access to advice and other legal issues by encouraging the development of local networks of legal and advice services, based on local needs and priorities.

Other themes are: adoption, enhancing access and mobility, fostering business growth, improving urban green spaces, libraries as a community resource, neighbourhood renewal, promoting racial equality, tackling fuel poverty and affordable warmth through energy efficiency, and transition between key stages in schools.

The new themes are based on the recommendations of the Advisory Panel on Beacon Councils who consulted councils and others interested in excellent local services. They reflect the wide range of responsibilities councils have and the many ways in which they can improve the quality of life of local people.