Headlines: May 3rd, 2001

The final three agreements between local councils and the Government to deliver an agreed set of services have now been signed. The twenty councils taking part in the pilot scheme are now committed to a package of performance targets for the next three years. In return for this commitment they will each receive a one million pound incentive payment and, if successful, a special cash boost. They will also benefit from an easing of red tape, particularly the requirement to provide detailed plans. It is planned to roll out local agreements with more councils over the next two years.The targets set by councils all have a direct impact on local communities. They include education, health, transport, waste management as well as initiatives to tackle drug abuse among young people, dealing with abandoned vehicles, neighbour nuisance and strategies to reduce the number of deaths on the roads. All the 20 agreements include partnership working to tackle cross-cutting issues.

The Local Public Service Agreements reflect well established arrangements in central government where departments sign up with the Treasury each year to achieve a range of targets. The central arrangements provide no rewards for success nor penalties for failure. The Local Government Association has pioneered the use of agreements in local government as a way of allowing councils to focus on local problems and priorities rather than following Whitehall dictates on what are seen as national priorities. The expectation is that by giving councils freedom to set their agenda and flexibility in delivering services, there will be a better outcome.