Headlines: October 16th, 2001

Councils across England are being invited to become pathfinders to trial new ways of working with the public, private and voluntary sectors. The aim is to deliver better services to local people.Strategic service-delivery partnerships (SSPs) aim to improve the way services are delivered through a longer term approach to meeting the broad aims and aspirations of local people. These partnerships promise to be more flexible than current arrangements, capable of adapting as the needs of the local community change.

Under the pathfinder programme authorities can propose partnerships in three broad areas – corporate services and e-government, transport and environmental services, and education, health and social services.

The pathfinder authorities will receive expert advice and assistance from a dedicated taskforce selected for their knowledge of innovative public sector procurement and their project management, financial and legal experience. Some of the taskforce membership have been drawn from local councils, but many are from organisations like Babtie Group, Serco and PriceWaterhouseCoopers – firms already used to working for and with councils.

The Government says strategic partnering has a vital role to play in the achievement of best value delivery delivery of local services, allowing authorities to access scarce skills and resources and to explore innovative approaches to service delivery.

Any council can apply to become a pathfinder. To win status, applicants will have to explain how their proposed partnership will help to achieve the council’s strategic objectives and how it will improve services.

Up to 30 councils will be selected. The closing date for applications is 23 November 2001.