Headlines: August 28th, 2002

The 20 councils taking part in piloting local public service agreements have discovered some of the reasons why they have difficult relationships with central departments. An evaluation report of the pilots by the Office for Public Management, reveals that apart from departments having regular contact with councils, there was a low understanding of how services are delivered and this meant that issues often did not receive high priority.The research exposed the need to improve understanding in Whitehall of the complexities of local government. There is a perception that many civil servants have little opportunity to experience the realities of service delivery at local level, many aspects of which are profoundly affected by decisions taken in Whitehall. The discussions between the pilot councils and departments highlighted the perverse effects of micro management where government controls the detail of local action and the intended result is often unachievable for specific local reasons. Usually the central department is unaware of the problem.

The pupose of pilot scheme was to find out where the difficulties for full scale implementation lie and how they can be overcome. The local agreements are seen as the next step after Best Value and as a tool to motivate managers to achieve stretched performance. They are also viewed as a way to encourage collective working, to focus on key priorities, and to facilitate joint working with partners

The targets for the local public service agreements are set by councils and they 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.

Link: <http://www.local.detr.gov.uk/research/opmcovr.pdf>