Headlines: October 2nd, 2002

There has been a big increase in the number of authorities bidding for Beacon Council status in the latest round of applications. The scheme, designed to spread best practice in local government, has received 186 applications – an increase of 42 per cent on last year’s figure.This is the fourth year of the scheme and the Local Government Minister, Nick Raynsford, said it was still attracting new applicants. Of this year’s applications, 29 are from authorities which have never applied before.

The Beacon Council scheme has been extended this year to cover other Best Value authorities including fire, police and parks authorities. The government believes this will result in a wider range of examples of best practice which can be shared with other bodies.

Nick Raynsford said, ” This year we have received the highest number of applications since Round One of the scheme. The substantial increase from the previous two rounds shows that councils are keener than ever to give local communities the best quality services possible, by delivering excellence and sharing best practice.”

In the past three years 128 Beacon awards have been made to 97 councils in England covering service themes concentrating on issues which local people believe are important.The current round includes themes which recognise councils working to get the long-term unemployed back in work, co-coordinating roadworks to minimize disruption to drivers and pedestrians, supporting homeless people and encouraging online access to local services.

All the applications will be assessed by an independent advisory panel who will draw up a shortlist. Councils on that list will then be visited as part of the selection process and asked to present examples of best practice.