Headlines: November 1st, 2002

Local Authorities are comfortable working in partnerships, according to the Audit Commission, but it says there are still problems over how much value the arrangements add to the provision of services.The Commission says, too, that more attention needs to be paid to inclusivity and to ensuring the highest standards of probity in partnership working.

A report, ‘Developing Productive Partnerships’, has been produced by the Commission’s audit arm, District Audit, aimed at chief executives, senior managers and elected councillors. It says a pressing issue is the need to assess more fully how effective many partnerships are and the contribution they are making to the delivery of improved services.

It focuses on three key areas – performance, inclusion and probity. On the first the report highlights the need for partnership bodies to question whether the work they are carrying out adds value to the work they were already doing independently. Systems need to be in place, it says, to track performance and resources both in terms of money and people.

The document says inclusivity can range from regular consultations to encouraging representatives of stakeholders to become actively involved in decision making. It says partnerships need to consider what they are trying to achieve through inclusion and that thought needs to be given to how best to interact with lobby and interest groups.

Good practice, the report says, indicates that all members of a partnership should be responsible for ensuring they meet the highest standards of governance. It stresses the need for the roles and responsibilities of the accountable body and the partnership to be formally recorded and that there should be transparent procedures for dealing with any conflicts of interest.

Sir Andrew Foster, Controller of the Audit Commission, said chief executives, senior managers, elected members and non-executive directors, would find many useful pointers in the report to the essential elements of cultivating good partnerships.

“Ultimately partnerships are about delivering good quality services to users and so the focus needs to be on the best way to get there, ” he added.