Headlines: February 19th, 2003

Replace all central planning requirements on local government and use the Comprehensive Planning Assessment to monitor performance. This is the key recommendation from a study commissioned by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister. The authors of the report, Portico Consulting and the New Policy Institute, believe that any less radical approach would lead to departments across Whitehall, who commission the plans, arguing that they had a special case to maintain their plans. The report excludes Best Value Performance plans and community strategies from this new approach.The report argues that councils and their partner organisations should still be required to plan their services and initiatives, but the planning process would become a locally managed activity. It would be necessary to develop local planning processes to replace the current centrally mandated ones in some cases. Central government would still require councils to include specific subjects in their local plans, and to respond to specific national policies, objectives and targets. Central advice on planning would continue, but it would become good practice and would not be mandatory.

It is feasible to remove 25 of the 52 current service plan requirements. Decisions would then be required on how and when to remove the remaining 27 requirements. An option would be to start with the ‘higher performing’ authorities, moving to the remainder once plan owners across Whitehall had gained assurance about the effectiveness of the alternative arrangements for communication, monitoring and assessment. Departments would get direct assurance that councils were meeting their requirements through inspections as well as less formal relationships.