Headlines: March 3rd, 2003

Local government’s commitment to driving through improvement now has an unstoppable momentum, according to the Local Government Association’s chair, Sir Jeremy Beecham, today. He was commenting on the launch of an Improvement Route Map which the Association believes will be an important reference point for councils on the road to self-improvement.The publication follows the recent announcement of an agreement between the government and the LGA on a central fund of 27 million pounds aimed at helping local government build its own capacity to better itself.

The LGA says the guide published today has been written by local government, for local government and it will be the launch pad for the next stages of an agenda that has performance at its heart. The subject was in the news in December with the publication of Audit Commission gradings that categorised councils from excellent to poor. The LGA says the launch of the map is a further demonstration of local government’s determination to achieve excellence for all and to prove that as a result councils deserve freedom and flexibility from central government controls.

Sir Jeremy Beecham said, “There is simply no contest between what councils now expect of themselves, compared to what the rest of the public sector expects of itself. We are in the vanguard of change and the publication of this map, together with all the work that is now going on between partners across local government nationally and locally, is an important milestone.

“The process of improvement is unstoppable – most if not all councils will be able to demonstrate that they are the most effective and efficient provider of services. The ball will then be firmly back in the government’s court and the question will be stark – will government be able to let go of the reins of power and allow councils to fully respond to local need and choice, properly funded, locally accountable and in control of their own destiny.”

The map will work with an interactive website and is not a fixed document but a programme that will evolve as councils’ own performance plans evolve. It will include a directory of services that councils can call on to bolster their management plans as well as statements of improvement, case studies written by council leaders and chief executives, and comprehensive advice on how authorities can help each other.