Headlines: June 11th, 2003

Councils and their staff are to benefit from a new range of activities designed to improve skills and expertise in local government. The capacity building programme has been set out in a joint prospectus from the Local Government Association and the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister. Councils will have to contribute towards the cost of improvement but the programme aims to make capacity building activities affordable and accessible.The two bodies have allocated 27 million pounds to develop the national framework set out in the prospectus, which outlines the first group of available programmes. Additional activities will be added under a number of themes as part of a three-year programme. The ODPM and the LGA will send regular updates to councils about these.

Activities outlined in the prospectus include, peer placements under which councils will be able to offer staff as peers, or ask for support from peers in local government. The IDeA has set up a Peer Clearing House to help broker these relationships at no cost and authorities offering staff to assist with ‘poor’ and ‘weak’ councils will get special incentive payments. There will also be support for those councils most in need and programmes for improving leadership skills. This will see authorities benefiting from the expansion of the IDeA Leadership Programme, including the Leadership Academy and a new scheme, the Advanced Leadership Programme. These programmes are designed for staff at all stages in their local government career and will also offer modules for experienced councillors and elected mayors and fast-track programmes for younger councillors.

Other features include help with recruitment and retention with the joint fund supporting the doubling of the Employers’ Organisation National Graduate Development Programme from 50 to 100 places. In addition there will be new programmes for middle managers, centres of excellence, and specific support for district councils. Two of the new schemes will give preferential treatment to district councils who feel they are likely to be graded as poor or weak under the Comprehensive Performance Assessment.

Sir Jeremy Beecham, Chair of the LGA, said the programme provided an excellent opportunity to demonstrate that support for improvement can come from within local government through officers and members helping other councils harness their potential.

The prospectus is available as a web publication via the ODPM and the LGA websites at www.odpm.gov.uk or www.lga.gov.uk . A printed version of the document will be sent to chief executives and leaders of all English authorities shortly.