Headlines: November 11th, 2003

Eighty local authorities are a step closer to achieving Beacon status with the announcement of the shortlist drawn from the original 218 applications under round five of the Beacon Council Scheme. Of those councils making it to the list, more than half have reached this stage for the first time.The short-listed authorities have all been judged to have shown evidence of excellence and innovation, as well as a commitment to spreading best practice in a range of important service areas, covering ten themes – Benefits Administration, Better Public Transport, Crime and Disorder Partnerships, Early Years and Childcare, the Sure Start Agenda, Housing Renewal, Promoting Sustainable Tourism, Services for Older People, Supporting Social Care Workers, Supporting People and Transforming the School Workforce.

Marianne Hood, who chairs the Advisory Panel on Beacon Councils, said it had been impressed with the quality of applications. The selection process had been rigorous and the councils short-listed had been able to demonstrate excellent outcomes in service delivery in their themes. Many of the authorities that had not made the short list still had valuable experience and good practice which they could share with other councils and the Improvement and Development Agency is to look at ways to disseminate this expertise.

The successful authorities now progress to the next stage of the selection process, which includes site visits and presentations. Applicants awarded Beacon status for round five will be announced next April after the government has considered advice from the Advisory Panel.

Fifty eight per cent of authorities on the short-list have reached this stage for the first time, and 46 of them represent district authorities. Nineteen of the successful schemes are from the South East, fifteen from the Eastern region, fifteen from the South West, eleven from the North East, ten from London, ten from the North West, nine from Yorkshire and Humber and five from each of the East and West Midlands.