Headlines: December 5th, 2003

Beacon councils are contributing to local government modernization. An evaluation of the scheme commissioned by the Improvement and Development Agency and the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister and carried out by Warwick University found that learning has been promoted and change has resulted. The scheme is based on the assumption that modernisation and continuous improvement can be promoted by encouraging councils to learn from other councils which currently perform best. The aim of the scheme is to help to raise standards across all councils by awarding recognition of Beacon status to those judged to be models of excellence and able to demonstrate their exemplary practice.Beacon Councils have found their experience to be worthwhile. Knowledge of the scheme has helped more broadly with other aspects of modernisation, particularly Best Value. Half of the 386 councils who were surveyed, planned or made changes and improvements in specific service themes or in corporate performance as a result of taking part in some form of best practice sharing. Three-quarters of councils gained information that enhanced the implementation of the Best Value review process. Over half of the surveyed councils acquired models and data that helped them to improve performance management.

The report recommends that elected members should be more involved in the scheme and that there should be better linkages with other elements of modernisation, such as Best Value. Models of learning and change need to be developed to support the acquisition and application of learning, particularly in under-performing councils. Dissemination methods can be improved by paying attention to improving the ways in which knowledge is transferred..

The report is available at http://www.local.odpm.gov.uk/research/beacon/monieval.pdf