Headlines: March 18th, 2004

Joining up a wide range of local services and bringing organizations together to build partnerships is a critical element of the vision of local government ten years on, presented by Local Government Minister Nick Rainsford. He drew the vision against a changing background of an ageing population with more people aged over 65 than under 16, the rapid growth of one person households and technology developments. Other factors driving change include the growth of the regional agenda, neighbourhoods and pressures on finance.Local councils are the natural leaders of the area and a focal point for partnership working. In areas such as health, education and community safety, the growth of partnership working will challenge traditional accountabilities and responsibilities. Councils will need to find new ways of influencing, shaping and contributing to key objectives which are not delivered directly.

A particular challenge is to find ways to encourage and support bodies responsible for public services in each area to work together. This cannot be achieved by giving councils the power to boss others about. Councils need to build up their standing and respect within the area and with their partners, so that others look to them to bring things together and make things happen.

The difficulties of partnership working make the traditional silo working with narrow responsibilities attractive, but evidence from the Comprehensive Performance Assessment shows that co-ordinated action is more effective. For many services the best results come from a range of providers and organizations working together.

Nick Rainsford said: “Now is the right moment to address the big question of the future of local government. In the coming months there will be an opportunity to take part in the dialogue. The outcome could shape the nature of local service delivery for years to come.”