Headlines: February 17th, 2005

More councils will be able to compete in the next round of the Beacon scheme following the addition of three new themes. The scheme was established in 1999 to identify councils to act as centres of excellence and to share their learning with others through open days, secondments and publications.The additional themes are: better procurement; supporting rural services and improving housing services by involving tenants. The themes carried forward from the previous round are: early intervention with children at risk; positive youth engagement; road safety; service delivery through partnerships; valuing people; and waste and recycling. The additional themes will allow more councils to share examples of good practice and learn from each other to improve the services they deliver.

An evaluation of the scheme in 2003 by Warwick University found that learning has been promoted and change has resulted. Councils that achieved Beacon status 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. Over half of the surveyed councils acquired models and data that helped them to improve performance management.