The expectation that local strategic partnerships would bring organisations together to deliver seamless public services focussed on the needs of the citizen is not being met five years after they were launched. An evaluation report from the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister paints a dismal picture with few bright spots and in some cases there are echoes of an organ transplant with the body rejecting an intrusion.Local strategic partnerships are a major innovation in the pattern of local government bringing together at a local level the different parts of the public sector as well as the private, business, community and voluntary sectors so that different initiatives and services support each other and work together. They are non-statutory, non-executive organisation which operates at a level which enables strategic decisions to be taken yet is close enough to the grassroots to allow direct community engagement.
The report separates the partnerships surveyed into those in a virtuous circle and others in a vicious circle. The former are improving their efficiency and effectiveness whilst the latter are going in the opposite direction. The wide variation in the progress of LSPs to date is a key finding from the evaluation.
Culture was found to be at the root of the issue with success coming to LSPs with a ‘positive local context’. The cultural web making up the local context includes factors such as a tradition of co-operation in the area, trust and good working relationships. Other critical success factors were leadership, a stable political environment, matching boundaries of partners and local authority leadership. Where the culture is not so supportive and the other critical success factors are questionable LSPs migrate into a vicious circle.
The evaluation report argues that it is possible for LSPs to ‘break in’ to the virtuous circle or ‘break out’ of the vicious circle at various points. It quotes an example where strong local leadership can build a supportive local context for the LSP in areas where this does not already exist.
The evaluation identified both governance and delivery issues and a further report on the impact of partnerships will be published later.