Headlines: March 21st, 2006

The Government has announced the ten new themes under which Best Value local authorities will be able to bid for Beacon status under round eight of the scheme. The new headings were revealed when The Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott, and Local Government Minister, Phil Woolas, met representatives of winning authorities at the seventh annual Beacon Scheme awards ceremony.The successful round seven Beacon councils will share funding worth 3 million pounds to improve their work in sharing best practice and encouraging further innovation in local government. The scheme has this year seen the highest number of awards so far with a total of 61 being presented to 85 authorities. Those awards were made across 10 themes, including Waste and Recycling, Positive Youth Engagement, Improving Rural Services and Transforming the Delivery of Services through Partnerships.

The ten new themes will be Delivering Cleaner Air, Electoral Services, Emergency Planning, Healthy Schools, Increasing Voluntary and Community Sector Service Delivery, Neighbourhood and Community Champions, the Role of Elected Members, Preventing and Tackling Anti-Social Behaviour, Promoting Financial Inclusion and Tackling Over-indebtedness, Promoting Sustainable Communities through the Planning Process and School Improvement.

John Prescott congratulated all the successful authorities at the ceremony and told them, “Beacon authorities help to create sustainable communities by embedding good practice across local government for the delivery of high quality public services. I hope that other authorities will be encouraged to look at what they can learn from these Beacons.”

Phil Woolas said the best of local government rivalled, and sometimes beat, the best of business. “We are on the edge of a technology-led revolution in local services. These awards shine a light on the coming changes,” he added. Mr. Woolas said the Beacons encouraged strong and efficient local leadership. “I would encourage local authorities who are innovating and providing exemplary services for their communities to apply for Beacon status in round eight,” he added.