Headlines: April 20th, 2006

The case for an overhaul of the local government inspection regime to give more power to Local Area Agreements and a greater role for neighbourhoods in scrutiny has been set out in a pamphlet from the Local Government Information Unit. It argues for the scrapping of targets and their replacement with a ‘bottom up’ approach to local governance.The pamphlet, “Locally defined targets: better performance management”, has been produced as part of the unit’s Making Local Democracy Work campaign. It includes a warning that the Government’s current double devolution agenda will succeed only if there is greater emphasis on public service skills. The document also points out that over the next ten years the generation that have filled middle and senior management jobs will retire, creating a shortage of internally developed future leaders who have the necessary skills to manage a public sector that is becoming increasingly service orientated.

With that in mind one of its key recommendations is the creation of a new local government centre of excellence. It also calls for all public services to be brought under the remit of Local Area Agreements and it wants Government offices to take on an enhanced role as brokers between public bodies. The pamphlet also urges that final approval of LAAs should move away from Ministers and become part of a new role for inspectorates. Finally it calls for neighbourhood action to hold local providers to account.

The LGiU’s Chief Executive, Dennis Reed, said the paper was designed to add momentum to the debate within local government. “There is a genuine acceptance that things must change and that the contract between central and local government must be fundamentally altered. We need to deliver a more locally defined, service orientated performance management framework,” he said.