Headlines: September 27th, 2006

STUDY FINDS BEACON COUNCILS WORK MORE CLOSELY WITH GOVERNMENT

 

The effects of the Beacon Scheme, which recognises excellence and innovation in local authorities, includes councils working more closely with government, according to a new report from the Improvement and Development Agency which assesses the scheme in detail. In addition to offering evidence of the impact that 2005-06 Beacon authorities have had on local government improvement, it includes plans for further development of the scheme.

The chairman of the IDeA, Councillor Ian Swithenbank, said the Beacon Scheme really did provide a shining light in local government. “Not only does it recognise outstanding achievement and service, but it encourages councils to share best practice and knowledge to improve services and performance across the country,” he said.

Headlines from the report include research from the Warwick Business School showing that the scheme is making a significant and measurable contribution to major policy goals of improvement and sustainability in public services. It also reveals that 85 per cent of English local authorities have applied for Beacon status during rounds one to six of the scheme.

In addition more than half of councils – 59 per cent – have taken part in a Learning Exchange session and just over three-quarters have attended a Beacon open day. In all more than 6,000 people attended Beacon events promoted by IDeA and, it says, thousands more attended local, regional and national events at which the Beacons were featured.

On relations with government specifically, the report says Beacon councils are working with central departments, and it quotes the example of authorities from round four which are working with DEFRA on the Rural Excellence Mentoring Scheme. The study also found that Beacons are being consulted on policy and legislation, such as giving advice on the need for support for carers in the New Deal for Carers. The authorities are also being used as a reference point for fact-finding and reality checks and regulators are looking to Beacons for examples of good practice. Beacons are also involved in long term collaboration, as in the case of the Homelessness Beacon councils, which provided the first point of contact for best practice in tackling and preventing homelessness for the former ODPM.

IDeA anticipates this area growing in importance in the future. The report sees the development of the scheme including greater collaboration with Central Government, improved links with other improvement initiatives, including Regional Improvement Partnerships, Local Area Agreements, and post CPA sector-led improvement and the completion of a review on how the scheme can lead in promoting equalities and diversity.