Headlines: January 17th, 2008

In the most deprived 20 per cent of areas across England just over a third of people are income deprived and one in five of men and women are unemployed. Of the 80 districts categorised as the ‘most deprived ‘ in 2004 , 78 remained in this category in 2007. In response to the faltering regeneration programme, plans will be announced next month to give councils a greater role in economic development. Strengthening the role of councils is part of a Government drive to turn around deprived areas and ensure no-one is disadvantaged by where they live.

The plans will include encouraging councils to improve town centres, tackle unemployment, boost skills and training and attract investment. The way in which this will be done will be a matter for local decisions but some of the measures might include apprenticeships, mentoring for the long-term unemployed or improving transport links to bring jobs to an area.

Because councils have first hand knowledge of the local economy they will be given a front line role in delivering new jobs, skills and opportunities to local people, particularly in the most deprived areas.

Raising prosperity will be a new theme of the tenth round of the Beacon Council Scheme to be announced next month. The Beacon Scheme recognises councils that provide excellent services and that are willing to show others how they do it. An independent study of the scheme has found that over 60 per cent of councils say that it has helped to improve services in their area.