Headlines: July 1st, 2008

New targets and revised local priorities have been published and show the issues councils will now have to focus on over the next three years. The results of a new YouGov poll also showed that community safety was seen by 82 per cent of people as the most important job for local authorities.

Under the changes councils will have to ensure their communities feel safer and tackle serious violence and anti-social behaviour Hazel Blears, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, said the new local priorities meant councils and their partners could concentrate on the needs of local people. “The prizes are enormous – better, more locally relevant public services, a higher quality of life and ultimately more prosperity in communities across the country.” Sir Simon Milton, the chairman of the Local Government Association, said in spite of the financial challenges councils faced they were tackling head on the issues that were most relevant to people. He continued, “We have ambitious targets but we will rise to the challenge to ensure council taxpayers see great results and are provided with the best value for money. Less bureaucracy means more dynamism to improve public services, our raison d’etre.” r. At the same time the Government has cut the number of local targets so councils can focus more on what matters to local people. The new targets, called Local Area Agreements, have been reached in consultation with agencies providing services to the public, including the police and Jobcentres.

Each area has identified specific priorities to improve the quality of life for its residents. Alongside tackling crime, three-quarters of local areas will make getting unemployed young people into work or education a priority and more than two-thirds will focus on reducing teenage pregnancy. Other issues among the top 10 priorities are generating affordable homes and tackling childhood obesity.