Headlines: July 7th, 2008

Extra funding is to be given to a number of local authorities to encourage them to share best practice in a range of services. The Communities and Local Government Secretary, Hazel Blears, has announced that sixteen council projects will share a pot of 1.5 million pounds.

The money is being made available to Beacon authorities, including Leeds, Birmingham and Bristol, and will help them deliver on some of the toughest targets set in the new Local Area Agreements. They range from the provision of low-cost homes to dealing with problems of anti-social behaviour. The Beacon Scheme encourages local authorities to share best working practice and ideas and this is backed by the Peer Support Fund.

Authorities which have successfully bid for money under the scheme this year have raised 1.3 million pounds of their own funding to match their Peer Support, which means more councils are set to benefit from their advice and guidance. In one case, the four Beacons for delivering cleaner air have provided additional funding of a quarter of a million pounds to supply tools, resources and mentoring to other authorities.

The winners, chosen from 29 applications, are Birmingham City Council and the London Borough of Croydon for increasing Voluntary and Community Sector involvement; Bolton Metropolitan Borough for Anti-Social Behaviour; Bristol for Healthy Schools; Coventry and Westminster for Effective Environmental Health; Durham County for School Improvement; East Hampshire for Affordable Housing; Gateshead for Positive Youth Engagement and Healthy Communities; Leeds City Council for Asset Management and for Financial Inclusion and Leicester City Council for Culture and Sport work with Hard to Reach Groups.

Congratulating the winning authorities, Hazel Blears said, “The benefits will be two-fold. Beacon authorities can get on with the job of stimulating good practice in other councils and offer tried and tested solutions to local problems. And to work with Whitehall to inform, develop or test national policy.”