Headlines: October 15th, 2008

There is a new call for local councils to be given more responsibility and greater incentives to drive forward Local Area Agreements. It comes from the New Local Government Network which also argues that the current system is inflexible for many local authorities.

The NLGN has evaluated the latest wave of LAAs, and while it highlights achievements such as a more joined-up policy framework it also warns there are significant logjams that stop the system working more effectively. The research is based on extensive interviews and surveys of local authorities.

It argues that national indicators are still too ill-defined and top-down to support locally relevant LAAs and says some Government departments have not given their local arms the flexibility to enable them to play a sufficient role in LAA delivery. It also claims that unless there are proper and transparent incentives or penalties accountability for LAA success is obscure.

The research document suggests a number of reforms, including Whitehall departments committing to the primacy of the LAA and an expectation that statutory LAA partners should increase the amount of funding they pool by 0.5 per cent each year, with a ‘bonus’ for those areas showing the greatest commitment to the use of pooled funding. The NLGN also believes councillors should become champions for Agreements and it argues that where local areas are successful in delivering their priority outcomes, they should be rewarded with greater flexibility over local funding,

The research found, however, that the majority of local authorities are satisfied with the commitment of their local partners and most respondents rated the relationship in the range 7 to 9 out of 10.