Headlines: April 23rd, 2009

The Audit Commission has taken an in depth look at how local strategic partnerships are performing in delivering services. It concluded that central government departments and local councils need to give more thought to the problems of governance and resource management when working together in local partnerships.

Local Strategic Partnerships bring together health, councils, the police and other service providers and are central to the government’s ambitions for better, more efficient, more joined up local public services. They are involved in a range of important public services tackling wide ranging community issues like reducing teenage pregnancy, alcohol and drug abuse, child safety and sustainable transport provision.

The Commission found that resource allocation was not well managed. Most LSPs lack mechanisms for assigning mainstream resources towards achieving the goals of the sustainable community strategy and the local area agreement. Few LSPs have assessed the costs and benefits of joint working. There is also a national failure to align planning and reporting cycles and this makes it difficult for local agencies to align performance and resource management systems.

The Commission is also critical of overview and scrutiny arrangements to hold LSPs and partners to account. It found little evidence that governance arrangements are supporting LSPs’ accountabilities to member organisations and through them to local people. It recommends that overview and scrutiny committees should focus on one-off activities or events and review systems and risks. They should also assess performance in different themes and review performance data from LSPs and partners.

Although the Commission’s report, Working better together, makes it clear that there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach for managing partnerships, it offers a three layer framework for raising performance. It suggests that partnerships should work at a strategic level giving oversight, vision, and direction-setting; at an executive level providing resource allocation and performance management and at an operational level driving service management and delivery.

Working better together is available from the Commission.