The National Audit Office has given support to the initiative to join up public services. It describes the Whole Place Community Budget programme as potentially significant in providing a model for the future policy design and delivery of services.
The auditors examined the pilot schemes in Essex, Greater Manchester, West Cheshire and the West London Tri-borough: Westminster, Hammersmith and Fulham, and Kensington and Chelsea. They found that the approach was viewed very positively in the local areas.
Communities and Local Government have funded 33 senior members of staff, who were seconded from a range of government departments to work directly with staff from local government and other local partners in area teams.
The report urges the Department to seek a commitment from local areas and other departments to continue to work together to sustain the enabling elements of the programme and to maximise the potential of Whole-Place Community Budgets.
The NAO report follows criticism from the Parliamentary Select Committee in June 2013 that the Government is not acting with sufficient urgency to make the step change in integrated working at the front line. The Committee warned that although Communities and Local Government was supporting the initiative, without the commitment of other central government departments to Whole-Place Community Budgets it may, like similar initiatives in the past, fail to deliver any significant and lasting change.
The Committee described the Spending Review process as an opportunity to identify where the Government could align its activities better, but past Spending Reviews have been too focused on individual departments. The Whole-Place Community Budget areas have shown the importance of basing decisions about service integration on analysis of the estimated costs and benefits. For future Spending Reviews, departments should identify and provide clear evidence on opportunities for integration in their spending proposals, and the Treasury should challenge those which have not.