30 Jun 2008 10:13 AM
Target shake up delivers stronger focus on issues that matter to the public

COMMUNITIES AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT News Release (157) issued by The Government News Network on 30 June 2008


The chosen priorities in every local area in England can be viewed at: http://www.localpriorities.communities.gov.uk

The results of a comprehensive shake up of council targets and priorities are published today.

The priorities - agreed in partnership with central government - show the pattern of issues across England that councils will now have to grapple with over the next three years.

Councils will now need to devote considerable energy - as many of them already do - to ensuring their communities feel safer, that tackling serious violence and anti-social behaviour is a major priority, and that tackling unemployment and teenage pregnancy is comprehensively addressed.

The results of a new YouGov poll reveal that people want areas to prioritise the issue of community safety - 82 per cent of the population selected this as among the most important jobs for councils.

To help them do this, the government has slashed the number of local targets from over 100 to 35 to ensure a more rigorous focus on what matters to local people. Councils must now devote resources, time and effort towards them achieving them. Extra cash will be available for the highest performing councils.

These new local targets - called Local Area Agreements (LAAs) - have been produced in consultation with those at the sharp end of providing services to the public - like the Police and Jobcentres. Each locality has identified the specific priorities that will most improve the quality of life for its residents that reflect their own individual challenges and circumstances.

Alongside tackling crime, three-quarters of local areas have prioritised getting unemployed young people into work or education while more than two-thirds will focus on reducing teenage pregnancy. Generating affordable homes and tackling childhood obesity also feature among the top 10 priorities.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown said:

"This Government is making strong progress in tackling the issues that people really care about, from cutting crime and increasing opportunities for young people to creating a fairer, more responsive NHS. But crucially we're making changes in line with the needs and wishes of local people themselves. Nothing demonstrates this more clearly than the commitment to Local Area Agreements. These will drive up standards, respond to local concerns, and help people hold their local council to account. These agreements will make a real difference to people's everyday lives and I congratulate all concerned."

Hazel Blears, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, said:

"These new local priorities mean that councils and their partners can concentrate their efforts on the specific needs of the local people they serve. The prizes are enormous: better, more locally relevant public services, a higher quality of life and ultimately more prosperity in communities across the country.

"If knowledge is power, then this is more empowerment to local people. They will be able to see exactly what local government and service providers plan to do in their area, check out how well they are doing, and ask questions if they have not delivered. This means less red tape and more freedom for local authorities to deliver what local people want.''

Progress will be tracked by independent auditors and results published, so any need for improvement can be identified quickly and local authorities and service providers can be held to account by local people.

Local Government Association Chair, Sir Simon Milton, said:

"Despite a tough financial challenge, councils are tackling head-on the
issues most important to people - from dealing with alcohol-related
crime to obesity to climate change to teenage pregnancy.

"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.

"Freeing up councils allows them to do what they do best - respond to
what local people want them to do. Given the freedom to innovate and
inspire, residents will see effective and most importantly
cost-effective action by talented people committed to producing results.

"Our absolute priority is to respond to what local people want. They
are, after all, our bosses."

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said:

"We recognise that a 'one size fits all' approach does not give Local Authorities the flexibility to address local concerns, that is why we have worked with local partners to ensure these agreements address the issues that matter most to local people.

"We have made huge progress in tackling crime and anti-social behaviour over the past ten years with overall crime down by a third. Police and local agencies are committed to working with local residents to make their areas safer places to live and every area now has its own dedicated Neighbourhood Policing Team. We have also slashed the number of targets for police enabling them to focus on local priorities and reduce bureaucracy."

Neil Cleeveley, Director of Policy and Communications, the National Association for Voluntary and Community Action (NAVCA), said:

"Local area agreements have created the necessary climate for stronger local partnership. This local partnership work is vital to deliver services to local communities and in particular to the most disadvantaged groups. NAVCA believes that a strong and well networked third sector is vital to ensuring effective community engagement, build social capital and civil renewal and improve service delivery. Therefore it is important that the sector is fully embedded in local partnership structures and linked in to local area agreements.

"Voluntary and community organisations repeatedly face the frustration of piecing together a patchwork of funding from a variety of schemes and sources, which frequently operate different timetables and criteria. Managing this situation can distract from their true work of delivering vital innovative and user focussed services. LAAs present an opportunity to tackle this problem by opening up resources to the third sector as part of a coherent and consistent local sustainable community strategy that can be integrated into sub-regional and regional planning.

"Local third sector organisations have a key role in shaping and delivering public services that meet the needs of the communities. They therefore have a central part to play in local area agreements."

Note to Editors

1. For more information about priorities in your area, please visit http://www.localpriorities.communities.gov.uk. The Department of Communities and Local Government has created the micro-site so that the public - and journalists - can easily view the priorities each Local Authority is working towards and the progress they are making.

How to search
A full list of an area's priorities can be viewed by clicking on "Local Priorities - an overview". By viewing the map of England on-screen, users can then click on the region they are interested in. From here, a drop-down menu appears, listing all Local Authorities in the region. Users select their local authority, then click on "view priorities" and "go" to be taken directly to the relevant list.

2. Results of the You Gov poll can be found at: http://www.communities.gov.uk/documents/corporate/pdf/865896.pdf

3. Referred to generically as affecting 'councils', local area agreements apply to local authorities (including city councils, district councils and London boroughs) and a range of other local service providers, including the police, hospitals and Job Centres, all of who have worked in partnership to agree the priorities for their local area and the standards on which they will work together to deliver.

4. Local Area Agreements are an important part of putting devolution into practice. LAAs have been negotiated between central government and local authorities, informed by discussion with local communities, so that they really focus in on the priorities that matter to local people.

5. The Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act 2007 provides a statutory duty on the local authority to prepare an LAA, and a duty on partners named in the LAA to cooperate in the setting of targets. It also provides for these partners to have a duty to have regard to targets in the LAA. The LAA is submitted to, and targets formally designated by, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.

6. This is the first year of the new local government performance framework for local authorities and local authority partnerships. Central government has reduced the number of indicators which councils in England report on from 1200 to 198. This enables councils and partners to tackle local issues whilst simplifying reporting procedures. Of the 198 targets, the LAA is made up of up to 35 improvement targets.

7. Local Authorities will be measured against all 198 indicators, not simply those with a target attached to them.

Top 20 priorities across England:

Name of priority                                  Number of local
                                                         areas choosing
                                                       priority (out of
      16 to 18 year olds who are not in education,                  115
      employment or training (NEET)
      Under 18 conception rate                                      106
      Net additional homes provided                                 104
      Number of affordable homes delivered (gross)                  102
      Per capita reduction in CO2 emissions in the                  100
      LA area
      Obesity among primary school age children in                   99
      Year 6
      Serious acquisitive crime rate                                 98
      Proportion of population aged 19-64 for                        95
      males and 19-59 for females qualified to at
      least Level 2 or higher
      Stopping smoking                                               89
      % of people who believe people from                            87
      different backgrounds get on well together in their local area
      All-age all cause mortality rate                               86
      % of people who feel they can influence                        85
      decisions in their locality
      Re-offending rate of prolific and other                        83
      priority offenders
      Assault with injury crime rate                                 82
      Social Care clients receiving Self Directed                    81
      Support per 100,000 population
      Adult participation in sport and active                        80
      Carers receiving needs assessment or review                    80
      and a specific carer's service, or advice and information
      Young people's participation in positive                       77
      New business registration rate                                 76
      Repeat incidents of domestic violence                          75  

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