07 July 2000
In a manoeuvre which is bound to antagonise the Department for Education and Employment, the LGA has teamed up with the Capita Group to launch its own consultancy service to shore up beleaguered education authorities.
The pioneering partnership is a mirror image of the Improvement and Development Agency, the consultancy arm of the LGA, which was set up to anticipate problems and help spread good practice across local government.
That agency was also an attempt by the association to keep the government off the backs of poorly performing local authorities at a time of increasing criticism.
This development follows a more recent government rejection, when the LGA failed to make it on to the DfEE's approved contractor list for the second time.
However, the LGA's education chairman Graham Lane was bullish about the plans: 'This has got nothing to do with the government and it is not just for failing LEAs. We want to use our expertise and our staff to help improve LEA performance.'
He admitted that the association felt ignored by the government, particularly when its own approach did not seem to be delivering successful results.
He said: 'We were prepared to work with the government but ministers wanted to do it themselves. There appears to be little change in standards following their approach and even the fresh start schools have had to close.'
Instead of the current situation, where failing authorities are pinpointed by inspectors and then face intervention from the government's team of private contractors, the LGA is hoping to be there before the problems get out of hand.
Lane believes the new approach will involve little bureaucracy. A team of local government officers and members, crucially backed up by Capita's private sector expertise, will be available to all authorities.
Capita, so far a cautious player in the LEA market, will gain a foothold in a potentially lucrative market. The company has been keen not to appear aggressive in taking over local government contracts.
Its executive chairman, Rod Aldridge, said: 'We strongly believe that partnerships are the best way to involve the private sector in service transformation.'
The timing of the announcement could not have been more appropriate following a speech by Conservative leader William Hague, which suggested the abolition of LEAs.