16 October 2008
by David Meilton
A local government think-tank has urged Whitehall to allow councils greater responsibility and incentives for delivering Local Area Agreements.
The New Local Government Network, in a report published on October 13, said that national indicators were still too ill-defined and top-down to support LAAs that are truly locally relevant and evidence-based.
It warned that administrative logjams still prevent the system working effectively. 'Without significant and transparent incentives or penalties, accountability for LAA success is obscure,' it added.
NLGN director Chris Leslie said: 'There is a great deal of goodwill across local authorities to make the LAA process work.
'The real challenge will be moving from deciding the priorities and how to measure progress, to actually managing delivery.
'Whitehall in particular will need to double its resolve to stick to its end of the bargain and not shelve these agreements because of financial pressures.' The NLGN urged Whitehall departments to make LAAs a priority. It recommended strengthened resource and reward systems including greater flexibility over local funding, and allowing councillors to 'play a new championing role' for LAAs on a ward or individual basis.
Local government minister John Healey welcomed the report. 'Agreeing LAAs has been a good start,' he said. 'But the real prize is translating LAA priorities into effective delivery of improvements for citizens over the next three years.'