Fourteen Community Budget pilots chosen

21 Dec 11
Fourteen areas have been selected to run Community Budget pilots – ten more than originally planned, Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles announced today.

By Nick Mann | 21 December 2011

Fourteen areas have been selected to run Community Budget pilots – ten more than originally planned, Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles announced today.

Community Budgets pool various sources of central government funding into a single pot for local spending. Previous pilots concentrated on a single issue – problem families – but the new ones comprise four large-scale ‘whole place’ initiatives covering all public services and ten smaller ‘neighbourhood level’ plans.

Spending this pooled money in a way that better reflects local priorities can save as much as 20%, the Department for Communities and Local Government said.  

The four successful bidders to run a whole-place pilot scheme in 2012/13 are Cheshire West and Chester Council; the Association of Greater Manchester Authorities; a tri-borough application from the London authorities of Westminster, Hammersmith & Fulham and Kensington & Chelsea; and, Essex County Council. They were chosen from a short list of six, announced earlier this month.

Twenty-four areas were on the short list to run neighbourhood-level pilots. The ten successful councils are: Bradford, Tunbridge Wells, Haverhill, Birmingham, North Devon and Newcastle and the London authorities Hammersmith & Fulham, Tower Hamlets, Kingston and Westminster.

Pickles said the pilots would end ‘silo control’, where public service investment is co-ordinated at a Whitehall level. He said this was creating unequal access to inefficient and unnecessarily expensive services.

‘We need a gear change that makes “silo control” obsolete and starts a local service revolution that puts people at the heart of spending decisions and saves money,’ he said.

Pickles said he was setting up more Community Budget pilots than the two neighbourhood-level and two whole-place pilots announced when he called for bids in October. He said: ‘These “pool and save” pioneers can bring about truly local services with one big local cheque that knocks out bureaucratic processes everywhere and upends Whitehall’s monopoly over public money that’s hemmed in frontline workers for decades.’

Among those selected to run whole-place pilots, Cheshire West and Chester aims to pool a single budget of £3bn-4bn from more than 150 local services, while Manchester authorities will use their pilot to reduce levels of dependency and help create 50,000 jobs over the next four years.

In Essex, the council plans to pull together a single set of objectives so it can allocate the £10.4bn it spends on public services more effectively and efficiently.

And, in West London, the three councils plan to focus on skills and training for over-16s, as well as spending up family courts and curbing youth violence and antisocial behaviour.

The leader of Westminster City Council, Colin Barrow, said: ‘This is about budgeting for real life and we welcome this new common-sense approach to funding which enables us to further promote growth and reduce dependency across the three boroughs.

‘Our current projects, including the Family Recovery Programme and Hub Westminster, have already demonstrated our innovation, but the realigning of funding under Community Budgets gives us the potential to do so much more.’

The whole-place pilots will now create a joint team with local partners, with support from the government and the Local Government Association, to establish their devolved budget proposals and the decision-making structures they plan to use.

At a neighbourhood level, councils and professionals must work closely with the local community to shape services. In the Newcastle pilot, three council wards will invest in family support services, while in Tunbridge Wells, funding for services will be devolved to a resident-led trust. Many other pilots plan to integrate local services at neighbourhood level.

LGA chair Sir Merrick Cockell described the pilots as a ‘once-in-a-generation’ chance to put local communities in control of local services.


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