Community Budgets will be rolled out in stages, says Lewis

4 Jun 13
The government is to launch a ‘rolling programme’ of Community Budgets at this month's Spending Review to give all areas a chance to join the pooled funding initiative.

By Richard Johnstone | 4 June 2013

The government is to launch a ‘rolling programme’ of Community Budgets at this month's Spending Review to give all areas a chance to join the pooled funding initiative.

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Local government minister Brandon Lewis said he wanted to ensure all authorities could ‘take advantage’ of the lessons from the four whole place Community Budget pilots – Greater Manchester; Cheshire West & Chester council; the west London tri-borough project; and Essex. These involved the redesign of both council and central government services around a single funding pot. Following the success of the pilots, the changes are now being implemented.

Lewis followed this up in March after the Budget by inviting all councils in England to join a new ‘multi-agency ­network’ that would help to expand the Community Budget programme across the country.

Speaking at a New Local Government Network event in Westminster yesterday, Lewis said he would confirm the first councils to join the scheme ‘around the time of the spending round announcement later this month’.

The network would then operate for at least two years so that more authorities could join, he added.

‘Importantly, this will be a rolling programme. The announcement of the first phases is not the end, it will run as a rolling programme for at least two years, so there will be plenty of scope for new areas to come on board and be part of this kind of challenge.

‘I want to make sure that no one misses an opportunity to be part of this.’

Lewis highlighted a study for the Local Government Association by consultancy Ernst and Young, which estimated that between £9.4bn to £20.6bn could be saved over five years if the pilot schemes were rolled out nationwide.

As well as leading to savings, Lewis said that, ‘more importantly’, the schemes could improve and protect local public services. There is a chance to ‘bring the public sector together in a way that we’ve just not been able to quite deliver before’, he added.

‘Just think what kind of difference we can make with that kind of money, and our communities could have and benefit from by having those better outcomes.

‘I want to make sure we are giving the tools to local authorities to take advantage of those opportunities and to really drive forward this kind of transformational change.’

Lewis also told councils that shared management teams across authorities needed ‘to become the norm’ as town halls dealt with reductions in funding.

As the whole of the public sector was focused on ‘what we need to do in terms of tightening our belts’, both shared services and shared management teams were vital.

Shared management, such as the joint chief executive between Kensington & Chelsea and Hammersmith & Fulham London boroughs, would help maintain local services, Lewis said.

‘It’s the sort of collaboration that comes from shared management particularly, that can no longer and should no longer and must no longer be seen as exceptional. It has to become the norm,’ he added.


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