Interestingly, the agreements – strictly speaking, Local Public Service Agreements – are a joint initiative by Whitehall and local government itself. The idea was put forward in the Local Government Association’s Local Challenge proposals and the government’s public service agreements for individual departments.
The agreements are between the government and an individual local authority. They set out the council’s commitment to deliver specific improvements in performance and the government’s commitment to reward the improvements. The agreement also includes the government’s agreement to assist the council in doing what it must do.
The council sets itself 12 or so targets that require performance beyond what would be expected in the absence of an agreement and which reflect local and central priorities.
Targets can include increasing literacy and numeracy rates for school children; increasing employment rates in disadvantaged areas or among disadvantaged groups; preventing hospitalisation among elderly people; improving education, training and employment outcomes for care leavers; reducing the use of class A drugs among young people; or increasing waste recycling rates.
Government help can take the form of pump-priming grants, scope for extra borrowing, and relaxation of statutory and administrative requirements where the council believes this could help substantially achieve its targets. The full reward for wholesale achieve is 2 per cent of a year’s net budget.
Other UK equivalents: Policy Agreements (Wales)