‘Don’t get too cosy with government’

    Voluntary and community schemes are in danger of being “colonised”
    by the government if the links between them become too close,
    delegates at the Urban Forum annual conference heard last week.

    Leicester local strategic partnership chair Bernard Greaves told
    the conference that an increasing amount of micro-management from
    central government was threatening to divert LSPs away from
    tackling social inequalities in deprived areas.

    “Targets and the performance management framework are short term
    but there is a political dividend in [councils] having them. That
    is diverting our attention away from long-term strategies.”

    He said voluntary and community schemes were being asked to sign up
    to a “centralist, corporate approach” to the provision of public
    services, which could undermine their independence.

    “The more we rely on the public sector for funding the more we are
    expected to sign up to these disciplines and making us less able to
    speak with authority on behalf of the people we represent,” Greaves
    said.

    Meanwhile, some delegates complained that schemes were struggling
    to influence local strategic partnerships because councils were
    refusing to take a partnership approach.

    Chris Brown of the Newcastle Community Empowerment Fund said that
    the council representatives dominated his LSP. They have blocked
    other partners who want to put items on the agenda and have failed
    to give enough time to discuss proposals, Brown added.

    “The LSP is really the council and no one else is supposed to bring
    issues to the table,” he said.

    Paul Gallagher, co-ordinator for Newcastle LSP, said discussions
    were planned to develop protocols for what should be on the
    partnership’s agenda and that it was considering rotating its
    chairmanship. However, he said there was a need for a better
    balance of funding.

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