‘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

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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