Councils unhappy at area agreement rush

Local authorities fear they are being rushed into signing
improvement plans that will require wide-ranging consultation, a
conference heard last week.

The warning was sounded by Lindsay Kirkley, special adviser to
Gateshead Council, one of 21 authorities that are piloting local
area agreements, designed to join up delivery and funding of

“The real danger could come if we are pushed to deliver too
quickly,” she told a conference for the Local Government
Information Unit. “The government wants us to sign agreements by
February. If we rush into that, we are in danger of failing.”

Local government minister Nick Raynsford said that, in developing
the plans, councils should involve the voluntary and community
sector through local strategic partnerships.

Raynsford urged pilot authorities to be “ambitious and imaginative”
– but warned that they still faced being capped if they set budgets
too high.

LAAs will include a mix of centrally and locally set targets and
will be hammered out at regional government offices.

Delegates said they hoped the agreements would free them from the
restrictions of performance management from the centre.

David Jenkins, chief executive of Dorset Council, said current
restrictions were forcing the council to spend money on improving
recycling, despite already being ranked fourth in England, rather
than diverting money to care of older people, where it came 150th.

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