UK Government

Communities and Local Government: Denham – local people come first in our smarter Government

Press Release   •   Dec 08, 2009 10:55 GMT

Communities Secretary John Denham today hailed Putting the frontline first: Smarter Government for its radical vision to streamline Government and transform frontline services to put local people first.

Over the past decade record investment has been matched by public service reforms and ambitious targets that have improved standards.  To further transform frontline services Government will free them up to determine what works best for a local area and community. Greater local flexibility to innovate and collaborate will help deliver better quality public services more efficiently.

The package of measures announced today will cut the red tape burden on local government by reducing revenue streams, ring-fencing, targets and inspections on front line services from 2010, building on the Total Place pilots.

The paper also announced plans to radically open up data and public information to allow the local people to challenge, compare or scrutinise data to improve public service standards. This goes hand in hand with the Government’s aim to strengthen local leadership by building on Mr Denham’s commitment to extend local scrutiny powers.

To recast the relationship between the centre and the frontline Government will take a ‘Total Place’ approach that lets local areas set priorities, guide resources and reduces centrally imposed burdens by:

  • Streamlining the national performance framework, including reducing the number of national indicators for local areas by April 2010, and making further reductions from 2011;
  • Reducing the number of revenue streams to local government.  By Budget 2010 Government will set out specific proposals to reduce ring-fencing for local authorities and publish guidance on aligning and pooling local-level budgets to frontline services;
  • Aligning the timing and coordination of grant payments from departments to Local Authorities for 2011/12
  • Supporting Local Authorities that wish to use their trading powers to create further commercial opportunities;
  • Setting out guidance on effective use of joint ventures by local authorities and partners in February 2010 through use of pooled budgets;
  • Considering single area-based capital funding – Total Capital - by Budget 2010. To increase efficiency of capital investments, assets and infrastructure;
  • Coordinating timings of all assessments, inspections and reporting arrangements by 2010/11 where they focus on similar outcomes, and consider a new cross government data gateway;
  • Reviewing the work and number of inspectorates to save at least £100m, reporting at Budget 2010; and
  • Asking Total Place pilots to quantify total burdens across local agencies and priorities for streamlining burdens.

To strengthen the role of citizens and civic society the Government will radically open up data and public information by:

  • Encouraging local government to release local public data and establish an open-platform Local Data Exchange. Professor Nigel Shadolt will lead a Local Public Data Panel to make sure data is linked effectively across government, councils and local bodies;
  • Producing a regularly updated Civic Health Index from 2010 to enable citizens to assess how well civic society is faring and how it can thrive. This will include an annual Civic Health Report of the nation;
  • Consulting on making Ordnance Survey mapping and postcode datasets available for free reuse from April 2010;
  • Establishing a Community Assets programme to empower communities by transferring 37 underused council assets to local third sector organisations investing up to £30m; and
  • Piloting Social Impact Bonds as a new way of funding the third sector to provide services. This has the potential to radically change how government funds the third sector, by rewarding social investors for work which reduces future social costs. CLG is actively developing a pilot.

John Denham also confirmed that local government would be covered by the terms of a senior pay review announced by Government today. The review’s principles will be that senior pay across the public sector needs to promote fairness and respect the legitimate expectations of taxpayers. It will report ahead of Budget 2010 and include recommendations on pay and bonus caps.

This builds on the study John Denham requested the Audit Commission carry out into so called ‘Boomerang Bosses’ - Chief Executives who walk off with big pay-outs after falling out with the council's political leaders – to see if practices are robust and offer value for money. It is expected in the New Year. Also new regulations to bring local government pay up to the same transparency standards as the rest of Government will be laid shortly.

John Denham said:

"We need to cut the national debt and protect frontline services the public needs like support for the elderly and vulnerable, social housing, rubbish collection and recycling without breaking family budgets.

"Today we have announced radical changes to the way local services will be delivered in the future. By streamlining Whitehall and cutting red tape, we will free up councils to put their local residents first by focusing their resources on delivering high quality services where they are most needed.

"At the same time, we plan to give local people far better access to information held by local public organisations so they can challenge, compare or scrutinise their local services in order to drive up standards in their area."

Notes to editors

1. Full details of the ‘Putting the frontline first: Smarter Government’ paper can be found at: www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/newsroom/news_releases/2009/091207-frontlinefirst.aspx

2. Today’s cross government plan extends the principle of Total Place across Government and publishes powerful early evidence from the pilots of how to unlock value within an area by reducing duplication, overlap, looking at how much actually gets to the front line and refocusing on the needs of users. Based on evidence from the pilots Total Place will report alongside Budget 2010, setting out ambitious savings to be achieved across locally delivered public services.

  • The Birmingham pilot has examined how funding early intervention, like Sure Start, can reduce the costs of dealing with problems of crime and ill health. They found for every £1 spent on children's early year’s intervention, they could save £4 later on antisocial behaviour and severe health costs. They also found that for each £1 spent on drug treatment they could save £9 for the criminal justice system.
  • The Durham pilot has been looking at how it can reduce duplication and streamline housing. It has found that £185m was invested in housing in 2007/08, spread across 13 significant funding streams and a number of smaller scale streams, each with their own criteria.
  • Leicestershire is looking at the bureaucratic burdens of tackling alcohol and drug abuse across the city and county. It has found it produced over 3,000 performance reports for central government each year, costing over £3.5 million.

3. At the next Spending Review the Government will significantly reduce the number of high-level priorities set at a national level. As the system of entitlements and guarantees are rolled out Government will be able to reduce the number of national indicators for Local Authorities. As an initial step, by 2010 a number of indicators not longer relevant or needed will be removed. From 2011 the number of national indicators will be reduced more substantially following review and consultation.

4. The measures announced today build on steps already taken by the Government to grant local authorities greater financial freedoms and flexibilities. Reduced ring-fencing and streamlined performance management have already freed up council, alongside new tools to secure investment and economic support.

5. Local Government performance has improved significantly over the last decade.  The first Comprehensive Area Assessment (CAA) inspection results are due to be announced on Wednesday 9 December. They will measure local authorities and other public services against a much tougher set of criteria to ensure performance continues to improve. CAA is helping to drive up standards by showing citizens for the first time how well all their key public services are working together in their area, so they can see how their money is being spent and what it is being delivered. CAA is part of wider efforts to increase transparency and put more public information into the hands of local people so they can better hold service providers to account for what they are delivering.

6. Professor Nigel Shadbolt from the University of Southampton has been asked to head up a panel of experts to oversee the release of local public data.  The Local Public Data Panel members will include:

  • Tim Allen, Programme Director for Analysis and Research, Local Government Association
  • Roger Hampson, Chief Executive of Redbridge
  • Dave Smith, Chief Executive of Sunderland City Council
  • Janet Hughes, Head of Scrutiny and Investigations at the Greater London Authority
  • Jos Creese, Head of IT at Hampshire County Council
  • Nick Aldridge, CEO of Mission Fish UK (eBay for Charity)
  • William Perrin - Government web innovator and community activist
  • Chris Taggart – web developer and founder of OpenlyLocal.com

The Panel will work closely with local authorities, strategic partners, government departments and agencies, developers and community organisations to help improve local public services and empower citizens. The Panel will operate for a two year period to the end of 2011. It is expected to hold its first meeting in January 2010. Key aims are to:

  • Ensure understanding of the case for making local public data freely available for re-use
  • Promote innovative uses of local public data
  • Sponsor the further development of a single place on line (‘data.gov.uk’) for all public sector data, while meeting the specific needs of the local government sector
  • Encourage agreed standards for greater data and information sharing by local strategic partnerships.

7. The Government will publish a report on the nation’s Civic Health in early 2010. The report will track the ‘civic health’ of the nation by bringing together information at the national, regional and local levels in a single public report. It would include information on levels of citizen trust in public institutions and each other; levels of civic engagement and volunteering; as well as perceptions of influence, belonging and cohesion. The information will come from CLG’s Citizenship Survey, the Audit of Political Engagement, the National Survey of Third Sector Organisations; the Place Survey and other sources. The report will reveal key trends and, where possible, allow readers to make international and local comparisons. People will be able to easily find out about their areas, see a complex picture more clearly, engage with their community, track factors such as deprivation or employment levels, judge the strength of their community and push for change.

Contacts

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