Memorandum from CAG Consultants
This submission focuses on the third question
considered by the Committee:
The extent to which the UK Government has adequately
monitored UK progress on sustainable development and the issues
mapped out in Agenda 21 since 1992 as part of its preparation
for the Summit.
CAG is an independent consultancy providing
a research, consultancy, training and policy analysis service.
We work principally for the public sector in the fields of sustainable
development, stakeholder involvement, and regeneration.
In the 1990s CAG researched and drafted a series
of landmark publications for the then Local Government Management
Board (now IDeA) on the meaning of sustainable development and
its application to local government. This culminated in CAG preparing
the first draft of Sustainable Local Communities for the 21st
Century (DETR/LGMB/LGA) which was published to coincide with a
national conference to launch the Prime Minister's call for all
local authorities to adopt Local Agenda 21 Strategies by the year
CAG also drafted the Local Government Officers'
Sustainability Training Pack for WWFUK and the joint local authority
associations of England, Scotland and Wales. We are currently
managing a joint project to update the Pack with new modules on:
Community Strategies and Local Strategic
New Council Structures.
Joan Bennett is a director of CAG and has 10
years experience as a sustainable development consultant with
the company. She specialises in mainstreaming sustainable development
within local government.
Joan is currently managing CAG's project for
the Audit Commission's Best Value Inspection Service. CAG (with
the Institute of Local Government Studies at the University of
BirminghamInlogov) are drafting guidance for inspectors
on how to judge the sustainable development performance of local
authorities. Joan previously managed CAG and Inlogov's survey
of local authority experience of integrating sustainable development
into Best Value for the Local Government Improvement and Development
Agency (IDeA). She also prepared the original IDeA / Local Government
Association guidance on this subject published in 1998. Joan has
run numerous training courses for local authorities on Best Value
and sustainable development.
To What Extent is Local Government's Progress
on Sustainable Development being Monitored
Chapter 28 of Agenda 21 identified local government
as a vital contributor to sustainable development. In the years
following the 1992 Earth Summit the then Local Government Management
Board (LGMB) and Local Government Associations did much to promote
Agenda 21 in local government. By the end of the decade the majority
of authorities had prepared Local Agenda 21 Strategies and had
appointed dedicated staff to co-ordinate sustainable development
Initially the majority of sustainable development
co-ordinators tended to operate outside mainstream local government
activity, but towards the end of the 1990s there was an increasing
push to "mainstream" sustainable development within
local government. "Mainstreaming" implies that all local
government activities take full account of sustainable development
A new local government performance regime known
as Best Value was piloted in local government in the late 1990s
and fully implemented in 2000. Best Value introduced independent
inspection of all local government functions by the Audit Commission's
Best Value Inspection Service (BVIS). It therefore offered the
first opportunity to systematically check the extent to which
Local Agenda 21 strategies were being implemented by local authorities.
The English and Welsh Circulars on Best Value
(see appendix) specified that local authorities should consider
sustainable development within Best Value. This gave the BVIS
a clear remit to inspect sustainable development performance.
The BVIS are charged to assess the extent to which local authorities
are implementing national policies and their own corporate policies.
Therefore, even without the mention of sustainable development
within the circulars, the BVIS should be considering sustainable
development within their inspections.
The CAG/Inlogov 2001 survey for the IDeA concluded
that there was very patchy coverage of sustainable development
by Best Value inspectors. This is understandable. In the early
stages of Best Value inspectors had much to absorb. Those that
were unfamiliar with sustainable development principles understandably
missed key sustainability issues.
In the Autumn of 2001 the BVIS decided to prepare
new advice for inspectors on sustainable development. CAG and
Inlogov were commissioned to assist the BVIS to draft the advice.
3 guides were drafted:
1. Best Value and Sustainable DevelopmentContextual
GuidanceBackground briefing on sustainable development,
how it is relevant to local government, and the connection with
2. Best Value and Sustainable DevelopmentInspection
PrinciplesAdvice on how to consider sustainable development
within any inspection.
3. Quality of LifeInspection Guidance
and Judgement CriteriaAdvice on how to inspect cross-cutting
reviews of sustainable development.
Since these guides were commissioned, the Local
Government White Paper
has introduced radical changes to the Best Value process. Many
of the White Paper proposals [Comprehensive Performance Assessment
(CPAs), more thematic Best Value reviews and negotiated Review
Programmesjointly agreed between BVIS and the local authority]
hold out great potential for monitoring the sustainable development
performance of local government. But this potential will not be
achieved without the following:
1. Assessment of local authorities' sustainable
development performance as part of the Comprehensive Performance
Assessment. (Sustainable development was not mentioned as a consideration
for CPAs in the White Paper. The Audit Commission is currently
preparing a methodology for CPAs.)
2. Rolling programme of Best Value reviews
to judge local authorities' performance against their sustainable
3. Inspector training on sustainable development.
(Based on the guides already prepared.)
4. Annual summary by the BVIS of how well
local government is progressing sustainable development objectives.
2 Strong Local Leadership-Quality Public Services,
DTLR January 2002. Back